Sorry To Bother You Again: The Black Futurist Playlist

Sorry To Bother You was such a deep movie, and it put me in a mood to digest more media like it. My review (despite its length) just barely scratches the surface and there was a lot of stuff I didn’t get to. So if you’re interested in doing the same, here are my recommendations.

WATCH

Atlanta (FX, 2016-present)- If you aren’t watching this show, you should be. It’s hard to describe but most episodes are kind of like a magical realism black Seinfeld. But then there are episodes that veer into very weird territory (especially in the second season).

Bamboozled (A Spike Lee Joint, 2000)- This isn’t science fiction, but it is a satire very much in this vein.

Dirty Computer (2018)- This 45 minute visual album is sci-fil all the way. The protagonist is a black queer woman whose identity is literally being erased by technology. The music shows her journey of self acceptance and rebellion against the status quo. 

Get Out (2017)- Also something you should have seen by now, but it’s still very much in the vein of STBY and I’d be remiss to leave it off. 

Lamborghini Angels/ITAL (Roses)/Audubon Ballroom (Lupe Fiasco, Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Pt. 1, 2012)- There’s a lot packed into this 12 minute music video if you listen and watch closely. Interestingly, while this video was officially released it is no longer on Lupe Fiasco’s or his former record label’s official YouTube/Vevo page, even though all of his music videos push the envelope. I’d love to hear your conspiracy theories if you’ve got them. 

“Negrotown” (Key & Peele, 2015)- A comedy sketch that cuts so deep you have to laugh to keep from crying. 

READ 
“When Survival Equals Destruction- Let’s Talk About Sorry to Bother You” by TaLynn Kel

“Sorry To Bother You is Great Science Fiction, People” by Wired.com Culture Editor

“The Case for Reparations” by Ta-Nehisi Coates- This longform essay is sci-fil only in the sense that reparations is seen as an impossible fantasy by most. Yet, Coates deftly rips apart the idea that slavery, segregation, Jim Crow, and the civil rights struggle are ancient history. It’s an idea that only benefits the system of white supremacist capitalism that America is built on. Germany paid reparations to Europe after WWII. When apartheid fell in in South Africa there was reparations and a restorative justice panel–why should the US be different? 

Futureland by Walter Mosley- This writer is best known for his noir detective novels starring the rakish, smooth, but troubled Easy Rawlins. Remember that Denzel Washington movie, “Devil in a Blue Dress”? That was based on the first book in the series. Mosley is also a very talented sci-fi writer and this collection of stories remains one of my favorite.

Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction in the African Diaspora”, edited by Sheree Thomas- Another great collection of black sci-fi, this one pulled from black authors across the ages, including W.E.B. DuBois. If you read nothing else, check out Derrick Bell’s story “The Space Traders”, which is even more interesting in light of the current administration.

LISTEN

Everybody (Logic, 2017)- I actually reviewed this album in a post last year. I’ll link it here so I won’t repeat myself, but the TL;DR of it all is that this is a conscious concept album that bangs. Give it a try. 

“If Your Love Cannot Be Moved” (Stevie Wonder ft. Kim Burrell, A Time to Love, 2006)- Stevie Wonder is best known for his love songs. This isn’t one of them. It’s a deep cut, not one of his singles, but the lyrics remind you that Stevie lived through segregation. He was born in 1950 (just like my parents!) and started his music career in 1961, just 7 years after Brown v. Board of Education integrated schools and another 3 years before the Civil Rights Act ended segreation altogether. When he says “You can’t say we shall and not fight through hell. . . You can’t shout out peace and then vanish in the crowd” or “You can’t free the slave to enslave them differently”, he means that shit. This is a revolution song, no doubt about it.

They Don’t Really Care About Us” (Michael Jackson, HISTORY, 1995)- The title says it all. But in case you forgot, they (whether that be the Republican Party, patriarchy, the 1%, or corporate interests) don’t care about anything but what they can get out of you. So get off your ass and VOTE in this election and everyone that follows. 

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Capitalism is a scam.

I’m tired, y’all. I have to admit that Drumpf’s America is wearing on me. After 8 years under our glorious King Obama, I had bought into the notion that we were heading into the twilight of the worst inequality and that better days were ahead. Now I see that the ugliness of racism and bigotry is not going to go quietly, and is in fact still actively sowing seeds of hatred faster than we can dig them up.

I get why white people are mad. Truly, I do. I don’t get paid what I’m worth. The rent is too damn high and so are the utilities, the groceries, and the gas. I have an advanced degree and over $50,000 of student loan debt. I live in a six figure household and I don’t even have one full month’s income in my savings account.

But I don’t blame this on immigrants, queer people, or minorities because they haven’t done shit but try to survive and thrive in a system that is set up for everyone but the richest to fail. 22.5% of my income goes to federal taxes, while corporations pay a top rate of 21%. But given the wealth of deductions, setoffs, and loopholes, big businesses are only effectively taxed on profits, rather than gross income. I don’t get to deduct the gas for my commute, or the payments on my student loans. I can’t even deduct the cost of my bar license renewal and continuing education fees because they’re less than 2% of my income.

