Location: Aspen Social Club.
Time: Eh, noonish.
Why were we placed directly in the center channeling a melanin-warped Dinner For Schmucks?
Why did Salvador, our Dominican waiter, mistake our Haitian friend as Latina?
Why did this necessitate a tortuous, albeit illumined dialogue on the beset racial complexities of the island of Hispaniola?
Why did we witness what was assuredly a drug bust?
Why was our beloved Salvador the culprit?!
Why was he escorted away in handcuffs by police officers we earlier mistook for street performers, "Don’t have time for this - we’re here on serious business," as we nodded in solidarity to our fallen brother?
Why did we continue on in contented solitude as if the transpired events normal?
Why did we decide at that moment this meal was most certainly complimentary and proceeded to order an additional side of bacon and round of bellinis?
But really, whywere we unfazed?
Why did one of us quip, “Sitting here throughout it all is the White man’s sense of entitlement our bougie education has afforded us.”
Why was this the best brunch ever?
Because it was free.
In August of 1865, a Colonel P.H. Anderson of Big Spring, Tennessee, wrote to his former slave, Jourdon Anderson, and requested that he come back to work on his farm. Jourdon — who, since being emancipated, had moved to Ohio, found paid work, and was now supporting his family — responded spectacularly by way of the letter seen below, a letter which, according tonewspapers at the time, he dictated. (Letters Of Note)
August 7, 1865
To My Old Master, Colonel P.H. Anderson, Big Spring, Tennessee
Sir: I got your letter, and was glad to find that you had not forgotten Jourdon, and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than anybody else can. I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you long before this, for harboring Rebs they found at your house. I suppose they never heard about your going to Colonel Martin’s to kill the Union soldier that was left by his company in their stable. Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living. It would do me good to go back to the dear old home again, and see Miss Mary and Miss Martha and Allen, Esther, Green, and Lee. Give my love to them all, and tell them I hope we will meet in the better world, if not in this. I would have gone back to see you all when I was working in the Nashville Hospital, but one of the neighbors told me that Henry intended to shoot me if he ever got a chance.
I want to know particularly what the good chance is you propose to give me. I am doing tolerably well here. I get twenty-five dollars a month, with victuals and clothing; have a comfortable home for Mandy,—the folks call her Mrs. Anderson,—and the children—Milly, Jane, and Grundy—go to school and are learning well. The teacher says Grundy has a head for a preacher. They go to Sunday school, and Mandy and me attend church regularly. We are kindly treated. Sometimes we overhear others saying, “Them colored people were slaves” down in Tennessee. The children feel hurt when they hear such remarks; but I tell them it was no disgrace in Tennessee to belong to Colonel Anderson. Many darkeys would have been proud, as I used to be, to call you master. Now if you will write and say what wages you will give me, I will be better able to decide whether it would be to my advantage to move back again.
As to my freedom, which you say I can have, there is nothing to be gained on that score, as I got my free papers in 1864 from the Provost-Marshal-General of the Department of Nashville. Mandy says she would be afraid to go back without some proof that you were disposed to treat us justly and kindly; and we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to send us our wages for the time we served you. This will make us forget and forgive old scores, and rely on your justice and friendship in the future. I served you faithfully for thirty-two years, and Mandy twenty years. At twenty-five dollars a month for me, and two dollars a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to eleven thousand six hundred and eighty dollars. Add to this the interest for the time our wages have been kept back, and deduct what you paid for our clothing, and three doctor’s visits to me, and pulling a tooth for Mandy, and the balance will show what we are in justice entitled to. Please send the money by Adams’s Express, in care of V. Winters, Esq., Dayton, Ohio. If you fail to pay us for faithful labors in the past, we can have little faith in your promises in the future. We trust the good Maker has opened your eyes to the wrongs which you and your fathers have done to me and my fathers, in making us toil for you for generations without recompense. Here I draw my wages every Saturday night; but in Tennessee there was never any pay-day for the negroes any more than for the horses and cows. Surely there will be a day of reckoning for those who defraud the laborer of his hire.
