Tour Diary: In Light of Current Events….
The other night while playing in Lafayette, LA I was approached by a gentleman who felt the need to ask me if I knew about the #BlackLivesMatter protest that was going on a few miles down the road. I have to preface this by adding the man was rather intoxicated at this point of the night. I understood that, so I tried to stay pretty calm as I told him I wasn’t aware. I tried very politely to walk away from the discussion. I’m the ONLY black guy in the club at the moment (a few showed up much later after we were done)and I know now I’m the official spokesperson for the frustrations of black America. I hate being that guy. I can only speak for myself, and I didn’t feel like this was the time to give a Malcolm X style sermon on the current state of affairs of black America. With tongue in cheek, my response was that I didn’t get my #BlackLivesMatters text to let me know where the nearest spot for civil disobedience was. I figured that would be it. We’d both chuckle a bit and move on, but dude was drunk, and I have to add, he was actually a nice guy, but did I mention he was drunk? There was no moving on. He reached out his hand for mine, to shake it and tell me that he felt that #BlackLivesMatter was all bullshit and that, “All Lives Matter”. He went on to say, very drunkenly, that we ALL MATTER, and that I matter just as much as him. I know his frustration with the #BlackLivesMatter comes from the notion that to say “Black Lives Matter” is to say that ONLY BLACK LIVES MATTER. That’s just not the case. I tried to explain that the movement is not a separatist movement, but instead a movement to bring to light the atrocities of violence that happen in the black community and bring an end to them. He didn’t really agree, but in his defense, he was REALLY DRUNK, like staggering drunk, and I also felt kinda dumb trying to have an intellectual conversation with a dude so fucking wasted. I might as well have been trying to discuss mark to market economics with a toddler. As I try to walk away again, he asks me about Obama. Because that’s usually the series of events that take place in these situations where I am the black corespondent. People, drunk or sober, like to tell me about their disdain for black movements, and black people. Usually these people have a very deep rooted hate for Obama. As my good friend Pascual said, “It’s like when they’re saying his name it’s code for the N word.” Once they realize that I’m a “cool black guy” (that’s code for non-threatening, non stereotypical black guy) the horrible shit people say just keeps coming. I’m just lucky it stopped at Obama and we didn’t get into Bill Cosby and Micheal Jackson…
We have a problem with race in this country and it’s evident when I scroll down my Facebook news feed. Somewhere through these racially divided lines we somehow lost our humanity. Empathy, lost in a sea of cognitive dissonance. I know what it’s like to be profiled by police. I know to a lot of you, I’m the “cool black guy”, but I am very aware, of how “Black” I am. It’s usually when law enforcement shows up. Every time we’ve been stopped (and we get stopped more than you think) I’ve never been the driver. Every time we’re stopped, and I’m not the driver, I get asked for my ID FIRST. Not the driver, not the person who committed the alleged traffic violation, but me. The black guy. Cause you know, I might have warrants. We once had guns pulled on us by the S.W.A.T team. There was a shotgun pointed at my chest. There were cops behind their doors, gun drawn all pointed at me, and my wife was told to lie on the ground. The sad thing is, I didn’t even fit the description. Neither did Cyndy. Police were looking for a custodial kidnap where the alleged perpetrator was…A WHITE GUY. Yep, the police were looking for a white guy and his two small sons. Not a black guy and his wife. If it wasn’t for the sheriff running as fast as he could standing in front of me and the guns, I don’t know what would happen. That sheriff was so apologetic, and I know he felt ashamed of his squad and the officers around for what had happened. Only one officer, almost begrudgingly said, “sorry”.
I was terrified I can’t lie. We’ve constantly encountered law enforcement that have come off a bit racially bias, but at this point, I don’t want to argue with these people my worth as a person. I’m an individual and I can’t be lumped in with the black stereotype that comes with my skin color. Those cops didn’t see, “the cool black guy”. They saw what society sees when they see me. They saw the felon, the pimp, violent black male that dominates media images. I’m not saying that guy doesn’t exist, it’s just not me. When I see all these cases of police shootings, I understand the fear involved. I understand the fear involved on both ends. I understand the dangers of police work, one of my best friends is a cop (see how I did that white people! HA!). But seriously, I understand that law enforcement is a dangerous job, but if you see me, and you see a criminal, you might be in the wrong profession. I could’ve been murdered by police. Mistaken identity? I mean I know I’m not Wesley Snipes black, but I don’t think I could be mistaken for a white guy. I mean, white people love to tell me I look like their cool “black friend” and I always get told I look like Common, but never, I MEAN NEVER, have me or Chris Evans ever been mistaken. I’ve never been in an airport and had someone say, “Oh damn, my bad, I thought your were Ryan Reynolds.” Never happened. That being said, it would’ve really sucked if I would’ve been shot over that ridiculous case of , “mistaken identity”.