Love of money is the root of all evil, and that evil comes to bear in capitalism. The natural end of capitalism and a 100% free market isn’t equal pay for equal work, or even pay commensurate with productivity, skills, or experience. It’s slavery or at best, indentured servitude. Capitalism prizes profit above all else, which means that business will never, I mean NEVER, pay their debt to society. A safe workplace isn’t a natural result of capitalism because cutting corners to increase output makes more money than making sure the factory equipment isn’t going to cut someone’s hand off. After all, basic needs are priced so far above production cost that you’ll have no problem finding a replacement for your crippled employee because people have work or starve. Wage inequality hasn’t been this high since right before the New Deal, and before that, the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. Not to mention that at the rate global warming is progressing, parts of the world will start becoming uninhabitable within our lifetime. I don’t understand why people can’t, or won’t, see that we need to band together and fight for humanity as a whole. Capitalism is killing us and too many of us are refusing to fight back.

 

I’m a lawyer, but I’m still terrified by the police.

About two years ago, I experienced police intimidation firsthand. Prior to that date, I had only been pulled over by a cop once and didn’t actually get a ticket because he didn’t have his speed gun out to know how fast I was going. (#Blessed.) I had been in the car once before when my husband got a speeding ticket, but it happened in Macon, Georgia, a city with a significant black population, and the cop was black too. These things make a difference. The cop was brusque, but not threatening.

This time was different. We were road tripping our way back from Austin, Texas for a friend’s birthday. We had reached the area between Austin and Houston where the highway dwindles down to two lanes on each side, and we passed more cows and horses than other cars. Gerald was speeding, and so we weren’t surprised when we got pulled over by the state trooper. But the events that unfolded will haunt me forever.
ST: “License and registration, please.”
G: “Sure, officer. I need to get them out of my glove compartment, is that okay?”
ST: “I don’t know why you’re asking me.”
G: “I just want to make sure you know what I’m doing, officer.” (gets out license and registration) “May I ask why I’m getting pulled over?”
ST: “Sir, get out of the car.”
G: “Sure, I just want to know why I’m being pulled over.”
At this point, things escalated. The cop went from zero to raging maniac instantaneously, he was yelling so loudly and intensely that he was damn near frothing at the mouth. “GET OUT OF THE FUCKING CAR RIGHT GODDAMN NOW!” Gerald opened the door and before he could get one foot on the ground, the cop put him in a bear hug and hauled him out onto the ground. “YOU’RE RESISTING ARREST! STOP RESISTING!” In a flash, he had handcuffed Gerald, frog marched him to the squad car and slammed him face down onto its hood.
All I could do was scream silently, inside.
At this point, the state trooper’s buddy had pulled up to the scene. He put Gerald in the back of the squad car and the “arresting” officer (I put that in quotes because you’ll notice the conspicuous absence of Miranda rights recitation) came back to talk to me. Now that he had established dominance he was calm, confident, in charge of himself again. He grinned at me jovially, putting all his pearly whites on display and smacking on a piece of chewing gum like it was the only sustenance given to a starving man.
He turned on his good ol’ boy charm, asking me how I was doing, if I was in trouble, if Gerald was on drugs and that was why Gerald was so “agitated”. “If he would just act reasonably like you, this could have all been avoided,” he declared. The words stung, given the fact that at no point had Gerald raised his voice or pulled a punch–he merely had the audacity to exercise his Constitutional rights and ask the officer why he was being detained. Meanwhile, my so called reasonableness was me doing my best impression of a docile house slave in attempt to get us both out of the situation alive and uninjured. After some time of back and forth–it felt like an eternity, but the clock showed just 45 minutes–they let Gerald go and wrote a ticket for speeding, something which could have been done without ever having him out of the car.
I’ll be the first to admit that this account is an approximation of what happened. I was so afraid for my husband’s life that I couldn’t think straight. You can argue all you want about how we should have handled the situation. But there’s the law, and then there’s real life. When you’re on an unpopulated road in the middle of nowhere, facing down a power tripping cop with a gun, you do what you have to do to survive. In that moment, I was more concerned about not watching my husband bleed out on the side of the road than I was recording the incident and getting the officer’s name and badge number. So once again, the bad apple gets away with it. But I wake up next to my husband, whole and well, every day so I have no regrets about how I handled the situation.
The coda to this story is a conversation I had a few weeks ago at the hair salon. Much like barbershops, beauty salons are a place for all types of conversations. One of the other clients in the shop that day was a black, female police officer. She was talking about her job and of course that led the dialogue back to police brutality. I shared a brief version of the story above and was met with unbridled skepticism. She interrogated me about the details, damn near accused me of lying, and told me that we should have just complied without questioning because “Miranda rights are just what they show on television. Nobody really does it in real life.”
I understand that being a police officer is a hard job. They deal with people in crisis situations and people are rarely happy to see you–at best, you arrived just in time to stop something horrible from happening to them. Usually, the police show up after something terrible has occurred, or to tell people that they’re doing something wrong. But it’s also a job that they knowingly chose. And because police officers literally hold the power of life and death, it’s their responsibility to be better than the average person. More empathetic. More thoughtful. More careful. A barista who’s having a bad day can’t do anything worse than screw up your coffee order. A cop who’s having a bad day can kill you. Yes, they put their lives on the line. But it’s a hazard of the profession that they chose. Given these unique circumstances of the job, I don’t feel bad for cops who complain about their public image problem. They’re worried about popularity. We civilians are afraid for our lives.

