Across the Aisle, Ferguson

Under The Influence: The Media’s Silent War Against Black America [ATA #12]

August 18, 2014
WARNING: Across the Aisle features a generous helping of exploratory writing, gratuitous pop culture abuse, and complimentary Funyons. This is Hive Mind 101. That glorious moment when Wonder Twin powers activate. Jay Connor + Alex Hardy = the triumphant return of Voltron. These ain’t no studio tricks, and such brilliance is solely intended for mature reading audiences.  Enjoy.

Episode 12 
Under The Influence: The Media’s Silent War Against Black America

Jay Connor: In the ensuing days since Michael Brown’s execution, his hometown of Ferguson, Mo., has descended into chaos. More so as a byproduct of overreaction from a militarized police force than from any destructive provocation from its citizens, but how did it get to this point in the first place? Some would point to the disproportionate ratio in Ferguson’s racial demographic, which is 63% Black, yet somehow responsible for 86% of its police stops, versus those who constitute its police force (95% White), a disparity that has manifested into some disturbing results. Others have taken it upon themselves to lament their role, intentional or otherwise, in the escalation of racial tensions and ubiquitous implications that “Black victims are to blame for their own deaths”. Their words, not mine. So with media outlets publicly taking themselves and their methodologies to task, one can’t help but to inquire: What if the roles were reversed? What if Black suspects and victims were portrayed in the same light as their White counterparts? And what if White suspects and victims had their perceptions manipulated in the same manner that befalls their Black contemporaries?

So sponsored in part by Huffington Post’s sobering glance at the mirror, what you are about to read is an exercise in that exact scenario. EVERYTHING YOU ARE ABOUT TO READ IS 100% FACTUAL, excerpts culled from their original news sources and related material, but repurposed to demonstrate the alarming stranglehold the media has on public perception.


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Proud to be AfroLatino? Say it with your chest.

July 29, 2014
alex + dash.

My good friend Dash Harris, creator of NEGRO: A Docuseries about Latino Identity just launched two new AfroLatino pride t-shirt campaigns because Black is beautiful, and so are you I suppose you’re aight, too. Dash works to educate the masses of the richness and splendor of AfroLatino heritage. As two Black Panamanians who live and work in Panama, we see the unfortunate results of a lack of pride in one’s African roots, especially considering that so many have a Black abuela tucked away in a photo album. I have written previously about my experiences with race here in Panama.

As many Panamanians (and Black and brown people everywhere else) would sell that Black abuela to wake up with some nice long pretty blond hair, images of Jubilant Whiteness are projected on billboards on televisions. All of my friends here have encountered Black and brown people with bell pepper noses and curls flat-ironed into submission who call themselves White with a straight face. We see this daily. Whiteness is aspirational here, a friend explained. It’s disheartening. And disgusting.

Aside from not being able to hide the obvious, I am quite proud to be the grandson of a Black ass woman from Bocas del Toro, Panama, who is the daughter of two Jamaicans.

I am proud—though occasionally annoyed—when people here approach me, professing their love and implied potential fetishizing of my locs (¡Me encantan tus Bob Marleys!), telling me how they have always wanted to rock some locs but they don’t know if their job/parents/grandmother would allow it. I am also proud when I deny request to touch my hair.

I am proud when my Negro Delegation walks into a party and people just know it’s about to go down. To have a bunch of awkward two-steppers form a circle and watch you and your homies Black it the fuck up as they beseech Jesucristo for a windfall of rhythm and nerve?

Bintu and Alex take a break from Blackiando to snap a pic for their fans.

THAT shit feels amazing. In that joint just sweating out Black pride and awesomeness. Bonus level Blackness moment.

I have learned not to wince when I hear my skinfolk down hear call themselves café, canela (cinnamon), and khaki to avoid calling themselves Black. A student once corrected my beloved Bintu (pictured with me, above), telling her, “No, teacher. Tú no eres NEGRA. Eres MORENA,” when she referred to herself as a Black woman. Gotta love how we’re taught to soften our Blackness with cutesie pet names. Some of the issue stems from a lack of visibility of positive Black images here and everywhere. Then, you must consider colonialism, racism, disparities among resources, and the fact that Black history is not taught in schools here. We’re all fucked. So, placing the blame squarely on my skinfolk helps nothing.

There is much to unpack. That is why the work Dash does is so important. Peep her site for documentary screening and contact info, aquí.