In answering this letter, please state if there would be any safety for my Milly and Jane, who are now grown up, and both good-looking girls. You know how it was with poor Matilda and Catherine. I would rather stay here and starve—and die, if it come to that—than have my girls brought to shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters. You will also please state if there has been any schools opened for the colored children in your neighborhood. The great desire of my life now is to give my children an education, and have them form virtuous habits.
Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.
From your old servant,
I didn’t know this. When I heard the name I thought of, perhaps, the aloof progeny of old timey Steve McQueen. The King of Cool. That one.
But, the Shame director is a Black man.
Now the scene when Fassbender slaps his Black co-worker’s no-no parts with the neglect of want, I’m not so offended. It got real, because it’s real! He’s Black! Diddybops on ya, on ya.
Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer won Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, respectively, for their performance in The Help at last night’s Critics’ Choice Awards. The Artist won everything else and George Clooney bobbed his head in merriment [tipsy] throughout the entire show as he figured he would clench the win for Best Actor for his performance in The Descendants. He did. Then he chuckled some more.
My attention to this award show was cursory at best. After Octavia Spencer won and stated during her acceptance speech “…glad to have a job that pays…” in front of an audience of Hollywood’s moneyed elite, I felt my temperament shift unfavorably toward ‘the man’ and envisioned the weary field slave gazing longingly at the front porch of some White family’s antebellum Charleston plantation as Massa and Madame and little Elizabeth and Thomas sipped sweet tea their mulatto brewed.
It got too real.
Then I read Black Enterprise’s “Why Your Support of ‘Red Tails’ is Important for Black Hollywood" and turned the show off. It’s no matter. My favorite part of award season is watching Joan Rivers and Kelly Osbourne banter during Fashion Police.
Kelly: “Tilda Swinton looks striking. It’s her.”
Joan: “Fine! Well at least she’s reticent and self-possessed in stature. You can always tell when someone thinks they look good. It’s in the eyes. I can’t tell Tilda a damn thing.”
This September I attended my first West Indian Labor parade in Brooklyn with several friends from Cornell.
Cornell’s Black population ranges from 3% to 8% depending on the external social climate of the day. True story. Cornell’s Black population was greater in 1969 than it is presently. Those new-negro panthers were on to something. Nonetheless, of this Black population, the African American population is roughly 30%.
I made that figure up, but I’m pretty sure I felt marginalized, which means Ivy League schools attract members of the Black Diaspora who are more familiar with Bob Marley and/or Fela Kuti than Motown and/or Billie Holiday. The sociological reasons for this are salient. African Americans as a cultural group have been disenfranchised and an unfortunately substantial population of this group have fallen victim to a devastating cycle of blight. Non-African Americans are newly immigrated members of the Diaspora who travel to America with a purpose. Albeit some ascribe to what America dictates as “Black” culture, but a great deal formulate their own “Black” and that means ensuring their children value education and apply to MIT, Northwestern, Yale, Pomona, Cornell…
African Americans must re-discover our idenitiy and purpose. Until then, those of us who escape the societal pitfalls of an institutionally racialized system are met with Flag-Envy once we’ve reached the land of milk and honey.
Flag-Envy? It’s that thing when you and your friends road trip to Binghamton University’s Caribbean Carnival and you and the five other triste African American peers have no flag to wave… until someone claims you’re Trinidadian and you go along with it.
I’ve since matured and upon our arrival in Brooklyn this Labor Day, I came prepared with Trinidad & Tobago flags in tote!
Actually I waved the American flag because this is what Beyonce told me to do.
Much thanks to Cornell my friend circle has become more diverse, not only outside of Black, but within it. And per usual I am surrounded by Jamaican and Nigerian and Haitian besties, but not this trip. No this trip, us African Americans, with the exception of an Ethiopian, decided to take a break from our professions, our graduate studies sans our Caribbean friends to live la vie Passa Passa.
It comes as no surprise that New York Police Department officers who were assigned parade detail both lecherously engaged the festival and vehemently maligned it.
Some of the string-bikini-clad dancers bend over in front of the laughing officers as the crowd cheers, the video shows.The women then back up into the officers’ crotches and rub their buttocks up against them as the cops grind in return, gleefully waving their arms in the air.
I was there. The manner in which the parade participants celebrate is more libidinous than my upbringing aligns, but… it is a valid expression of celebration within their culture - perceptive insights bestowed upon the marginalized that the privileged choose to disengage.
