If You Don’t Like It, Help Me Leave

perfect photo

Calling all racists! Calling all racists! Hear ye! Hear ye! Boy, have I got a deal for you!

As you know, the people that you put in office are fucking up royal, and are probably going to be voted out of office in due time, if they aren’t impeached first. That’s a tough break, y’all. Really. You guys lost the Civil War, and you’re still sore about that, so this can’t feel nice. Sore like when Charlie died on Lost times a thousand. All because you couldn’t own black people anymore. I feel for you. I really do. If I was stupid, I’d probably get mad at stupid stuff too. You’re out here defacing Jewish cemeteries with almost swastikas, vandalizing mosques, and having white power marches with dollar store tiki torches. It’s a cry for help. You’re lashing out. You’re hurting. I. Get. It.

Well, I had this idea, you see. Been cooking it up in my big brown skull for a while now, and I think it’s time I shared my vision with the bigoted, white world. I’ll try not to use big words.

See, you right-wing ding-dongs have a thing that you say to people when they aren’t satisfied with the status quo. We’ll come out and say something controversial like, “We need gun control” or, “Please stop letting cops that kill black people without consequence” or, “Women are also people”. Then you suddenly stand up straight, puff your chest out, and say my favorite thing that you say: “If you don’t like it, you can leave.”

Never you mind that there have been 27 amendments to the constitution, all of which changed it. Forget all that! You think for yourself! You don’t need no constitution to tell you how to defend the constitution! You’re saying, “America don’t change, darkie. Like it or leave”, even though America can change whenever it wants to. That’s what I admire about you yokels: Your tenacity. Your drive to keep everything the same because you’re white, and dammit, that’s all you’ve got going for you. “I am white, I am proud, and I will ride this fire-breathing boner-eagle right into the fucking sun!”

You also developed a remix of the previous statement, which can be used at any time, with any ol’ colored people walking on the street, minding their own business, and not just in reaction to something we say: “Go back to [country you perceive someone to be from].”

I love it! It’s so confusing for us brown people! We’re like, “I was born here!” but by the time we open our mouths in response, you’ve already sped away; presumably because you’re late to a ceremony where you’re being awarded a medal for bravery and hot takes. It hits me, man. It takes me to another place in my head knowing that you don’t want me to be here. You look at me and assume I do drugs, that I’m unemployed, and that if given the opportunity, I would overthrow the government and replace it with something you’d probably hate, and dammit, you’re right! You got me! See, we thought we could be sneaky, but nothing gets past you guys.

Well, I’ve heard your arguments, and I think you’re right. I should leave the country. There, I said it! Are you happy now? Can you sleep better tonight knowing that the mean ol’ negro on the other end of the computer box is packing his bags for Africa? Well, you shouldn’t, because my bags aren’t yet packed. I don’t have the money to invest in your proposed migration! I know, I know! Boo! Boo on me! If only I’d used my unfair advantages to take the place of a white student at a university, then maybe I could pay my way to Kenya using pure bootstraps and elbow grease! I got your hopes up, only to dash them on sexy, black rocks, and I’m sorry. This tragic turn is worse than when they started letting the coloreds play basketball.

But here’s the deal: We can help one another. See, I don’t have the cash to blow this rocket pop stand, and you’re getting thousands and thousands of dollars back from trump’s tax cuts, right? Are you picking up what I’m putting down? You can’t see it, but I’m raising my eyebrows in a suggestive manner.

I’m going to start a GoFundMe to leave the country. I’ll get on a plane as soon as possible. The biggest, sharpest plane I can find, and I will leave the United States for new, exciting lands with other people who speak different languages, and listen to strange music. People who may or may not like me; I mean I’m not for everyone, but I can try! I just need you to donate to the “Go back to your country” fund. You will, in fact, have one less black person voting in the next election, one last black person that you’ll have to follow around a convenience store to make sure they don’t steal, and one less person yelling, “don’t go in there” when you see a horror movie. Who knows, maybe I’d have walked by your car while you were stopped at a red light at some point, and if you pay for me to leave right now, you won’t have to lock your door in that potentially dangerous situation. Can you imagine? There’s a lot more of us, but there could be one less, and that’s nothing to shake a stick at.

Just look at what your one-time donation can get you:

Donate $20: Once I’m out of the country, I’ll send you a postcard from wherever I settle that says, “I’m absolutely miserable! I regret every moment that I spent taking the freedoms that America provided me for granted!”

Donate $50: I will make you a personalized video stating, “[YOUR NAME] was right! I’m a commie cuck who eats farts!” and you can put that on your Facebook wall, so all of your friends will know what a fart-eating commie cuck I am.

