Tune into this week’s Tackling Tomfoolery podcast on coons, Toms, and sellouts, who they are, why they are, and whether or not we see them that way. Be sure to subscribe!
Tune into this week’s Tackling Tomfoolery podcast on coons, Toms, and sellouts, who they are, why they are, and whether or not we see them that way. Be sure to subscribe!
Good morning. I just want you all to know though tragic and terrible, *I* am not sorry about the kidnapping and torture of a developmentally disabled White man at the hands of some idiot Black folks. I offer no apologies, I feel no shame, I am not compelled to explain anything to anyone, and I am not embarrassed as a supporter of the BLM movement or as a Black person.
I am tired of being grouped as one gigantic Black collective operating on one mind and one method of living.… I am tired of people talking to me as if the actions of questionable Black folks are somehow my responsibility to explain, rationalize, or rebuke. We are not one humongous Negro and we don’t owe anyone shit in the way of justifications and details about others.
Some fools kidnapped a man and were cruel to him. It is awful, but I’m not apologizing for it any more than any of the White folks around me come to apologize for Dylann Roof, James Holmes, or Jared Lee Loughner.
When I was growing up, my mother was always funny about how she wanted her house cleaned. Certain towels and t-shirts were deemed rags to be used for dusting while others were deemed unusable and tossed. She wanted the bathroom sinks and tub cleaned with Comet, not some newfangled cream based product. And I had to be sure I folded the towels the way she taught me because what self-respecting woman would have her towels folded in anything but geometrically sound rectangles? Though she had her preferences about the whole house, she was most particular about the kitchen. She made it a point to say to me ad nauseam, “You can’t just wash the dishes and think the kitchen is clean. Wipe down the stove, wipe down the counter, put the dishes away, clean out the microwave, sweep and mop this floor. IT’S ALL A PART OF THE KITCHEN.”
That line always annoyed me. Granted, I knew I was being lazy for not addressing everything, but being called out as such still left me brooding or soundlessly mouthing snarky shit while my mother was out of the room. I mean, couldn’t she lighten up a little? Why did EVERYTHING need to be pristine? The dishes were washed, what more did she want? It wasn’t like I didn’t do any work at all. I did plenty – even if the floors weren’t clean, the microwave had old food stuck to its walls, and the floor was covered in black shoe prints. Clearly, moms was just trippin’.
I see the same attitude I had about the kitchen from Nate Parker and the folks who refuse to see the flaw in his indifference and attempted disengagement from his rape case and the suffering of his now deceased victim. When asked about his rape case, he stems annoyed, indifferent, and he’s quick to point out what he has accomplished since then. He had the trial, he was acquitted while his partner in crime was convicted. He went on to graduate from another college. He married and started a family. And now, Nate Parker has a blossoming career in acting and filmmaking. To him, he’s made all the necessary moves when really, he just washed the dishes but failed to wipe the counters and mop the floor.
No one can restore the life of Nate’s victim, but the least he can do is be remorseful. The least he can do is talk about the importance of consent, integrity, and honesty. The least he can do is apologize for causing hurt, for being dismissive, for being dishonest, and for putting his dick and ego above the well-being of his victim. Instead of these things, he is angry because folks are pointing out the fact he washed the dishes, but his kitchen still ain’t clean.
Dirty kitchens are what keep me from being able to stomach The Cosby Show reruns, what has my musical selections free of R. Kelly songs, and ultimately, what will keep me out of the theater while others are watching The Birth Of A Nation. Holding up a few clean dishes while standing in the middle of a filthy floor does not imply a room is pristine and I can’t support anything that involves Nate Parker until he learns it’s all a part of the kitchen.
When I was a child, The People’s Court was a big and new thing. A mostly grumpy older white man, Judge Joseph Wapner preempted Judy, Mablean, Lynn, Mathis, et al. He was no-nonsense and before anything else was discussed, he wanted to know if there was a receipt for whatever was being refuted. From damaged hair weaves to unpaid rent, a receipt could change everything in the o…riginal People’s Court.
From watching the show and being raised by a mother who believed in keeping receipts for EVERYTHING, I grew up believing in the power of proof – whether it was proof of purchase or proof why a premise is problematic. So, feeling the way I do about receipts and walking around with at least ten or so in my wallet at any given time, I am staring and slow blinking at all I’ve been reading about Colin Kaepernick’s allegedly patriotic opposition.
