A Nigger name Token

My black rage is peaking as it does on a weekly bases. Every week, I hear and see the same driven monologue: black men are dangerous and black women are so promiscuous.  No investigation needed, just the mere observation of one, denotes the disposition of all. Black has become synonymous with free to dishonor, by any means necessary.

Black scholars and theologians are sidelined because they refuse to identify with scholarship that does not represent their thoughts. They are passed over for tenured positions due to their revolutionary intellect that has more impact in the community rather than the academy.  They present ideas that are vastly different than the Eurocentric platform that has been developed. They are ostracized and labeled as lacking because they challenged the age old frame of thought. They represent the people in what Greg Carr calls a “convening space.”  This space where everyone becomes someone and that frightens their colleagues in the academy.

Black athletes are “zoo-ified” as spectacles and rebuked when they speak out against injustice. Gee Joyner pinpointed this with elegance in his piece, Sherman, Smart, and Sam: America’s Caging and Censoring of the Black American Athlete:

Note to America—you are paying to be entertained not paying to verbally abuse the athletes who you vicariously and voyeuristically want to be like and salivate at their physical abilities and coordination.  Whatever sadistic thought is in the live and viewing crowd’s psyche should not be acted out upon these gladiators that perform for the viewer’s pleasure… The American media wants to tame if not destroy individualism and free speech and free think and harness the physical capabilities of the Black male athlete once he is done playing the game.  Be humble in an interview.  Be quiet about your sexuality. Don’t put your hands on a white fan no matter what he or she says, or, I assume, does to you.  The mystique of the machismo connoted with the image of the Black male athlete is being deconstructed for the 21st century.  No longer is the superior athlete someone to admire.

The voice of the black athlete has been silenced by sheer thought of losing advertisement deals and contract deals.

Black business professionals have to walk a fine line of being authentic or playing the role to climb the corporate ladder. The constant battle of moral uplift wrestles with them everyday as they trek through the halls of the business world. Yes they love their people but they wear a mask for 10 hours a day in order to make a meaningful income. They epitomize the essence of “double consciousness” in a practical context.

Black pastors looking to get ordained in mainline denominations that have a declared sense of diversity have to tone down their prophetic preaching in order to navigate through the ordination process. You must identify with a theology that under-represents or delineates the very essence of who you are. Though you have studied you have to fit into some sort of colonized Christianity box to be considered   worthy to be a part of that denomination.

What it all sums up too is that black folks realized a long time ago that we have to play the game until we can make decisions. It is a tiresome feat but the will of a people that come from the underside is tenacious. We can’t afford to quite because we have a whole lot of folks who expect us to succeed- failure is not an option.

The concept of tokenism is a real and dangerous game that is played out through the lives of many blacks. Unbeknownst to most of us, we are just pawns. Those who get outside of the frame and challenge the picture are constantly deemed agitators or race-baiters. I am tired of trying to fit into everybody’s concept of right. If I love black people it is considered strange as if black folks are not worthy of being loved but if I have angst with white supremacy then I am making too much of the issue.

  • When I make Jesus black it is questioned…

  • When I make everything about race it is questioned…

  • When I love my black wife it is an anomaly but when I fall in love with a white female it is wrong…

It is as if being black is a sin and god damn you if you are. But sense you are black and here, you need to be like us, look like us and do like us or else you are wrong. So become a Token because we can’t really call you nigger and get away with it…

“So what they called you a Nigger!”- Lessons Learned in Lexington

I grew up in the south in a small town called Lexington, SC. Population approximately 17,500 people with 85 percent of them being white. So it was not unusual to be called a nigger. When I was in high school being called a nigger by a white boy was an instant see you after school problem-fighting on school ground was instant suspension and my mother was not playing that, regardless. It was not out of the norm to see 25 white boys watch as 10 black boys enter into a field to battle. We would knuckle up with each other but turn around and have to sit in class with them the next day.

Around my senior year, I started to really spread my wings as a superb athlete in basketball and baseball. Though, I loved the game of basketball, baseball was the sport that I knew would take me places. My senior year, we won the state championship in baseball and became one of the best teams in the nation. But the defining moment of that year was a response that I got from my father. I happen to be disgusted about one of my teammates calling me a nigger and was going kill the boy. The coach stopped me and pulled me to the side and apologized for his comments. (Let me add that I was the only black on the team.) I am not sure what he said to the boy or if he said anything at all but I know how I felt. That moment left me in isolation from the rest of the team for the rest of year outside of my man, Drew. Drew was my neighbor, black and he was the athletic trainer. We pretty much stuck together the rest of the year because we knew the culture that we were dealing with at Lexington High School.

I remember going home and telling my parents about the ordeal and being shocked, so to speak, that they were not shocked. But the profound moment came when my father said, “So what they called you a nigger.” Now my father is an intimating man upon sight (at least at the time, age has caught up with him)-6’2, 225 easily and strong . He spoke loud and did not take any shit. (his words not mine) He concluded that my job was to go to school, learn and perform on the field. I was not to mix words with the teachers, coaches, students or other players until they put their hands on me and once that happened, I was to tear their ass up (his words not mine.) From that day I chilled and relied on his words to be the guidepost for my senior year’s journey. I do not know if he called the school or any coach but I never had a problem with anyone else calling me a nigger-at least from my team.

That has been over 25 years ago and I still remember those words my father said to me, “So what they called you nigger.” It has taken me that long to understand the words that he spoke that day. My father was trying to get me to accentuate who I was over what they called me. He was trying to get me to see that I was more than who they proclaimed me to be by their statements. The problem that troubled me prior to his statement was that I fell into the trap of becoming the nigger they called me. “I let their perception of me become my reality “as my good friend, Len Jackson so intelligently bemoans to me frequently.

I find that many of my young brothers today fall into the same trap as I did. This trap caused me to become a mediocre student with grades that did not reflect my intelligence level. It caused me to be bitter for years toward all whites. It took me until my 35th birthday to peel back the psychological damage that I had let infiltrate my heart before my father’s words hit home with a stern punch.

The end result is that I learned to overlook ignorance from small people. I still do not like for white people to call me nigger or refer to other blacks as a nigger but I can tolerate it with intense bitterness-still a work in progress, nonetheless.(I have too model this behavior for my own son now) But the main objective is to live my life is such a fashion that if they do refer to me as a nigger then by the time it is all said and done they say to themselves, damn (my words not my father’s) I want to be like that nigger.

What happened after my teammate called me a nigger? Well, I went on to flourish the rest of the season while he sat on the bench. I went to college on a baseball scholarship as well as getting drafted while his career pretty much ended that day. So in the big scheme of things, “so what he called me a nigger.”  Now I may not respond like this all of the time but my mentality is such that I refuse to let someone define who I am. I chose who I want to be and when I want to be that person. One’s definition of Brian does not make me Brian but how I define myself is the key. I chose not to walk in ignorance, selfishness or hate because that just takes too much work. I walk in love, honor and integrity but I am not above getting in someone grill about nonsense.  I wish I could end with saying I will never respond to being called a nigger but I can’t,  but I can assure you that being called one want define my life.