Tag Archives: Alive While Black

A State of Conscious Rage in 2016

A State of Conscious Rage in 2016

James Baldwin

Photo courtesy of QuoteHD.com

African-American novelist and playwright James Baldwin said it best: “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.”

The only way to appreciate this famous quote by James Baldwin is to listen and learn. If you are truly interested, you should try to see how it plays into my daily activities, and how it leads to the state of rage Baldwin speaks about. At least I can control it; many cannot. What is this rage? It refers to the constant and endless bombardment of the outside world telling us that we are inferior just because of the color of our skin. It is also because we are repeatedly told we should just get over “it.” We have no right to feel the way we do about injustices against us, both real and imagined, even though they continue to happen right before our eyes.

We recently heard stories that John Ehrlichman, former aide to then President Nixon, said that the war on drugs was really an affront to go after black people and anti-war protestors. This is a damning revelation, but are we really surprised about it? While this admission is really old news, it both confirms and reinforces the stories of countless African-Americans who believe the “system” is rigged against us. It is simply confirmation that we didn’t need. It is one of many reasons for my rage.

Why am I in a rage almost all the time?

  • The Oscars celebrate the best work in films and entertainment, but not one of the major categories has a single black nominee…
  • The Sportsperson of the Year Award given to Serena Williams is questioned because a horse had a good year too…
  • Some states are limiting the hours for voting, while others are insisting on various forms of ID that will disenfranchise many poor and elderly people…
  • The Flint Water Crisis and all the effects of drinking lead tainted water will ultimately produce…
  • President Obama is criticized for every move he makes, from visiting Cuba, to speaking briefly about police misconduct, to nominating a Supreme Court Justice…
  • The Black Lives Matter movement is labelled as a hate group, but its objective is to raise awareness about issues far too often ignored in our society…

These are things happening on a macro level, so how do they psychologically affect my personal life? Why am in a rage almost all the time? In 2016…

  • I was recently stopped by the police and one false move could have ended in jail time or worse…
  • My neighbors still give me with a less then friendly greeting even though I am always first to acknowledge their presence…
  • My son was labelled as a problem because he was in the wrong school at the wrong time of his academic journey…
  • I was alive while black when a store clerk, who handed the person right in front of me his change and thanked him, dropped my change in the palm of my hand without saying a word…

I could go on and on, but doing so will only overstate the obvious:

“To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.”- James Baldwin

 

Fear of a Routine Traffic Stop

Police-Lights

Recently I was pulled over by the police for a routine traffic stop. It was six o’clock at night so there was still plenty of light. I had a broken driver’s side mirror that was still intact, but patched up so that it was still serviceable. I thought that was the reason why I was being stopped. The police pulled up behind me, and followed me for two blocks and then turned on their lights to make the stop. Unbeknownst to me, the registration on my car had expired. I found a safe place to pull over and awaited my fate.

There were a million thoughts running through my head: will this be a friendly or hostile police officer? How long will this stop take? How much of a fine will I get for a damaged mirror? I knew my driver’s license is clear; I have no points on it and my last ticket was four years ago. Yet I still had a feeling of uneasiness as I put the car in park. Then it happened, I spotted a female officer in my right side mirror, slowly inching toward my car. When she got to the rear window, I rolled it down. She yelled, “The other side!” Then she pointed in the opposite direction. I turned to my left, and there was a male officer at my driver’s side window. He was trying to talk to me, but I did not respond because I did not know he was there!

I quickly gained my composure and rolled down the window. He asked the typical question, “Do you know why I pulled you over?” “No,” I replied. He told me my car’s registration had expired. Then he asked for my license, registration, and insurance card. I pulled out my wallet to produce my driver’s license, and then opened the glove compartment to get my registration and insurance card. Meanwhile, the female officer had a curious angle to my right to watch the exchange take place. He also asked who owned the car, before he hastily went back to his police car. The female officer made a much more cautious retreat back to the car. I saw that she never took her eyes off me.