You know what really makes me sad about all that is going on? What would the story be about me if I was killed? How was I going to be portrayed by the media? As a “mad demon” that threatened the lives of 10+ officers with guns pointed at me, charging at them in a mad rage? Were my prior convictions of speeding in 1997 be brought into question? I mean, if I’m a habitual speeder, then I’d probably kill a cop right? Justifiable homicide. Would you be okay if in the wake of this injustice someone yelled that “All Lives Matter”? I don’t know how much my life actually does matter when I think about these situations. One wrong move, say the wrong thing, and you’re dead. In Brooklyn, NYC while looking for a friends house after a show we got lost. We were pulled over trying to look on our navigation to see where we went wrong. A cop came over, I thought to our rescue, and I as he approached the car, I smiled with glee, with my phone in hand, from the passenger seat and exclaimed, “Thank god you’re here!” That’s when I was told to get my hands up. Again, we were lost, we actually could’ve used police intervention to direct us to the right street, we were ACTUALLY HAPPY TO SEE THE COPS, and I’m exclaiming my joy for the officers appearance, and I’m told to get my hands up, ’cause I’m a criminal. We were also accused of stealing our rental car. I was also accused of being intoxicated. If anyone knows me, you know how square I am. I don’t drink, don’t smoke, I’m pretty lame. I’m also pretty sober. I went from being a musician lost in NYC to being a car stealing felon in 30 seconds. Again, a real life instance of being reminded by a civil servant, that my life doesn’t matter. My existence is that of a miscellaneous thug. I write this because I want you know what movements like #BlackLivesMatter exists. They don’t exist to say that Black life takes precedent over your white life, it’s to say that like your white life, my life matters too. You’d think this would be a silly sentiment in 2016, but it’s not.
Another sentiment I hear to counter the #BlackLivesMatter movement is that fact that black people kill black people at a higher rate than law enforcement. If black people kill each other more than the cops..”then what’s their damn problem?!? Shouldn’t they fix each other before they want to lash out at law enforcement?” First off, crime in the black community and government sanctioned violence against a people isn’t exactly the same thing. To try to put in the same light is to create a narrative that BLACK PEOPLE are predisposed to violent behavior, therefore, heavy handed police action is justified. Right? I mean, there’s the facts. Crime is high in the black community, so the people in that community are inherently violent…right? Well, there are NUMEROUS FACTORS that can help explain how low income communities are formed and maintained, but let’s just talk about one thing in particular that most people don’t talk about when discussing the #BlackLivesMatter. Self hate and the violence that comes from it.
Since coming over here (and by here, I mean the gorgeous land of freedom fries and Dollar Stores, I’m talking about America) black people have been spoken to in the language of violence. Spoken too in such a demeaning way, for so many generations, that the feeling of inadequacy from the abuse be it physical or mental has had long lasting catastrophic effects on the psyche of our people. It’s foolish to believe that the constant negative images of black Americans in the media coupled with televised police killings don’t have an effect on the one views themselves on a subconscious level. This right here, is why we, as a people need to be reminded that Black Lives Matter Too. Akin to the civil rights movement of the mid 50’s into the 60’s. We attempted to be “Black and Proud” in the 60’s and here we are in 2016 reminding America that, I’m a man. I’m a person. I’m human. Our lives matter. Many of us are told from a young age to comply, don’t cause trouble, and you’ll be okay. Tamir Rice was a typical 12 year old boy playing in a park when police killed him. I remember working at garden nursery in Albany, California in high school. I had to do some work on the roof during a hot day. The nursery was near an apartment building I believe. The building next to us had tinted windows so I could not see in, but I could see myself. I occasionally made some glances at the window, but nothing too crazy. Again, I couldn’t see in. About an hour or so into working on the roof I was told to come down by the management of the nursery. The police were there responding to a call of a black peeping tom who was exposing himself to the tenants of the building. My first thought was, “where the hell is this weirdo at?” It took a while before I realized it was me. The staff at the nursery calmly explained to the officers that I wasn’t a sexual predator and that it was all some sort of misunderstanding. They asked me a few questions, and of course let me go, but I felt horrible. There was an older woman who had worked at that nursery for years. She saw the look of disappointment in my face and felt horrible too. She knew what it was that caused that person to call the cops. She understood the fear that is caused when you see a young black man. She apologized for the incident, and I went back to work, just never again up on the roof. These incidents have a long lasting negative effect on you. It reminds you that no matter how good of a person you are, you’re still a nigger. Again, this is why we need to remind people that Black lives do matter. I can’t say it enough, if we persist to speak to black people in the language of violence, the only response we will know will be to speak in the language of our oppressors…the vigilant, violent response.
I love all of y’all.