Donate $100: I will unlearn three American words of your choosing. Eagle? Gone. Twinkie? Poof! What even is a twinkie?! Spangled? Dead to me. Constitution? More like Consti-nah, son!

Donate $500: Three words: Fresh. Baked. Cookies… Made with my blood. Lots of it. I will be in a weakened state without all that sweet, life-giving blood. You, meanwhile, will gain my strength and become immune to the cursed blade I carry on my hip at all times.

Donate $1,000: I will forget how to love.

This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. It’s one thing to yell at the uppity minorities over Twitter, but a whole other thing to actually act; to do something meaningful. When your friends are talking about someone they’ve harassed on Reddit, you can stand up big and tall, saying “While you dorks were getting blocked and reported, I got rid of one of ’em!” Can you imagine the look on their faces? I will send you a certificate of authenticity that you can whip out like an FBI badge and dispel any and all murmurs that seek to dismiss your claims as folly! I’m a one-stop shop!

So, consider donating. You want your country a certain way, and I want to leave the country a certain way… First class, if at all possible. We both benefit from your financial commitment, and I’m eager to see your comments on my page after I receive what is sure to be a generous donation.

Thank you for reading, and God Bless America

*Offer is only valid for this one-time GoFundMe period. Those donating will have no say in where it is I travel to, but can rest assured it will not be anywhere within the 50 United States as is currently stands. Participants are encouraged to remember that I never said I would leave for forever, and I reserve the right to return to the country at any time, bringing with me any and all skills acquired overseas in order to help dismantle and ultimately obliterate white supremacy. Void where prohibited. Actually, no. Nothing is void until I say it is. You’ve decided when and where things are void long enough, oppressor.


Trayvon Martin, and the Tragedy that is Amerika


art by Michael D’Antuono

Six years ago today, Trayvon Martin was shot dead by George Zimmerman. He was walking back to the home of his father’s fiancée after purchasing Skittles and an Arizona iced tea from a local convenience store. Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, saw Martin walking through the neighborhood, decided that he was being “suspicious”, and figured that he was going to be a big man, and confront the kid that he considered to be in the wrong neighborhood. He was told by a police dispatcher not to follow or confront Trayvon Martin. Trayvon was on the phone with a friend of his at the time, who reported hearing Zimmerman say, “What are you doing around here?” after Martin asked Zimmerman why he was following him. She then heard Martin say, “Get off, get off!” and a struggle ensued.

Then 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot in the chest. He would not survive.

Trayvon Martin’s death shook the country to it’s core, and a new discussion about race began to take place, whether people wanted to have it or not. Through the media’s handling on the situation, several things were made very clear.

First, that black people are all criminals. No matter the circumstances, if someone thinks your black self is out of place or suspicious, then it is okay to gun you down. There would be no consequences. The media would scour your Facebook and other social media profiles, looking for the one picture, the one telling photograph that says to white Amerika, “I am someone to be feared. You’re safer with me gone.” Black people all over this country know which picture will be used if they’re ever killed by the police or a “good guy with a gun”, because we’ve all checked. We all looked to see which one the news would use. If there’s one where we didn’t smile? Where maybe we’re in low light so our skin looks darker? Even if we dress a certain way, CNN or Fox News or whatever will equate our mere existence to “gang culture”. Whatever it takes so that white Amerika will be able to face themselves in their bathroom mirrors after reading about the acquittals of our murderers. “It’s okay.” they think to themselves, “It was only a matter of time before they got us.”

It also brought to light Amerika’s denial of history, which should really have surpassed baseball as our national past time by now. We had a black president, and because we started crying out for our lives louder than before, and showing that this tragedy is nothing new to us, we had our comfortable oppressors start blaming him for the racial divide. Before you cite what I just said as overreaction, please bear in mind that I’ve heard multiple people make this outrageous claim. “Racism was done and gone until that black guy started running things.”

What progress have we made since that fateful day six years ago? People are still executed in the street for non-crimes that certainly don’t carry a death sentence. The media still looks at every single victim with a microscope, searching for any reason they can muster that the black body growing cold on the unforgiving concrete deserved what it got. We have hours of video that has played over and over again on prime time TV of people’s lives coming to an end because some “C” student wanted to play soldier. They never serve time. Most get paid leave. We have businesses that won’t hire us based on our names. Those same businesses have rules against our wearing our hair naturally because in Amerika, it’s unprofessional. We have white supremacists marching in the streets and killing people, and our president refers to them as “good people”. People defend Confederate monuments tooth and nail, despite the fact that Confederate actions should be condemned across the board without question or hesitation. People still argue that slavery was good for black people. We still have all of this.

I wanted to write something today, because for all that’s happened, Trayvon Benjamin Martin is still dead and his killer walks free, thanks to the help of good ol’ Amerikan racism and the NRA. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about those who have been lost to us. Taken from us.

