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Posts Tagged ‘race relations’

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!”

 

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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.

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Welcome to Part 2 of my “I have no idea how may part” series on racism.  I know you are concerned about being a racist, and I am here to say that you are not racist.  No, seriously, you’re not racist.  However, you are biased.  As a matter of fact, we are all biased.  Whew, now don’t you feel better?  Well, you shouldn’t, because being biased can be just as damaging and in many ways, worse than being racist.

The problem with being biased is that it is pervasive and infects literally everything that we say and do.  The worse part is, we generally are not aware of our biases.  Actually, the worse, worse part is that we often don’t care about our biases and therefore make zero actions to improve our biases.  If you are reading this and thinking, I have no idea what you are talking about, then let me explain.  I mean, that’s why I am here.

It’s midnight, and you just left a friend’s house after a marathon game of Parcheesi (Google it).  You are walking down the street towards your car and you see three white kids sitting on the hood of your car.  They are looking at their phones and clearly playing Pokémon Go.  What do you do?  I am sure there are a variety of answers to this question, but I am sure most of you would respond in some form of “get them off my car and go home”.  If it were me, I would approach the car, and say, “Hey guys, this is my car.  You mind?”  And then I foresee that they would get off my car, I would get in, and drive home.  Simple.

Alternative:  It’s midnight, and you just left a friend’s house after a marathon game of Parcheesi (did you Google it yet?).  You are walking down the street towards your car and you see three black kids sitting on the hood of your car.  They are talking, loudly, and look like they just got done playing basketball.  You see that one of the kids has a basketball in his hands.  What do you do?

Before I continue, do me a favor.  Take a moment to think about the image of the two scenarios above.  How are they different?  How are they the same?  What is your reaction to the two scenarios above?

Here is my first honest truth of the blog; it never entered my head to write the two scenarios of BOTH sets of kids playing Pokémon Go.  I just can’t see three black kids playing Pokémon Go at midnight.  That’s my bias.  What’s yours?  In your mental image of the two scenarios, were both sets of kids the same age?  I bet they weren’t.  I bet the white kids were younger, maybe even in junior high.  I know, you think I biased you by making them playing Pokémon Go, but I also said it was midnight.  If young kids can play Pokémon Go at midnight, why can’t young kids play basketball at midnight?  What were the kids wearing?  Any wife beater t-shirts (Google it) in either scenario?  Or Nike gear?  Plaid shirts?  Welcome to the Brett Bias Show.  And finally, what about your reaction to the two scenarios?  Are you responding to both situations the same?  Here is my reaction, and it’s not the same:  “Hey fellas.  How’s it going?  Who won the game?  Cool.  I gotta run, you can come, but the ride might be bumpy from the hood of my car.  Thanks guys.”  I have no need to talk to the white kids, but I very much want to talk to the black kids.  It’s my bias.  It’s like I want to defuse a situation.  Or maybe I want to make sure the black kids know that I have nothing against them.  Or maybe I have a stronger desire to make a connection with the black kids.  I think any of the above reasons may be true, but it proves one thing, I have a bias in my reaction to the two scenarios.  What is your bias?

I know you might think this is silly, but I would guess that in many of your scenarios, your reaction to the black kids was more negative, more aggressive, or had more fear in its response.  At minimum, your image of the two scenarios was different based on your inherent bias.  What does this mean?  Well, it means that if you are a black kid, you have been reacted to in a certain way for most of your life.  And depending on how negative those reactions were will determine your attitude about life and how others perceive you.  I’m 45 years old and have a PhD, and my life experiences have shaped an image of myself that is not worthy of a PhD.  I attempt to shake it often, but it reveals itself more often than you would realize.

For example, several weeks ago, my wife, son and I went house hunting with our realtor.  While in a house, I heard a noise upstairs.  I was convinced that someone was in the house.  I assumed it was one of the owners that had not left the house before our arrival.  I asked our white female realtor to go upstairs to investigate.  I was not scared.  I was not trying to push her towards an intruder.  I was concerned that if whoever was upstairs ran into me, a big black man, the reaction would not be good.  It turned out to be the daughter of the owners who got her times wrong on the visit.  I stand by my decision of sending the realtor.  Let’s pretend our group had males and females, blacks and whites.  Here is the order I would have selected to go up those stairs, from least likely to most likely to scare the bejeesus of whoever was up there.  1.  Little white girl  2. Little black boy (because black boys are cute). 3 Little white boy 4. Little black girl  5. Adult white female. 6. Adult black female 7. Adult white male 8. Adult black male.  Do you agree with my order?  It’s based on bias and bias is real.  Bias determines whether you are more likely to call me Dr. Woods (which is my appropriate designation), whether or not I’m more likely to be pulled over by a policeman, or if you will be surprised when you find out what I do for a living.  Do you have any idea of what it feels like to be considered “lesser” by so many people on a regular basis for over 40 years?  Bias is a hell of a drug.

