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It Starts Early

This is not a ranting blog post nor is it an I hate white people post. My little brother is biracial as a bit of context, some of my good friends are white. This is an honest brain dump. A friend of mine, the father to two young black boys posed this question to me and it sparked this post. His questions, “…how do we individually or collectively minimize the immediate fear to shoot brown skin? I still have to teach them (his sons) how to interact in a safe way with the blue… (posture, responses, hand gestures and etc.) which is stressful.”

Here is what I offer. We have to start have honest conversations with one another and make the choice to connect with people who do not look like us. I can recall growing up in the south, Houston, TX to be exact. Despite growing up in the south I can recall my classes always being diverse. I had middle eastern friends, vietnamese friends, black friends, white friends, latino friends, biracial friends. All found a way to coexist and I can recall us all spending the night at each others home and hanging out like kids do. To the point that even when I was called a “nigger” on the playground around the age of 7 or 8, everyone knew it was wrong and went to tell the teacher. I can recall that even throughout high school the group was fairly close.

When everyone went to college things began to shift. People migrated to schools or experiences that no longer challenged them. We all migrated to our comfort zones. The ones that looked like our homes. I give that back story to take us to this point. We are not honest about our differences, our similarities and honest about right and wrong. If I am honest for many years I thought that people got what they deserved for getting in trouble. As I have gotten older, my eyes got wider, my ears opened up, my heart softened and I began to look deeper. Here are a few truths:

  1. Black men are sentenced to longer and harsher penalties. Here is one example per the The Sarasota Herald-Tribune (Florida), with the same drug offense and same circumstances black men are sentenced to nearly triple the time as white men for the same crime.

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This is not to say drug crimes are not detrimental, but equal punishment should be the bare minimum for cases.  

2. It starts young. Minority groups are punished harsher earlier. The Sentencing Project, a non-profit who studies and advocates for equal justice found that American Indian (Indigenous) youth are 3 times as likely to be held in a Juvenile detention center than white youth.

“According to a Department of Education report, black students nationally were three times more likely to be suspended than whites in 2012. Suspensions occur most commonly in secondary schools, but black children were more than twice as likely to be suspended from preschool as well. Harsher discipline for black students is not just a Southern or state-level problem. It is a national crisis.” – NY Times , September 2017

Vox had disparities broken down in 7 charts to discuss hidden racism and racial bias as it relates to kids. I won’t bore you with more charts, but the link is here: https://www.vox.com/2015/10/31/9646504/discipline-race-charts.

3. It is reasonable black, white, asian, hispanic and latino, and biracial individual’s responsibility to not only challenge, but to hold those accountable for biases and abuse accountable. That means we have to do more than share a post via social media. We have to do more than retweet. We have to vote for diverse leadership, advocate for better rules and laws while checking our own biases. As a person of color at certain parts I have been complicit. Not that I said this black or brown person was guilty or deserved their punishment, but I did not speak up when someone portrayed a black or brown person as more dangerous or insert the adjective.

4. We need to retrain police and civic officials how to interact with diverse groups of people. They are not allowed to bring their biases to work. Period. We need cognitive gun reform. That way there is a much less threat of someone using a weapon against police officers who risk their life. Officers also need to exercise common sense. That means a gun should be the last resort for non-violent SUSPECTS. For instance a burglary or a loitering call should not lead to an arrest or dead body. Period.

To close…

If our country is going to move things forward we need more individuals who speak up, loudly. That does not have to be a fight or an argument, but a conversation challenging the individuals who are being painted with a broad stroke.

When we do not challenge the things we know to be inherently wrong then we raise young kids who become police officers, judges, Starbucks Managers, teachers, principals, school administrators, school board members and elected officials who do not advocate for true and equal justice.

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The HBCU “Choice”

I want to frame this piece before we proceed. This is not a piece to persuade anyone to see things my way or from my perspective.  This post is about education. 

