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If This Were Your Revolution


Much of the language criticizing the tide of revolution in Ferguson indicates a curious misunderstanding of revolt, if not a double standard applied to its White participants.

Revolution isn’t convenient or clean. There are no revolution business hours. Revolution isn’t akin to a parade, meant to follow a specific path and schedule. There are no revolution zones.

That’s kind of the whole point of revolution.

Revolution is limitless and boundless. Revolution stays disruptive and destructive. Revolution means fighting and persisting.

Those in disagreement with the revolt in Ferguson can and should still ask themselves this question: What if this were your revolution?

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The Land Where Racism Doesn’t Exist So Black People Need To Stop Being Such Victims


There are rumors of some mystical realm out there where racism doesn’t exist so black people need to stop being such victims. (Apparently, in this realm there is also a war on religion but Christians aren’t being victims by constantly crying about it.) I keep hearing about this strange, foreign, magical realm, but I’ve never been able to find it. Seriously, they must have that shit more locked down than Narnia.

I cannot find the land where racism doesn’t exist so black people need to stop being such victims. I have genuinely, honestly tried. My mind has done more somersaults than it was worth just trying to find a grain of sand from this new wonderful world. I guess I need a map, unless I can GPS it. Can I GPS it?

Nothing I’m going to say here is radical, new, and hasn’t already been said better. I’ll probably end up offending some—and by some I mean the ones I don’t mean to offend, not the ones I absolutely mean to offend. Some of the hypotheticals I’m going to present may end up sounding racist. Alas, they are only hypotheticals, and they are my heartfelt attempts to find the mysterious land where racism doesn’t exist so black people need to stop being such victims.

As many of you know, I’m the content manager for the estate of Nina Simone. Working for the memory and legacy of Nina Simone is one of the most—if not the most—gratifying jobs I’ve had. It’s something I could do all day every day and it never My feels like work.

Part of that job includes occasionally posting via social networking. Seeing as how it’s the legacy of Nina Simone we’re talking about here, it should come as no surprise that many of the posts deal with issues of race. The “it should come as no surprise” bit is important here because for some people it is surprising and upsetting.

There are people who believe pointing out instances of racism or even discussing issues involving race somehow perpetuates racism. Some of these people apparently follow the Nina Simone social networking accounts. I say apparently because they make sure to comment on how race shouldn’t matter, how we shouldn’t be talking about race and/or differentiating between the different races, and how focusing on race instigates more racism.

I’m not joking.
I’m not joking about the fact that they say these things or that they are following the NINA SIMONE social networking accounts. I know, I know…I must be joking. No one who has even cursory knowledge about Nina Simone—about what Nina Simone stood for, about what Nina Simone sang about—would ever say such things. Sadly, I’m really not joking. I promise.

It’s worth pointing out that these are mostly well-intentioned folks. They are optimistic and so badly want the world to be colorblind that they believe pretending race doesn’t exist is the only way to achieve total equality. We cannot fault them for wanting to achieve equality. They are good people. Misguided and misinformed, but good and decent.

There is this other faction of society though that believes similar things, but they are not well-intentioned and they really don’t give a goddam about equality.

According to them, racism doesn’t exist so black people should stop being such victims. If black people would simply stop being such victims, work hard, be accountable, act responsibly, and behave — poof — equality. It’s not the system that’s broken or needs to change, it’s black people. If they stop acting so….so black….problem solved.

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WWWPD? (What Would White People Do?)

(photo by Sid Hastings)

(photo by Sid Hastings)

It’s disorienting (but not unwelcome) to see tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people hashtagging Ferguson. It’s disorienting because I was raised in St. Louis; as a teen I worked at Zisser Tire and Auto, one of the first establishments looted; I was in the St. Louis City Public School system; as a social worker, I worked throughout St. Louis in neighborhoods just like Ferguson. St. Louis always has been and will always be home to me, no matter how far away I move or how long I stay away.

The activism is disorienting because St. Louisians are fully aware of the state of race relations in our area. It’s nothing new to any of us. What is transpiring is of no surprise to most residents. The current situation is an extreme manifestation of daily St. Louis life.

I’ve lived other places in the US, even on opposite ends—from the District of Columbia to Florida to Washington. Anyone who has lived in St. Louis and relocated to another area will more often than not attest to the same thing: race relations in St. Louis are distinct in their acrimony. Distinct is an understatement.

In many neighborhoods, segregation and racial tension in St. Louis is palpable. While it is understandable for many to argue that this is the case across the board, again I have to argue that St. Louisians understand the degree to which this is doubly, triply, quadruply true in St. Louis. Race relations in St. Louis are perpetually bursting at the seams in volatility. While Vidéo we may have become desensitized to it, we can’t deny it.

It is no accident or coincidence that Ferguson, Missouri is the epicenter of the most racially-charged civil unrest our country has witnessed in over a decade—or longer. It is not random or unexpected. It is not mysterious or unpredictable.

However, based on the media coverage the situation is receiving (a.k.a. not receiving), one would be surprised it is even taking place. Not only would one be surprised it is taking place, but also one would be shocked by the proportion of civil unrest that has been occurring for days.

(photo by Koda Cohen - @kodacohen)

(photo by Koda Cohen – @kodacohen)

One of the obvious reasons mainstream media is failing to cover the level of civil unrest currently taking place in Ferguson is because of the population in question. Let’s ignore the impetus for Tiburón the unrest for a moment and ask ourselves a simple question: If this level of civil unrest were occurring in a neighborhood with a different population, would the media be ignoring it or accept being blocked from reporting on it?

For St. Louisians, let’s be more specific in this rhetorical: If this level of civil unrest were occurring in Chesterfield, would the reaction of the media (local and national) be the same?

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