Forgiveness is expected (even required) from Black people

When I saw Brandt Jean hug his brother’s killer I felt my face get hot. Rage. Pure. I was in an airport, and since I couldn’t react with the volume I normally would have at home, I just sat with it. Silently. I forced myself to examine my rage. Admittedly, I found that some of that rage was from knowing that as soon as he hugged that murderer, every Black person in America was going to have to deal with at least 2.5 white people saying, “Well, he forgave her, so you should, too/you’re so angry/it’s not that bad/etc.” Somehow, in times of need there is never a shortage of white people to set our examples for us.

Shamefully, some of the rage was at Brandt for not taking the rest of us into account in his decision to publicly embrace a killer. Then I wondered if I was abiding by that very same white supremacist setting of examples. This man should get to grieve however he feels to be necessary. He shouldn’t have to set an example for the rest of America. He shouldn’t have to hold back his compassion because of how it’s perception might affect the rest of us. White people don’t have to worry about that. White people aren’t told to grieve a certain way because of how Black people might perceive it. They have a freedom in their grief.

Then, in thinking about freedom I remembered my father’s letter from George HW Bush.

It was a thank-you letter signed by the dead ex-prez himself. My father got it by donating to Bush’s campaign. He kept the letter in a frame on the wall in the living room just under his own eye level. He placed it there because he wanted his friends to see it and my father was taller than his friends.

Lest you get the wrong idea, my father was not a fan of George HW Bush. He thought Bush was the racist milksop war criminal history shows him to be. But my father was a veteran and his community was made of veterans. White veterans. In a white town. In the whitest state. This meant, for my father to feel that he and his family were safe, he needed to do certain things to shield himself and us from that whiteness. In this particular case, that meant sending $10 to the 1988 George HW Bush Presidential campaign.

My father grew up walking through colored entrances and using colored bathrooms and drinking colored water in a white world that that would kill him if he did otherwise. If he even said what he thought about Bush, there could be consequences, but not just for him.

My father was not free to speak his mind and neither is Brandt Jean. Both my father and Brandt Jean are from a country in which the police are a leading cause of death, in which white supremacy continues to run rampant—especially throughout law enforcement, in which law enforcement officers continue to be the most punitive, petty and vengeful members of society, yet the only ones permitted to kill.

Brandt Jean lives in a country in which his own brother was just murdered by an admittedly racist police officer. He lives in a country in which there are ruthless consequences for not being nice to white people and those consequences aren’t only paid by the individual. They are often paid by an entire family.

I am not saying that Brandt Jean’s compassion is insincere or implying anything about his motivations. This is not about him. This is about a country that demands white humanity be constantly and vibrantly visible while commanding Black humanity to be silent, worthless and invisible. This is about the outcome of that inverted relationship; their inhumanity encourages them to kill us while our humanity forgives them for it. This is about a system that only goes in that specific direction. This is about a pattern that must stop because the forgiveness will eventually stop, either because the violence has ceased and/or simply because there will be none of us left to grant that forgiveness.

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The two Dave Chappelles

Cancel culture isn’t real. There are no victims. Nobody is actually getting canceled. Sure, people might say, “you’re canceled,” but what is actually happening to these so-called victims? Nothing. Insofar as I can tell, only one dude even got fired and he actually got his job back.

What is happening is that the internet has given voice to people who were previously voiceless and some motherfuckers from a protected class can’t stand to be criticized. That’s really about it. You’ve got a bunch of damn babies everyone had to be quiet around who then grew up to think that that was the natural order of things.

This brings me to Dave Chappelle’s latest Netflix special.

OK, look. Dave Chappelle is two different people. First, he’s a Black person, a point of view with a necessary diamond-sharp clarity, culturally handed down generation after generation just as a means of survival. When Dave speaks on Blackness he is as breathtakingly hilarious and existentially profound as he’s ever been. I am endlessly thankful for that Dave Chappelle. That Dave Chappelle has informed and enlightened me as far back as I can remember and I feel incredibly lucky to live in the same time as him.