Trayvon, Eric, Mike, et al : Where do we go from here?

2014-15 was when Millenials collectively figured out that white people are still racist, the political system is rigged, and the justice system is crooked af. So what are we going to do about it?

If you were to compile a list of victims of police violence, and only include those who got media coverage, you’d still come up with a list as long (or longer!) than Bi.ll C.osby’s so-called groupies.*

There’s a lot of protests and social media buzz, and I’m not mad at that. Times have changed, the media and the way we consume media have changed. Our civil rights movement is not going to look like that of yesteryear. However…I think my generation risks throwing out the baby with the bathwater. We still need to vote, attend city council meetings, write to our representatives, and volunteer with the youth so that they know this stuff matters too. And before you say “politics doesn’t work, we’ve tried it” have we really? Only about 1/3 of the eligible voting population turns out for PRESIDENTIAL elections.

The truth is, citizens have much more power at the state and local level than federal. The President controls the army and foreign policy. Congress passes a lot of laws, but how much it affects you depends on how much you’re bothered by other people’s ability to marry the same sex or get an abortion. But state and local government basically run your life. Sales tax? Local/state government. Property tax? Local government. School district zoning? Local government. Police reform? Local government. See where I’m going with this?

You can only get so far with raising awareness. At some point, you’ve got to give people a job to do. The Black Friday boycotts are a great start, but that only happens once a year. And as much as I enjoy supporting black business year round, there’s not a black owned, non-chain grocery store or drug store where I live so Kroger and CVS are going to continue to get my dollars. I also think that we need to think multiculturally. The NAACP can’t do everything (and haven’t been doing much of anything lately). What about the Urban League, the ACLU, the National Action Network and the Anti-Defamation League? Traditional political processes are slow and bureaucratic, and we want instant results. But policy doesn’t happen overnight. And you get things done a lot faster when you can bring a coalition together to accomplish a single goal.

 

 

 

 

 

*I was being cute but don’t get it twisted, I know he’s a r.apist.

Being Human

From my Facebook page:

These riots didn’t happen in a vacuum. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not condoning them. But people are feeling angry and hopeless. For the past 200 years black folks have been trying to beg and plead our way to acceptance. The model of peaceful protest, Martin Luther King Jr., got shot in the head anyway.

What more do you want us to do? We change our diction; we straighten our hair; we starch and iron our clothes; we use our inside voices; we get degrees and move to the right neighborhoods. What happens? We get a pat on the head and our brothers and sisters who are too poor or maybe too proud to stamp out every sign of their cultural identity continue to be slaughtered in the streets and thrown in jail for offenses that result in no arrest or mere community service for their white counterparts.

THE GAME IS RIGGED. And in the age of information, a refusal to see the facts or connect the dots is willful complicity in the perpetuation of racism. Yes, racism. If you see a white man with a gun as a patriot exercising his 2nd Amendment rights, but a black man with a gun as a thug, you’re racist. Period. But you know what? Change is the only constant in life and you have the ability to break free of your mental conditioning. But most of you won’t because it’s easier to believe that black people are incapable, or choose not to succeed, than to admit that a large part of your privilege and comfort in life was built on the backs of slaves and continues to benefit from the blood, sweat and tears of black folks.

Trayvon Martin. Jordan Davis. Renisha McBride. Mike Brown. Tamir Rice.  What do they have in common? They were all gunned down by scared white people.

Fear is a monster. And I will never understand why it is so hard to see past brown skin to our shared humanity. We, too, sing America. We like to eat, drink, sleep and fall in love. Just like anyone else. So our voices are louder, our speech more colorful, our hair more buoyant and our features fuller. We are people first and foremost. Some of us are slowly starting to understand that degrees and the King’s English won’t protect us. Ever since we were carted across the Atlantic, the idea that we might one day rise up against our oppressors and exact bloody vengeance has taken deep root in their collective psyche. The truly sad thing is that most black folks don’t really want that. Nor do we want “special treatment”. We want TRUE equality. The kind that means a multi-syllabic, creatively punctuated name won’t get your resume tossed in the trash. The kind that means we can ask for help from a neighbor without fear that we’ll be shot in the face. The kind that means we can trust the police to serve and protect us too. The kind that means a black man in baggy clothes can be thought of as a hipster instead of a thug.

When will America get that there is nothing to fear? That love is more powerful than hate? That all we want is to be your countrymen in word, thought and deed?

 

black-lives-matter