After about five minutes, he returned to my driver’s side window. He told me the car was registered in my wife’s name, but if I am driving it I should know about the expired registration. He did look at the damaged mirror, but said nothing about it. Instead, he issued me a warning for the expired registration and told me to get the car registered as soon as possible. I felt a sense of relief until I looked over my right shoulder. Again, the female officer carefully slid back to her position near my passenger door. She had an anxious look on her face that really made me nervous.

Now I know this seems like an innocent encounter with two police officers that ended without incident or fine. Thank God for that! It was an example of proper police work, and a level of professionalism that I appreciated once the stop ended. However, for me it was far more than a regular traffic stop. It was a situation that could have escalated into a conflict with far worse consequences than a traffic fine. It could have become a #CopsLivesMatter vs #BlackLivesMatter situation. Maybe it was my imagination, but I know how easy these encounters can turn into a confrontation. Let me review a few points…

  1. He was trying to talk to me, but I did not respond because I did not know he was there! What would have happened if my lack of communication led the officer to think that I was being uncooperative? If you don’t think this is possible, please review the case of Sandra Bland.
  2. I pulled out my wallet to produce my driver’s license, and then opened the glove compartment to get my registration and insurance card. What would have happened if either officer believed I was reaching for a weapon? If you don’t think this is possible, please review the case of Jamaal Jones.
  3. She had an anxious look on her face that really made me nervous. What would have happened if she and her partner thought I was a criminal who made them fear for their lives? If you don’t think this is possible, please review the case of Marcus Jeter.

I know that critics who read this will be quick to say that none of these things happened, so what is the big deal. The big deal is that EVERYTIME I see the police, I get a little nervous. Even though I am a law-abiding citizen without a criminal record, I STILL get nervous when I see the police. To be fair, I must share the event described by Will Stack, who is a law-abiding citizen whose traffic stop ended without incident. Not all stops end with a confrontation because there are thousands of good cops who act with professionalism and courtesy every day.

However, this does not diminish the fact that I have to be careful anytime I am stopped by the police any way. I have far too many personal #AliveWhileBlack stories to support my anxiety anytime I see officers of the law in my rearview mirror.

Yes it is true that #CopsLivesMatter and #AllLivesMatter. No one disputes this. This is my attempt to let you know that when it comes to routine traffic stops, it is important to remember that #BlackLivesMatter too.

If Black Lives Matter, Why Don’t Black People Protest About “Black-on-Black” Crime?

Black Genocide

Photo: http://www.voguevoice.com/but-nobody-protests-black-on-black-crime/                            Black-on-Black Crime Myths Discredited

Many opponents of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement point to the issue of “black-on- black crime” and question why we do not protest when a black person kills another black person. Their argument is to say that crimes committed by black people against black people are an epidemic not being addressed by the black community. Instead, our focus is misplaced and amped up when a police officer kills an unarmed black person. They say black lives matter then, but not in our communities where crime and violence is rampant. The “we ignore black-on-black crime” narrative then overshadows, or at the very least is used as a counterargument, against the issue of potential police misconduct against black people.

Let me begin with the false notion of “black-on-black” crime. First of all, this is a myth because research shows that people are more likely to be a victim of crime from someone they know, or the ethnic group from the place where they live. If a black person lives in a predominately black community, it is more likely they would become a victim of crime at the hands of another black person. Critics of Black Lives Matter and those seeking to race bait somehow gloss over this fact. By the way, the same concept holds true for white people who live in predominately white communities. Do we call crime in these communities “white-on-white” crime?

How about “yellow-on-yellow” crime, as a derogatory reference to Asian people who commit crimes against other Asian people? How about “brown-on brown” crime, as a derogatory reference to Hispanic people who commit crimes against other Hispanic people? Here’s a great one: how about “red-on-red” crime, as a derogatory reference to Native Americans who commit crimes against other Native Americans. Just say these references aloud a few times and you should realize how ridiculous each sounds. Then ask a question: why are these terms not used, even though crime statistics support their “validity”? Again, people are more likely to be a victim of crime from someone they know, or the ethnic group from the place where they live.