On Monday the new Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, made a statement that perfectly illustrated the disconnect with historical events that significantly impacted black people in our country. The interesting notation to add is that Betsy DeVos is not an educator and lacks the the formal education, based on research and application. 

DeVos presented a severely flawed statement, completely misrepresenting facts about African-Americans in our country and the role HBCU’s play. HBCU’s are attended by African-Americans overwhelmingly.

DeVos’ statement called historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) “real pioneers when it comes to school choice,” this is after President Donald Trump held a meeting with several HBCU leaders on Monday. Though the discussion was billed as an hour long listening session, the listening session lasted 15 minutes, before the participants were brought into a photo op.

To claim HBCU’s have been a choice for education scoffs at hundreds of years of torture, rape, assault, brain washing and murder called slavery. It avoids the discussion about what happened to African-Americans attempting to attain an education, both during and following slavery.

DeVos forgot to mention during slavery that it was a punishable offense if a slave taught themselves or  if they had been taught to read. DeVos forgot or maybe she did not know that slaves could have their tongues cut out of their mouth for trying to sound smart. 

DeVos forgot to mention that following the abolition of slavery that most American institutions did not welcome African-Americans and/or did not protect them from persecution. Thus land was allocated and resources were gathered to provide a safe learning space for African-American students. 

If we continue down this path, segregation from educational institutions, water fountains, housing, bus seating, restaurant seating and even libraries were a standard not a choice. 

African-American students were provided outdated books, books with missing pages, tattered pages and vandalized buildings for attempting to attain an education.

The choice, Mrs. DeVos speaks of, was not much of a choice. It was the only safe and viable option to attain an education. As a result parents had to physically protect their own children pursuing education, the national guard was called in to protect young men and women from attack for their choice to attain an education. 

Mrs. Devos was not completely wrong, because of the choices people like my grandmothers, grandfathers,  and great grand parents individuals like myself were able to make the choice to attend two HBCU’s, Hampton University and Texas Southern University.

To reference facts listed throughout this post Click Here

The Library of Congress also provides a history Click Here


Click Here to read more at ABC News.

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Move Ahead!

There is a large sect of people who whole heartedly believe that in order to keep it real they can’t progress. 

They can’t wear fitted clothing, because that’s for (insert a certain group of people that make them feel insecure). They can’t make a subject and verb agree, because that would mean they think they are uppity after applying the lessons from their education. They feel like if they dine at places with white table cloths or dress up as oppose to dumbing it down they have sold out.

To those people I would argue that keeping it real is a temporary state of mind. That is to say that real should be based on your current situation. It should not be a cage or jail cell that holds you hostage throughout your twenties, your thirties, and so on.

If you still speak the same, dress the same, act the same, and think the same way you aren’t keeping it real you’re missing out on growth. Keep it real and keep learning keep growing and keep developing. 
Many of us don’t challenge the way we think or allow others to. We take the exact same trips with the exact same people literally and figuratively. Travel to a place you’ve yet to experience. Go alone. Meet up with some people who’ve been good to you and learn a little more about them.

At one time I said I would never wear fitted clothing. I felt the need to speak in ways that weren’t representative of the education I had received. I wouldn’t try new foods and I ordered the same thing no matter what restaurant I visited. I missed out on so many opportunities to expand my pallet and to try something new. I missed a chance to move ahead of where the old me was.

I would argue that I even kept company that no longer pushed me, challenged me, and allowed me to stay the same. I won’t say I’ve broken all the things keeping me from moving ahead but I’ve identified them and I’m working on removing those blocks.

When you look back on your life, look back on a life where year over year you beater your last year. Look back and see you moved forward maybe your path wasn’t the perfectly laid path at the beginning, but look back and see you created a path that you have no regrets on. 

Move ahead of where you were yesterday, last week, last month, and last year. Keep it real by learning more about yourself by experiencing things you’ve yet to experience with people you may have not given the opportunity.