Category Archives: black history

Bland Warm Beer

Bland Warmbier

Sandra Bland & Otto Warmbier are
Obverse sides of the law-&-order coin
One’s intercontinental travel went far
The other got the role of oppressed toy

Both existences are tragic stories:
Good people done in by crooked systems
Their tales of injustice tired & hoary:
They might well be Old Testament lessons

But our media will defend but one
Defending the undefendable way
Our brutal racist system deals with some
Lamenting Otto Warmbier’s sad display

So as you surf the internet notice
How racism is a given: know this!

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Poetic Review of “The Desth of the Last Black Man” by Susan-Lori Parks

Interesting cast of stereotypes

A dramatic collage brought together  

Pastiches of dehumanizations 

Searching for a narrative to weather 

Atavistic dehumanizations 
Roiling the calm of a bourgeois theatre

An elite method of illuminations

To hint to folks they’re a contributor 

Tragic mulatta with décolletage 

Floor length sequined ensemble showing curves

Is updated Black-Woman’s dressage

Which creates the Jezebel “we’s observes” 

Hip-hop-hoodied update jigaboo 

Was sadly the most anachronistic 

Out of chronology he lost voodoo 

Making this show a bit hedonistic 

If this play connected stereotypes 

(Seen on ESPN & Blockbusters)

We could see how & why these phenotypes

Are encouraged & paid by white hucksters

I enjoyed the zip-coon’s shenanigans 

But if he’d become bourgeois anchorman

The anachronism’d be clearer then

Though I loved being challenged by the plan
The noble (& diesel) “drumstick mammy”

Consoling the “black-eyed-lynching victim”

Was a disjunction that I found hammy

Without a backstory to update them

The Barnum-esque Top Hatted “Bigger-&”

Could have said so much about Al Sharpton

Jesse Jackson, Minister Farrakhan 

(Atavism & anachronism)

Felt lost in the sea of stereotypes 

Without any narrative life jacket

These characters were very well drawn hypes

But “un-didactic” it seemed a racket 

Freewriting About Power

Below is a Free-Write that I have been avoiding with my vain doggerel. I would appreciate anyone who reads this to comment and tell me if this is interesting to you and whether you’d like more of it. (Needless to say, I remember how Kiko was kicked to the curb & needs to be finished.) The long and 20121221-075414.jpgthe short of this essay is that I see police abuse as focused through the “Black Lives Matter” paradigm as an institutionalization of power in the “enslavement model” of Jim Crow crystallizing throughout our society. What was once reserved for Blacks in a segregated society is not liberally employed in keeping the citizens from access to the power of the polity.

1/10/16 Longhand Intro

We live in a world where the institutions themselves have become the power. The leaders are no longer in charge of them and those who implement the institutions’ work are unable to make any meaningful improvements in the functions of the system. To ossify this system any challenges to the workings of the organization are immediately read as a challenge to the authority of the petty bureaucrat implementing the will of the oligarchical system’s dictates rather than a complaint by anyone who has any valid standing to protest. We are caught up in the momentum of a system that was designed by a committee who work for a status quo which has benefitted them. By inflexibly enforcing extant rules these people effectively deny the vast majority of citizens entry into the polity they claim to be serving.  Sheesh, this is vague and obtuse; I am trying to state simply that people’s loyalty to institutions, expressed by meticulously following and enforcing rigid rules, often burnished with the attitude of a bruised ego, denies all but the most bureaucratically adept most of their privileges and rights.

Here’s an example. an easy one; in 1984 I was trying to vote for Jesse Jackson in the democratic primary. I had registered to vote and was super excited to cast my ballot at the local catholic school, at 127th and Morningside. I walked in and waited on line to get my signature verified or whatever the institution demanded. The women behind the table, each dressed like someone’s stereotype of a Black church lady didn’t cotton to my messenger attire (cycling cap, sack, jacket,protest T-shirt, etc). She looked at her copy of the 3 part NCR roster  did not find my name (I’m not sure if she checked my 1st name [a last name] or my last name [a French version of a common 1st name is my “family curse”). When I showed the slightest at her glacial search for my names she closed the book, looked up at me from under her purple hat and over her reading glasses and told me “You are not registered to vote!” I was dismissed.

