In light of the recent decision by a professional basketball team, comprised of mostly black players, to respond to their boss basically saying “I hate niggers” by turning their shirts inside out the next day at work, I have come to the decision that I agree wholeheartedly with the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, and I too do not want black people invited to my events.
It’s not for the same reasons that the Clippers’ owner doesn’t want black people invited to his events. To be honest I don’t really know what his reasons are. Perhaps he recently tuned in to an FM “hip hop” station and after hearing song after drug, sex, and violence-laden song decided that it might be a good idea to keep some distance. Perhaps his media conditioning spans beyond music, encompassing the gamut of stereotype-enforcing media, (media championed and praised by blacks, where the most rich and famous coons are praised and idolized as examples of black “success”). Maybe he’s been hanging out with George Zimmerman, and they’ve been watching Love & Hip Hop, and Basketball Wives, and the Tyler Perry collection, and Katt Williams and Kevin Hart performances (anybody catch that Kevin Hart movie with the ex-rapper who used to have a song standing up against police brutality playing a police officer? Where Hart delivers the line that Zimmerman had no doubt heard a thousand different times in a thousand different ways, shifting his psyche to the point where he could be authentically terrified of someone just because they were black . . . “you’re white. You don’t fight.”)
No, I’m lucky enough to spend enough time with black people to recognize that we’re not the base form of human life that we continue to support ourselves being portrayed as (though admittedly, it definitely rubs off on us. A lot. So much so that it’s very puzzling to comprehend how we could blame anyone who doesn’t get to spend much time with us for fostering a wildly skewed perception. What can people know but what they see?). No, I don’t want black people to stay away from my events because I believe them to be uncivilized, or ignorant, or anything like that.
I don’t want black people at my events anymore, because black people are cowards.
In all the history I’ve ever studied, in all the fiction I’ve ever read, I am hard pressed to find an example of cowardice to rival the modern day black American, and nobody wants to be surrounded by cowards right?
What if lions break out of the zoo and start trying to eat everyone? What if aliens attack? What if the police department decides that they want to grab their batons and blow off some steam? Are cowards really the type of people that you want to be surrounded by?
Black People Are Cowards
That’s why I don’t want black people at my events anymore. Athletes that could refuse to perform until a killer is arrested, even until a killer is convicted, who instead opt for taking a picture where they all have their hoods on and then carrying on with business as usual: I don’t want to be surrounded be these clowns. If you’re black, or white, and you go back to work after finding out that your boss is grossed out at the idea of being in the same vicinity with any black person except for the cutie he’s sugar daddy to, I’m pretty sure you’re not who I want in my corner during crunch time. Real crunch time. Life crunch time.
The most common excuse I’ve heard for today’s cowardice is “they need to feed their families,” which of course is a euphemism for “for the money.” You know, the blacks that sold other blacks into slavery, there’s a good chance they used some of that money to feed their families too. So, that makes them cool with all of y’all? Here’s a question, is there anything that we won’t do for money? Is getting paid an excuse for everything? It’s an excuse for looking the other way when innocent people are killed. It’s an excuse for supporting racism by trying to win a championship for an openly racist owner. With regard to hip hop and media it’s an excuse for purposefully, and most often deceitfully, representing yourself and your culture as pretty much scum who can only be validated by money. Thanks in large part to the exceptional (it’s sad just how exceptional) bravery of Michelle Alexander, (author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness) we live in a society where each day more and more people realize the obvious truth that the goals of the criminal justice system have way more to do with black enslavement than rehabilitation or keeping people safe. Facing the reality of modern slavery, we continue to allow ourselves to be enslaved day after day. (Granted, fear of death is a far cry from fear of lack of wealth, but they’re both fear, the currency of cowardice.) As KRS-One (whose “Sound of Da Police” was actually the theme song for the trailer of that ridiculous movie I referenced earlier, which all but brought a tear to my eye), pointed out on his classic “Black Cop,” many policemen and policewomen are now earning paychecks for gathering up their own brothers and sisters, on charges that perpetually lead to a slap on the wrist for whites but somehow manage to be the first domino in a lifetime of enslavement for blacks. These cops get to use the “feeding my family” line too. We accept it, and go about our day, meek, bullied, and afraid to assert authority against anyone but each other, and amongst each other asserting authority with a ferocity that could only be explained by the rage of hundreds of years of being bullied by everybody else. In New York City, where infiltration and displacement are referenced using the the thinly veiled insult “gentrification” (look up the root word. “Gent.” If we accept and use a term the very definition of which suggests that communities are becoming more noble and graceful, what does that say about the people being pushed out?) natives know better than to display any aggression towards white newcomers, but are as quick as ever to stare down an unfamiliar black face who isn’t from the neighborhood.
What do you call people who walk quietly to slavery? Who allow themselves to be insulted without standing up for themselves beyond wardrobe adjustments that in reality are nothing but a public show of shame? What do you call people that pretend that these ridiculous gestures actually hold some weight rather than face the fact that we are the laughing stock of the entire planet, and as long there’s the chance that someday maybe we’ll be rich there’s nothing that we’re going to do about it?
I call us cowards.