Most of the people I know don’t buy into it, and I appreciate that. I have cultivated such a strong, decent group of people in my life, that I don’t ever have to wonder if they’ll have my back or not. I have removed people that refuse to recognize the stranglehold that white supremacy has on this country, and I’ve been criticized for it. People have said that I can’t expect to change anything if I refuse to engage in a dialogue, but I reached a point where I couldn’t keep justifying the fact that I do not deserve to be shot in the street by a rent-a-cop with a tiny dick. Why do I need to explain this?It’s exhausting. I’m exhausted. Every time someone else dies, I get depressed and I fall into a hole that’s hard to climb out of. It could easily happen to me, and whoever pulled the trigger could easily get away with it.

This post doesn’t really have an ending, because the list of names keeps growing. It will continue to do so until people start taking some responsibility and stop denying what black people have been telling them for decades.

Rest in Power, Trayvon. We actually have come a long way in terms of organizing the community and attempting to hold people accountable. We will move forward in memory of you, and everyone else we’ve lost. We will make them be better, or we will remove them.

Local Man Only Friendly and Outgoing In Case Of Health Emergency

coffee man

HOUSTON, TEXAS – Local DJ Byron Franklin has admitted that the only reason he leaves his house and interacts with people at all is in case he needs to start a GoFundMe for potential health issues.

“I was told growing up that I had a fairly repellent personality.” Franklin told us in an interview conducted at a local Starbucks. “But with the way healthcare is being handled in this country, I can’t afford for people to dislike me.”

Upon moving to Houston from Cincinatti, Ohio in 2016, Bryan found it difficult for someone in his field to get insurance coverage. As is the case throughout most of the country, a 10-year-old skin cancer diagnosis met the criteria for a pre-existing condition, preventing the 27 year-old from receiving the coverage that he could potentially need in the event future sickness or injury.

“I did my research and saw what it would cost for me to be covered, and I was nearly knocked out of my shoes,” Franklin told us, “But what I ended up finding was that professional acting classes would cost me considerable less than any insurance policy. Now, I didn’t have that many friends on Facebook, but I quietly viewed the profiles of people that hadn’t updated their privacy settings and found that crowd sourcing was the new insurance! It just took on a life of it’s own from there.”

Franklin then paid the tuition and began attending acting classes at Houston Community College twice a week. As he learned the nuance and theory of acting, he also learned to mask his distaste for interacting with other people. Before long, he found himself out at bars in Midtown Houston, forcing himself to approach other human beings, and feign interest in their lives.

“At first it was difficult.” Franklin told us, “Talking to anybody who isn’t my own mother usually makes me want to gouge my own eyes out, but after a while, I stopped seeing the people, and I just started seeing dollar signs. It was like in cartoons when the wolf and the pig are shipwrecked, and at first the wolf sees the pig as an annoying, talkative swine, but then later he gets desperate and sees his head turn into a juicy roasted ham. That was basically the transition that I went through.”

Franklin even used the money from his job to decorate his apartment in a way that he thought would lure people into friendship.

“Sure, it ended up being kind of pricey, but at the same time, it was still much cheaper that paying for medical, dental, and vision out of pocket. I call my place ‘The Venus Flytrap’. I got this couch, and it actually transforms into a bed. Can you believe it? For some reason, people love it, so I got two of them.”

Now, with over 500 Facebook friends, and more being added daily, Franklin says he feels that his future is a lot more secure.

“All it took was sitting and taking notes. I just have to say little catch-all phrases like, ‘Pokemon Go was fun at first, but I uninstalled it. It needs to be more like the original game if they want to have it continue to be successful’, or ‘I do love Tim Burton, but he needs to realize there are actors other than Johnny Depp’, or the ever popular, ‘I just can’t believe what’s happening to this country’. Depending on how they respond to that last one, I know how to proceed. It’s like a game! I have all my Facebook friends in different lists, and I post updates that I think they’ll respond to. Sure I have to go out to bars and clubs every now and then, and next month, I’m supposed to be someone’s best man, but it’s a small price to pay if I need dialysis somewhere down the road.”

When asked f he thought this article would disrupt his plan, Franklin responded that no one would read it anyway, and that “print is dead.”

“Bright” Doesn’t Shine for Black People


This is not a movie I had planned on reviewing, or even speaking about. When I saw the trailers for it, I thought, “Okay, so it’s a Will Smith movie where Will Smith says Will Smith stuff, and there’s Orcs in it. Got it.” There really wasn’t that much more I needed to know about it. It was playing off of a familiar formula that’s known to work well for audiences. People enjoy watching Will Smith, and you can’t fault them for that. Also Elves and dragons and stuff. People love their magic.

