Colorism

I can freely discuss my position on black people and white people alike. I am one and not the other. I’m black. I am not white. I have opinions on both races and can clearly define my position between the two.

That’s race though.

When it comes to colorism, I find myself in the same type of limbo that I described in Washington vs. DuBois. In the case of colorism though, the boundaries that I seek are strictly physical. I am neither dark-skinned nor light-skinned; I’m just brown.

The problem of colorism is a worldwide problem and is a lot more serious in other places than the tone that I take with the issue. If you went to a predominately black school in the inner-city, you would understand how one could become numb to the issue. When it comes to the colorism among blacks, it’s basically just light-skinned and dark-skinned. Brown is pretty much a neutral zone. However, because of social stigmas that are subliminally taught to us through every angle of society in this country, it’s not uncommon to grow up thinking lighter is better and darker is worse.

Normally, as we grow into adulthood, these ideas and ways of thinking diminish. For those who don’t grow out of this way of thinking, are probably just ignorant or scarred. I believe a majority of black people could care less about a person’s skin tone, especially when it comes physical attraction.

Attractive is attractive, no matter what color it comes in. I believe we all have preferences and there is nothing wrong with that. The problem comes in when you choose a preference based on thinking one is better than the other simply because of the skin tone. I think black girls are attractive, brown girls are attractive, and light girls are attractive, but the one thing that overrides all three of those are pretty girls. Your complexion doesn’t make you cute. Since more awareness have come to issues of colorism in our society, darker skinned blacks have been claiming their territory in the media and evening the playing fields. I mean Rick Fox, Shemar Moore and Ginuwine had to move over for Tyrese, Taye Diggs and Idris Elba. (These are the jokes that blacks tell amongst ourselves.)

We are all comfortable being who and what we are this day in time. There was a time when the only way we could have a shot at mainstream success was to look like Lena Horne. Thank goodness for her because her skin open the doors for Lupita’s success. It’s a beautiful thing.

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Lena Horn; almost indistinguishable from a white lady
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Lupita Nyong’o is now the winner of an Oscar Award. Her beautiful dark face should have won another.

I understand that it is still an issue that plagues the minds of young girls all over, especially after they see celebrities gradually grow lighter and lighter year after year in the spotlight. However, that’s irrelevant, and I think as time progress, it will become more and more apparent that we do not have to do that to be accepted.

It’s really a wonderful thing. The TEAM LIGHT SKIN and TEAM DARK SKIN feud will probably be around for a while, but only as a reference to each party being proud of what they are.

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Week 24 Recap

This month has led to a lot of additional learning for myself that I had not prepared for. So the accumulation of reading and exploration has put a squeeze on my time for sharing my perspective. Last week was great though. On Monday, February 16th, I discussed the issue of displaced location that some Black Americans still wrestle with. The fact that I am American and that I live in America is completely okay with me. The fact that the Black American has come into existence partly by rape (in my own personal lineage) is something that I am at peace with as well. I’m not happy about it, but it is who I am, and I accept it as a token of my stake in this country. Moving back to Africa would have been a reasonable solution during the more treacherous times of oppression. Now that life for us here can be lived conformably — despite nuances that could be worst somewhere else —I’m not leaving. This isn’t to say that I would NOT leave, but not under the reasoning that our ancestors are from there.

Wednesday, February 18, I wrote about my first time experience of the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater. I have been following the schedule of the show to see how soon will I be able to see it again, because I don’t think I can wait for it to come back to Atlanta next year. It was awesome. I hate that I had not seen it before, but I will not let it be the last. The cultural fusion of dance and song vaulted me through an online scavenger hunt of similar performances and songs. The album by Alvin Ailey, Revelations, has been on repeat while I have returned to Langston Hughes’ work, but this time discovering his work with music and Negro spirituals. Alvin Ailey has really set a standard for my year and has carved a whole new section into my perspective about proudly being a Black American.

Saturday, February 21st, I wrote about the feud that has set a divide to this day concerning the advancement of Black Americans; that is the feud between W.E.B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington. DuBois’ opinion of raising the majority by an elite minority is a great way of looking at the issue. If the concentrated focus of law and educating succeeds from the top, it would be an overnight open door of opportunities for the awaiting ninety percent of people. However, Washington’s view consisted of a gradual undercurrent of growth by the masses that would go unnoticed by whites that may disturb the movement. I respect both men and their views without question, and I feel that whatever side an individual may choose may simply be because of their personal perspective.

