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Quick blog:

I am just returning from a meeting with the Dean of my school.  I had to conduct the meeting standing up.  I apologized for half of my body being soaked with water.

Rewind 40 minutes …

I was in my office, working on a GRE Prep class and a manuscript.  It suddenly hit me that I was very hungry.  I headed over to the university cafeteria.  The place looked abandoned.  Was I too early?  Nope, I see two students casually reading at a nearby booth.  Nobody is at the cashier station to pay for entrance.  What is going on?  Then, I notice five workers frantically mopping up a flood of water.  The water is spreading fast.  I see that the cabinent underneath a sink is open and gushing out water.

I ask, “What happened?”  One person replied, “Pipe busted!”  Everyone is clearly frazzled and scrambling to soak up the water.  In my mind, I think, you can mop all day, it ain’t going to help till you get that water turned off.  So, in my calm and helpful tone, “As anyone tried turning the knob?”  I receive five blank stares.  In my mind, “Crap!”

I push up my proverbial sleeves and walk to the sink.  It’s a freakin’ Dells water ride in there (some of you get the reference).  I can’t reach the knob.  “Crap!”  On my side, in the water, body in the water works, I reach the knob, turn it, water flow stops.  I grab a plate, fill it with food, and head to a seat.  And no, I didn’t even attempt to pay for it.  One of the workers said, “Yeah, he eats free today.”  You got that right.

All of my schooling.  I have a PhD and I marvel on how most people can’t do the basic things of life.  Why don’t people know how to do stuff? (roll credits)

The Barber Shop

Several weeks ago, I was asked if my kids could participate in a photo shoot for Krispy Kreme donuts.  I of course said yes, because my kids are cute.  The pay was also good, we received 8 coupons for a free dozen donuts.  That’s a lot of donuts!  As we were preparing for the shoot, the photographer informed me that I needed to be there by a certain time.  She insinuated that “I” needed to be there.  Of course I needed to be there, I can’t just leave my minors alone with photographers.  No, meaning that I was going to be in the pictures as well.  Well, that just seemed crazy to me.  My kids are cute, me, not so much, at least not national photo shoot cute.  It turns out the shoot was meant for Father’s Day, hence the request for my presence.  I just assumed they had fake dads for that, but I digress.  I don’t know if Krispy Kreme will actually use the photos taken, but if they do, I will provide a link.

(I began this blog long ago, but never finished it. Since that time, I have discovered that Krispy Kreme did post a pix from that shoot. It was for Father’s Day. They did not post a pix with my daughter, which is ridiculous, as she is the cutest of us.)

Well, if I am going to have my picture taken, and those photos may end up nationally available, I needed to get my head right.  I needed a hair cut, more importantly, I needed a barber shop (roll credits), specifically, a black barber shop.

Now, you may or not be aware, but black folks have different type of hair compared to other races.  Of course, there are races with similar hair challenges, but if we just stick with the ever popular black/white dichotomy, black folks have different hair from white folks.

One day while driving to the grocery store, I thought I saw a black person leave a barber shop.  I thought, cool, a barber near my house.  So, before the photo shoot I stepped into the shop.  It was a very hot day and the blinds of the barber shop were closed.  I could not see into the place, even though I tried really hard.  The last thing I wanted was to enter into an unknown situation and embarrass myself.  (Can you guess what happens next?)

I took a deep breath, open the door and walked in.  A wave of cold air hits my face, both literally and metaphorically.  The white barber and the white customers stopped what they were doing and stared at me for what seemed like an eternity.  This type of event has happened to me before.  I always envision the old Wild West and band players playing their Wild West tunes.  A stranger walks into the bar, and the music stops and everyone in the tavern looks at the incoming man, as if to say, telepathically, in unison, “You don’t belong here.”  The closest I have ever come to this in real life, was at a pizza parlor in the Sierra Nevada mountains.  A bunch of bikers were eating and drinking and I felt so out of place, I ended up leaving.  A friend who was their and stayed, later told me that the group of bikers ended up ordering sodas and laughing a lot.  Never judge a book …

So, the white barber asks me, “Can I help you?”  Luckily for me, I think very quickly.  “Um, I thought you guys would be black.  My bad.”  This story would probably be funnier if I actually said that, but I was having a clever day.  What I actually said was, “I’m sorry.  I think I am in the wrong place.  A friend of mine said he was going to meet me at the barber shop, but I think I have the wrong one.  Because he’s obviously not here.”  The barber than asked a very appropriate question, “What’s the name of the barber shop?” I replied, “That is a very good question.”  No, not really, I said, “I can’t remember.”  The barber preceded to give me directions to a barber just down the road.  And said maybe I’d find my friend there.

