The New Invisible Man

“I am a black woman, but I find more in common with characters in Seinfeld than I do with the ones in House of Payne. My world is neither all black nor all white, but a mix — whether it be race, gender, socio-economics, weight or age.”

– Kendra James writing in Racialicious.


 

I’m not a black woman but I absolutely get what Ms. James is saying. There is no mainstream depiction of Black people like me because we don’t fit the unending minstrel show preconception of American entertainment. And, I don’t mean minstrel to denote a focus on blackness but, minstrel in that buffoonery is the basis for too much of our entertainment.

Post-racial was the buzzword for the 20 minutes following President Obama’s election but I’m not talking about post-racial. My group is trans-racial…intra-economic…meta-gendered…vari-weighted…multi-aged.

We don’t recognize the social boundaries and step over them constantly. We are hard to pigeonhole and it’s that pigeonholing which is the basis for the minstrel show. Until the mainstream figures it out, I suspect we will continue to be left out. I can live with that. Gladly.

  • Eliot

Where Are The Democrats?

More and more people are demanding that some, or all, of Obamacare be saved. Many of those people voted for Donald Trump. Could this be the result of the efforts by Democrats to educate the public on the fact that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Obamacare are one and the same? Liberals routinely use this fact to show how ignorant the Trump voters were. Could they be inadvertently educating those ignorant Trump voters through this ridicule?
 
If so, then the racism of the Trump supporters is even further on display. Their sudden fondness for the ACA or its constituent parts once the “Obama” part is removed shows that it was only about the fact that there was an HNIC.
 
Democrats need to create and promote their own Health Insurance plan. Right Now! Make the improvements that Obamacare needs. Get that into the court of public opinion. Fight it out. Try to find some bipartisan support. Take the Health Insurance issue away from the Republicans.
 
Stop quitting before the game even starts
 
Somebody needs to be looking out for the American people. Even those that aren’t looking out for themselves. The Democratic Party needs to fill that void.
Or move aside.
 
– Eliot

Seize the Deification

In The Huffington Post’s The Racial Wage Gap Between Black And White Workers Is Getting Worse, Pay for black workers lags behind that of white peers more than it did in 1979 by Daniel Marans, Marans does a fine job of dealing with the issue in the title. As I was reading it, I kept thinking about something I had recently seen on TV. Something to do with the President.

Then it hit me

In the middle of all this data (as depressing as it is) lurks another strange truth. That could be the ascendancy to the top of the pile of Black American heroes. Leaping over all others, even the sainted Martin Luther King, Jr. Barack Hussein Obama. The first Black President.

Barack Hussein Obama

He is able to preside over a nation in which murder of innocent and unarmed Black men by the police is widely believed (mistakenly) to be at EPIDEMIC LEVELS. Most Americans (Black, White, Red, Yellow & Brown) believe that Chicago, his home town, is a killing zone in which gangs of Black youth indiscriminately kill anyone on the street. And now this news that the wage gap between Blacks and Whites is not only not getting better, it has actually gotten worse.

While he was President

His reaction to this? To get up behind his pulpit and let Black folks know that he will be personally offended if they did not get out there and vote for Hillary Clinton. WE would be offending HIM by not voting.

For all that he did for them while he was President

Unfortunately, I’m having a hard time figuring out just what that was. What did the President do that was specifically designed to help the group of Black folks he was demanding fealty from? Nothing. And he knows it. He wasn’t really making the argument that was coming out of his mouth.

I think he was making the same assumption his opposition makes: Blacks vote as one.

In this case, you vote for Hillary Clinton because I, Barack Obama, am Black and I, Barack Obama, am the determiner when it comes to political goals of all Black Americans.

Hubris? Not really. He is just taking advantage of all peoples instinctual desire to take the easy way out. Nothing easier than letting someone else do your thinking for you. Eh, Democrats? Republicans?

Don’t get me wrong. I believe Barack Obama was the President we needed for the last 8 years. Did I agree with everything he did? Nope. But much of what he did that I didn’t agree with worked. So, there’s that.

