This Is Us, But Mainly Randall

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Randall

When I say I *LOVE* Randall I am reminded of the power and limits of language because I am not fully conveying how moved I am by this character.

I read once that people who cry on movies and TV shows tend to be sensitive people, in general. I read it and totally agreed, because clearly I am a thug.

straight face

(yes, the use of a white man’s face to illustrate “thug” is intentional.)

But let me tell you how This Is Us challenges my identity as a thug ALL the time! One character who consistently tugs on my heart is Randall. His story is so layered and I can’t help but get sucked in.

Let’s start with the fact that he’s adopted. Black kids make up nearly 40% of the foster care system despite the fact that Black people are less than 15% of the total population of America. Black babies are less likely to get adopted and the likeliness only lessens as they get older. So Randall being adopted as newborn sets the stage for the unique life he’s going to live.

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Look at little Randall. This beautiful little boy begged his parents to go to this particular pool on a super hot day. Later we find out that it’s because this pool always has lots of Black people. We also learned in this scene that he’s been breaking out because his barber doesn’t know how to cut Black hair.

Foster and adoptive parents (and those of you who might do it in the future), you can wholly love your child, but that doesn’t mean you know what they need. Most times adoptive families are able to provide their child a “better” life than their bio parents would’ve been able to. However, the best way to love them is to honor the fact that they are different from you. Honoring those differences makes everybody’s lives better.

Jack had to argue with his wife about the importance of their son having Black mentors. Randall started going to random Black people to see if they could roll their tongues in hopes that he’d find a genetic connection. Rebecca lived with the lie that her love to him was enough to fill the void, but it wasn’t.

Enter the devastation we all felt when we found out that Rebecca knew William all along. Adoption provides a new way of life, but it doesn’t replace the other life that would’ve emerged. That’s why I loved Number 3’s episode where we got to see William dream about sharing big moments with Randall and his family.

Admittedly, this is hard for most people to get though. I mean, look at how hard it was to give Deja back to her mom.

It was even harder to watch her struggle to go back. It was so impactful to hear her say that even though she wanted to go back with her mom, that didn’t mean she didn’t wanna stay with the Pearsons. It shows the struggle a lot of kids go through who are adopted or in the system. It’s part of why Randall visited Howard University.

He loved the family that chose him, but he wanted a deeper connection to the culture that created him.

OhCAE, I’m done for now.

Thanks, Tom

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Cognitive dissonance… it’s that uncomfortable state we experience when something we’ve been trained to believe in gets proven wrong, but we still can’t let go. 

Like when you first discovered the truth about Santa or the tooth fairy. Or the first time you admit that college isn’t necessarily the best choice for post high school. Or when you tell people that Jesus was Black. Or when a Black man is a cop assigned to keep white people safe at an anti-Black rally. 

Since the murder of Mike Brown, I have consistently wondered about what it feels like to be a Black cop in Amerikkka because in my mind “Black cop” is an oxymoron. 

When Black people are the most common targets of racial profiling and police brutality, how does someone grapple with being Black in blue? 

That’s one of the first questions I had when this guy took coffee out to the National Guard as they were stationed on the streets of riot filled 1967 Detroit. 

There was a moving scene where he uses his uniform privilege to rescue a Black teen who was caught outside after curfew. The teen was anything but grateful because he had clearly decided he was ready to go toe to toe with the officers. 

After the Black US Marshall walked him into safety, the teen looked at him with contempt and said “Thanks, Tom.” Alluding to “Uncle Tom” the catchall term used for Black people who are knowingly pandering to white people. 

This Black Marshall needed a job. The 1960s were hard for Black people. No one blames him for trying to provide for his family. But when and where do we draw the line? When do we decide to put our Blackness back in front and say no to participating in the demise of our people?

The guy in the film watched these white officers torture, brutalize, torment and murder young Black men and still was on their side. It wasn’t until he became their victim that he rethought his stance. This is him being interrogated as a suspect for the crimes he watched. I felt everything but sorry for him. 

How many stories of Black officers being shot at or treated harshly when they were out of uniform do we need before we acknowledge that a seat at the table doesn’t help if it isn’t your own table?

Sitting at the table with your oppressor doesn’t mean you’re welcome there. See how dumb that logic is? More Black police officers doesn’t mean more opportunities for justice. It means more Black people positioned against their people. 

#OhCAE, I’m done for now. 