For the sake of argument, let’s give some validity to the “black-on-black” crime narrative. Critics of movements like Black Lives Matter will say we sit back and allow “black-on-black” crime to occur in cities across the country. Where are the protest marches when a teen is gunned down in Chicago? How about when there is a gang-related shooting in Memphis? What about drug-related violence in St. Louis? Where is the outrage in the black community?

Let’s think about this for a second: again, people are more likely to be a victim of crime from someone they know, or the ethnic group from the place where they live. Do you think for one second that black people who live and work in Chicago are not anxious about the safety of their children on the way to and from school? Do you think for one second that black people who live and work in Memphis are not worried about their children getting caught up in gangs and criminal behavior? Do you think for one second that black people who live and work in St. Louis are not concerned about drug-usage in their community and the violence that usually follows? I question the motives and sincerity of anyone who would dare think we are not disturbed about these issues in our communities. They say: If Black Lives Matter, Why Don’t Black People Protest About Black-on-Black Crime?

While we see images of BLM protests that spring up when a police officer kills an unarmed black person under strange circumstances, we do not see images of community rallies when crime gets out of control in inner-cities. These protests exist, and they are more abundant than protests when law enforcement officers shoot unarmed black people. Let me repeat: These protests exist, and they are more abundant than protests when law enforcement officers shoot unarmed black people. I am sure critics who read this will not believe this fact, so let’s dispel the myth once and for all that we do not care about “black-on-black” crime. We do, and black people around the country protest violence in their communities, and work tirelessly to bring forth change.

The following list, though not exhaustive, documents several “black-on-black” anti-crime protests conducted in 2015 alone. Why was there little coverage of these events? Maybe it is to keep the disproven narrative of “black-on-black” crime alive. Or maybe it is because the rallies below are not a sensational as rallies against allegations of police brutality. In either case, the only way to dispel the myth that black people do not protest against violence in their own communities is to do some research. An even better approach is to join one of the anti-crime rallies orchestrated and led by black people around the country. Then everyone will know that Black Lives Matter in black communities, even when we don’t hear about it or see it in the news…

East Flatbush, NY: Dec, 2015

http://interactive.nydailynews.com/2015/12/former-gangbangers-reduce-gun-violence-brooklyns-streets/index.html?utm_content=buffer2b6f4&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Jersey City, NJ: Nov 2015

http://www.nj.com/hudson/index.ssf/2015/11/jersey_city_residents_march_to_stop_the_violence.htm

Chicago, IL: Nov 2015

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/alphas-in-the-streets-march_565364c2e4b0879a5b0be458

Harrisburg, PA: Nov 2015

http://fox43.com/2015/11/28/harrisburg-community-protests-violence-after-two-men-killed-in-two-different-shootings/

Charlotte, NC: Oct 2015

http://qcitymetro.com/2015/10/19/marchers-carry-anti-crime-message/

Irvington (Indianapolis, IN): Sept 2015

http://wishtv.com/2015/09/13/irvington-holds-anti-violence-rally/

Portsmouth, VA: Aug 2015

http://wavy.com/2015/08/14/movement-against-gun-violence-grows-in-portsmouth/

Rockford, IL: July 2015

http://www.wifr.com/home/headlines/Community-Marches-Against-Violence-and-Crime-317039821.html

Ypsilanti, MI: July 2015

http://photos.mlive.com/ann-arbor_photos/2015/07/ypsilanti_community_protest_to_18.html

Pittsfield, MA: June 2015

http://www.berkshireeagle.com/news/ci_28467320/pittsfield-residents-rally-protest-violence

Brooklyn, NY: June 2015

http://www.ny1.com/nyc/brooklyn/news/2015/06/11/anti-violence-activists-rally-amid-crime-spike–launch-of-summer-all-out.html

