First they came first my Aunt and I did not speak out –
because she was a picture not a person.
Then they came for Pepe and I did not speak out –
because I didn’t know a cartoon character could get fired for sexual harassment.
Then they killed Kenny and I still didn’t speak out –
because the white-on-white crime in the Southside is so rampant, he dies every episode.
Then they came for me because I spoke out about Mr. Potato Head –
and there were no more potatoes left to speak for me –
because potatoes can’t talk.
Last year, in a piece entitled, “White America, Let’s Negotiate,” I wrote about my state of mind under KSD (Klandemic Stress Disorder). Now I seem to be experiencing a self-diagnosed Black Disturbia Anxiety (BDA). This is my rant.
Bum bum be-dum bum bum be-dum bum.
My BDA was triggered a few weeks ago when Lady Gaga’s French bulldogs were taken by a thief in the night who shot the dog walker FOUR TIMES IN THE CHEST. When I first heard the news I was like, “wtf.” Then she offered a reward of 500K and I was like ”W-T-F?” I watched TV with a blank stare wondering why her dogs didn’t have tracking chips. Most cost less than $50.
In the weeks that followed, many of the headlines that inspired my opening poem occurred. This is when a disease of the mind began to consume me.
By now you’ve probably heard the Oklahoma commentator suffering from Type I Diabetes who blamed his use of a racial slur on his “sugar spiking.” I’m sure even Don Imus rolled over in his grave after hearing that bullsh-t. Meanwhile Papa John’s … nevermind.
The broadcast network said they are “aggressively investigating the incident.” I wonder what an aggressive investigation involves. I would love to see the ground-breaking medical connection between hyperglycemia and racism used specifically when he didn’t think his mic was on. It’s also ironic the broadcaster was not honoring the national anthem in silence, which is yet another example of hypocritical white exemption. As I’m typing, he still has his job. Meanwhile, a few weeks ago in Tampa, Florida, a police officer was caught on bodycam saying “ghetto n—–“ during a phone call. He also admitted using the word again during an arrest and was quickly fired. Plot twist, the cop, Officer White, is Black.
We’re living in a whirlwind of overtly racist moments and I can’t think of any incident where the white person didn’t try to make themselves the victim in some way. Not to mention, the lame excuses haven’t changed much over time. You know the ones I’m referring to, “I can’t be racist because_____”
Whatever you filled in the blank with was most likely used in the past three months.
Last year ended with one-drop Puerto Rock Miya Ponsetto falsely accusing and accosting a Black teen of stealing her cell phone and now, more recently, incidents have played out on “The Bachelor,” with the British Royals, Piers Morgan and Sharon “she ain’t Black” Osbourne (whose implications of any co-host being uncivilized is rich given her husband’s known taste for bats). I’d be lying if I said I didn’t take some vindicating pleasure in public meltdowns but the feeling soon subsides and converts to frustration from all the ancillary enabling.
This is a unique teachable moment and the media are terrible moderators. When you ask someone if somebody else is racist, it almost doesn’t matter the answer. The label is too absolute and aggressive. So the defense quickly becomes about freedom of speech, which can be a euphemism for freedom to hate. Too many white people associate the label only with white hoods and burning crosses. While I agree the conversation should be discussed with context — not a gotcha game of being racist adjacent, as someone who prides himself on arbitration — I have to check myself from trying to Emmanuel Acho each situation. The purge window is closing and we don’t have time to codify degrees of racism while gently laying down those who commit “racially insensitive” acts. This is “get down or lay down” time.
As I write, I realize my BDA is existential so I question the sustainability of a forced union. Clearly, the effects of chemtrails and 5G are kicking in like an edible; mix that with quarantine fever and our train of thought is being altered. Too much to process and too many sensitive triggers; if we had to take a shot every time we heard “disproportionately,” “inclusion,” or even “people who look like me,” we would never be sober.
Even in good intent, the overload creates delirium. The wave of Black appeasement makes me feel awkward because I don’t trust the undercurrent. I haven’t seen a commercial without a Black person since August. When I watch TMZ Live, it seems like all the Skype call-ins are Black. A Burger King commercial just came on using an iconic Lil Wayne lyric and I don’t know how I feel about it. All this shouldn’t annoy me but it does. It feels patronizing and exploitive, plus I’m low-key jealous of those residual checks (sprinkles).
While advertising dollars can’t distract me from reparations, I recognize substantial corporate pledges have been made to help reduce the economic gaps. Unfortunately, it also has a fine print feel I don’t trust. America tends to use money to medicate its problems; numbing the pain with settlements and performance instead of delivering what we’re asking for — justice.
