"Wish I had a way to go from wrong to rich..." - Aquanote
quik-stop posting before the rant: Here's my review of M. Night Shyamalan's Signs -- I sat with my 15 year old sister cowering behind my shoulder for much of the movie. I was prone to bouts of laughing nervously to cover that I was scared a little witless and that my heart was racing. I was desperate for a commercial break, something to let me catch my breath and process what we'd just seen. Then a dark figure stood at the end of our aisle just looking and my sister and I freaked the fuck out having imagined an elusive and irate alien instead of the slim teenager trying to find his seat.
Go at night. Go in a packed theater. Don't expect special effects. Do expect Hitchcockian film techniques and story telling in the way that only M. Night can tell a story. He obliterates every assumption you would make about an invasion pic in the first 15 minutes of the film and then proceeds to keep you off balance for the next 90 minutes. I'm wearing a tin foil hat right now and its not for S.P.O.R.K. purposes.
I was going to discuss some new music today and wait on doing this rant until I had processed some thoughts more but fuck it. I overslept and missed my volunteer meeting this morning so I'm sitting here with some cleaning and grocery shopping to do but having little desire to get dressed. I want to talk about race. Race is significant at this site and in my regular thoughts here in that I don't shy away from saying 'Hey I'm black!' It's important for me that you know that when you read my thoughts, my writing, anything I post here. I don't know that I made the conscious decision that I wanted this site to showcase that Black thinking isn't monolithic, that there are many of us that aren't the images that are of the regular on tv. I'm not the angry/cocky Dr. Benton or the Angry Boston Public Principal or the cocky/angry Law & Order Det. Green or even the many issued Officer Keith on Six Feet Under. I am, however, the brilliant Officer Frank Pembleton. Andre Braugher can play me in the movie of my life. or Don Cheadle. I'm also not on the streets screaming "Holla! It's Murder." I'm not all about the 'ice' the 'ho's' or the 'ride sittin' on dubs' I'm not even the smoked out, laid back, pseudo-intellectualism of the new neo-soul movement. Okay, maybe I am minus the smoked out part. Yeah, I probably am. I'm sure I'd feel comfortable in a room with many of these risk taking artists... (I was about to go on a rant of an entirely different topic here but I need to stay focused so I'm cutting and saving it for another time). I didn't consciously say 'this is what i'm going to do' but that's the way negroplease.com has become.
The point is this: While its likely that you will always consider race when you come here, it is rare that I am really talking about race in political or sociological terms. Or even very personal terms. Culture of race, yeah, all the time. But the more serious aspects of it, very rarely. I'm not sure I've had any real talk of it since my lowercase black rant the first week I was posting.
This will be a discussion of race. Its not going to be angry, accusatory or defeatist. It will probably show a lot of frustration and confusion. And its going to be horribly honest. Probably more honest than I have ever been here because the truth about me and this site, as I said the first week I was here, is that I'm a writer. I'm not a documentarian or an autobiographist. I tell the best story I can tell whether or not all the facts are true. I don't lie but if I get in a battle with a monkey and the action sounds better if its a 500 lb gorilla...the 500 lb gorilla gets the call back and the monkey waits by the phone. Got it? Good. (and why I need to make that clear at this point, I have no idea...I shouldn't have to disclaimer my own fucking site...but again...focus, negro, focus.)
The Friday Five - Ancestry
1. What is your lineage? Where are your ancestors from? I have no idea. First of all, we're only going to deal with my mother's side of the family as I don't know my biological dad's at all (let alone his name but that's for another day) and for matters of ancestry my adoptive father, my real dad, as it were...well, his family doesn't count at least as it relates to me. I don't think anybody in my family knows for sure. Its never talked about so the assumption is that we are just 'of african descent.' We are people without a country of origin. I know that my great grandmother was half Cherokee American Indian. Its interesting to me though, we never discuss that side of our family, either. I wonder if this is why (courtesy christianitytoday.com):
(History is always messy, as Startup observes: West mentions in a note on the Cherokee Constitution that it explicitly denied rights to blacks and mulattoes; many Cherokees were slaveholders.)
Even when I'm hanging with the American Indian, I'm a nigger? Fuck me...
2. Of those countries, which would you most like to visit? Hmm...can't answer since I don't know although I've always had a hankering to go to Senegal. Is there some residual connection hardlined for me there? I have no idea.
3. Which would you least like to visit? Why? Still can't answer.
4. Do you do anything during the year to celebrate or recognize your heritage? I mock Kwanzaa and say 'Umoja' a lot because that's the only one I can remember.
5. Who were the first ancestors to move to your present country (parents, grandparents, etc)? Sometime in the last 400 years, somebody got shackled and put on a boat. Alex Haley didn't write about my family so I have no clue who or when that was.
