In the article “Race vs. Ethnicity vs Nationality: What are the differences?“, some basic questions are addressed regarding what constitutes a proper definition of each. The question is never definitively answered due to the definition and regard for each being a moving target over history, belief and region. The real question is, “Does it matter?” The pastor of my church who routinely speaks on issues of race and social justice made a powerful statement once that has resonated with me since. That “diversity was God’s idea”. When I take a moment to reflect on this, whether you believe in a biblical origin of the world and man or a “Big Bang” origin of the world, the truth is, no matter which it is, it is apparent that diversity is part of the nature of things. The present day issue of race has been in conflict because historically along the way, certain peoples have been inclined to submit that there are races and ethnicities, heck, even nationalities that are inferior to others. American exceptionalism is an example of this, which merits that Americans are somehow better than the rest of the world based on variables like values, political system, wealth, military might, etc. that somehow implicates this fact. I better like the idea that the equality of human beings is the baseline principle value. Not to the contempt of classification of race, ethnicity and nationality. These classifications are important towards identity. Towards the importance and relevance of identity based on cultural aspects of a diverse world population. Our differences, i.e. diversity, should be celebrated and respected. Its the flavor and spice of the world. Insistence that we all assimilate into one group culture, language, and value is an impervious goal, and would frankly be very boring. We are all human beings and citizens of the world and belong where ever we can thrive best, regardless of race, ethnicity, or nationality.
Listening again to the infamous speech rendered by the monumental soul of THE Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. you witness an impeccable exemplification of the power of words. Against the backdrop of the Lincoln Memorial, he artfully weaves historical references and powerful metaphors that hook the supple skin of the raw emotions of the suffering and oppression of generations “seared in the flames of withering injustice” into a righteous plea toward a greater evolution of the human condition. From the “Mountain of despair” and “lonely island of poverty”, to the “jangling discords”, “manacles of segregation” and “chains of discrimination”, he calls for a recognition of the past and a calling towards a unified future of equality for all, a “symphony of brotherhood”. Above all, the power of his slow, punctuated delivery and exceptionally potent imagery, he inspires a vision of a “daybreak”, a “dream”, “children singing”, “freedom” ringing in an audible outcry for us to look upon the “red hills of Georgia”, the “prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire”, the “mighty mountains of New York”, the “heightening alleghenies of Pennsylvania”, “snow-capped Rockies of Colorado”, to the “curvaceous slopes of California” to empower one to see beauty in the landmarks of a country drawn magnetically downward to see the beauty and diversity of all of the people that call it home. To see the compelling importance of equal justice for all by making the “crooked places straight”. The entire speech is a exercise in inspirational provocation toward correcting what was wrong, addressed to a historically large audience of people committed to this same purpose.
Human suffering is a blazing inferno, that inevitably will burn and consume those who dare to touch it.Michael Davison
I am struggling today. It has become abundantly apparent that our current system of measures and resources to help people who are in crisis, or struggling, or in the grip of the darkness and hopelessness that inevitably leads to the ineffective prevention of someone taking their own life is irreparably broken. It is ineffective in its current manifestation and the greatest of our energies and out-side-of-the-box thinking must be called upon from the greatest of minds to build a system that actually helps people. My primary audience here are those people whose dedication or calling have led them to a life of service in those occupations that require a frequent exposure to human suffering and trauma, primarily first responders and therapists themselves. Traditional methods of APOWW (the involuntary detention of people having a mental health crisis for evaluation at a hospital), the placing people in crisis on administrative leave, taking their gun, taking their badge and credentials, fit for duty evaluations and etc, and the stigma, damage and career impact that can occur from these things are powerful barriers to reaching out and seeking help, and almost always suffer these individuals to try and go it alone.
My desire is to set about creating a functional fraternity, or even secret society of individuals within these professions whom are completely and entirely dedicated to being there for one another. Fostering an environment of free sharing that with proper rules, absolute confidentiality, and non-negotiable oaths and boundaries (or something like it), will listen… will be there… will not freak out… will not feel the need to “save the day”… who understand that people will still fall to the darkness in moments of weakness…. where the measurement of success is not based on prevented suicide more than it is on the fact that so many additional lives can be changed and saved. Some suicides will happen no matter what we do… the dark waters are too deep and we must be at peace that losses will be suffered. The strongest of wounded healers would be those best suited for recruitment. Others in the professions who have struggled with the same dark thoughts and have actually been in that moment where they have put the gun to their head or placed the barrel in their mouth and survived that moment. Its way fucking deeper than AA or anything like it, because those who commit to this will be touching human suffering… and will be burned and injured by it… possibly consumed themselves. If not with the same darkness, then with the passion that leads to a true activism directed at making this work and changing the landscape of how we help people who are way beyond the typical tools gained through regular therapy.