I say all of that to say: Let your soul glow. Just let it shine through. And by soul, I mean AfroLatino Pride. Obviously.

These t-shirt campaigns end soon, and there are men’s and women’s sizes available. I will take the White joint, please and thank you.

 Campaign ends August 12. Click AQUÍ.
Campaign ends August 19. Click AQUÍ.

Oh. I was interviewed for her Negro: Finding Identity series. Booyow.

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Across the Aisle

[ATA #11] The Pied Pipers of Patriarchy: The Rise and Inevitable Fall of Digital Charlatans

July 21, 2014

WARNING: Across the Aisle features a generous helping of exploratory writing, gratuitous pop culture abuse, and complimentary Funyons. This is Hive Mind 101. That glorious moment when Wonder Twin powers activate. Jay Connor + Alex Hardy = the triumphant return of Voltron. These ain’t no studio tricks, and such brilliance is solely intended for mature reading audiences.  Enjoy.

Episode 11

Steve Harvey, The Zoot Suit Don. (Photo: NBC Chicago)

The Pied Pipers of Patriarchy: The Rise and Inevitable Fall of Digital Charlatans

Alexander Hardy: The State of Florida, blue contact lenses, and the quest for respectability are destroying Black people. The first destroys us with lopsided legislature and bullets, the second with the scorn of 1000 ashamed ancestors, and the third? Well, the quest for respectability leads us, the Coloreds, into the valley of the shadow of debt, stupidity, and reality television. We relish every opportunity to assert ourselves as more refined than those niggas over there morally, sexually, and financially superior to our peers, facts and easily verifiable bank statements be damned. Our collective need to be regarded as worthy of admiration and retweets keeps jewelers who make neck art from gold-dipped baby Jordans and certain self-proclaimed self-help czars in business. Yes, I’m talking about Steve Harvey, Tyrese, Tony Gaskins, Chey Bostock, Farrah Gray and the rest of the chocolate charlatans who sell generic quotes and patriarchy to the masses, bundled with a janky interpolation of da (alleged) werd of da lawd. It’s too much.

Jay Connor: The game is to be sold, not told. Be it a wise old adage or a Snoop Dogg album title, their gravy train is screaming down the tracks, making it rain alopecia and synthetic perspicacity. Besides, who needs a bible when chapter Tony verse Gaskins is just a leering meme away? Draped in ascots and deceit, these social media apex predators feast on the vulnerabilities of Black women, issuing cleverly disguised mandates culled from Romany Malco tangents and fortune cookies. Their natural habitat is gullibility, an environment in which they thrive since nary a matador can be found to sidestep their bullshit. Which in turn makes them adept Vagina Whisperers, who take great pride in telling women what to do with theirs. Because entitled. Because lucrative. Because patriarchy.

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Opinion, Race, Whiteness

Jeremiah Heaton, North Sudan, and the Audacity of Whiteness

July 18, 2014

Jeremiah Heaton. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Have you heard the one about the asinine White Virginia dad (before you huff and puff, Whiteness is a fundamental plot element here) who traveled through Egypt to claim 800 square miles of unclaimed desert land between Sudan and Egypt in the name of his daughter, the newly crowned Princess Emily?

Yeah. I know, right? When I first saw the headline, I checked to see if the local Virginia site with the story was a satirical one. But, yes, it happened: Jeremiah Heaton didn’t want to tell his beloved chile that she couldn’t be a princess in real life, so he did what any parent high on Whiteness would do: he “literally” (his word) went to what he considers “the ends of the earth” for her and planted a flag in her name in the ungoverned land of Bir Tawil. In Africa. He and his kids named this new land The Kingdom of North Sudan and designed a flag. My inner angry Black man popped up, grabbed his shotgun, and stood on alert for approaching unmelinated lunacy.