I turned on my heels as quickly as I could and headed to the next barber shop.  I don’t THINK I turn red when I blush, but if I do, I was a strawberry in that place.  Once again, the inside of the next barber shop could not be seen, so I took a deep breath and entered.  The cool black breeze wafted over me like Lando Calrissian (come on! that’s funny).  I had found my barber shop.

Now, here is the real punch line to this blog.  White folks were getting their hair cut there.  What!?!  When did this happen?  I remember going to the barber as a kid.  It was like a secret society.  A place where black folks could let their hair down (insert rimshot).  Music in the background.  Barbers asking after your family.  People being loud.  Someone telling a story that someone else thinks is hilarious.  And always the one barber that had nothing to do, because everyone knew he was going to mess your fade up!

Is the opposite true?  Outside of Super Cuts, or Sport Clips (and no matter what they tell you, they do not know how to cut a black person’s hair) are black people going to white barbers?  I think not!  The stealing of black culture stops here!  White folks, you don’t need to be going to black barbers.  You just don’t need it!  You know what?  I blame Trump for this.  That’s right, I said it.

Maybe this is good, maybe it’s not, but it was one of the last places of segregation that I thought everyone was still amazingly OK with, but I guess I was wrong.  Yeah, I know, this blog has taken a weird turn, but it just surprised me is all.  Maybe next time I need a hair cut, I’ll head to that first white barber.  And once again, he’ll ask, “Can I help you?” And I’ll say, “Yeah you can help me.  I got next! ¡Viva la Revolución!”

 

I was originally planning on writing about Wonder Woman.  I still might, it was an awesome movie and if you have a daughter, you should go see the movie together.  Scratch that, daughter, son, kids, no kids, you should go see the movie.  In my opinion, the making of the movie itself speaks to a deeper issue, but like I said, I need to blog about, eventually.

However, I am currently stuck in a personal issue that I would love to be over.  I don’t see it ending anytime soon, but nonetheless, it is a situation that is not fun.  Someone I know is in the hospital.  I don’t like naming names, and I won’t here, but someone close to me is in the hospital.  From the outside, or people new to this person’s plight, one might incorrectly assume that they have had a series of misfortunate events that have led to their current state.  However, for those that are aware of the facts, would know that this person has made decisions, choices, basically orchestrated the inevitable outcome that is their life and most recently, led them to be in the hospital.  Do you know someone like that?  Do you have a person in your life that you watch self sabotage their life and no matter how hard you try, you can’t get them to see the error of their ways?

I’m not talking holier than though BS, although philosophy and religion can play a major positive role.  It can play a negative one too, but that too is another blog.  I am talking about that person that despite all the advice, all the evidence pointing North, all the signs that say Go That Way, they choose to go South, because “They just want to do what they want to do.”  And then, when everything does go, literally South, they ask for help.  But more than that.  They ask for help as if it is your job to help them.  And maybe you do.  And then one day, you don’t.

This blog is only marginally about that.  Soon after Memorial Day I wanted to pay respects to all those that “go towards danger” on our behalf.  Today, I had the pleasure of talking to some people that choose to live in danger on our behalf.  And I have decided, they need a day, Social Services Day (roll credits).  The name can be negotiated, but I think we need a day for those people that live in the quagmire of someone else’s life.

I have spent multiple conversations with a medical doctor and a social worker about the best plans for the future of their patient.  Both worked over several days to get the best support for this person.  They made promises that they would look into help, and they kept those promises.  They chose to ask questions to learn more, and expressed real concern and compassion.  I actively tried to limit their exposure to the mess, and they actively leaned into the situation.  Man! Do you have any idea how many people out there are working their butt off to help others?  Today, I stand before you in awe of the tireless efforts humans are putting in to help other humans.  In a previous blog, I stated that you can hate the police, but if you call 911, they will arrive to help.  Today, I learned that you can be lying in the hospital bed of your own making, and doctors and social workers will still try to solve your problems, both physically and mentally.

There are so many things in the world that make me question whether or not humans are experiencing stunted growth along the evolutionary chart.  But I am writing this blog to tell you, there is an army of women and men trying their best, working long hours, and committing their heart and souls to humanity, whether humanity deserves it or not.