This Friday Five struck me because it really goes to the root of something for me. Ex-Girl was Italian. She didn't even do the hyphen thing. Her family was fucking Italian ova here. She knew when her family immigrated. She knew that they were from Sicily originally and that yes, there was some mafia shit that made them have to leave the country. She hung her Italian flag with pride. She learned Italian in school because she wanted to be connected to her culture. It gave her an incredible sense of identity to be able to make those connections and know that history.
My grandmother on my dad's side and his sister joined a movement in NY that is about living an African lifestyle. My aunt married some guy who pretends he's a prince. He might have several wives, we're not really sure. They eat this supreme vegan diet based on 'African' traditions and they are always talking about culture and heritage and what not when they call me collect trying to figure out how I can hook them up with some shit because I am the MTV man. But it all seems so strained and fake to me. They are connecting to a continent but not a specific people that they come from. Are they Kenyan? South African? Do their people come from the Congo? Zaire? What?
It seems like bullshit. I don't have any connection to Africa other than I know that sometime somewhere somebody was yanked from the land and brought here...maybe they were sold by their king, maybe they were captured in nets and shackled dissapearing like a kidnapped child today. But I don't know. I can't make a connection to some nonsense on the hope that it applies to me. This nebulous Africa. Fuck Africa. Tell me I'm Senegalese, Egyptian, Ethiopian. Find me a story that explains how my family couldn't afford their land so they sold a son or daughter to stay alive or how white men ran through their homes with guns and whips taking what they would or how the tribe elders exchanged people for food and liqour and spices and safe passage. Just tell me something that relates to me that tells me who I am because this surmising, hoping, well maybe shit don't work. Amistad and Roots are nice stories yeah yeah but they are anecdotal and I need actual to know who I really am. Where I really come from. I am a man without ancestors to celebrate.
And see this is the thing: All my life I've been told to just be a proud American, that the American history is my history. And I agree. Yeah yeah. African American, black, negro whatever history in this country is amazing. Its incredibly harsh but its amazing. But its also very short. And nobody else here is just 'american.' Everybody else hyphenates with a country and with a history and with a story. To me that African-American hyphenation might just as well read 'former slave' 'civil rights' 'pissed off'. It certainly doesn't read 'Family from Japan' 'Made in Korea' 'Probably cooks a mean Pasta...because her family is from Italy.'
My Freshman year of college I wanted to be a political speech writer. I didn't want to be a politician. It never even occurred to me to become a politician. Know why? I never thought I could win. I think most politicians when they get involved think about becoming President. Eventually, maybe, if I do these things right, I can go from local to state to the white house. I innately understood and still understand that I can go from local, maybe to state to the house of representatives. I could never have the top job. Nobody who looks like me would ever have the top job or even the opportunity to go for the top job. I still think that. For all the power, the respect, the likability of someone like Colin Powell, do I think he could ever become president? Nope. Do I think he would even make it to the final ballot? Nope.
How fucked up is that?
I'm not saying its true. I don't know that its true but I honestly believe, I honestly know in my heart of hearts that it will never happen. I can't imagine being alive to see a black president, a legitimate black candidate. Hell, I work in entertainment and its hard for me to imagine having a black boss in Television. We've been doing our TV shows for 10 years, with several different series let's say my production company has done about 35 different productions. Not once have we had a black producer on a show. Not once have we had a black casting director, a black director of post production, a black head of story. We have no black vice presidents. Oh, we have several second in commands, black production managers, black coordinating producers, black editors (although we have a lot more black assistant editors....who are 10 and 20 years older than our white assistant editors...what's that all about? Oh yeah, brothas gotta pay their dues man, gotta pay their dues). Yes there are production companies owned and run by black folks but when I go to meetings with big whigs at other places, when I think about interviewing for other gigs do I expect or imagine black faces (or any other minority faces) will be looking across the conference table from me? Nope.
How fucked up is that?
And I'm not saying any of this to condemn anyone. Its just the reality of America, the America I know and live in. Its just frustrating to me when I stop to really think about it how little recognition there is to how white this country is. And I can understand it. Nobody wants to be told they are bad person. If I were white in this country it would piss me off if black folks and everybody else was screaming racism and prejudice all the time. Because the underlying meaning of those words is that you are a bad person. You can't not take those words personally. But I'm going to say this:
Race is a factor. Its a fucking factor, factor, factor. Its Max Factor, motherfuckers. Its a factor for all of us. You do not get to not think about it just because you don't think you are a racist or are prejudiced. I have to think about it every day. I have to think about it almost all day every day.
I think about the climate my parents grew up in. The riots, the protests, the assassinations, the police, the segregation, the brutally harsh words and images that were on the regular during the 50's and 60's and I think to myself its a different time. My parents taught me a lot about wanting to know about others about respect and creativity and love and life. But there were two sides to that cultural war and so then I think about all those white faces that were on the tv and in the newspapers and yelling at black folks and spraying those hoses. And I realize their children are probably around my age right now.
What did their parents teach them?