I watched it, of course. My friends and I like watching bad movies and making fun of them. We got some beers, sat in our seats and began the delightful trip into magical Los Angeles that is the movie “Bright” starring Joel Edgerton, and of course, Will Smith.

This is not a review of the movie. This isn’t really going to be a critique of the story or the acting or anything of that nature. I didn’t pay attention to much of that. I liked some of the scenes involving magic, but they are buried under so much nonsense in my own mind that I can’t even remember what happened in them; only that they did, in fact, happen. My mind was far too focused on the racial aspects of the story, of which there are a HUGE amount. It’s a main plot point throughout the film, and unfortunately cannot be ignored by me, and should not be ignored by anyone.

The basic idea is that the magical people like Elves and Orcs came to earth 2,000 years ago, and now all of the fighting that had gone on as a result of that transition is essentially over, and all the various magical races now co-exist with humans as best they can. A major source of tension between the two main players is that the character Nick Jacoby (Joel Edgerton) is an Orc, and Will Smith doesn’t like that about him. What then proceeds to happen for the rest of the movie is a heavy handed, clumsily written look at race in today’s society, conveyed with the flimsy allegory that is human/Orc relations.

Now, as many people were quick to point out to me, the use of allegory is a good thing! It’s been utilized many times in many formats, in order to educate people on various social issues. It gets conversation going, and that’s what we want, isn’t it? I had to explain to those people that I’m not troubled by the use of allegory. I’m not sure where they got the idea that I was, but that was what they came after me for. I believe that allegory can be a very effective storytelling device. If you want to tell the story of racism in Amerika by having Orcs represent the struggling black populace, then power to you. That isn’t what this movie did. This movie replaced black people with monsters. It took black people, painted them green, and then patted itself on the back for the next two hours about how clever it was.

Now before you try and explain to me how I missed the point, or how I don’t understand, please hear me out. The Orcs in this movie are not representative of black people. They are black people. They wear the same clothes as black people (think football jerseys and gold chains), they are harassed by the LAPD, they listen to music that the ‘normal’ characters completely dislike, they’re in gangs, the police find them to be inherently dangerous no matter the perceived level of threat in a situation, and Korean store owners don’t like them in their shops. This is an avalanche of stereotypical black people traits as only a white man can write them. The Orcs do not have their own culture, they have black culture. Their presence in the movie isn’t some sly metaphor for racial injustice, it’s a direct translation. This movie would have us believe that the issues faced by Orcs in Amerika today would be identical to the issues of an enslaved people brought here against their will a few hundred years ago. I’ll remind you that the Orcs supposedly arrived 2,000 years ago, and it was never suggested they were brought against their will. It’s said that they, the humans, and the Elves fought, but that’s it. This would, in no way, result in the same power dynamic we see in white-supremacist society today.

There’s an Orc being beaten by the police in front of his family. His wife is screaming, and he’s on the hood of a cop car just getting the hell beaten out of him. The wife has interesting clothing on that I suppose is representative of the design choices that were made in order to give the Orcs their own unique look, but the clothes are very clearly African-inspired. There’s another scene where one Orc helps a young Orc get away from the police, because he knows that he didn’t do anything wrong, but he also knows that if the police find him in the location he’s in, they’ll shoot him dead just for being there and looking suspicious. He’s wearing black hoodie when this is happening. The issues being faced in this movie aren’t Orc issues, they’re black issues.

People came after me anyway. They said things like, “You should be happy that this is drawing attention to your cause”, “If you don’t take it so seriously, maybe you’d actually enjoy it” or “It’s social commentary.” I was hit with post after post, reply after reply that all basically amounted to saying, “You’re being a sensitive black man. Save your rage for things that really matter, and say thank you to the movie for having your back.” But I can’t. This movie is offensive and clumsy. It’s saying to us that if there was a race below black people, then black people would be just as racist as white people, and it almost feels like it’s trying to use this to excuse the racism of white people in the real world. It makes black people into monsters, and then tries to call it a metaphor, when the only difference between the Orcs suffering racial injustice in the movie and black people in real life is the color of their skin. The Orcs have a green/pink coloring and tusks in their mouths. That’s all. That’s the only difference. The movie wants you to think it has layers by making Will Smith, a black man, the bigot in the scenario; a choice that I think actually does throw people off. In the opening minutes of the film, Will Smith kills a fairy that’s messing with his bird feeder. This movie immediately gives him the unforgettable line, “Fairy lives don’t matter today”, clearly a dig at the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, which he says immediately before beating the little sentient creature to death with a broom. He follows that up with a line directed at his black neighbors suggesting that their being next door makes it hard for him to sell his house. So it’s not even just fantasy creatures; he’s not a fan of those ‘gangsta’ black people either. Even though a white writer wrote it, it’s fine, because Will Smith says it.