Imagine you call a company to fix your boiler and instead they redecorate your house. Actually, the analogy doesn’t stop there. Imagine in the process of refurbishing they disconnected your phone, removed the panic buttons (like Ayanna Pressley’s Jan. 6th experience) and stole a bunch of items. Then when you report it, the police question you more than the people caught on camera taking your belongings. In an interview on the podcast Higher Learning, Daniel Kaluuya said it best: “I’m here to get my stuff.” That’s it in a nutshell.
On the flip side, Black people are inundating each other with opinions on EVERYTHING. We’re dividing ourselves into unnecessary clubhouses at a time when we’re strongly united, in trauma. Even watching Black entertainment has become a chore of polar division. You used to be able to just not like a movie or show; now not liking it has become an insult of someone’s ideology of Blackness. Then, when you go to the next room, chances are you’ll feel the peer pressure of turning your stimulus check into generational wealth. These “get the bag” air fryer aficionados can be verbally abusive at times. So whether you’ve planned early retirement in Wakanda or Zamunda, you can feel paradigms shifting. While I firmly believe in Kendrick’s “Alright” credo, there’s a lot of myriad of what Black prosperity looks like.
I know it seems like I’m all over the place but that’s my point. It’s hard to focus. Especially knowing the new fight for freedom entails decriminalizing law, decolonizing thought and decentralizing markets – these are major mountains to move. We’re also mourning the death of more than 500K as many chose to celebrate survival by risking their lives at parties where they stand around waiting for a turn-up moment to post to Stories. In between twerks on my feed, I have flashbacks of all the recent disturbing stories that quickly get forgotten. Just last month, in the richest economy in the world, people in Texas were boiling snow to survive. “60 Minutes” profiled a 23-year-old restaurant worker who was 8 months pregnant living in a tent in Ohio. Watching that and learning that 1 out 3 Black families are behind on rent as the national eviction ban is set to expire at the end of this month is a heartbreaking reminder of how poverty in this pandemic morphing. This makes all the Instagram stuntin’ more insensitive. They try to defend their flash as “motivation” but it’s not. This is also why I was so insulted by Gaga’s 500K dog reward.
Stay with me, I’m just illustrating how my streams of consciousness converge.
I’m haunted by the memory of a dead man who wants his cause of death to be remembered. Louisiana Deputy Clyde Kerr III committed suicide in protest of police violence on Black people. This is a man who served in the military (Iraq and Afghanistan) and became a police officer only to be so overwhelmed by the “inner workings of things” he no longer found honor in his uniform. As far as I’m concerned, he died in combat — fighting white supremacy.
The invisible empire can now be seen in MAGA and the GOP-Q. It’s a concentric merger of more than 74 million Americans suffering from PTSD (Post Trump Stress Disorder) and they ain’t gonna play nice. While we’re getting symbolic victories, they’re blitzing voter suppression legislation. One just killed eight people in Georgia and another killed 10 in Colorado. More are sure to follow.
War has been declared whether we like it or not. Maintaining our safety while keeping our sanity is the new test of stamina; still, no one is truly conditioned for these everyday incidents of white audacity. Our brains shouldn’t synapse between a school headmaster making an 11-year-old Black student kneel in apology and NFL player Chad Wheeler nearly choking his Black girlfriend to death for not kneeling to him in submission – is that their takeaway from Kaepernick taking a knee?
It’s all exhausting and the fatigue will be seen in different forms. For example, Tamir Rice’s mom snapped at those she felt have been profiting off her son’s name. In our protest attempt to “say their names” we forget the repetition can easily place the victim’s families in an emotional rubber room. The annual celebration of what age each victim would be if alive is a tormenting ritual. In movements against inhumanity, there’s always a point, no matter how righteous the intent, when people become annoyed by the sound of the same crusaders sermonizing. Are there no civil rights attorneys who are Black women?
Ok, time to land the plane abruptly. If you’re still reading this, you’re probably coping with a similar neurosis. There will be no shortage of sensory overload so try not to mistake the darkness for the light. I had never really listened to the lyrics of “Disturbia” before. The song came on while I was working on this and it hit different, so I sprinkled in some of the lyrics. I usually conclude with correlated summation but that would just be forcing captivity of your time. Instead, I’ll just leave you with one of Rihanna’s more recent hits:
Trevor is a creative mercenary and ethical lobbyist born and raised on Beale Street. Follow him on Twitter @trevbetter.