Would I vote for him again given the current choices? In a heartbeat but not because I’m Black. It would have to be in spite of the fact I’m Black. Barack Obama has been a nightmare for Black folks. We’ve had virtually no participation in the economic comeback. Much of the improved profits were on the backs of working folks squarely n the socioeconomic classes Blacks routinely inhabit. Once again, Blacks gave a bit of the gains we had made so that the country can bounce back. But there’s been a net gain. As there always is as we continue our journey to truly realizing that “All men are created equal” meant exactly that.

Our young and our children have embraced the lesson of Dr. King. They come on bended knee before the country of their birth. The country that promises them equal treatment under the law. The country that reveres those that fought for those children’s rights. They ask that country recognize that they are afraid. That they are in danger. That they just want their country to say their life matters.

On bended knee.

And on we go.

  • Eliot

 

 

A Homegoing for Coot

I made the drive out to Beulah Number Two Baptist Church from my parents house in Auburn alone. I went straight to Beulah even though Mom and I had talked about me stopping by Uncle James’ house and maybe getting some shots before. Before. And I wanted to do that.To get the power of the images showing family and what that meant. But I couldn’t. I don’t have that part of being a photographer down yet. I may never make it. Years of being polite (enforced until voluntary) at all times are hard to overcome. It’s hard for me to push myself in front of people or trample on their feelings for an image. Even one I know needs to be saved.

Before.

The distance to Beulah seemed so much shorter on the new  4-lane Highway 280 than it did on the old 2-lane 280 that ran right past my Grandparent’s and Uncle James’ front yards. That 2-lane road that claimed the life of the first dog I remember. Spanky. He was a cocker spaniel and he made it to the highway which featured highballin’ transfer trucks at all hours of the day and night. He was mowed down. For not following the rules. We were not surprised.

Before.

I came around the corner after passing the White cemetery (as in cemetery for white folks) and across from the Pecan Co-op sales shed stood Beulah Number 2 right up at the top of a little hill. A sparkling white cinderblock building with a baby blue metal roof. It was small but there was no missing it or misunderstanding what it was. It looked like every rural Black Baptist church in Alabama. Tidy. Immaculate.  The lawn was freshly mowed and trimmed. No trash or cigarette butts or anything. Not today.

Not today.

I pulled around the back and looked down the road to where the house my father was born in stood. 80 years ago. Uncle Junior and Uncle James were also born there. My Grandfather was a black farmer and those children were his farmhands.  I thought about those three working on that Alabama farm. Plowing. Sowing. Picking. Caring.

Over and over and over.

We’d had a few scares in the family but all five of the children of Mildred and Milton Ware were still alive. With the oldest being 81 and the youngest 57. The chain endured. Before.

It was Alabama hot as I parked next to the entrance. I sat in the air conditioning to avoid sweating through my suit for as long as I could. I watched folks start to come in for the viewing. All sorts of folks. Blue jeans and tennis shoes. Flip flops. Shorts. Suits. Dresses. Capris. Lots of people with metal canes. Older ladies with orthopedic shoes carefully working their way up the five steps to Beulah’s entrance (ADA be damned). Men in threadbare coats that were mended but clean and pressed.

They kept coming. Family and friends. Colleagues and old school mates. I sat in the cool of the air conditioning and avoided eye contact. I didn’t want to go into the heat and I was alone. I had no social crutch. So I just watched folks coming and going. I watched a man pull up in a beat up old Honda Accord. Air conditioner not working and park all alone in a spot behind me. He left enough room for 6 more cars to park. Someone in a new white Chevy pulled immediately in front of him to park and proceeded to back up until he backed right into the Accord’s bumper. I heard the collision and looked up in time to see the owner of the Accord leap out. Time and circumstances called up his better nature. They both took a look at the damage (none). Last I saw, they were in the middle of that time-honored southern tradition of shooting the shit.