Dear White Jesus…

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Last night, we watched President Barack Obama give his heart-wrenching farewell address in Chicago. Along with many of my Facebook friends, I found myself reminiscing on my college days. The first time I voted for president, I voted for a Black man. Even then I was aware of how big of a deal that was. But coupled with those feelings of nostalgia was the ever present nagging of the knowledge that I know a lot of people who are planning a party for his last day in office. They’re  planning a parade for Trump’s election because they are actually excited for these next four years.

You see, as a pro-Black devout Christian I navigate a complicated existence. I live by Proverbs 31. Not the part we quote about what a woman should be and do, but the part that talks about how it’s our responsibility to defend the defenseless. (Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Proverbs 31:8) My life’s work is to serve children who live in urban areas, as well as their families. I am a Black person who’s aware of what it means to be Black in America. I work daily to awaken other people to those implications. As a Christian, it is important to me that people understand truth. I understand how oppression is lifted by accepting truth.

I’m an advocate by nature, trade and calling. So it’s a struggle for me to align myself with a brand of politics that makes its name based on oppressing others who don’t believe what Christians believe.

A few nights ago, I watched Meryl Streep’s viral speech where she expresses something that reminded me of sentiment I heard from a conservative Christian figure.

They both expressed that when the leader of the country does something it permits citizens to do the same. The concept is that when a leader does something it conveys the message that the behavior and/or belief is a new societal norm. Meryl Streep was referring to Trump’s overall childishness and his mocking of people with differing abilities. The religious person referred to President Obama’s allegiance to LGBTQ people.

So… what does this have to do with the title of this post?

White Jesus is the guy  in the pictures we grew up believing was Jesus. Only perceived white supremacy could make it okay to depict a god with skin that light to represent someone born in Bethlehem.

White Jesus is the one who has pushed many Black people away from Jesus and church because his followers beat White Jesus into some Africans and their descendants through slavery. Then those White Jesus followers used the bible to explain why slavery was just. The bible has stories of enslaved people. It doesn’t condone it. The scriptures that speak about slaves obeying their masters are instructions to help people live in the society that existed. They don’t say the society was right.

White Jesus is the ultra privileged guy who validates conservatives’ beliefs that they are justified in their practices of blocking and hating legislation that benefits LGBTQ people and that supports people’s ability to choose what happens in and to their bodies. They do this while simultaneously hating refugees, poor people, people of color AND Muslims (and any other religious group). All of their anger about policies and support of policies that ostracize people groups are all in the name of Jesus.

In the name of Jesus… Jesus, the man born in a place that wasn’t his home. Jesus, the Middle Eastern man who hung out with sinners. Jesus, the man who crossed the ethnic and societal lines and offered living water to a woman at a well. Jesus, the God who came so that EVERYONE could have access to life and that more abundantly.

I don’t have a problem with him, per se, but White Jesus has a whole lot of followers though and they make it really hard to go to church or want to get to know the real Jesus.

White Jesus makes me aware of the social privilege I have because I’m a Christian living in Western society. Having privilege is almost uncomfortable for me as a Black woman. However, living with identity markers that are historically oppressed makes it impossible for me to not use my agency to speak out against wrong doings by others in my group.

Gentrification: A Beautiful Monster

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I saw that on Facebook. Gentrification: A Beautiful Monster

My favorite reference site, Wikipedia, says that “Gentrification is a trend in urban neighborhoods, which results in increased property values and the displacing of lower-income families and small businesses.”
Simply stated: gentrification is when they, the powers that be, have ruined cities that used to be mostly populated by people of color and the liberal children of the those who left during White Flight come back to rename areas of cities that POC have been living in for decades. Then all of a sudden businesses that would have nothing to do with urban areas start popping up everywhere. Then houses and apartments start costing too much so the POC who’ve been there all along can’t afford to live there anymore so they get evicted. After a bunch of evictions, the houses, apartments and other units get renovated, the neighborhood or burrow gets a cool new name. More people move in, urban gardens get planted, the streets get cleaned and the economy sees a surge.


Ok… so that wasn’t a simple explanation, but it encapsulates the oxymoronic nature of the beautiful monster, gentrification.