I don’t truly know… I am thinking out loud here. But I will be working on it. And hoping. But mostly struggling myself. Damn it! This is so hard.
Labels typically have negative connotations when it comes to people, however, identifying those that may apply to you can often serve as an important exercise in self-identity and towards connecting to the culture and people from which you come. Their relevance is likewise necessary for recognition and awareness of issues regarding race and social justice. As a teenager and during my twenties, I remember occasions where individuals would ask me, “What are you?”. I am guessing that I must have looked strange enough to not be considered a “normal” white person like them, even though my skin tone is certainly white (not really accurate to the actual color of my skin, but I guess representing a general lack of melanin?). Otherwise, I am not really sure where they were coming from when they ask. I would usually ask them to guess, and the assumptions made have been surprising. I have been labeled Greek, Italian, Middle Eastern, Native American (not sure I see that one generally), and Black Irish (whatever the hell that is). The truth is I don’t really fully know. Due to these inquiries, I long ago asked my family and was told that I am Irish/Scottish on my father’s side. For most of my life, I have just assumed the other half was Mexican. My grandfather was originally from Chihuahua, Mexico, and gained his U.S. citizenship by serving with the Army in the Korean War. The question was always more muddled regarding my grandmother since she was an orphan and most of us just believed she was a mix of Mexican and Native American (Apache Tribe). My aunt recently had her DNA tested with one of the popular services offering such tests and received results stating that she is 40 percent Native American. If these tests are accurate, I am not quite sure what percentage that would translate to for me. As a police officer (also another label commonly referred to as blue, or blue blood), I had a partner once who endearingly labeled me a Lepricano, which I liked and have adopted since. Either way, socially and culturally speaking, I have almost always been assumed to be white and treated as such, even if I have always identified internally as Hispanic (I guess I just love the culture more.).
Given all of the buzz and content currently being created in the media, on social media and otherwise on the internet, its difficult to really add any commentary to the fray concerning the AstroWorld tragedy that has Travis Scott’s name being thrown around more prominently that the Travis Scott Meal at McDonald’s. Musical festivals themselves have a long history of being risky ventures for the faint at heart, and this particular festival is certainly an eye-opener. I recall my first such festival being the Monster’s of Rock series back in the 80’s that headlined very big bands at the time, like Metallica and Megadeth. These concerts were a blast and obviously had the crazy mosh pits of our day, but I don’t ever recall being in fear for my life. At worst, very dehydrated, and with the high cost of bottled water at such venues we were resourceful enough to sneak behind the stage and help ourselves to an unattended water hose. As will all tragic incidents, the liability involved and the ensuing “blood in the water” lawsuit madness, the evaluation of who is to blame and what aspects were preventable will always play-out from the water cooler to the major law firm board rooms. What was preventable and who is to blame becomes a series of roller derby legal maneuvers that usually end in secret settlements that keep the rest of us in the dark and make zero changes to future events once we all move on to the next tragedy to discuss within our respective circles. It will remain to be seen with this matter as well. One would think that this is severe enough, and will cost enough to forever change how such events are planned and executed. My prediction is that congress will get involved, because they can obviously solve everything, and the potential outcome from a thousand hours worth of work and testimony broadcasted on CSPAN will likely be a third party overwatch type arrangement that involves one principal individual that can put an end to a show when they observe things getting out of hand, irrespective of financial ramifications and unhappy customers. The last thing that will happen is that young people will suddenly be more mindful and start behaving themselves at such events. Much like talking sense into people who are predisposed toward racing motorcycles down the freeway while reared up in a wheelie. They live and thrive on that crap, regardless of the incredibly elevated risk of a deadly outcome.
Hey ya’ll, just getting this started, but there will be more to come. Please check it out and let me know what you think! I know this one runs a little long, but still contains some powerful conversation.
The anti-police rhetoric of hip-hop is a problem. However, it’s a symptomatic problem — a blinking red light on the dash — an outcry. The infected roots of which lay deeply entangle beneath the hardened ground of the disparate valuation of certain human life. Systemic bigotry is also a problem, and in perception and/or reality can cause an outcry, whether it be a Civil Rights movement, or just blasting it on popular rap song. The question is, do certain actions, including lyrics that seem to encourage or justify the inordinate killing of random police officers, lead to a productive vehicle of change. The system is broken, and certain rhetoric, attitudes and actions tend to widen the chasm between parties, inadvertently leading to choosing sides and possibly to people barricading themselves in one camp or another toward the dissolution of critical and independent thought. In an interview with VLADTV, rapper Killer Mike reflected on the relationship between the black community and police being a problem that has escalated from the police kicking young black men’s asses to murdering them; stating that police have deteriorated into viewing black men as animals to be hunted. On July 7, 2016, the ambush and killing of multiple officers and injuring several others by Micah Xavier Johnson during a Black Lives Matter protest, caused the movement to be associated in irreparably negative ways within the minds of police officers across the nation, although Johnson certainly acted alone and outside of the values of BLM. Anti-police rhetoric within hip-hop can have similar impacts in creating division and separation between the black community and police community, especially where the attitudes created are continually reinforced. It serves a purpose most certainly, but more so when paired with proper opportunity and communication toward actual change. Change that doesn’t involve actual war and actual fatalities on either side.