This is where things get really messed up for me. I say that black people were replaced with monsters, and white people tell me that I don’t understand allegory. What they fail to understand, however, is that the black people were literally replaced. After Will Smith presents us with the difficulties of selling his home while there are black people around having a good time, he leaves to drop off his daughter, and goes to work with his Orc partner.

We don’t see any more black people after that with the exception of Will Smith.

They’re simply not in the film. I realized this after the bulk of the trolls had gone to sleep, and I figured that I had to be wrong, because that would be insane! To have literally replaced black people would have been such a poor choice that there’s no way they actually did that. Still, I couldn’t actually think of another black character I saw in the film after the group we saw in the first five minutes. So I took a trip to IMDB, and I found a man named Jamal Duff. An actual black man. He plays a character named, “Junior”. I couldn’t remember a character that went by that name, so I did a bit of googling, and wouldn’t you know it, he was an Orc. I began investigating the names that didn’t have pictures, trying to find if they were maybe black people, and some were! A few more were Orcs, one was a character named “Special D”, and another was someone named “OG Mike” (I have no idea who these people are in the context of the film. I think they might be in the group at the beginning), and there’s a lovely black woman named Sheila M Lockhart that plays the jaw-dropping role of “Pedestrian (uncredited)”.

Any role that would have normally gone to a black person was given to a monster that was an avatar of black stereotypes.

What you have with ‘Bright’ a derivative story about a magic wand and a chosen one that we’ve seen in a thousand different fantasy stories, and a complete waste of what could have been a really insightful view into power dynamics and race in our society. It took those aspects of our world and played them for gags in a bigger story; never actually addressing those finer points, but opting instead to just say, “Here they are”, and saying no more. It’s ham-handed arrogance said so much, while simultaneously saying nothing at all. Even the Elves were introduced as a sort of white person avatar, seemingly designed to explore the idea of class struggle within the presented society, but after they showed us the beautiful part of town that they lived in, the rest of it was just cool flips and martial arts.

I’m not saying you can’t enjoy the film. If you like the fantasy, the story, or the characters, then power to you. There are plenty of people out there that will give you grief for liking something, and I don’t intend to be one of them. This is one black man’s opinion and in no way do you have to agree with it, or even read it.

So enjoy it, if that’s what you’re into. Just don’t mistake it for being some deep, profound look at the world around us. That does the countless black storytellers and actors who have actually lived that truth a disservice. To let this white, privileged writer be the voice for us is not only a shame, it’s the story this film should have been telling. The story of how our history and experiences are always told through their narrative. A story we’ve all heard too many times.

A story we should all be tired of by now.


A Race That No One Wins

Facebook games are fun, but they always come with a cost. Most of them are that kind of game that you can play for free, but in order to progress faster or keep up with your friends, you need to put actual money into it. I know people that have gambled away thousands of dollars in actual money on backgammon without even thinking about it. Even I used to play a first person shooter game on Facebook with my coworkers, and if we didn’t pay for better guns and armor, we weren’t able to keep up with random internet child-competitors or each other.

I don’t play games like that anymore. A constant state of perpetual poverty has pretty much nixed any desire I would have to play a cheaply made game on a website that I like less and less every day. However, I do still play games on Facebook. Well… One game. I’ve played it since I first joined the site, and despite knowing that the game sucks, I still can’t pull myself away from it. It’s like when you play ‘Pokemon’, and the immense satisfaction you get that when you finally capture one that you’ve been looking for. I’m talking, of course, about a game I like to call ‘Tragedy Race‘.

That’s not the official title, as it’s not an official game, but I know a ton of people that play it every day. Here’s how it’s played, so that you might play it at home: You stare at your phone all day. Facebook? Twitter? Pick your poison. Any of them will work. You sit there, and you scroll and scroll and scroll until your eyes begin to bleed. That’s how you know you’re doing it right. Feel that searing pain in your head from staring at a tiny screen all day? That’s the sting of victory, my friend. You’re a champion. When you wake up in the morning, you unlock that phone, and you see what you missed while sleep interrupted your scrolling. You’re better than sleep. You’re a god-damned winner, you hear me? ABS: Always Be Scrolling.

Then, as if from a dream, you’ll see it. It’ll be right there waiting for you, beckoning with it’s skeletal finger: Death. Tragedy. Pain. Everything you were looking for. You feel the rise in you, straightening your spine, and hardening your nipples. You’re in the lead, and you can feel it. You go to your Facebook feed, and give it a quick once over; No mention of the death, and no mention of the horror. Picture of a minion posted by your aunt, video of two very different animals being friends, photos of someone’s trip to New York. No mention of the bloodbath.