Hartford, CT: June 2015

http://www.wfsb.com/story/29257037/rev-al-sharpton-leads-anti-violence-rally-through-hartford

Tampa, FL: March 2015

http://www.tampabay.com/news/publicsafety/crime/stop-the-violence-rally-held-in-response-to-surge-in-tampa-shootings/2222624

Joliet, IL: March 2015

http://www.theherald-news.com/2015/03/14/joliet-residents-and-leaders-urge-community-to-stop-the-violence/am2fujq/

Milwaukee, WI: March 2015

http://milwaukeenns.org/2015/03/20/unite-milwaukee-summit-seeks-to-address-violence/

Baton Rouge, LA: Jan 2015

http://www.wbrz.com/news/family-holds-rally-for-bloody-start-to-new-year/

 

Good Times Teaches Lessons Learned Yesterday from the Headlines of Today

Good Times

I have learned valuable lessons from the 1970s hit television show Good Times (1974-1979). The show followed the lives of the Evans family as they tried to survive through hard times. Good Times is regarded as a classic sitcom because issues covered by the show still exist today. Unemployment, bullying, and gun safety are a few of the many subjects in Good Times that are in the headlines today.

Lesson learned: we are still dealing with unemployment in our communities.

James Evans was the hard-working father who worked tirelessly to provide for his family. It was the only way of life he knew. James dropped out of school to work and support his family. Since then, he had a hard time finding and keeping stable employment due to his lack education and the shortage of available jobs. Sound familiar?

Lesson learned: we are still dealing with bullying in our schools.

In “The Lunch Money Ripoff” (1975) episode, youngest son Michael Evans was the victim of a bully at school. He had to give up his lunch and money every day, or face punishment from the bully. Michael invited the bully to spend the weekend with the Evans family to solve the problem. It was one of the few times the bully saw a loving family led by both parents. Sound familiar?

Lesson learned: we are still dealing with gun safety in our homes.

In “The Family Gun” (1975) episode, the community is rocked by crime due to unemployment, drug and alcohol abuse, and poverty. The family needs protection, so they keep an unsecured gun in a closet. The gun is supposedly hidden, just like many homeowners claim today. Everything appears to be alright until the gun is missing. Sound familiar?

Lesson learned: we are still dealing with violence and gangs in our communities.

In “The Gang- Part One” (1974) episode, oldest son JJ Evans was being forced into joining a gang. He was needed to help win a fight with a rival gang. JJ realized that gang life was not for him, so decided he would do anything not to get involved. He was shot when he refused to go to fight with the gang. Sound familiar?

Lesson learned: we are still dealing with the need for two-income households.

Florida Evans was the strong-willed mother and backbone of the Evans family. She spent the majority of her life being a housewife. Florida realized she had to do more to supplement the family income, so she went back to school. Later she entered the workforce too, even though it meant less time to spend with the family. Sound familiar?

Good Times covered lessons from the past still in headlines we see today. The show taught me a lot about families and the ties that keep them together. If you have not watched this iconic sitcom lately, I suggest you find Good Times to learn some valuable lessons too!

Black is Still Beautiful

Black is Still Beautiful, from Wake Up! 42 Ways to Improve Black America Now, written by Gary A. McAbee

Throughout the Civil Rights era, something great was rediscovered. We remembered that we are a beautiful race of people, on the inside as well as our outward appearances. Black Nationalism, a belief that blacks in America should take pride in our race, took shape. The sayings were numerous, from “I’m black and I’m proud” to “black is beautiful”. These sayings helped to establish pride in our communities and lift our collective spirits. African Americans finally realized that we are a beautiful race of people.

Sometimes it seems that adversity brings about change, so it is easy to see why the adversities faced during the Civil Rights Era would spawn a movement of Black pride. Using that logic, one should conclude that today’s troubling times would be right to cultivate a new movement of black pride. However, universally this is not the case. We are making progress, but the progress we make seems to be in small circles. A challenge from an outside force that we all can clearly see is the only way we will get the masses of African Americans back to believing in black pride, and believing that we are still a beautiful race of people.