It’s almost as if people have forgotten that struggle includes struggling. You might have to lose your job. You might have to lose your life. That’s what it takes for change to happen. There’s no easy way to do this. If you’re scared to stand up for yourself, for whatever reason, all I ask is that you stop pretending. Stop with the Facebook posts. Stop with the meaningless conversations. Just stop. Be honest. About how you behave. About your part in all this madness. About what you are. A coward. Just a coward. No need to put on an act for the rest of us. We can all see right through each other.
One last thing . . .
For those of you who have made it this far without stopping for how furious at me your shame has made you, I want you to know something. I don’t really think black people are cowards. I think humans are cowards. Most of us. I think that regardless of where one’s phenotype places them within the imaginary concept of race, that the majority of us are content to live on our knees rather than die on our feet.
The problem is, we, us, black people, can’t afford to be like everyone else anymore. Not if we want to survive. I don’t know how we got here, but everywhere you look we’re at the bottom of the global totem pole. We need to make history. We can’t be cowards like every one else, not any more. In fact, we need to set a new standard for heroism. For bravery. For courage. Maybe a standard never before seen in the history of humankind. Extreme situations call for extreme measures, and in modern times our inferiority is ingrained in every single aspect of our lives, from our media, to our religion, to our science, to our public education, to our higher education, to Africa appearing to be the same size as Greenland on all of the maps despite the fact that in reality Africa is 14 times larger. It’s harder to see our enemies than it’s ever been. Our enemy isn’t white people. It’s people who value greed more than human life. Racial division is one of their oldest weapons, and media is their latest. We mustn’t forget how young this weapon is. I didn’t grow up using the Internet. The television itself isn’t even 100 years old. The idea of global celebrity, and global transference of ideas and perceptions of culture, has never existed the way it does today. Just as Howard Beale prophesized in Network in 1976, we’re up against “the most awesome God damned propaganda force in the whole Godless world.”
We’re going to have to step it up.
If you’re down to step it up, let’s step it up. Let’s boycott. Boycott was the foundation of the Civil Rights movement. Do you believe that a cable network exists solely to manipulate the perception of black people? Stop watching it. Don’t put up a post one day praising the episode of Boondocks that never aired and then spend the next day tweeting the entire BET awards. That doesn’t make any sense.
Let’s step it up. If every NBA player who wanted to stand up against racism vowed not to play until the Clippers’ owner resigned, it would be announced that he resigned before you were finished reading this. If he didn’t want to, someone would make him. If we boycotted every night spot that spins music about how much we love killing each other and taking and selling drugs, every single one of them would have new DJs by next week (don’t even get me started on these new DJs. The new drug dealers. Admitting that they know what they’re giving people is bad for them but caring more about getting paid). I went to DJ Spinna’s Michael Jackson/Prince party at SRBs last night and there was more dancing and mirth and free love in that place than every hip hop party in NYC in the last 10 years put together. So when people tell you that we need ratchet nonsense to dance, they’re gaming you. Don’t be so gullible. Don’t act like black people only found out how to have fun when we lost our connection to our own human decency.
Let’s step it up and not buy magazines pushing music designed to glamorize a lifestyle certain to land our youth in prison.
Let’s step it up and take off from work and stay home with our kids until these preposterous tenure rules are revoked from public schools and it’s the kids that can’t be fired, not the teachers.
Let’s step it and use social media to rally each other. Everybody knew about that woman who fired a warning shot and got 20 years (I hear she’s been released now. No thanks to us). Everybody knows about that woman who got however many years for leaving her child in the car while she went to a job interview. Every single week all over Facebook there’s a new video of someone catching a beating as bad as the one Rodney King caught, but I never see a post that says, “Share this if you’ll go on strike from work until these police officers are fired.” “Share this if you’ll strike until this woman is released.” “Share this if you won’t spend a single dollar until Troy Davis is released from death row and granted a new trial.” Can you imagine the impact that that would have? Everybody is always trying to act there’s no solutions. There are plenty of solutions. We’re just too cowardly to implement them. Worried about this discomfort or that discomfort, great or small, that might take place as a result. Having to find a new place to party. Or a new show to watch. Isn’t the discomfort of oppression enough? There’s plenty of solutions, just no easy ones, but if we can shift to courage instead of cowardice, there’s more than enough solutions to guarantee our success. Guarantee. Next time you’re complaining about how this country was built on us, take a second to think about the fact that it still is. If we want to, we can shut this whole place down.
So make a decision between cowardice and courage, and if you choose courage, step it up. Step it up in any of the myriad of ways that are available to us. I’ve named a few. Name a few more. Leave a few suggestions in the comments section. Call up your friends. Tweet. Facebook.
Then start doing them. If you can’t convince anyone to do them with you, do them on your own. Start right away because we’re running out of time. I hear some states are fining people for sagging their pants. I’d never sag my pants, but if we begin to allow people to be penalized simply for attributes that we’ve allowed to be associated with being black, we’re going to find the water getting even hotter very soon.
We’ve been cowards for a very long time. We have a lot of catching up to do. Let’s start right now.
For those of you who don’t want to step it up, do me a favor and at least unfriend me.
Homeboy Sandman is a recording artist on Stones Throw Records. He previously wrote for Gawker on the topic of police brutality.