It was then that the hearse pulled up and they took Uncle James’ body into Beulah for the viewing. A very efficient group of Black men handled everything perfectly. All done under the watchful eye of a mid-40s Black woman. The owner. Black men working for a Black woman to bury a Black man because that is how it is done in the South. Not always. Not by law. But by tradition. And often enough. Which is worse. So much worse.

I got out of the car and into the heat. Welcome to Alabama. Wow. Listened to the cicadas singing in the kudzu. The unofficial official weed of Alabama. It’s everywhere. Once a Japanese foreigner and now a citizen. As much a part of Alabama as the red clay. Or the people that fight it every day. Adrian and Angela walked up with Ian. Hugs all around because even on a solemn occasion it is worth celebrating seeing those you love. Especially at these times. The hugs last a bit longer and are a bit tighter.

Into the church and a quick stop in front of the coffin and glance at the body. “Doesn’t seem like Coot” popped into my head. And we went and sat down. People filed in and payed their respects. Some sat while others left but Beulah is pretty small and it started filling up pretty quickly. And the majority of the family wasn’t there yet. In fact, it was just Adj, Ang and Ian plus Kayla, Cam and I.

In she walked.

I recognized her almost immediately and started to keep one eye on her. She was well known to go into hysterics at funerals and try to climb into the coffin of whichever unfortunate relative was the reason for the gathering. Years ago, my brother escorted her out the side door just as she was clawing her way into our Grandfather’s coffin. Locking her out and causing her to have to go around the church and come back in through the front door. In full view of the gathering.

He had a real soft spot for GrandDaddy.

No outburst this time. It was all good but this was just the viewing. Not the main event. Not her trigger. The closing of the casket is the real test. Then we’ll see.

No fans. No one was waving a funeral home fan. Seemed odd and then I realized that there was air conditioning. And it was magnificent. The first two times I was in Beulah Number Two, there was no air. Just heat. Strangling. Oppressive heat. Seemed to be right for the occasion. That was for the deaths of my grandparents. There were fans then. Everywhere. With the funeral homes name prominently displayed and nice White Jesus and His similarly hued angels floated around over the name of a funeral home that only buried Black people.

In came the Funeral Director, “If you aren’t family, I need you to sit on this side of the church.” And up they stood. Everyone except a few stragglers, Adrian, Angela, Ian, Kayla, Cam and I. They filled the other side to overflowing and some folks had to leave. “Those of you that are family, need to go outside and come in with the rest of the family coming in the limos.” So out we trooped. Back into Alabama. And July. No air.

We got into the queue order they were looking for. Waiting until the last minute to have the immediate family leave the cool shelter of the limos to stand in line in Alabama. And July. I saw my Mother and Father get out of the limo and head to the front of the line. As the line started to move, it came to a halt. I looked around the shoulder of the person in front of me and saw my cousin Larry walk up to Dad, shake his hand and say he was sorry. Then one by one the rest of Mother’s nephews came up, shook my Dad’s hand and expressed their condolences. Dad nodded. Nothing more. Just nodded each time.

They moved into the church and Dad looked “stoic”. The church was packed. People had rented vans to come from South Carolina to pay their respects to Brother James Ware. People were going to stand outside, in the heat, through the entire ceremony. Not young people but people who were truly immune to the heat from years of working under the Alabama sun.

The service started. It was a mixture of Black Baptist homegoing with a nod to the firm Middle Class status he had attained in his life. Coot had died but so had James. The negro spirituals were ringing out. Time came for the eulogy (I guess it’s the eulogy. I’m not really up on death lingo.) First, my Uncle Junior spoke.

Wares aren’t talkers. Except for Uncle Junior. He is smooth and well spoken. His delivery is pitch perfect for a salesman. He should do instructional videos. He stood up and told some heartwarming stories about Uncle Coot. About the night he was born. About how he got the name Coot. About where they lived. Beautiful stories. And he reminded us that our belief is that Uncle Coot had moved on to Glory and so we should make our sorrow short and our joy long. And he shed a tear and sat.