They called people “animals” and “savages.” One comment said, “Drop a bomb and wipe them all out.”
Hearing New York police officers speak publicly but candidly about one another and the people they police is rare indeed, especially with their names attached. But for a few days in September, a raw and rude conversation among officers was on Facebook for the world to see — until it vanished for unknown reasons.
It offered a fly-on-the-wall view of officers displaying roiling emotions often hidden from the public, a copy of the posting obtained by The New York Times shows. Some of the remarks appeared to have broken Police Department rules barring officers from “discourteous or disrespectful remarks” about race or ethnicity.
The subject was officers’ loathing of being assigned to the West Indian American Day Parade in Brooklyn, an annual multiday event that unfolds over the Labor Day weekend and that has been marred by episodes of violence, including deaths of paradegoers.
Their divergent actions speak to a cognitive dissonance that is at the very least racial anxiety born of ignorance, a lack of empathy, and a basic nescience of sociological implications.
Recently GOP presidential candidate hopeful and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich accused Obama of “cognitive dissonance” concerning [Black] urban youth.
“Look,” Gingrich said, “at a time when you have up to 43% black teenage unemployment, you have entire communities that are devastated, you have neighborhoods where nobody has worked and nobody has any habit of work, I’d be delighted to — that’s why I want to challenge Obama to 7 three hour debates — I’d be delighted to have a conversation about our current approach to children.
“Young children who are poor ought to learn how to go to work,” he continued. “What I’ve said is, for example, it would be great if inner city schools and poor neighborhood schools actually hired the children to do things. Some of the things they could do is work in the library, work in the front office. Some of them frankly, could be janitorial.
My mother and I came to contentious blows where both of us had to give the other a ten minute observation of silence and tend to sips of Chamomile tea. I only explained to her that I understood Gingrinch’s sentiment, although I believed less thoughtful listeners of the racial extremist variety could easily take it out of context.
I was harangued, derailed. She was livid!
"Morgan I teach marginalized African American youth. Some underprivileged child is going to hear the misconstrued version of his statement and internalize it and never rise to his full potential.”
Dammit woman! As seemingly indirect as her hypothetical, it has happened before and will continue as such. She expounded that honest conversations in public arenas can happen. Candor is necessary. But generalizations are counter-productive, particularly when highlighting a demographic of impressionable and historically disavowed minds.
I admitted defeat, cursed Birth of a Nation, and waved my American flag.
Today I utilized Twitter to interact with Black academics and journalists. The aforementioned, a platform for lovely elucidations, the latter hilarious.
Professor Mark Anthony Neal of Duke University engaged Twitter with his regularly engaging Left of Black uStream. Today’s guests UNC professor, Karolyn Tyson speaking on “acting white” via her new book, Integration Interrupted and Ytasha Womack discussing her new book, Post Black.
Me: "My issue with these post-Black discussions is that it usually simplifies a stereotype of Blackness."
Me: “Weren’t James Baldwin and Ralph Ellison and Josephine Baker and so on post-Black before the
Toure hype? Social constructs define this post Blackness.”
Professor Neal: “@LeftOfBlack @ytashawomack talks the difference between post Black and post racial.”
Me: "Sometimes I find I’m too existential for discussions on race. It’s all a fabrication of social dynamics and culturalisms one ascribes to, albeit intentionally or organically."
Me: “@LeftOfBlack #DukeLive It’s always interesting to note how difficult it is for POCs to discuss the spectrum that is sexuality.”
Professor Neal: “RT @unholyglee: RT @ytashawomack: The GLBT chapter is one of the most intriguing chapters in Post Black @leftofblack”
And only minutes following, a different Twitter fueled feud imploded. Morehouse and Black Ivy League chaps poked en masse fun at Roland Martin's propensity for the erudite’s fanciful ascot and he mustered all of his snark to defend himself, the best tweet poking fun at Morehouse’s most notorious alum of recent cultural significance, the unworldly Herman Cain.
I tweet RoRo, he tweets back.
"@rolandsmartin I agree and I’ll continue to say it. Cornel West rocks an ascot too! I’m bowing out… *Picks up Race Matters and reads.*”