So, we probably have too many days as it is, but I’d vote for this one.  To the doctors, nurses, social workers, and all those that work in social programs, thank you.

Another quick blog.  If you read grammatical or spelling errors, shut yo’ pie hole!  I don’t want hear it.  Just read and enjoy.

I hate running (roll credits).  Do you know runners?  Runners love running.  You have probably heard about the runner’s “high”, the adrenaline rush, or just the dopamine pleasure center being stimulated.  Maybe it’s true, but for me it’s hogwash.  That’s right, I said it, HOGWASH!  Man do I hate running.  So, why do I run?  Because I said I would.

I have a weird personality in the sense that if I say I am going to do something, I am going to do it.  I treat everyone this way.  If you want to piss me off, than say you are going to do something, regardless of how small, and then don’t do it.  (side note:  Did you know that “piss” is one of the words that you can’t say on radio and I think TV.  Google George Carlin’s 7 words you can’t say on TV, hilarious).  Anyhoo, I made a promise to my self that I would run a 5K.  I feel like everyone should be able to run five kilometers.  Seems reasonable, right?  So, I promised that I would try a new app, called C25K.  I did make one caveat, if my asthma kicks up or my knee acts up, as they are both prone to do, I would come up with plan B, maybe biking (which I enjoy).  Guess what?  Neither has happened.  Damn it!  Insert Carlin’s seven words here.

Everyone told me that once I improved my running, I would start enjoying it.  WRONG!  The crazy thing is, the app is working.  I am about to complete week six of the eight week program.  Granted, I often repeat weeks, but nonetheless, I would recommend the app.  I am theoretically two weeks away from running five kilometers.  And then what?  Because I hate the running.  Knowing me, I will download an app to run 10K.  Why? Because I’m an idiot.

I hate the fact that I run slow.  I hate sweating, which is stupid, because I sweat a lot.  I always have, and I have always hated my sweating.  So, basically, the longer I run, the more negative things I say about myself.  Seriously, if you could be in my head as sweat drips off my body like Niagara Falls, you would think I was talking to Hitler.  I hate the fact that I don’t have asthma attacks.  I just keep breathing.  I hate the fact that despite the fact that I am tired and feel like my body is going to collapse, if I just keep running, my body keeps running.  Stupid body!

Here is what I do like about running.  I like the trail.  North Carolina has Greenways which I think are awesome.  I like the surprising amount of wildlife, deer, butterflies, frogs, millipedes, snails, red-tail and sharp-shinned hawks, tree squirrels, and diverse human beings.  There is a group of women from India that I see all the time.  Every time, they remind me of my friends, Vic and Daisy.  I haven’t decided if that is racist or not.  I’m going to chalk it up to missing some really good friends.  A group of old black and white women, a group of old black women, a group of old white women, couples of various racial combinations and people walking their dogs.  It’s silly, but I love it!  It all distracts me from the thing that I hate, my running.

But I will continue.  Because I said I would.  And I will be excited when I finally run my first 5K.  Maybe my next goal will be, “Is it really so bad to weigh 400 pounds?  Let’s find out.  Because I said I would.”

I hate writing blogs fast, which is why I don’t blog more often.  But I have had this blog idea in my mind all week and I think it won’t leave my brain until I write this one.

We just recently celebrated Memorial Day.  It is the day when we take a moment to remember those that we have lost serving in our armed services.  Or, it is a moment we have an excuse to get the grill out and see how many hot dogs we can eat in one sitting.  It is a day that we often do not take seriously, perhaps because of the freedoms that the lost men and women have provided for us, we take for granted the fact that we are here because of them.  It has become the American Way.  Let’s complain about not having it good when we have it better than most.

So, despite our differences of opinions about how the country should be run or what laws are good and bad, or which groups of people are being underserved or overserved, I wanted to say thank you.  Thank you to all the people that run TOWARDS danger.  I will be the first to suggest that our armed services could do things better, but I’m not going to fight in there place and that gives me less right to criticize.  It does not remove my right, but it does place my right in its proper perspective.  Here is one basic fact that I believe to be true:  I could bad mouth the police all day every day and if I am in trouble and call 911, a police officer will show up at my location.  How amazing is that!?!

So, thank you.  Thank you Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.  Thank you to the Coast Guard.  Thank you to the police officers.  Thank you to our fire departments.  Thank you to all of you that run TOWARDS danger.  Because if you are like me, that is not the direction I would choose to go.

Happy Belated Memorial Day!