Yes, I understand folks don’t have to agree with him. I mean, viva la difference, right? Yes, I know some folks feel personally connected to the Star Spangled Banner because patriotism, warm hearts, apple pie, baseball, mayonnaise, and what not. I mean, I genuinely believe America is one the best places to live – despite the racist oppression, human trafficking, tearing up of the middle-class, and that pesky way it was established on the literal blood and attempted genocide of the Indigenous People and the slave labor of Africans. I like that I can write this without fear of prison (mostly), though I might end up blocked from Facebook for 30 days if the racists get upset. I appreciate how Kaepernick can hit that football field, take a knee during the National Anthem, and be well within his rights to do so. What I don’t appreciate is the way we’ve dug into our wallets and pulled out receipts for the racist lyrics and history attached to The Star Spangled Banner and a paid invoice for the issues to which Kaepernick wants to draw attention only to be told, “Eff your proof of purchase.”
I don’t know about you, but if I return to the store to get my money back on a defective product for which I paid my hard-earned money, there will be furniture moving. If a store clerk looked at the defective item in my hand and the receipt that proved I paid for it expecting it to be whole and told me, “Screw you AND this defective crap you probably broke yourself because you’re Black,” suffice it to say, there would be a problem or two.
And so it is with Kaepernick, the issues he is protesting, and the Star Spangled Banner. Granted, he didn’t start this to draw attention to the song itself, but in all the ballyhoo surrounding those who are angry with him, the unequivocal evidence of the racist basis for that song has come out and there are still folks wondering why a Black guy wouldn’t want to stand hand over heart whilst singing along with the artist du jour. With the frequency with which reports of physical abuse and murder of unarmed Black folks increasing, the relevance of the receipts is being downplayed. The right of the unwilling consumer to be made whole by the retailer is repeatedly ignored. Judge Wapner would be so displeased.
I’m not going to post an article. I’m not going to speak his name. I just know I woke up about 3:30 this morning and saw a tweet about the auctioning of a murder weapon used to kill a child the killer was stalking and words about being exonerated and not “cowering.”
I’m not going to go into the depths of my fury. I’m not going to expound on the rage that results from the increasing difficulties in my life because of this brown skin and the triggers that cause it to bubble to …the top. I just know when I read that tweet, the kindness and decency instilled in me via my upbringing dissipated – broken down by the status quo of my Blackness.
I’m not going to pontificate on the far reach of racism. I’m not going to talk about the tears I’ve cried because my people are being used for life’s target practice. I just know I’ve BEEN tired, I know others like me suffer the same fatigue, and my full expectation is for all of us to be unyielding in our actions.
I’m not going to talk about praying for peace and understanding in this matter. I’m not going to acquiesce and say all the words we’ve been taught to say about forgiveness and healing. I just know there must be action and that action is about three years past due. What is the hold up?
As a child and well into adulthood, most folks I know have swapped stories about epic beatdowns they caught at the hands of a parent, grandparent, or guardian of some sort. Picking switches, catching hands if the switch wasn’t big or strong enough, watching one’s parent pull an extension cord from the tool drawer in the kitchen, and receiving a blow for each syllable the parent spoke and wondering how they suddenly became so unusually wordy in the process. Many of us know the drill and many of us look back at these incidents and laugh. We chuckle at the time we tried to run from the whoopin’, only to get it worse than we would’ve had we been still. We belly laugh while reflecting on the time we attempted, successfully or unsuccessfully to grab the whoopin’ tool of choice mid-spank only to heighten the intensity of the torture. Often, one ends an epic ass beatin’ tale with some sort of wistful statement like, “What was I thinking?” or “If only I’d listened, I wouldn’t have gotten whooped.” Even parents get into the spanking discussion bragging about how many marks they left, their ability to dish out the correction sans marks, how many times the child danced in a circle trying to escape the belt, and how he/she never tried such a thing again. I’ve certainly told and heard my share of spanking stories and I had the accompanying robust chuckle to go with it, but the older I get, the more I wonder if any of it is actually funny.
If I Don’t Hit You, The Police Will
Like many, I was raised in a traditional Christian church. “Spare the rod, spoil the child” was the general sentiment of parents and all of them felt justified in hitting their children if it meant keeping them in line. After all, “It’s better I beat them than for the police to do it” right? Though I think I understand what folks who believe this mean, I have to say it isn’t really logical, especially when considering the many folks who have been verbally and/or physically harassed, falsely accused and/or arrested, sexually assaulted, and beaten and/or killed by the police were from homes in which parents doled out beatdowns like morning Flintstone vitamins. Black reality has repeatedly shown us good manners, impeccable fashion sense, perfect diction, and even good posture cannot save Black folks from the police. I would venture to say childhood spankings don’t do it either.