I was going to end it here, but than I had lunch with a friend.  She told me this story of how she has been grabbed by men so many times in her life that she has lost count.  It became so regular in her life, that if it happened during the day, when she got home, she saw no need to tell her husband.  This was not the first time I heard a story like this from a female.  Can you imagine, living your life in such a way that people grabbing you was so common place that you internalize it as normal?  You see, biases are so common place, that they make people believe things that they should never believe.  If you are reading this and you still don’t get it, then here is my advice:  Examine your actions and try to identify your own behaviors that might be adjusted because of who you are interacting with, males, females, black or white.  If that doesn’t help, ask your wife, or friend what biases you have, because they WILL know.


Insert bad transition here …

I dropped my kids off at daycare this morning.  The two high school? college? kids that were in “charge” could not have had a more disinterested look on their faces if they tried.  If they were in a corner smoking cigarettes, I would not have been surprised.  If there was an electric fence around the perimeter, I would not have been surprised.  They didn’t even try to look engaged upon my arrival.  Sheesh!  Oh well, my kids are safe and out of my hair.  Yeah, I’m disgusted with my self too.  Maybe I’ll catch Pikachu today.  That’ll make me feel better.  Ugh!

 

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It is the year 2016 and we still can’t talk race in a productive way.

Hi!  I’m Brett, and this is my new blog.  I used to have a more random blog, and trust me, this blog will be plenty random at times, but I have decided to discuss a little more about serious issues in this blog.  I hope it to be civil, thought provoking, and maybe, just maybe, an avenue to make a few lives better.

I welcome all opinions, as long as they are written with intelligence and forethought.  No offensive language please.  I am sure I will get some bad posts, but I will do my best to ignore the ignorable.

And here we go …

If you are reading this blog, you might fall into two camps:  1.  I’m not racist and I’m sick of all this talk about race.  Let’s just move on.  2.  I’m not racist and I’m sick of all the racist people in the world.  We can’t move on till we deal with all the racists.  Or maybe there is a third category.  3.  Am I racist?  I want to move on, but I feel like I shouldn’t.  Those people seem really mad.  Maybe it is me, but how can that be?  I don’t FEEL racist.

I believe one of the biggest issues with race relations is our inability to discuss race relations.  I believe ‘white privilege’ exists, but some of you hear that term and get defensive and you want to yell, “I’m not racist!”  I mention the organization, “Black Lives Matter” and some of you get defensive, “NOW those guys are racists!”  It is starting to feel like sports.  “My team is better than your team!”  Go blacks!  Go Whites” Go “I don’t see color, I just want everyone to win!” – Don’t be that guy.  But seriously, how do we discuss a serious topic such as “race relations” without admitting that there is a nugget of truth to everyone’s side.  There is no winning team, as long as we insist on dividing by teams.

We need to get to a point where the loss of life, the unnecessary loss of life bothers us all.  But we can’t do that until we realize that there are biases in ALL of us.  Here is the part of this blog that none of you may like:  When we become defensive, we are doing so because we are defending that part of ourselves.

You become defensive when you think about Black Lives Matter?  Maybe it’s because a piece of you doesn’t value black lives as much as others?

But blacks are killed by blacks more than they are killed by whites.  True, but are you outraged by this, or just trying to defend your position?  If so, see above.

But famous black person said that the people of Black Lives Matter are racist and don’t care about the lives of the police officers and the media is race mongering and blowing this up all out of proportion.  I would argue both, true and false, but again, what is your point?

A non-race example:  It’s not the guys fault that she was so drunk.  I could blog all day about this statement alone.  It is a tough thing to face the thoughts that enter our heads with different situations of life.  Only if we could talk about our thoughts in a safe and enlightening environment.  Oh, but we cant, because …

this is how the conversation ends.  I’m right and you’re wrong.  Do you even care about why I feel the way I do?  Or is it more important to allow you the comfort of “knowing” that you aren’t racist and there is an explanation for all this that completely disregards my and others’ feelings about the situation?  I am asking you to consider both sides.  And if you don’t have information on the other side, than please ask someone, preferably a friend and not a stranger (that would be weird).  If you don’t have a friend of a different race (If you live in Wisconsin, I’ll give you a pass, not many here), maybe consider, just maybe, your ability to understand the plight of others is compromised.  And, you might have some biases.  Scratch that, you DO have biases.  You don’t understand, because you don’t understand.

Many bad things have happened over the last couple of weeks.  Many bad things.  Are we going to continue to say, “Go Team!” or does every side have value?  Murder is wrong, I believe that.  But what drives a person to feel as if killing another human being is their best and only option?  Ohhh, I want to talk about that, because until we answer that question, this will be a problem that our kids, and their kids, and their kids will be dealing with, possibly until the end of time.

Talk, share, and communicate.  You just might find that the other team should win a little too.


Insert Bad Transition Here …

I Pokémon hunt.  I’m not ashamed to admit it.  But every time I go to our local Pokestop I see people that don’t quite look each other in the eyes.  It’s like we’re all looking at porn.  We know what each other is doing, but we don’t want to acknowledge that we know what each other is doing.  “Nothing to see here folks.”

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