So this is my last word on a run-in a couple of us had earlier this week in this, my Web house, with a man who seemed hell bent on making broad generalizations about entire cultural groups and lambasting me for not fitting his molds of what a black man, a blogger, and a reporter should be.
Consider this an open letter of sorts.
John - that's the name you identified yourself with last evening, you messaged me then to say with a hearty "LOL" that I hadn't proven your comments were offensive and that in so many words you were just being light-hearted with your "piglet" routine.
I find it ironic that a person who questioned my "blackness," the caliber of my wife, and my commitment or friendliness to other black people, would then wrap up his comments by saying "In fact im proud that an African American has a blog at the Herald. Im sure you worked hard, and have endured many sacrifices to get where you are. I will not contribute to the hurdles which are sure to face in Miami."
Dude, you got one thing right: that I have worked hard. Otherwise, your comments generally sum up where you went wrong. Condescension is the wrong tact with me. You don't know me! And don't send me a predictable response that I don't know you either. You're right. I only know the image you portrayed of yourself through your crude words.
I knew cats like you - or the you that was portrayed through your comments - back in the day. I didn't walk, talk, look, or breathe the way they thought I should, so they challenged my being. Half of those dudes are now turning figurative tricks for a living 'cause they were so busy back then trying to fit stereotypes that they never fully developed and came into their own.
Let me tell you a little story about people not being who you think they should. When I was in college, I wrote for the campus paper. Unlike most of my colleagues though, that gig wasn't helping stock my shelves with Ramen noodles. I paid all my bills and fed myself w/a full-time job as a machinist on a nearby U.S. Naval base. The newspaper job was just a way for me to try to be a bit of a regular student, stay connected for a few hours a week with what was happening on my campus, and gain a little experience in news writing.
Fall of '97 we had an annual music fest on campus, in which a few pop groups came through and performed in our dust-gathering football stadium. The performers were R&B group SWV
, pop boys 98 Degrees
, rockers Foo Fighters
, and I think Talk Show
, the spinoff group from Stone Temple Pilots
Anyway, I wrote a review of the performances and appearances, and I panned SWV. I felt they were lackluster and even rude in a couple of instances.
When that issue of the paper came out a couple of days later, "leaders" of the Black Student Union blew up. They accused me of being anti-black because I had criticized a black singing group. They threatened sit-ins at the school paper, boycotts of the paper, and demanded "talks" to figure out how to get more of the type of news they wanted into the paper. The talks were fine. You want things to change, talk out a plan and get it implemented. The rest was bogus though.
So for days afterward I dealt with a firestorm of angry comments and glares from students of all stripes who lived in a bubble of classrooms, dorm life, and campus activities. Much of their social interaction was limited to each other.
When I couldn't take the repetitive chatter anymore I responded with a column about what they did not
know. Those same students who told me I wasn't black enough - know where they were nearly every Thursday night throughout the bulk of my junior year? Hanging out around the community TV in the student union building watching sitcoms. Know where I was those same evenings, like clockwork? Counseling juvie inmates in the local city jail - most of them black inmates.
Saturday mornings when my critics were sleeping in, I was on my way cross town from my apartment to be by my father's side (he's a retired military vet and a minister) picking up garbage on the streets of our city's poorest 'hood - a black hood, visiting with residents who were trying to hold their neighborhood together, and helping him take supplies to the sick and elderly - black folks - in that 'hood.
When the critics were griping about how tough their 12-hour-per-week jobs in the campus bookstore or cafeteria or answering phones in some professor's office were, I was spending 50 hours a week in a machine shop with guys who hated me for being young, black, and in college, and proudly told me so on a near daily basis.
Weekday afternoons when my critics were chillin', shootin' the breeze after they'd concluded the bulk of their classes I was tutoring kids - mostly black - at schools near our campus, when I should have been home asleep 'cause the graveyard shift in that machine shop was no fun.
After that column ran, calls from the BSU for protests of the paper and sit-ins ceased immediately. To their credit, several of the leaders of the group came to me and apologized. I didn't need an apology, but it showed class on their part. And to the letter, do you know what each said? "We didn't know," as in we made assumptions about who you were...and who you weren't.
Bottom line, as the kids like to say, they couldn't "fade me," and you can't either dude.
You think you're encouraging me by saying you're proud an African American is blogging for the Herald?
Save your pride and your pity. Blogs are free to any schmuck with a computer and Web access. I didn't sacrifice anything but cold weather to get to the Herald. Hate to bust your image of the woeful black man who, like That Girl
, made it after all. But I got here because I'm good at what I do for a living. That plot might make for a good CBS Sunday afternoon movie, but you couldn't begin to know how far off you are about me.
Seriously, you think you know me and who I should be? Don't feel bad. You're not the first to have no idea.
That's all for me folks. I'm trading this soap box for a bed and going back to sleep.
Till next time, peace and hair grease, and don't make an ass out of u and mption.
PS. BTW John, the only hurdles I've faced in Miami are over-priced real estate, really bad drivers, and (my rapidly developing) road rage. The rest is pretty much the same as anywhere else I've been on this planet, ethnic and cultural differences notwithstanding.