Sometimes, I hear parents say they hit their children because they need them to develop a healthy fear of their authority figures. I understand. The belief is if the children are afraid, they will comply to avoid physical consequences and on the surface, it makes sense. Unfortunately, this line of thinking is generally about parents mistaking fear for respect. Many slaves obeyed their masters. They were quiet whilst uttering an occasional “nossuh/yassuh” as they bowed and scraped while careful not to make eye contact. But none of that was respect. It was fear – the emotion that breeds contempt, resentment, hatred, distrust, and destroys the will to think of ways to be and live better. If getting one’s child in line is only achieved by frightening the spirit out of that child and giving birth to contempt, I feel it’s safe to say it is time to look for alternatives.
I know the common thought about how there are so many white serial killers, white collar thieves, trust fund miscreants, and even little baby whites throwing retail store tantrums while screaming at their parents because they all got time outs instead of whoopins, but is that really what it is? My mother wasn’t one for a lot of corporal punishment, but in my upbringing, what affected me most was her being disappointed or disgusted with me, not her using a belt to try to get me in line. It was my desire to make her proud of me that kept me well behaved, not the threat of the belt, which only made me afraid.
I Hit You Because I Love You
I think I would have a difficult time telling my hypothetical child to steer clear of romantic partners who put their hands on her while she’s stands listening to me still aching from the last time I beat her. I think I’d have an even harder time telling her I spank her because I love her but a man who hits her doesn’t love her at all. It’s a powerful mixed message I wouldn’t want to send. I have witnessed children flinch from fear whenever their parents call their names or do something simple like reach out to fix the child’s collar or zip up his/her coat. Once, after putting hands on my friend, her mother came downstairs and lamented to me about how tired she was from spanking her daughter because “It just takes so much out of you.” She sighed deeply, smiled to herself, then treated herself to some lemonade and a talk show. I just sat there silently because I was too afraid to go up those stairs to check on my friend. I needed to save my own hide.
We Have To Do Better
Ever since the movement to stop child abuse by informing children they could call the police if they are the victims of abuse, parents everywhere, mostly Black folks, have made numerous jokes about breaking a child’s fingers for trying to dial 9-1-1 or about taking them down before they can even get to a phone. Others have complained about police beating and killing children but not being able to hit their children themselves. Something is wrong when folks start to lament their inability to cause bodily harm to their children. People are literally fighting for the right to hit their children and they don’t seem to understand the abusive nature of their complaints. My mother always told me I am obligated to do better once I know better and I subscribe to those words daily. It all leaves me wondering if we are really helping our children by beating them or if we are damaging their trust in us and causing them to fear and resent us instead of respecting us. Maybe that rod isn’t the belt or switch we always thought it was. ©
I cannot write about Tamir Rice today. I can’t post pictures of him on my Facebook page or write words about how sorry I am he’s gone, how I hate the lawlessness of law enforcement and the bigotry behind the preconceived notions that led to his death, or how folks wrote, screamed, protested, prayed, petitioned, wept, and donated all in the interest of seeing his murderers on trial – to no avail. I cannot write or post about those things because all that talking simply makes me feel inadequate and I think I – all of us really – owe him so much more than that.
Black folks have mostly been protesting on the peaceful end of the spectrum. We make signs, march, write poems, create memes, call congress people, light candles, fuss on news shows, and talk about our right to equal treatment under the law, but in the end, we are repeatedly reminded who we are in this society and how little, if anything, our lives are worth to those who’ve spent hundreds of years employing various tactics to oppress us. In all this, I keep wondering when we will turn the tables such that when I speak of Tamir, I am speaking of a rarity instead of regularity. I wonder when we will stop asking nicely for what is owed us as human beings and start acting on the very entitlement we frequently have to rally against when it’s being used to deter us from receiving what we’re owed. I wonder when we will start to manipulate circumstances to work in our favor the way those circumstances have been manipulated and used against us to keep us incarcerated, impoverished, and impotent.
I cannot talk about Tamir right now because I feel like a debtor avoiding a bill collector’s calls. I can’t bring myself to speak on him until I have something to say TO him. Right now, I don’t even have a small payment on the bill. I need to be able to tell him we fought for the trial and incarceration of his killers and won. I need to tell him those men will never work in law enforcement again, never kill another child, never make another dime, and never again feel comfortable in their bigoted thinking because the guilt of murdering a child keeps them from sleeping, eating, working, or earning an income. I want to be able to tell him we fixed it and because we haven’t, I cannot write about him.
