Tag Archives: Racial Profiling

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

 

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…

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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…

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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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An Analogy About Ferguson: Black Lives Matter

An Analogy About Ferguson

Ferguson

A story might help people understand what we are witnessing in Ferguson… I was walking through a department store one time. I was in my 30s, well- groomed, and nicely dressed. As I went along I noticed someone watching me. It was a lady. Who knows, maybe she thought your boy was kinda cute! Then I moved on and noticed a man watching me. Who knows, maybe he thought your boy was kinda cute! However, after about five good minutes of seeing the same 2 people everywhere I went, I knew the deal.

Here’s a little more information for you. If you know me well, you know that I started as a retail manager who was also trained and certified to be a store detective. My job included hiring and training store detectives, so I know a lot about this. In fact, I can walk into a store today and pick out the store detectives just by watching people. Back to the story…

I am not the type to cause a ruckus, or make wild accusations without merit or enough proof. So I subjected myself to five more minutes of being followed just to be sure. I even went back to parts of the store just to see if they would come too. They did. Finally I said enough is enough. I asked the nearest employee to get the store manager NOW. He came in a few minutes. In the meantime, my followers stood dumbfounded and wondered what I was up to.

I told the store manager my issue. I have a problem. He said it was not true and it was my imagination! I repeated myself and told him I was being followed. Again, he insisted that it wasn’t true. I told him about my background and knowledge of store security and procedure. He said, “we don’t do that here.” HE NEVER LISTENED OR GAVE MY CONCERN AN OUNCE OF THOUGHT.

Now the “rage” in me came out. I raised my voice just enough and so that the two people following me could hear. Then I looked for them and pointed them out! The two floorwalkers stepped out with their jaws on the floor. The manager immediately backtracked and apologized for the incident. Then he went to his detectives and walked them away while saying something. Who knows what he told them? Maybe he scolded them; maybe he said nice job. But the key is that he had a CONVERSATION with them. That was good enough FOR ME. I never returned to that particular store, but I still revisit the memories of that incident.

Situations like this have been well-documented by black people. On Twitter, these examples were called being “Alive While Black“…

How does this relate to the ongoing situation in Ferguson, Missouri?

  1. You can’t tell someone they do not have a problem when they do. Instead, use empathy and try to figure out a starting point that might lead to a solution.
  2. When people can not tell the difference between the good guys and the bad guys, bad things can happen.
  3. We need open dialogue, not finger-pointing, accusations, or misconceptions. Honest conversations can lead to reflection, which can lead to change.

As a final thought, the action I took of pointing out those who caused harm is the way that I looted and burned that store. Not everyone responds to perceived injury (real or imagined) the same way.

We stand with Ferguson!

Black Lives Matter