The other Dave Chappelle however, is a celebrity. That point of view is an all-encompassing fog of unimaginable privilege. In his latest special, Dave Chappelle speaks on almost everything other than race from the point of view of a celebrity. That is to say in those moments he is as oblivious, thin-skinned, spiteful, dull and shockingly unoriginal as just about any random 4chan post.

Like, he sticks up for Louis CK. I’m not going to get too far into that, as others have spoken about it so well, but Louis took his dick out in front of people who didn’t want him to and traditionally, that shit should at least put a stop to whatever career you have. Unless, of course, your career is Supreme Court Justice. The point is that ain’t nobody responsible for that dude’s life but him.

And the trans jokes. Jesus, Dave. First of all, the history of trans representation in American pop culture has placed them mostly as either the butts of jokes or abhorrent sexual deviants. Secondly, the government is constantly trying to legislate away the rights of trans people. And thirdly, trans people are killed just for being trans all the time all over this country. Those three things should sound familiar if you have any historical knowledge of any minority group, but just to give you a hint of which side of history you’ll want to be on for this one, when he got into power in 1933, one of the first things Hitler did was seek out and destroy the medical records of trans people.

Before you pin my PC Policeman’s badge on me, no, I’m not likening Dave to Hitler. And no, I’m not saying “Censor Dave Chappelle!” I’m not saying Chappelle shouldn’t be allowed to say certain things. I’m saying I just wish he didn’t want to. It just seems to me that, if you are being paid tens of millions of dollars to write and tell jokes to an audience of untold millions of people, maybe just don’t write ones Hitler would laugh at.

I’m not going to go through his act bit by bit, but yes, I understand that these jokes are meant to be offensive. The problem is Dave’s whole thing is that he’s offended that people are offended. Weird, meta-irony aside, when you deliberately set out to offend people, it’s just some real crybaby bullshit to whine when you succeed.

 In the end, I am hopeful that Dave will eventually figure it out. He does get so many things right.

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Photo by Greg Jeanneau on Unsplash

Distractions, eh? Really, now

One more word about distractions…

Trump will do something racist and then push through some kind of backdoor policy. The standard reaction to this is, “Don’t pay attention to the stuff he says!”

Fuck. That.

First of all, the idea that the best thing to do would be to ignore the most powerful man in the world (who also happens to be more stupid than literally anyone I’ve ever met) is maybe the most dangerous thing I can imagine.

But second of all, if someone socks you in the mouth, knocking your teeth out and then immediately knees you in the groin, were your teeth just a bunch of little distractions? Or are both actions bad and things necessary to defend against?

If that’s too abstract, ask yourself this: Do you think the president wouldn’t be pushing through those bullshit policies anyway? Do you think that he would somehow be totally flummoxed and completely inert if we ignored his racism? Well, guess what-the-fuck what. Presidents have been pushing a whole lot of bullshit policies through back doors without “distracting” us with blatant racism for a long fucking time. Also, let me give you a gentle reminder that he himself put a probable rapist/definite tantrum-y milksop on the Supreme Goddamn Court on live TV in front of God and everybody. He didn’t need any distractions to throw that shit in the country’s face.

And another thing, as far as action goes, we are ignoring his racism. Lawmakers haven’t done a thing about it. No, it’s not illegal for the president to be racist or even misogynist for that matter, but it definitely should be because how are you going to lead a country full of people if you hate most of them?

You know what is illegal? Accusing the president of racism on the floor of the Senate. That’s right. There are rules prohibiting the people whose job it is to keep the president in check from doing that very thing—when it comes to race. They can’t even bring it up. So, they are left to ignore his white supremacy. But ignoring his white supremacy will only normalize it and you know what else? Normalizing white supremacy isn’t just bad for people of color. It’s bad for white people, too.

Even on the most basic level, when white supremacists decide to start killing people, they don’t just target people of color. Please see the Manson killings, Columbine massacre and Oklahoma City bombing for more information on what you might not have even realized was avowed white supremacy in action.

The truth is that his policies are going to be trash, he’s going to say some racist and misogynist shit and those things are all bound to occasionally happen at the same time. They are not distractions from one another anymore than the March on Washington, Women’s Strike for Equality or Stonewall Riots were a distraction from the Vietnam War. Multiple bad things happen at the same time all the time. Failing to understand that is the true distraction.

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