That’s everything that I covered last week, but I really feel as though I could go another week on the same three topics…

No, I’ll move on. Enjoy this week and help someone else enjoy theirs. Remember to keep an open perspective and share compassion.

And thanks for reading!  Whenever I see that a post from Perspective Park has been shared by a reader, I like to image that I saved a life… That’s just my perspective though!

DuBois vs. Washington: Common Ground Wins the Vote

There are so many prerequisites of actual experience needed to understand the identity crises that Black American men (specifically men) go through while growing into adulthood. With this in mind, I always try to give background on whatever position I may take on an issue. In this particular instance, it was a little more age, a little more understanding and a just few experiences that changed how I feel about the positions of Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Dubois.

From the ages of 15 and about 22 years old, I ignorantly and openly made it clear that I disagreed with the methods that Washington thought Black Americans should have taken to educate and grow as a people. Washington felt as though Blacks should continue their menial jobs while quietly getting their educations to avoid hinderances from whites. I hated the idea of that; I felt as though it was cowering.Read More »

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater – Revelations

Recently, I had the pleasure of finally seeing the world-renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater perform Revelations.

It was everything I thought it would be… except better.

Now it may be because I have a proclivity to dance that I enjoyed it as much as I did. Tap, ballet and modern dance have always been interest that I have had neither the time nor the courage (simultaneously) to explore. When I was younger and had the time, I had not the courage. Now that I am an adult and have the courage, I have not the time. So I have enjoyed the explanations of their histories primarily through documentaries and Youtube. 🙂

Like most other things I enjoy, I tried to find where dance most closely linked with the overall powerful sense of strength and unity within Black American culture. It started when I was younger watching Savion Glover on Sesame Street. As I grew I learned the history of our culture and our roles as entertainment to whites. It did put a damper on my interest a bit; but after growing even older and learning of systemic progress needed for people like Glover to exist, I took a second round of interest. By this time though, I had already committed to writing; feeling as though there was never any shame in the practice.

However, when I finally sat in my seat at the FOX Theater, I witnessed a display of art through dance that embodied Black history in a way that could be explained in the fashion that it was before me. Alvin Ailey’s Revelations reminded me of one of my favorite books called, The People Could Fly, by Virginia Hamilton. It is an advanced children’s book telling a tale of slavery through folklore passed down from generation to generation. The book was written in a way where you feel as though nothing was lost through reading it, as nothing would have been lost if you were listening to the story being told for the first time. That’s what I felt about Alvin Ailey’s Revelations. The dancers brought life to the music; the music gave life to their movements, and combined they gave me an experience that is nearly unmatched in my lifetime.

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Was it something that I feel every Black American should put on their bucket list?

No. It did not shed light on anything we don’t already know.

Did it teach me anything from a Christian perspective?

No. Even though it was based in the Christian faith that our ancestors had, it did not enlighten my understanding any as we have advanced in our knowledge of the gospel since then. It depicted what their faith would have been like in that day, and stayed true to the time period.

So what was so special about it?

It was an overall experience. The music, the dancing and all around showmanship was nothing short of passionate perfection. Alvin Ailey shared his perspective of the hate stricken south perfectly through song and dance.

I would recommend any cultural or art enthusiast to go see it. I find it hard to believe that you would be disappointed. I would even recommend purchasing the album from iTunes just to hear the songs; you will not be disappointed. I’m looking for something to top that for 2015 — the bar has been set.

Back to Africa

We’ll I’ll see you when you get back.

The idea of Black Americans going back to Africa was an exceptional, bold and relevant solution to oppressions that we once faced. Marcus Garvey initiated a plan to remove Black Americans from the oppressed lifestyles that we suffered here in the United Stated. I personally believe that it was one of the most impressive plans ever put in place for our people when you consider the time period and the work that went into it.

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Young Garvey

Let’s fast forward to 2015…

Black Americans are still suffering from discrimination, mental stigmas and lack of identification; even geographical identification within the United States. Whether we fit better in the South or North, which coast, and where prejudices are most prevalent all come into question when it comes to where would be best for Blacks. However, no matter what part, I honestly believe that the United States is the best place for Black Americans now. After centuries of building a country and adapting to a country which is virtually closed off to all other countries, I think it’s safe to say that America is pretty much all we know. Not only is it all we know, we have just as much ownership (if not more) of this country as any other race. Going back to Africa at this point would be like building a house and leaving to go to another. I think it makes more sense to fix the issues at the place that you have made your home, rather to go somewhere you hardly understand and have had no history in for 400 years.