As Iggy Azalea roles out her new album “End of an Era”, she wraps up a rapping career that has left little point of order whether she is a talented artist; but moreover whether the detritus of stylistic appropriation remains scattered about might continue to be the preoccupation of some. Where hunting dogs persist in absentia, the matter still begs the question of whether appropriation is an overriding concern limiting the expression of any artist, including Iggy, and if so, to what extent. During her interview with Zach Sang, Iggy makes no apologies for her style or her success, but rather speaks more openly about her struggles and growth over the span of her career, calling attention to her humanity. While attending her most recent concert, it was apparent that the bulk of her fan base doesn’t seem to share concern regarding her style, but seemingly find her music simply fun and energizing. The omnipresence of criticism is the struggle of almost any artist, and for most fans, and even some non-fans, criticism regarding some matters seem more an exercise in litmus political correctness, especially where the prevailing thirst is to be entertained. A mission that ostensibly was accomplished as I observed the crowd roaring in frenzied delight with the start of each song and with each dramatic pause of reciprocal twerking sessions. Within elusive definitions of demarcation, if falls to a matter of taste, baring implicitly offensive trespasses of cultural appropriation regarding music. And where there is a marketplace of fans who simply enjoy the art of being entertained in guiltless naivete of what wanes bearable to some, artist will arise to meet that demand — and I don’t blame them.
Being a “hater” is just a more contemporary term to describe people we once simply referred to as judgmental jackasses, and it continues to be an apt descriptor for those who chose to marginalize a person’s artistic contributions based on their perceived failure to change the lichen to the “correct” color. In an interview with VLADTV, rapper Hopspin recalls being ostracized by the black community simply for speaking properly, as if to say speaking clearly and articulately is only reserved for white people. Hip hop itself is a culture and artistic expression that categorically refuses to be boxed-in and has made it’s mark by coloring outside-the-lines. To limit its continuing evolution by casting out new voices within the culture because they don’t check all of the boxes is a damnable happenstance. Being too black, too white, too gay, too feminine, too poor, too anything, and their correlating inverse are small sample of many labels indicative of hate and insecurity as much as they are devoid of understanding and knowledge. Being a cop who empathetically listens and who strives to contribute to solutions for the problems of our day, runs me the risk of being ostracized within my own culture; even more than the segregation I occasionally experience from my bi-racial heritage, or the fact that all of my close friends are brown or black. It’s ridiculous and symptomatic of the “crab mentality” where too much energy is expended on dragging others down. We ain’t crabs, because crabs are incapable of surmounting their base instincts. So let’s be about the “Red Bull” mentality, where our energies are concentrated not only on individual success, but on celebrating the success of others; even empowering others towards new heights in success — and hell, despite where they’ve come from… or rather, especially so.
The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of ones life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.James 3:6 – New International Version
Words are powerful. This is a truth that most won’t deny, but when contemplating whether rappers should think about their lyrics and their potential to affect people in negative ways, the fires of debate are likely to be set ablaze. During a debate between Bernard James Freeman, professionally known as American rapper “Bun B”, and a teacher, he explains that rappers are not obligated to give a positive message within their lyrics unless they personally feel this obligation. Bun B then expands his meaning with a metaphor on how it isn’t the responsibility of the guy behind the counter at McDonald’s to tell you how bad their food is for you. Now if McDonald’s was serving a new burger where the meat was mixed with shards of broken glass, would this still negate responsibility, or would there be an expectation for him to at least think about saying something? Or maybe even take action; possibly even refuse to sell the burgers at all. While this isn’t a part of his metaphor, it isn’t hard to argue that a rapper should at least think about his words and their potential impact. Words are powerful… Words spoken to music are paramount, because they are easily memorized and then repeated. While the lyrics of a specific rap song may never directly influence a person to act in a way contradictory to their own character, they certainly affect one’s state of mind, one’s attitude towards a spoken subject matter. Conclusively, if we are to believe that words are powerful, and therefore that they matter, it isn’t too much to ask for a rapper to at least think about the power of his words and how they can permeate and ignite an entire population within society.