Right now, we are too separated; we are not united by a singular cause. Although many issues standout such as crime, the lack of quality education, or single-parent families, we are still in need of a rallying point. We need a lightning rod to unite us, then our pride, determination, and beauty would rise once again. The main reason why this has not happened since the Civil Rights Era is our comfort level in this country. We, as a race, are comfortable where we are today. Therefore we make a huge mistake when we allow the wrong things to show the world our beauty and black pride.

Black America, you are too comfortable! You are resigned to the “fact” that our problems are either too widespread, or too far gone, to understand that we need a dose of our beautiful black pride. We need to get back to our roots, and to learn how our ancestors managed to persevere through situations far more difficult than we face today. We need to learn that the beauty in our race starts from within, from our spirit and strength that can not be destroyed.

Our spirits have been bruised, tortured, and scarred, but we as a people have always moved forward. The only explanation for this is our beauty. The same beauty that existed 1,000 years ago in the kingdoms of Africa still exists today. The same beauty that helped our ancestors survive in slave ships while being transported across the ocean to foreign lands still exists today. The same beauty that kept us while we were in shackles through years of hard labor still exists today. The same beauty that endured public segregation and humiliation still exists today. The same beauty that faced the injustice of discrimination still exists today.

The wonderful thing about this is that each of us, as black Americans, have this beautiful power in ourselves, and in our families. It is there, waiting for us to discover it, explore it, and embrace it. Beauty is ours! A key to waking up Black America is to examine “Our Story” to help us find solutions to our problems. We must accept the fact that Black was, is, and always will be, BEAUTIFUL!

Join Gary on Twitter and Facebook to keep the conversation going!

Alive While Black

In December 2014, Twitter exploded with thousands of tweets using the hashtag #AliveWhileBlack. Alive While Black was a Twitter movement that focused on sharing stories about negative experiences of African Americans. The current climate of accusing the police of brutality at every turn was the original concept behind Alive While Black. However, the “movement” quickly turned into examples of experiences that so many African Americans face on a daily basis. Of course, this has to be done in 140 characters, so the stories had to be short, condensed versions of episodes like this…

AliveWhileBlack3 (2)

The idea was a noble, but feeble attempt to show that many African Americans experience things that other people of color can understand. It was also an attempt to educate people of other races that these experiences are not imagined. Instead, they are real. We get stopped by police based on suspicion. We get followed in stores regardless of our appearance. We get treated as the help when we are really the boss. Yes, all of this occurs in 2015. However, many people disagree and call these experiences a part of our imagination. Sorry, my imagination is not this good…

AliveWhileBlack5 (2)

So Twitter was ablaze, and I read countless, heartbreaking Alive While Black tweets and I started to think. I have numerous stories I could share as well. I am not a Twitter aficionado (see my 1,400 tweets in 3 years), but sometimes I do have something important to say. So I took to Twitter and shared some of my Alive While Black stories. It was a brief moment of cleansing that I “enjoyed”. I have to be honest though: 140 characters do not adequately explain the memory of these episodes that I carry around every day. I was pleased to have several people re-tweet and even share my anecdotes, as if doing so was their validation of each situation and an indication of having similar shared experiences.

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I have included several of my Alive While Black tweets here. Take a look and let me know what you think! I will let my loyal readers be the judge. However, I want to be clear that these are all real stories and memories I will never forget. By the way, this is not even the tip of the iceberg. For you see, I have numerous other Alive While Black stories. Maybe I will turn them into the  next book I write. In the meantime, I hope you can at least appreciate that people of different colors do have different experiences. Saying these issues don’t exist is a way to minimize, if not totally ignore their existence. In my opinion, in order to bring people together, we need to start by accepting that we are treated differently sometimes. Then we can move forward to find solutions.

By the way, my Twitter handle is @McabeeGary. I need all the friends/followers I can get.

Gary A. McAbee

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