Dad stood up. Prefaced his remarks with a statement that he and Junior had not coordinated on their statement so some of the stuff might be a repetition. He then said virtually the exact same thing that Uncle Junior had just said. He read it from his prepared text. Not looking up or even acknowledging the uncomfortableness of the situation. Nope, he read. A few people tittered. My Dad is a man that prepares for things. And doesn’t veer from plan unless absolutely called for. He had prepared his remarks and they were still perfectly good for this situation. So, he read.

It was perfect

And then, suddenly, his remarks went wildly astray from the path that Uncle Junior had started down. He told a story about a stub of a pencil found when they were young and something cryptic that Uncle Coot had said while parading around with it. That came back around when they were in their 60s. He read a letter from Uncle Coot thanking Dad for everything he had done for Coot. Telling him how much he admired him. And he choked up. And tears flowed. And he couldn’t talk. And I cried because I couldn’t help him. And my Dad should never hurt. Ever. He doesn’t deserve that.

He kept reading. Until the end. Because that was the task in front of him. Because his brother deserved it. It was at that moment that I realized that Coot was just my Dad’s baby brother. Not the man that I knew my whole life. Just Dad’s baby brother and he was gone. And I thought about my baby brother and how much I loved him and realized that it would crush my soul if anything happened to Adrian. That’s what Dad was feeling.

Finally came the sermon. Firebreathing. Brimstone. Snorting. Sweating. Singing. Songing. Singsonging. And yelling…yelling…YELLING. My daughter started down the road of a panic attack. She’d never experienced anything like this. Ever. A sermon done in the tradition of a people who only had the afterlife to look forward to because this life was a living hell. That tradition continues in the former slave states. The Preacher implored, demanded, cajoled, screamed. ARE YOU READY TO DIE TODAY? ARE YOU RIGHT WITH JESUS?

All questions that we as Christians believe are more important than anything else but in the Middle Class world of American Christianity the Preacher’s Remarks at a funeral are not the time. And especially not at full Baptist Preacher volume. With genuine theatrics and spittle. My children are from that Middle Class world. Firmly entrenched. No theatrics. No spittle.

It took more than a while and bit of father/daughter chat to get her even.

We waited in the car while the others went to the graveside service at the Brummitt Cemetery in Camp Hill, AL. My paternal Grandmother was a Brummitt so we get space there. They would be back for the repast. And they came. The food was handled very efficiently. Everything was being dished into clamshell containers so you could come and get it and then find a seat. I’m weird about eating food that has been laying out publicly, so I didn’t grab one but I’m told it was good. I saw Dad talking to someone in the Church sanctuary and thought he looked a little bright-eyed. Walked over and asked him if he had eaten. He said “no”. I then asked him when the last time he had eaten was. He said “Breakfast…yesterday”.

Diabetic. Multiple heart attacks.

Yesterday? I told him he should get something to eat to which he nodded and mumbled and continued what he was doing. So I did the only thing the eldest son could do – I told Mom. She said “Good. When he falls out, I’m going for his wallet.” Then she got up and went to make sure he got food and ate. Like she’s done for 58 years.

Chit chat and reminiscing. Lots of people with names I didn’t know but faces that looked familiar but…older. I saw my Uncle Coot’s kids (Ramon (or DiDi as we knew him) and Tonja sort of collapsing in on themselves as the weight of the day became too much. Faces still trying to be polite after having just become orphans. The strain was showing.

Red Velvet Cake?

I looked down and Kayla had slid Red Velvet Cake in front of me. “Do you want the rest of my Red Velvet Cake, Daddy? You know you do.” I did. It’s a weakness. So I took a bit. Wonderful. But then the sweetness hit me. Too sweet. I love Red Velvet Cake but I don’t like the taste of sugar. Go figure. Kay knew I’d waste it but she also knew I loved it. And she loves me so “Do you want the rest of my Red Velvet Cake, Daddy?”.

Sitting across from her was Mom and Dad. And I realized that I love them, the way that she loves me. I adore them. Completely. And I’m not ready for a time when they aren’t.

I don’t think I ever will be.