 

A friend of my mine called me up and asked if I had time to talk.  I didn’t, but he was a close friend, so I said sure.  My friend begins the conversation with, “What do you think about this implicit bias bull shit?”  I laughed, and we began what ended up being a 20 minute conversation about politics, black lives matter, racism, and implicit bias.  All while four kids ran around me like chickens with their heads cut off doing various tasks and getting ready for homework, bed time, or snacking.  Here is the punch line:  My friend ended the conversation with, “You know what?  That makes sense.  You should write a book.”  My friend is white.

At work, I had lunch with a colleague/friend.  As we were talking, I said to her, “I don’t have time for nuance, so, if you don’t mind, I’m going to be blunt.  I have a six-year-old daughter.  Why is it so wrong that I don’t want her to share a bathroom with a person with a penis?”  She smiled, and it began a 30 minute conversation about North Carolina’s HB2 law, trans genders, Charlotte, NC and evidence for and against the repeal of HB2.  My friend used to be my student, and after the conversation I thought to myself, “I just got schooled by a former student.  How cool is that?”  My friend is black and lesbian.

Several weeks ago, I had an awesome conversation with a police officer.  I posted this brief story on Facebook at the time.  The amount of information I learned about police procedures and police/public interactions was enlightening.  I am fairly confident that if I had questions about police shootings, which unfortunately have been prominently displayed in the news in the past year, he would talk to me and answer just about any question I had.  And I am confident, the conversation could be messy, but illuminating.  I consider him a new friend.  He is a police officer and white.

Shouldn’t conversations like these happen everywhere and with everyone?  Are they happening?  Or are people just shouting across the aisle doing drive by politics on Facebook?  Facebook has turned into the virtual equivalent of guy on a street corner with a sign that reads, “You’re going to Hell! or Save the Whales!”  And then you get your dopamine rush when you get all the likes to your declarative, useless generalized statement.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy posts of varying opinions.  I especially enjoy it when someone provides a link to an article or provides their own personal insight to something they read or saw on TV.  I despise the name calling. And I could do without general statements that have no meaning or provide zero context.  Context is everything.

When I was in college, I lived in a co-op in Berkeley, CA.  Co-ops where cheap because they were run by the tenants, very socialist.  Anyhoo, there was talk of creating an African-American co-op.  I was interviewed by the newspaper on the topic.  The next day as I walked through the halls, I got evil looks from every black person I walked by.  Finally, I said to my roommate, “Is it me, or is every black person giving me the evil eye today?”  His response was, “Didn’t you read the newspaper?”  I found a paper and saw my quote.  To this day, I don’t remember the quote, but I do remember that the sentences before it and after it were not quoted in the paper, changing the meaning of the sentence entirely.  I spent the rest of the day talking to every black person in the co-op explaining my quote and the missing context.  Context is everything, but who has time to understand the full story?  Everyone should, or at least entertain the possibility that they may be missing something, but who’s got time for that?