Fuck. Yes.

Copy. Paste. Type, “Look for the helpers”. Post.

Congratulations! You just won this round of Tragedy Race! The internet game where the only rule is that you have to be the first person in your social circle to inform the others of whatever horrible thing just happened in the world. You then get one point for every like, and two points for every comment. You get whopping five points for every time someone shares the post you made. You’re ready to play! By the way, you’re always playing. There’s something that social media has done to us that makes us into grim collectors of sorts. I am in no way excluding myself from this, and I have often endeavored to be the fastest bearer of bad news when something horrible happens. It’s only recently that I noticed I was doing it, and decided to examine why.

I think I like being first to share these things because I somehow become part of them. It feels like I’m being more than observer. It’s about tricking myself into thinking I’m not helpless as all the world falls apart around me. It makes me feel like I’m an important part of something, instead of one of thousands of nameless customer service representatives who could die tomorrow, and be replaced by Monday. I can’t even afford to live in a place where I feel comfortable, and I think the game makes me feel like I’m a bit of a bigger cog in the machine.

It isn’t even just that. I write a lot, and what I’m trying to do with every single word I write is affect people. To make them feel happy, or to make them feel scared; It’s the goal of any storyteller to make their audience feel something. When you’re the first person to post about something terrible happening, you get those reactions without any of the work. Mass shooting? Dead celebrity beloved by millions? You’re telling a story that’s already been told for you and reaping all of the benefits. It’s lazy, and yet, I still get that familiar rush from it, though it’s nowhere near as fulfilling.

There’s arguments to be made that it’s important to keep people informed, and that keeping things to yourself doesn’t help in terms of the conversation, and that’s very true. However, that’s not why I was doing it, and it’s not why many other people do it either. I can’t speak for others, but I do it to feel somewhat important in a world that, I feel like, hates me, and has abandoned me by a blood-stained roadside. I do it because when I’m laying there in the gutter, it makes me feel like I, for a brief moment, am caught in the headlights of people driving by.

So, it’s something I’m going to avoid doing from now on. If I feel like I have something to say in regards to a particular event, then I will make a post. I’m not going to just share a story for shock value anymore, presented without comment. I am capable of seeing when my my actions are destructive, and I feel like this one is.

As I said, Facebook games have a cost. I’m no longer competing in the Tragedy Race. If I am sharing anything on Facebook, it’s going to have a purpose and an explanation. I don’t need to be one of the countless people making everything miserable and unbearable for no reason.

Give yourself, and the content you share, a better purpose. Your friends deserve it.

I’m Not in on the Joke Anymore

I’ve written about Harlem before. My writing always goes back there because as of right now, I don’t have the ability to physically return. Harlem is an incredible place. As I touched on before, it was the first place that I felt like I was actually within black culture. My growing up had plenty of African American groups and celebrations, but I was never interested. I didn’t have any community there. My community were my mostly white friends, who had the same basic education about slavery and Kwanzaa and jazz music that I did, and I knew that they weren’t going to be at any of those gatherings. Even if I did go, I was pretty certain that they wouldn’t want to hear about it. I had black friends as well, but they didn’t usually show up to these things either, so what was the point? As a child, I failed to recognize their importance.

As I grew older, aging out of junior high and high school before finding myself aimlessly hanging out in the downtown area of my Ohio town of four-thousand, I had completely neglected to engage with that aspect of my heritage. My friends were white, and I identified the most with them. Their TV shows, their music, and their activities. I identified with their prejudices, even when they applied to me.

Jokes were always made in jest around me, and I didn’t just tolerate them, I embraced them. To the point where, to the outside observer, it appeared that I encouraged such talk about my skin color. I would regularly volunteer in conversation to make self-deprecating jokes based on my race in order to get a laugh. The people around me would basically use this like a permission slip to make similar jokes, and you know what? It bothered me. Every now and then, I would just laugh to be polite; my smile completely fabricated so that I wouldn’t have to have an ‘uncomfortable’ conversation; but I still thought about it. I would think about it for days. I thought the problem was with me; That I was the one being too sensitive, and that this is how friends talk to each other, and why would I go and alienate someone who is a friend to me out of nowhere over something so minor?

This way of thinking continued well into my adulthood, and I wasn’t the only one living this truth. The black people that I know are also mainly friends with white people, and these jokes come up. That will happen when you live somewhere as heavily segregated as Austin, Texas is. People still do it to me, and I still have a problem talking to those people, and explaining why what they’re saying isn’t actually okay with me. I sometimes just smile and nod, and I’m not proud of that. The reason I do this is because even within “the left”, there’s a toxic culture of calling out all the missteps of the right, while being frighteningly defensive anytime someone tries to educate them about their own flaws. Not even berate them; Educate them. When Bill Maher decided he was going to make a joke about how he was a “house nigger” on his show, I was upset. I didn’t like it, and Bill Maher has a history of saying racist, awful things. But when I brought my point of view to Facebook, I was met with a less than understanding responses:

“You’re being way to sensitive to what was obviously a joke.”