  • Eliot

 

 

 

 

The Republican Party

It’s as if the entire Republican Party has the hormones of a 13 year old boy. Testosterone is rushing hither and yon in his body. Everything is either uncontrollable giggles, an urge to punch something in the face while screaming like a banshee or funny feelings in his nether regions whenever Mrs. Cleaver puts on her apron.

Every day is an adventure in trying to keep from reacting to those feelings. Sometimes, though, the feelings win. And, off he goes. Meat cleaver in hand. Elmer Fudd hunting hat firmly pulled down around the ears.

Get the rabbit

Get the rabbit

Other days, the feelings just make him want to be with folks like him. Others that smell of sweat and armpits and anxiety and fear. Others waiting for someone to tell him what his place in the world is. He doesn’t know.

Woolworth Lunch CounterHe runs to join his tribe whenever something new or strange or different happens. His tribe is good. The other is not in his tribe. Therefore, the other is not good. The other must be stopped before they do something. Something that will lead to something new or strange or different. Something that causes change. Change is scary. Change is inevitable. Change is bad.

Blame the other. Always blame the other.

Grow up.

 

  • Eliot

Black Lives Matter – Syracuse. Hope from the North

Monday, Lisa and I went to the Black Lives Matter march in Syracuse, NY.  I was going as a photographer/blogger and she was going as a participant.  Lisa was coming straight from work and was going to walk the several blocks to the Clinton Square starting point. I had to drive in from Caughdenoy which is about 25 minutes.

So, I packed up the Excursion with a couple camera bodies, wide angle zoom and a telephoto. A few extra batteries and pocket journal with fountain pen. I figured that if there were some problem, I’d be able to use the Excursion to move anything short of a Bearcat out of the way.

I left the Beretta at home because I don’t have a permit and no use asking for trouble. No knife. Not even a multitool.

I parked about a block away from Clinton Square and climbed out of the Excursion. Paid for the parking with Whoosh! and put on my camera harness. As I walked up to the gathering point, I noticed a group of young Black folks. All wearing some variation of black. With black. Accented by black. It was like watching a bunch of kids playing at Black activist. SyracuseBLM-2-3

Mostly they were shuffling papers in a frantic search for the permit. That magical piece of paper that says the establishment recognizes your right to have rights. Hard looks were being given but it all worked out fine. I watched them through this and thought,

“I’m proud of these young people.”

They saw a problem. A problem that we’ve had since 1691. Some have occasionally tried to solve the problem but, for the most part, we all usually just live with it. They are trying to solve it.

Racist Police Officers?

Get Rid of ‘Em!

They gave impassioned speeches calling for the removal of racist police officers. I listened and cringed. I knew what they meant and what some heard were two completely different things. They are being specific in their use of the description “racist” and asking that “all police officers that are racist” be removed.SyracuseBLM-2-14

A goal that any human shares.

The Folks That Don’t Believe Black Lives Matter (FTDBBLM) claim that when BLM asks for the removal of racist police officers, they mean “ALL police officers who, by the way, are racists”. They want you to believe that the use of “racist” by BLM is as a modifier for the general group “police officers”.

Idiotic.

As evidence, during the march I watched as BLM member after BLM member stopped to shake the hands of the police officers providing traffic control for the march. The same members that called for the removal of racist police officers. Logic only supports one of the above interpretations. Prejudice supports the other.

I started wandering through the crowd and taking pictures. Trying to get a feel for what was happening and save it in the image. As I was taking pictures and moving through the crowd, one thing became very apparent:

In Syracuse, Black Lives Matter mostly to White folks.



Well, not just White folks. There were a number of Black folks there. Many of which seemed to have just come from the various methadone clinics spread throughout the city. The others being the organizers and observers of the march. But your basic Dr. & Mrs. Huxtable? Missing. And the total number of Black folks was still less than White folks.

I was glad to see some retired gang members out and working to save the next generation. Doing the hard work of modeling behavior that keeps kids alive. Putting the lie to the belief that the Black community

is indifferent to its suffering. That it does nothing. Here were hard and dangerous men that had been groomed by our mass incarceration binge into even harder and more dangerous men. They put that all aside because they want to help others avoid what they had been through.