I guess my point is that I am thankful for the friends, both past and present, that are able to fill the gaps in my knowledge on a variety of different topics.  What do you do for that?  Is your friend circle as diverse as mine?  I mean at the end of the day, isn’t this the true value of diversity?  I can’t even imagine how you grow as a human being without diverse people in your life, both culturally, spiritually, and intellectually.  I can’t force the melting pot, but this is why I am against being a separatist.  I love learning and growing through the sometimes uncomfortable conversations with people of differing opinions.  Get out of your comfort zone.  Look across the aisle and ask the simple question, “Why do they believe what they do?”  Heck, ask yourself, “Why do I believe what I do?”  You might be surprised at what you find out about other people and yourself.  A big thanks to my diverse friends, for keeping me honest, stretching me in countless ways, and challenging me to not always accept the status quo of my beliefs.  I am a better person for it.  So, ask yourself, what’s in your wallet? (roll credits).
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This happen today.  A student waiting in the hall just outside my office was talking to another student about their classes.  He proceeded to tell the other student about a paper he had to write in his class, Animal Physiology (my class).  He hated the fact that the professor (me) forced the students to go the Writing Center before turning in their final paper.  He than admitted it would likely make his paper better, but didn’t like it.  I had to stifle an outburst of laughter.  College students are like five-year-olds that make a butt load of noise to construct their tower of chairs to reach the cookie jar and are surprised when you catch them with their hand in the cookie jar.  What?  Sound travels?  Really?
If you know me personally and a reader of my blog, you know that my son plays hockey.  He is nine years old and he loves the game and I love watching him play the game.  I don’t know a lot about hockey, but I have come to love the sport.  In many ways, I think there might be a conspiracy perpetrated by the White Conglomerate Program (also known as WCP, but pronounced affectionately as “wasp”) to hide the sport.  Because hockey is lit.  I enjoy watching it more than football (insert gasp here), and I especially enjoy watching my boy play, and he is good (and there are many independent parents to support my claim).  I’m 45 years old and I watched my first Stanley Cup game last year.  I have been to several minor league hockey games and now have two NHL games under my belt.  It’s a fun game.  So, when I tell the story that I am about to tell, it makes me sad.
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Hockey is a white sport.  In other words, it is a sport dominated by white players, at every level.  My son is black.  Actually, my son is half black and half white, but that doesn’t matter, he is black (I could write a blog about this subject alone).  He plays on a team that has 15 kids and he and one other kid is black.  So far, they are the only two black kids I have seen on the ice this season.  During a game with a very good team (they loss 0-9), the other kids and the coach were using foul language according to my son.  He said they were taunting him and his teammates.  We talked about it after the game, and he seemed fine and moved on.  That evening I received a phone call from my son’s hockey coach.  Here is the short version:  According to my son’s teammates, one of the other players AND the coach called my son the N-word.  I got off the phone with the coach and talked to my son about it.  He did not hear anyone call him that.  He said he heard other bad words, but not that one.  And he said that he would know because “I’ve been called that before”, he said.
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Let’s take a moment to pause.  My nine-year-old son was confident that he didn’t hear that word because he had been called Nigger before.
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Pause.
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There are so many reactions that one can have to this story:  One could explain it away.  Maybe they didn’t hear it right.  It was the heat of the moment, it happens.  Don’t worry about it, I’m sure it won’t happen again.  Don’t be so sensitive, it’s just a word.  They were taunting the other kids too, why does it have to be about your son?  Oh man!  I could write about this all day.
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It sucks that I have had to prepare two children so far (my oldest son has an N-word story as well) about being treated this way because of the color of their skin.  Many of you reading this now do not have this on your “I must teach my kid this lesson” on your parent to do list.  Maybe you understand, maybe you don’t, but I am here to tell you, it can be difficult to be black in this country.  But let me teach you the appropriate response to this situation, and I will make it simple, with one word … empathy.  Don’t get defensive.  Don’t rationalize.  Empathize.  Even if you don’t understand.
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The story continues …
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My son’s coach called me immediately after the game.  He did not see nor hear the incident.  He was informed by his players.  Not by my son.  Not by me, but the other white nine-year-old players.  They were upset by it.  One of my son’s teammates was compelled to tell his dad, who than relayed the story to the coach.  The coach called me, and made it very clear that he was bringing up the other team and its coach to the league.  This behavior is unacceptable.  He could have dropped it.  Once he learned that my son did not hear the word, he could have said let’s not rock the boat.  Maybe it was just a misunderstanding.  Nope.  Unacceptable to the coach.  Unacceptable to the kids.  I could not have been more proud of a group of kids and parents than I was of my son’s hockey team and coach.

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Life is not perfect, it is messy.  It sucks that I have two sons that have had to deal with this issue.  It sucks that I have to prepare my sons for what it will be like to be a black man in today’s society.  It sucks that in 2016, nine-year-olds will be using the language of their adults to treat other groups of people as lesser human beings.  I hope this story sticks with you.  Maybe it will inspire you to talk to your own kids about the N word.  That nine-year-old boy could have been silent.  He chose to speak up.  That’s good upbringing.  They say kids are taught to be racist.  Well, than kids can be taught to speak out against racism too.  The hockey coach could have swept it under the rug, and I would never have known.  The kids on his team could have been silent and no one would have known.  Today was not the day to tell me that all kids matter.  Today was the day to tell me that my son’s life matters.
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Roll credits.
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I should probably just end this blog in a serious way, but I can’t, it’s not in my nature.  I will leave you with one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite movies, Canadian Bacon, starring the late great John Candy as Sherriff Bud Boomer.  Here is a brief conversation between Roy Boy, played by Kevin O’Connor and my man, Bill “Radio Raheem” Nunn playing Kabral.
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Roy Boy: How come you never see any black guys playing hockey?
Kabral: Now do you think it’s easy to just gradually take over every professional sport? Let me tell you something, man. Brothers have started figuring out this ice thing. Hope you enjoyed it!
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Sadly, Bill Nunn recently passed in September of this year.  RIP.  There’s your serious ending.