I cannot cry for Tamir right now because I’m too angry, too hurt, and too disappointed in the way we tried to do everything the “right way” according to the laws of his murderers, yet still were unable to get so much as a glimpse of the justice his loved ones deserve. I do not want to speak on Tamir until Black folks with active social consciousness realize sometimes, we have to put down the boycott signs and pick up a pitchfork instead.
I really want to talk, write, and cry about Tamir in the worst way, but I don’t think I can until we fully understand we can’t always politely ask for what is innately ours as citizens of this place. We have to know the “justice” system will fail us the majority of the time because it wasn’t created with us in mind. There will be times we have to take what belongs to us because pleasantly requesting it isn’t always the most effective course of action. We have to be prepared to change our course – something which admittedly, is much easier said than done. But until this starts to happen, I won’t be able to talk, write, or cry about him without feeling like I failed him. He deserves better than that. ©
So, I counted myself among the fortunate last Friday night. I got together with the crew and we sat eating snacks and drinking wine like any good crew will do, but after a couple hours, things got real. A friend came in with a Patti pie and our dispositions changed immediately. Was this truly the magical pie about which folks had been raving? Was I really going to get the change to treat my palate to a forkful of “If You Asked Me To” goodness? I was beyond excited.
Before we got started, we took a moment to read the back of the box. Mostly, the verbiage just talked about making much with the little one has, taking pride in one’s life, and enjoying life’s moments. I mean, how sweet is that? You know what I didn’t see on the back of that box? I didn’t see anything about Patti claiming her pie was better than anybody else’s mama’s, meemaw, ainie (Yes, “ainie,” not aunt or auntie. If you know anything about Black folks, you know what the hell I mean.), that her pie, when eaten in copious amounts, could never cause a spike in a diabetic’s sugar levels, suggestions one lay prostrate and worship the pie as his/her savior, or that the less than four damn dollars it costs to buy one is all part of her nefarious plot to singlehandedly bleed Black folks all over America dry financially. Nope. There wasn’t any of that. It was just a nice message about being a well-adjusted human damn being. Are you surprised?
Per the instructions on the box, we heated that thing up and sliced it as much as one can slice a somewhat small pie between six salivating sistas. And boy did we play it up. We took pictures. We sang a bar or two of Patti hits, and we even did a few dances in sheer anticipation of what the future with our forks might hold. I tasted that pie and was immediately impressed. No, it didn’t make me feel like my mother came over and baked my friends and I some pie. No, I didn’t close my eyes and imagine I was in the deep South on somebody’s grandpappy’s farm where fresh sweet potatoes were picked, boiled, mashed, and seasoned to perfection while grandmammy rolled out her homemade dough. But I didn’t need to feel any of those things. I just needed the pie to be good and that is exactly what it was. It was good. It was the very best store bought dessert I have ever had and every ingredient was evident in each bite I took. I can’t say as much for any other store bought dessert I’ve had. Sure, some have been pretty decent, but none of them came close to the experience I had that Friday night.
So listen, before you try to come off as super savvy in the kitchen (you probably aren’t) or as some sort of potato pie pontiff, just understand you don’t ever have to eat a Patti Potato Pie. Not ever. You don’t have to smell one, warm one up, slice one, or put that fork to your lips and taste one. There is no Patti Potato Pie mandate. There is no requirement to eat one (or several) in the interest of maintaining one’s Black Card. You simply don’t have to indulge. However, in the interest of decency and avoidance of general douchery (yes dammit, it’s a word), shut up about it if you don’t want it. Just keep eating that Sara Lee sadness with a dollop of wack whipped cream because that is what you like and that is wholly ok – just like it’s ok for me to be over here naked – crouched down in a corner – hording Patti Potato Pie straight from the pan. Plate? I don’t need no stinking plate.
I watched this video today and was saddened. Unlike the brotha in the video, who was disheartened by what he considers to be the complete lack of unity on the part of Black folks, I was bothered by the idea we often oppress ourselves by the way we speak on who we are and what we do. Take a moment to watch the video before reading: Black People Why Can’t We Do What Everyone Else Is Doing
Though I certainly understand the sentiment behind this brotha’s story, I have a mixed response. I am incredibly tired of the narrative Black folks assign to themselves with this broad brush. “We’re the ONLY race who doesn’t (fill in the blank with something positive)” or “We’re the ONLY race who DOES (fill in the blank with something negative).” It bothers me greatly because 1) the narrative isn’t fully true or fair 2) the narrative sets a tone for how folks believe they are supposed to behave instead of setting one of expectations to do better 3) the narrative stereotypes other folks.