Now let get this straight too… I love Africa. I love what it stand for in Black American history and culture, and I love the seemingly never-ending roots that it holds for human civilization. I love it so much that I hate that I cannot call it home. The United States is my home; and it has been my home for five generations (going backwards from me) that I can personally account for. I’m sure there’s a mansion somewhere that contains everything that I could ever imagine putting inside of a home, but it would hold my memories, I couldn’t relate to the structure or the people in it. My home is my home.

I admire the zeal for those who have made it their business to return to the Motherland. I would much rather stay here where progress has been made for me to live comfortably and change the small remnants of oppression that still remain.

I look forward to walking the grounds of Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Tanzania, Madagascar and some of the others — But when I finish visiting, I’m coming back home.

Week 23 Recap

There was a skip in February (as you might have noticed). Anytime I attempt to put together a schedule, it gets shaken apart. So unfortunately, I missed the end of the first week and all of the second.

However, I did  manage to squeeze out a couple on Saturday the 14th…

…to be completely honest, I didn’t have to squeeze them out.

I wrote Mediaheads in an attempt to explain how much we are constantly bombarded by media events that rarely do anything to benefit us — financially, mentally, or spiritually. There is virtually no benefit to what we spend so much of our time doing. While we admire other people’s success, we forget that they spend all of their time practicing to keep us entertained. In short, I realized that entertainment is a luxury. It doesn’t matter if it’s inexpensive or even free; it should still count as a luxury if I spend time on something that doesn’t add to my needed improvement.

I had been waiting to share the interview of Danny & Annie Perasa that I found while browsing NPR. I actually wanted to share as soon as I found it, but since it was so close to Valentine’s, I decided to wait. Their two-part interview covers their not-so-glamourous but love-filled 27-year marriage. It’s really a great story the was done by StoryCorps and was a perfect fit for a February 14th post.

I will be continuing the black history month schedule going forward. I hope that you all have a wonderful week showing compassion and and sharing perspectives.

This Kind of Valentine

I enjoy Valentine’s Day for what it represents — Love.

However, I enjoy real love; not just uncommitted lust repackaged as love. I’m talking about elementary school puppy love and old retired loved. Everything in between are either hormones or growing past the hard parts to get to the old love phase. It’s all part of the process, but who can resist the notion of love without flaws?

I was on NPR the other day and came across a story that was too good to pass up for Valentine’s Day.

Am I a sap? Maybe… But I think it would be awesome if people could make their relationship goals to match a couple like this. There’s no dollar amount on it or no fancy lifestyle attached. It’s the love that everyone say they want, but selfishness won’t allow. I thank God that I have examples that I can look at in real life, but this is a really sweet interview from a couple of 27 years. Hopefully you enjoy it as much as I did.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Mediaheads

I scrolled past this picture on Facebook the other day. It was the first time in a long time that I had seen anything that actually made me think on social media.

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Do I agree with what this picture says? Yes, but it surpasses this month.

Black History Month is not the only thing that media targets. A majority of enjoying life has been subjected to media and how it interprets life for us. It actually speeds time up to the point where you can’t enjoy life for what you have — especially if it isn’t what you see in movies, on television and social media. That goes for whites and blacks and every month of the year… Not just February.

I believe a person’s level of success in anything will have some correlation in his/her ability to tune out unnecessary distractions in the world (or media). For me personally, I like sports. But I have  to realize that it’s hard from me to tell how fast time is going by because I’m living for the next game, series and championship. The NBA, NFL, MLB and NASCAR all profit from me; I profit nothing from them. These luxuries, must be enjoyed under strict regulations in order to attain spiritual, financial or any other personal growth. I call them luxuries because I can’t afford to entertain myself with someone else’s success.

In short, if you let these four events in the picture distract you from Black History Month, maybe you should reprioritize. If you let anything distract you from a goal, you should reprioritize. Life can pass by you regardless of your race and there are no shortages of distractions to keep it from happening. Set your own priorities.

Love Born into Slavery

February 4th, 1822 – Columbia, South Carolina

“You doin’ an awful lot of grinnin’ tonight, Jeremiah.”

“And I’ma keep on grinnin’.” Jeremiah grabbed his new wife by the waist and brought her close to him. “We been married now for forty-one days. Now what you thank about that?”

Sarah laughed and rested in the crevice of his labor sculpted chest. “You still countin the days, I see. Well it’s been the best forty-one days of my twenty-three years. Let’s get some supper and get to bed; it’s like the sun been risin’ earlier every mornin’.”