Here in Detroit, it’s hard to love it while watching what it is doing to my family and family friends. Taxes are astronomical so it’s hard to keep up with them as well as the super high water rates. When people fall behind everybody blames them for not paying bills. It totally makes sense, no bill pay, no water. No taxes paid, no home. But it’s not that cut and dry. However, that’s beside the point.While I watch people fight to keep their homes, I drive ten minutes away from my home on the Northwest side of the city and end up in Cass Corridor. You probably know of it as “Midtown.” And I look around and realize it’s a completely different city. I ride downtown and inevitably think to myself “Why did they come from?” The bike lanes. The neighborhood names. The coffee shops. The new parking meters. The White people. 

The diversity that comes from gentrification is beautiful. The way natives are being mistreated, displaced and forgotten is monstrous. 

Intersectionality 

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My Black Facebook friends are raging
My White Facebook friends are silent

I’m constantly torn between feeling like a sell out 

Or possibly appearing violent. 

Being a young college-educated Christian Black girl 

Has to be one of the most complex identities in the world

  

“Luxury of Obliviousness”

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When I was 17, I met a girl in one of my classes who was 19. She explained that as a result of that class she realized that she had never been seriously aware of the fact that she was White. She never thought about it. Why? Because her mother purposely taught her to be colorblind and that was how you show respect to everyone. At my house, Santa was Black, angels were Black, Jesus was Black, dolls were Black and I’ve always been aware of the fact that all those things had to be Black in our house because they’re white everywhere else and that doesn’t represent us.

I saw the movie The Giver the other day. I loved the book and the movie. The story teaches a lot of important messages. One of the messages conveyed is the danger in being colorblind. By telling people to ignore race you ignore their history and culture. And for those of us who are aware of our culture it’s extremely hard to stop seeing race.

“The luxury of obliviousness” isn’t afforded to people of color because in this country that I was born in (as were my great-grandparents) we are still seen as “other.”

I won’t stop seeing race until nude colored stockings come in shades of dark brown. I won’t stop seeing race in everything until walmart no longer deems it necessary to mark the aisle where I can find hair care products “ethnic.” I won’t stop seeing race in everything until Black people aren’t so easily found at a graduation at Michigan State because there are so few of us. I won’t stop seeing race in everything “until the killing of Black men, Black mothers’ sons, is as important as the killing of White men, White mothers’ sons.” -Ella Baker

I won’t stop seeing race because it won’t stop existing. But I might chill when racism and White privilege are acknowledged and dismantled.

Photocred: thefeministwire.com/#article/21834

A 3% Majority

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I went to a high school basketball semi-finals game the other day, right? A team from Detroit was playing against a team from a small rural town in Michigan. All of the starters from both teams were Black. I didn’t notice it though until the team from the rural town scored and their student supporters stood up and cheered. From my seat, a few hundred feet away, they all looked White. IMMEDIATELY, the wheels in my head started turning. So, I looked up a little info about the city. I found that according to the US Census of 2010, 92% of the population is White. Less than 3% is Black.

After reading that, I noticed that the starters were the only Black kids on the team. In essence, the team combined with the supporters were somewhat of a microcosm of the city.

I just started thinking about all of the colleges and universities I’ve read about as of late who are having students of color speaking out about the fact that we are underrepresented on college campuses in general, but tend to be the faces of popular sports.

I wasn’t going to write anything about it until I saw this tweet by Comedian Bill Maher, “March Madness really is a stirring reminder of what America was founded on: making tons of money off the unpaid labor of black people.”

To be honest, I can’t even tell you why I felt the need to write this. It isn’t to say that I feel like college athletes should be getting paid. It isn’t to say that we need Affirmative Action. It isn’t to make anybody feel bad for being White or a racial minority. I guess what I want to express is that it’s disturbing that Black people only seem to matter when their physical talents bring millions of dollars to the schools they represent.

It’s crazy that we tend to have such a small numerical presence at PWIs, but are the most popular football and basketball players.

Update:

I was playing with the kids the other day when I found out that Basketball Bill is the only Black character in the children’s card game Old Maid.

I’ll leave that for y’all to think about.

Another addition:
Perhaps we wouldn’t need die-ins and hashtags or t-shirts to convince others that #BlackLivesMatter if we didn’t wait until someone is murdered before we start our public outcries.
We are all victims of a broken system. We just need to admit that the system is broken so that we can stop having so many fall victim to violence.

Even if you’re the token at your job, it’s my earnest opinion that it’s your responsibility to educate your coworkers about your people. The issue we have though is not enough Black people know about our people to feel confident to have that discussion.