Listen, I can’t speak for anyone else, but I have a solid covering of friends and family who come through for me in the clutch EVERY DAMN TIME. If it’s an emergency, help implementing a plan, a request for input, a ride, some food, help moving, or just his/her subject matter expertise, they come through and I do the same for them. And guess what? 99% of my folks are Black. No, we aren’t an anomaly. I chalk what I have up to the kind of person I strive to be and the effort I make to surround myself with like and BETTER-minded folks so I have the opportunity to grow from our relationships and so do they.
“Black folks don’t come together?” Really? Well then what are we doing in Missouri, California, New York, Florida, online, in print, in television, in film, in books, and on lecture circuits? These aren’t solo missions. We don’t write, speak, create, love, feed the hungry, tutor the academically challenged, counsel the downtrodden, and teach our communities alone. We build together. We fight oppression together. We create and foster families together. We plant gardens together. We build homes together. And without question, there is always room for improvement in our endeavors, but we are not the disjointed, hateful, envious, lackluster, ambitionless folks we are so mistakenly quick to purport ourselves to be. We are fighters, believers, thinkers, creators, and lovers and we don’t have to live three families to a two bedroom apartment to be those things. We are not less than and even though some of us don’t get it and opt to not get on board with the plan, we are still brilliant.
So, I get it. I get what this brotha saw when he looked at his neighbor’s house and his people who came through to help him be great. I get what he thinks he doesn’t have for himself. I get it he doesn’t feel he has what his new neighbor has. I get he’s hurt because he has bought into the narrative Black folks do absolutely nothing as a team. It is certainly true as humans, we can be self-involved, indifferent, removed, and just plain mean at times, so I fully agree we all can and should be better in the interest of our survival and progression. However, I challenge him to think about what he really sees around him. To think about each time he’s seen folks who look like him reach out to others and help. To consider when he’s been in the clutch and his folks came through for him. To think of every time he’s seen donations of time, money, and talent going into the realization of some Black person’s dream. I challenge him to help change the narrative. I challenge him to rave about the times his folks helped him. Consider the times Black folks got together in the interest of greatness. And when I say him – I’m talking about all of us.
When I was a little girl, ordering a soda at McDonald’s meant whatever was in that cup was all I had to drink. I ordered, a worker poured my soda from behind the counter and that was that. If I finished my Hi-C Orange before my burger and fries were done, because McDonald’s uses those huge straws that suck up everything in one gulp, it just meant my meal ended on a very dry note. Over time, I learned to savor the soda with smaller sips until one day, magic happened. McDonald’s started offering free refills. I could get my same small soda, drink all that orange goodness, and then get myself some more until I was full or suffering from brain freeze and a tummy ache. It was a magical time in my childhood fast food life. Now, the same rules apply, but not just for soft drinks in restaurants.
Lately, I have seen so many women and girls thirsty for attention, validation, love, a compliment, etc…, they hang on the words of boys and men hoping to take any verbiage and turn it into that thing they need to feel satiated. If it’s an insult, they pick it apart, reassemble it, and present it to themselves as a flimsy compliment he really meant to give. If it’s disrespect, they break it down and try to make the words form something else like a Soul Train scramble board – so they can convince themselves that isn’t really what he meant and those words were just him joking because he’s so damn funny. They are willing to create the reality they wish they had and excuse the inexcusable because that need to feel relevant to boys and men is paramount. I understand that need, but it can never be met in the midst of unkind words and backhanded compliments because it simply isn’t there.
In the same way I got to start getting my own soda, girls and women have to start quenching their own thirst to be loved and respected. Feeling frumpy and looking for someone to boost your ego? Get in that mirror and tell yourself you look good. Feeling unloved and/or unwanted? Have a talk with yourself about how great you are, how smart you are, what a good friend you are, how hard you work, how you excel in areas, and you are worthy of love. Never be so thirsty, you will accept any old words as the validation you need – particularly not when you can fill up your own cup.
Like anyone, I love a good compliment. I like to feel wanted, relevant, and even vital. I thrive off positive attention and engagement with folks I know love and care for me, but when no one is around and I need a feel good moment, I get myself an extra-large cup and fill it to the rim because refills are free. ©