“We are never going to get anywhere if we attack our allies.”

“I have another black friend, and he was totally okay with it.”

I thought I was your ally. I thought I was your friend. These are the things I though while I read through comment after comment of white people forgiving Bill Maher for a transgression that wasn’t theirs to forgive. They were over it, so obviously, I should be too, right? I mean as many of the comments said: Why are you getting upset over something so minor? Why not save your outrage for issues that really matter?

I want to be clear to anyone reading this: These microaggressions do matter. They matter to me, there’s a decent chance they matter to whatever other people of color you associate with, and they matter culturally a whole. As a young man, I didn’t realize. I didn’t have the pride in my heritage that I do now. I didn’t have the knowledge of suppression and silencing that I do now. I hadn’t had these things pointed out to me, so I didn’t see them when they were right in front of me. I just smiled and nodded while I allowed myself to be torn down. Some of the comments I’ve heard still ring in my head years later. I hear them now as clearly as I did the first time.

How can I call you an ally? How can I expect you to make any kind of change on my behalf when if I were to ask you to stop saying jokes about my skin color, I would then have to defend my position against you, as opposed to you simply hearing me and amending your behavior? The answer is simply that I cannot. I can’t expect anything from you. As I’ve grown into who I am now, I have read enough and I have seen enough to know that if doing the right thing makes you uncomfortable, you will not do it. I have my voice now, and I don’t care if you’re comfortable hearing it or not.

People online will like every single meme I post. They will comment in support of every positive message that I write to the world, and tell me they like the way I write unless I’m writing about racial injustice. I see it. I see who comments on the latter and the former. They like my voice as long as it doesn’t make them uncomfortable. They don’t want to hear it, but they need to, so I will keep on forcing them to see it.

My point is that I’m not the person I used to be. I’m educating myself. I’ve fought to rid myself of the prejudices that I had convinced myself were normal, and it isn’t an easy thing. Biracial kids already have trouble finding their place in the world. I’ve been told by people both black and white that I didn’t belong with them, and it hurts. Because I am a black man. Society sees me as a black man. I’ve had phone interviews for jobs, and when I met the recruiters in real life, I could tell that they weren’t expecting someone who looks like me to walk off of the elevator. I’ve been called well-spoken and articulate more times than I can count. I’ve been told by white people, “You don’t even act black. I’m way more black than you are.”

No. You’re not.

I will not let my race be a punchline for white people anymore. If you say anything to me that feeds on harmful stereotypes, I will call you on it, and I won’t care if it makes you uncomfortable. I won’t sit back and let you fall on your sword as the innocent jokester being victimized by the mean ol’ sensitive black man. You no longer have that luxury with me. I have taken steps to make myself better, and part of that is not just letting this happen anymore. You need to be better, too.

The Problem with “Death Note”

‘Death Note’ is a wildly successful manga turned anime turned lucrative film franchise from Japan that was first released in late 2003. ‘Death Note’ is the story of a high school student named Light Yagami who finds a magical notebook dropped by a bored death god, otherwise known as a shinigami. The instructions in the front of the notebook state that any human whose name is written in the notebook shall die. What follows is an incredibly engaging story as Light uses his new found power to pass judgment on those that he feels are not deserving of life in order to “purify the new world” of which, he considers himself to be the leader. He adopts the name “Kira” based off the English world “Killer”, and as he builds a following of people who think he’s doing the right thing, he’s simultaneously engaged in a mental battle with a genius, eccentric detective named “L”. Their struggle is one of the best I’ve encountered in the dark fantasy genre. It deserves all of the praise it receives, and if you’re looking for something to read/watch, I can’t recommend it more. It’s honestly one of my favorites, and I still get that special kind of excited when someone says they haven’t seen it.

However, I have an issue now. There’s a new American version of the ‘Death note’ story coming to Netflix in late August. People have slammed it so far for casting a white actor as the lead when the original character was Japanese. I hear that criticism, and I absolutely agree with it. There are TONS of Asian actors that are consistently overlooked when considerations are being made to cast lead characters. People on the internet will dismiss these complaints, saying things like, “Its a retelling of the original story, so the main character doesn’t have to be Asian.” In your brain, I guess I see how that works. You’re wrong, but I get it. Truth is, the fact that there isn’t a Japanese actor portraying ‘Light’ in the remake isn’t just denying an Asian actor work, it’s taking away an opportunity where they should have gotten the most consideration. If a Japanese actor can’t even be cast in what was originally a fully Japanese phenomenon, then what chance do they have in white-dominated Hollywood? You can look at all the movies that have come out in the last six months and find the answer to that.