Lots of kids with weird haircuts and Honda tires stretching their earlobes. Work boots and Converse All-Stars as far as the eye can see. Aging liberals still following the dream etched in their mind by the Summer of Love. A few anarchists. More than a few LGBT focused folks. And, I’m happy to say, representatives from the Universalist Church in the town where we get our mail. (Hey, in Upstate New York we take progress where we find it)

All outraged enough to come to town and march. To say that Black Lives Matter. Unconditionally. And that there is a problem when our systems don’t recognize that fact. A problem that leads to pain and terror and blood and death. Just another lesson those aging liberals learned from the time of the Summer of Love.

White folks embracing the fact that before All Lives Matter, Black Lives (must) Matter. And working for that. Showing that in a highly segregated, small town in a rapidly conservative part of the state, we aren’t divided when it comes to basic humanity. There was one vocal counter-protestor AND one drive-by shouter. That was it. Everyone else was, if not supportive, at least not actively hostile.

What don’t you see? No overt hostile police presence. The only officers visible were those providing traffic control. No riot gear. No lines. No military vehicles or equipment. Not visible anywhere. They were there. Unseen but there. Down most side streets, a Blue Ford Econoline 15 Passenger van sat idling. The windows were all tinted and it was difficult to see in. As I walked by one of them on the way to my car, I saw the SWAT officers. All wearing body armor and armed with assault rifles. All prepared but unseen. Public protected. Order maintained. But without provocation or penis-measuring from either side.

And, so peace.

The next time someone tells you “we are divided” OR that “most White Americans are FTDBBLM that view BLM with fear or hate,” and they will, take a look through the photos from this march. Then get out your rainbow umbrella.

And know hope.

SyracuseBLM-2-24

  • Eliot

 

 

 

Gay is the New Black

That is a fact. It is the truth. It is undeniable. If you think it isn’t, you are just wrong.

If you still don’t believe it, read this:

On their wedding day, turned away by NC magistrates

All of the pain and anger and shame that the Person’s went through in 1977, is being experienced everyday by Gay citizens across this country. For what they are and what God made them.

Too many people who claim to follow that God, make every effort to demonstrate their hate for homosexuals. Too many people who claim to preach Christ, preach anti-Christ when they call for discrimination against those that God has made in HIS image.

How they can follow Jesus the Christ and be so very hateful is beyond me. It is as if they spit in Jesus’ face every time they are faced with an opportunity to love and understand and accept God’s creation but decide to say that what God has made is bad. That what He made Is perverse. That what He made is not the “plan” because these men say so. God said it was good BUT fundamentalist Christians say “Hold on a minute! We decide whether these people that you made are good, God!”

How arrogant

Of course, that has been man’s modus operandi since God breathed life into the clay. Oddly enough, men always decide that in order to be good, others must be like them. They must look like them, act like them and love like them. If not they are “bad”.

Blacks were “bad” because they didn’t look like them. But then Blacks decided to form their own churches. Separate and unequal. So that they could decide what was good and let God know. This helped them feel like they were real people instead of the 3/5th the law said they were because they were “bad”.

And, as real people, they had to find someone that was “bad”. Otherwise, what would be the point in being a real person and how would they know they were “good”? But who?

Homosexuals are scary because they have feelings we heterosexuals don’t understand. They have sex in ways we don’t understand. They aren’t like us. And, since we are “good” (we tell ourselves that every Sunday in our segregated churches) and they aren’t like us, they must be “bad”.

“Huzzah, we’ve found our bad”

Celebration all around and pats on the back from those who formerly owned the Blacks for seeing the light that some people are just not as good as other people.

“That was all we were trying to get you to understand for the last 400 years. Glad to see you finally got it. Welcome to Christianism. It’s like Christianity except we’ve dispensed with that pesky Christ and just worship the traditions and prejudices of the religion itself. “

“Forgive them for they know not what they do.” Jesus’ answer to His persecutors.

I’m trying, Lord. I’m trying.

Eliot