The two sat and enjoyed supper at the table Jeremiah had made himself. They had been so deep in each other’s thoughts that the sudden banging on the door startled them both to embarrassment. The bad thing about knocking in this hour is that rarely does anything good come from it. Jeremiah stood from the table and made his way to the door. He cautiously opened it and did not like the sight that stood before him.

“Evenin’, Masta Jamison.”

“Evenin’, Jeremiah.”

Jeremiah opened the door a bit wider and stepped out onto the porch of his small shack of a home. He looked to the left and right of his home to see if any others were with the master. His mind raced as he thought if he had done anything that would have called for a late-night beating — no; not since last year.

“What brang you down from the big house at this late hour, Boss?” Jeremiah asked, nervous of the response.

Mr. Jamison sucked in a gulp of air and started, “I need Sarah up at the house for a few chores.” There was a pause. “You know, since the lady of the house is gone to visit her mother.”

Jeremiah’s stomach turned in knots. He knew what that meant, and he could smell the liquor coming off of Jamison. “You mean to tell me that Sarah ain’t been doin’ her duties during the day, Masta Jamison?” he asked. “Since it’s late and she gettin’ ready for bed, I can come on ova’ and do whateva you need.” The attempt to deter the situation was obviously going nowhere, but Jeremiah had to try. There might be some change in heart that would spare them from such disgrace.

“Now these here are lady duties, Jeremiah. Just send Sarah on out and she’ll be back in about an hour.” The pause was longer and quieter than the first. “Boy, am I gonna have any trouble out of you tonight? If so, you about to get you and that lil’ nigga wife of yours a real bad lashin’!”

Jeremiah turned and went into the house. His wife was staring at him with hopeful eyes, welling with tears. “Sarah, Masta gonna need you up at the house for just a few minutes,” he said as assuredly as possible.

“I ain’t goin’ up there, Jeremiah,” she whimpered. “You remember what he did to that girl last year? He gonna do that to me, Jeremiah!”

“No he ain’t,” he responded. “One thang for sho; if you don’t go he likely gone beat you real bad, and I don’t wanna see you hurt, Sarah. If you go, he just might need the bathrooms cleaned or somethin’ small like that. It’ll be alright.” He kissed her on the forehead and walked her to the door.

**********

Hours later, Sarah gently walked back into the house. Jeremiah was sitting in his dinner chair in the middle of the floor. His hands held his head up as he sat slumped over, staring at the floor. Sarah came and sat on the floor in front of him. Her face was bruised and clothes were torn. He stared at his wife, and she stared back at him. Jeremiah stood up over her and went to bed without saying a single word. She cried until she fell asleep; right there on the floor.

As Jeremiah lay in the bed, he thought about his wife laying there on the floor. He had never learned to deal with any problems without use of force. It was all he had ever known. The only two people that had ever calmed him or had been able to get him to talk, was his mother and his best friend from years back — Sarah. Those were the only people he had ever trusted since his father and siblings were all sold away. He knew in his mind, that none of what had happened was Sarah’s fault, but he felt as though it was his. He thought that if there was anything ever worth dying for, it should have been that. He hated himself for not doing more. He hated himself for the fear that he let lead him and his wife into this situation. He wanted to tell her. He knew that if he did tell her, that they could heal together. But his disdain for the white man who had defiled his wife, caused him to be disgusted by the sight of her. His emotions for her were spread in every direction that his heart could reach. So he did nothing; he said nothing.

Sarah knew Jeremiah. She knew how he thought and why he though it. So she did nothing; she said nothing. He needed time and space. After it was noticeable that she was pregnant, he said to her at supper, “I’m running away to Charleston. It’s a free man, named Denmark Vesey, talking about starting a revolt.”

“Don’t go, Jeremiah,” she said as tears ran down her face. “I’m pregnant and I’m scared.” With those words, Jeremiah saw that he still had a duty to serve as a man and as her husband. He had not been degraded to uselessness, though he had felt as such the whole time. He got up and rushed to Sarah and hugged her like he had wanted to on the night she returned from the big house.

**********

On day three-hundred and two of their marriage, Sarah gave birth to a beautiful chocolate baby girl. Their relief was immeasurable to say the least. Jeremiah thanked his wife for asking him to stay. If he had fled, he would have surely been caught and killed, and he would have missed out on seeing this little girl. Sarah thanked him for being the man that he was, making things work for them, and not just him.

They both thanked God for what they had, and for keeping them from worse; and prayed that one day their baby would see better days.

The N(igga) Word

Is the N-word acceptable?