Yet, that still isn’t the main problem I have with the new remake. While it is race related, it’s not specifically about a Japanese actor not being cast for the lead, but instead it’s about *specifically* casting a white male.

Here are the problems with Light being made into a white, American male: Dylann Roof, Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold, James Holmes, Elliot Rodger, and Adam Lanza. White male mass murderers chasing immortality through violence, and by all accounts, achieving it. The media refuses to let us forget their names and faces. On the anniversaries of their heinous crimes, we’re forced to rewatch footage of people running out of buildings covered in their own blood and the blood of others, see the faces of the killers in their last professionally taken photos, listen to people talk about how they didn’t see any signs that they were anything other than typical American boys, and read infographics on our televisions that break down their kill counts by the ages and sexes of the victims. Online, there are still places that celebrate them and what they did. That’s where ‘Death Note’ comes in.

In the original story, Light Yagami is an honor student. He’s popular, a hit with the ladies, he’s athletic, and – psychotic. It’s part of what makes him such a compelling character, and such a good “villain”. He’s difficult to catch, because he’s not what you’d expect him to be; but with the release of the new Death Note trailer yesterday, I couldn’t help but notice that all those aspects of his personality (at least as far as I can tell for the trailer) have been retconned. “Light Turner” does not appear to be a popular person. He has badly dyed hair, in the first scene he gets knocked out by some guy, through the trailer we only see him hanging out with one other person who appears to be helping him with his supernatural killing spree, and much of the other imagery revolves around the public’s worship of his murderous alter-ego “Kira”.

Much like the original Light, this new white Light seems motivated by a perverted sense of what he considers to be justice, but that seems to be where the similarities end. Light Turner is seeming more and more like a profile of the white male mass shooter. A loner, out to get those that they feel have wronged them; they want the spectacle and they want the notoriety.

I consider the changes that appear to have been made to the ‘Light’ character to be potentially dangerous. I’m of the opinion that the character irresponsibly appeals to a dangerous demographic. A demographic that sincerely doesn’t need anyone to look up to, especially anyone with an inflated, bastardized sense of “justice”. Every mass killer that I named had their reasons for doing what they did. The Columbine shooters were bullied, so they went after people that had wronged them, and those killed along with them were viewed as complicit. Elliot Rodgers thought that women rejecting him was an injustice, and so his plan was to kill as many as he could, along with sexually active males due to his envy of them. Even the people without clear motives still might have suffered from some kind of mental illness, but that doesn’t make them believe they’re any less right. Do we really need a film glorifying that? Glorifying the white, male loner who has these thoughts in reality? Thoughts that they consider to be right, while they’re readily able to view a film that tells them the only person that they have to answer to is themselves? That they can take it upon themselves to “purify” the world?

The current political climate is charged, to say the least. I, and people like me, now avoid reading the comments on any kind of news article, as the amount of venomous hatred and prejudice can at times be too much to bear. As a black man living in this country, I’ve kept up with all the news related to police shootings, protests, and the rising swell of hate crimes across the country. I need to be aware of the America that I’m living in, because if I don’t, I could find myself in a place I’m not meant to be, and end up with my most unflattering Facebook photo being displayed on the news while they talk about the fact that I had unpaid parking tickets in a desperate effort to justify my execution. What I discovered is that I can no longer feel safe anywhere. The comments on any one of those articles make that abundantly clear. There’s usually at least five that say something along the lines of, “One down…”

According to federal prosecutors, Dylann Roof was “self-radicalized”. He’s stated that the Trayvon Martin killing, and subsequent research into black-on-white crime is what initially started his descent into radical white-supremacy. His hope was that through his extreme act of violence in the city of Charleston, that he could start a race war. His writings suggested that he felt he needed to be the one to do something because no one else was. In his head he’s the hero. He is justice. He’s known to have said that he almost didn’t go through with it because the people in the church where the massacre took place were so nice to him. Is it that thin of a line? That weak of a barrier between non-action and atrocity? I have to believe it is. Otherwise, I’m ignoring a part of this country that has a target on my back.

You can watch the trailer and judge for yourself. It’s two minutes and fifteen seconds of video that struck me at a strange angle, and I felt like I had to voice my opinion on the subject. As I originally said, I’m a huge fan of the source material, and am actually watching the anime on Netflix as I write this. It’s good media. But if I want to see a mass-murdering white male lone wolf with a god complex, I’ll just turn on the news.