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Lemon and Ice: The Rules of Blackpeoplegatherings

July 8, 2014

As a full-time Black person, I have attended about 12 hundred dozen Blackpeoplegatherings in my lifetime. Crab boils. Welcome Home From The Clink parties. Fish fry-style wedding receptions. You’ll probably observe many of the same elements at most of these Blackpeoplegatherings. Drank. Music (with a high probability of the Electric Slide making an appearance). Bad ass kids. Overindulgence and the Itis. Well seasoned food. The usual.
(Do White people get The Itis? Serious question.)
In these Blackpeoplegatherings, there is an unspoken hierarchy of meal-making clearance that exists to ensure collective enjoyment and prevent mass food poisoning. More importantly, where dish responsibility is concerned, this hierarchy helps avoid culinary blunders and embarrassment. Meats > Macaroni and Cheese > Greens> Other Sides > Dessert, etc.
In short: unless you want to be the person who fucks up Granny PumPum’s 113th Great Day In The Morning Super Turnt Episcopalian Celebration of Life dinner with a dry ass turkey, know your motherfucking role in the kitchen.
Every relative isn’t allowed to up and decide that they’ll make the primary meat of the meal. Twenty-nine-year-old Auntie Bop Bop, who survives off of corn chips and purple Kool-Aid would never be allowed to walk through the door with a turkey on Easter Sunday. Uncle Man-Man can’t declare that he’ll make The Fried Chicken on Christmas night if nobody has ever tasted his cooking. There are rules. You have to audition and shit. Anything else would be uncivilized, and would only take place in a family where crack rocks mean “I love you.”

At these Blackpeoplegatherings, food is often the purpose of the event. Sure, it’s nice to catch up with your favorite Druncle and his new dumpy White girlfriend. But over here in reality, getting down on that corner piece of the macaroni and cheese is the real reason for the season. So if you do Harlem Shake your ass out of bounds where food is concerned, you will never ever ever ever live it down. Your Black family will NEVER let you forget that one time you forgot to rinse the college greens before attempting Meemaw’s recipe. Until the day you perish like Nicole Scher$;ra!J678’s singing career, you are the LaTivia LaTavia of holiday meals. You can only bring liquor and napkins, ya bish.
Pro tip: If you’ve never made a certain dish before, holidays are not the best time to experiment.
Grandma: Miss Ruby, La Kingpin Panamenña
About a decade ago, my family met up for Thanksgiving at my grandma’s house. Now, my grandma is the kind of woman who doesn’t eat in restaurants. She rarely eats other people’s cooking, and if she does, she never forgets a culinary blunder. (“She’s nice, but she likes to use a lot of salt. It was alright, I guess.”) Miss Ruby doesn’t believe in buying cleaning products or salad dressing because she can make her own. Duh. She is a legendary cook and used to cater damn near every Panamanian or Caribbean event in the 757. If she is involved, the meal-making clearance hierarchy is as follows: She makes everything, including the sorrel. Anyone else can bring dessert but it must be prepared outside of her kitchen. And you can do dishes, ifshe’s convinced that you know how to wash dishes.
There is no “I’ll bring the ham” because No. You will bring the Paul Mason and take the trash out. In this case: “you” means “the entire family.” No exceptions.
So on this particular Thanksgiving, my sister and aunt decided to bake a cake after dinner. A lemon joint. Somehow, they were able to prepare it in Grandma’s kitchen, unmurdered. My uncle was sent to the store for icing. Lemon icing. “Okay fine,” he said as he grabbed his keys and bounced.
We continued Blackiando and talking shit. I likely went back for a third plate. My uncle eventually returned with two bags and set them down on the counter. The cake had cooled and we were ready to apply the frosting and get to work.

He presented his purchase to his wife, satisfied with himself for his contribution. “Here, lemons and ice.”

You know that instant where the air is sucked out of a room, all eyes meet, and everyone explodes into laughter? Yeah. We howled and cried for a good 20 minutes, mainly because my uncle didn’t find it funny at all and, well, Black relatives ain’t shit.
“Now, tell me what you thought we were going to do with these lemons and this ice,” my sister asked, placing her hand on his shoulder. Everyone paused to wait for his response, because Black relatives ain’t shit.
“I thought y’all were gonna make icing with the lemons.” More tears.
Now, that wasn’t even a meal-ruining blunder, but do you think we’ve let him forget that he brought lemons and ice rather than lemon icing? Of course not. A decade later, my Dad or someone will ask him, “So, what’d you bring?” and the tears just come.
We’ll probably put “lemons and ice” on his headstone.
So, friends, as summer unfurls and the chicken-eating gatherings approach, remember: know your motherfucking role in the kitchen. Stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to. Don’t be the guy that ruins Granny PumPum’s 113th super turnt birthday. Every auntie can’t be Deena Jones with that crockpot. And that’s okay. For dignity’s sake, sometimes it’s better to stay in your place, be the LaTavia, and bring the fucking ice cream.

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