I think this is the most debated question amongst Black Americans… Ever. It is the question where we are split right down the middle. Rarely, will you even find a family where they all agree on whether or not the term is appropriate.

Well first of all, I’m not even going to discuss the word ending in -er. It’s pretty much understood that the -er makes it what we were called during the most trying times of our development as a people. That’s the general white pronunciation of the word, and the sharpness that Black American hear when they hear the -er may never be understood by any other races. As silly as it may sound, it’s true. Most Black Americans, like myself, draw a distinctive line between the two pronunciations.

Last year, after the continuos racial tensions that the media consistently bombarded me with, I was forced to think about the word. I was forced to think whether or not I wanted to use a word that was used to degrade my ancestors, equating them to less-than-human. I thought about it; I thought about it long and hard. I thought about the way my people had to withstand being called that to their faces, and take it; defenseless. I thought about whether there was really a difference between the original word and our derivative of it. I thought about it for a whole weekend before deciding, I’ll probably always say nigga.

The reason why is because it just does not carry the same baggage that it did in the 60s and prior. The word evolved. It changed. The way we use it, say it and it’s definition all changed. It’s almost a completely different word. I was born in a generation where the only negative way the word could be used was either by a white person or with the -er attached. I didn’t set that standard and I’m not trying to change it. I actually like the word and the way I use it. I knew the word nigga and I knew who my niggas were before I fully understood the magnitude and history of the word. That is the culture. I understand how ignorant it may sound to some, but culture is not and will not be completely understood by those who do not participate in it; and I should not and will not be ashamed of it.

We all have different levels of acquaintances. There are colleagues, coworkers, friends, associates and so-on and so-forth. How you group these people is completely up to you. I’m sure that you can understand how thin the line is between some of these groups. For example, you may work with a person that you chat with from time to time in the halls or in the break room, but you wouldn’t call that person your friend. You haven’t had any bad interactions with him, but just knowing his last name and some family information doesn’t make him your friend. It works the same way with young Black Americans — just because you’re my friend, doesn’t make you my nigga. That is the highest level of camaraderie anyone within a black circle of friends can be awarded. That’s what the word means to me; it’s simply the highest bond of friendship within my race. It is not derogatory. It is not negative. It is not a reminder of struggle and pain or oppression. I was born in a time when the word had lost nearly all of those connotations; nigger had not… But we’re not talking about that right now.

Now with my personal use of the word, there comes a responsibility to discern when and with whom to use it. I highly doubt if any older people I know have ever heard me use it. I recognize what it could mean to them, and I reserve what I feel is my right to use it. They may be completely comfortable with it, but I will not take that chance. The use of that word around a person who struggled through the Civil Rights Movement can easily be taken as disrespect. (If you know me, you know that I am completely against disrespect; especially against elders.) So I am very careful that I only use nigga when I’m with my peers. However, even with my peers, I have a few friends that have expressed that they do not like the word, do not use the word and would appreciate if they would not be referenced as the word, and with those peers, I refrain from using the word. Like I started, Black Americans are split with legitimate terms on each side. I believe that we should at least have a level of respect for each other choice though. For example, my friends never told me not to say it, but with their expressed discontent for the word, I chose not to say it around them so that we have a mutual agreement. But the minute you tell me not to say it because you don’t think it’s right, “Nigga please.” You will quickly get the other side of nigga.

How do I feel about white people using the word?  I don’t think they should, but I can’t stop anyone from doing anything. My request has always been that anyone who feels the urge or freedom to say it, that is not of African descent have enough tact to not say it around people who are. There is still a weight that comes with the word that you have to be black to understand. After I grew older and went through a few scenarios that made me feel the weight of what it might have been like to have been called a nigger, I had to fall back and reevaluate my own personal usage and make a decision to continue or to quit. The University of Georgia has a tradition that students do not walk through the UGA Arches until they have graduated. Until you have put in the time required to earn that degree from that school, you will not be legitimately permitted passage through those arches. Now if you decide to walk through anyway, it’s not like the previous alumni are going to go crazy trying to get you to undo your actions, but there will be some kickback. It’s the same way with the saying nigga. I see it as whites wanting the privilege of using nigga, without ever experiencing what it is to be a nigger. Is there a double-standard there? Yes it is. And men still make more than women in the workforce for the same jobs. Women are still called whores for doing the same things that men do which bring them praise.No one is a stranger to the unfairness of double-standards, so the understanding that it’s going nowhere should be of no shock to anyone.

Now all of this is from my perspective; and until we come to an overall consensus that the word will not be used, this nigga is here to stay.