  1. Frederick Douglass in his Narrative writes of his earliest interactions with power: “I was not allowed to make any inquiries of my master concerning it. He deemed all such inquiries on the part of a slave improper and impertinent, and evidence of a restless spirit” (Douglass 1). He was not allowed to ask any questions. Further, the very act of a Black asking questions suggested a social malady of some sort to the person in power. I am pretty sure that I don’t like my students to ask too many questions, I explain that all the rules are written on the syllabus.  In a strange way I am the same as “Captain Anthony.” I try to reinforce the status quo that exists between  professors and their students, teachers and their charges. This hierarchy has existed since Kindergarten and Confucius and Plato. I just want my piece of the power. There is a thin line between the order I need to teach, and the capricious authority I like to feel that I need to feel superior to my charges. I have to look into my soul daily. Am I annoyed because he or she isn’t understanding me and my lessons, or because they are challenging my authority? I have been chastised for being too laxed with my students, but I remember hating the obvious expressions of personal power that Mr. Spillane, my 10th grade science teacher imposed on me and my class. The teachers I loved always explained why things had to be the way they were; they did not simply declare them.
  2. I digress. This is not about me, my job, or how I manage my life. This is about the capricious powers that institutions create and enforce through rote momentum. (thesis?)
  3. Frederick Douglass, on the first page of the first canonical work of African American Literature declares that it was “impertinent” to question authority. This was, presumably, an important lesson, since it was 1. the first lesson in his autobiography & 2. it was one that he writes that his father taught him.  To the whites who would buy his book in droves making Douglass a force in publishing and abolitionism to be reckoned with, he was telling the cruelty of absolute and capricious power. To the few Blacks who might have been literate (reading was a crime for the enslaved) and wealthy enough to purchase or fortunate “get”  this book, he was commiserating about the unwritten rules of Jim Crow where you had to be deferential to people simply because of your skin color, not their merit. Similarly, when my student s file into my class, and take one of the desks, I expect a certain patina of respect. I will be grading them, and they must seek my approval. The “better me” wants them to respect me not because I will grade them, but because I have the skills and tools that will allow them to go further than my classroom.       
  4. I am not a sociologist, historian or criminologist, I come to this through literature. Sadly, I must confess that I have made no real study of the literary analysis or study of policing per say. However as a man who has always been non-white, the issue of policing has always been important. From the time that in 10th grade my name “sounded Black” to the father of a young woman I was sweet on in Boston public schools, to timeS that I was singled out because my friends were darker or lighter than I by the police this power has interested me. Further, as a fairly bourgeois “good subject” I have also participated in the stigmatization of non-traditional, underclass and “poor” ways of being ( I had a poster of MLK that was captioned “I has a dream…” in graduate school). D. A. Miller, one of my professors at UC Berkeley, wrote about this in the introduction to The Novel and The Police

[Control] centers not on the police, in the modern institutional shape they acquire in Western liberal culture during the 19th century, but on the ramification within the same culture of less visible, less visibly violent modes of ‘social control.’ A power that, like the police, theoretically displays its repressiveness becomes of interest here only in relation to an extralegal series of ‘micro-powers’ disseminating and dissembling their effects in the wings of that spectacle. (Miller viii)

Miller writes about how power’s real work takes place in the peripheral vision of order’s spectacle. The hat, the badge, the pistol outside of their clothes are all reminders of the fact that these women and men represent state power or the power of the state. This is, by extension, a representation of the order and harmony (or repression) that we expect of a well run society. I, the socially compliant and obedient subject, see the police as a necessarily enforcing the appropriate behavior of the society that I am most comfortable in. Additionally, I, and we, are willing to accept some curtailing of our “lesser rights” to have a comfortable environment (which favors me) to operate and thrive in.

  1. That said, I bristle at the deference that our society demands for certain of the institutions and institutors that we rely on. Perhaps this is the bitter ravings of a member of PSC-CUNY, a weak and toothless union to whom the state chooses not to even make a contract offer. The police, fire and sanitation all have reasonable offers made by repeated administrations (I digress because I’m a bit bitter). I started this analysis of power with my job because, interestingly, I feel like I have less authority than many of the clerks who administer the college I teach at. Students can negotiate with me, whereas they cannot with the registrar. bursar, the testing office, the tutors, the cafeteria and, of course, security.  I know that there are professors who do not negotiate with their charges, but I think that the trust and student teacher rapport is one of the things that allowed me to graduate from CUNY as a working adult in 1992. Did I make every deadline? No, but I did complete every assignment and I had an open relationship with the instructors and professors that meant the most to my undergraduate education.
  2. Institutional loyalty
    (Man this is an awkward place to leave off)

The Show Me State

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(Today’s Haiku Journal on Ferguson)

9. Do white people know/
The feelings Black people have/
When cops just kill us?/
#haiku

10. Don’t live in ghettos/
Suburban Strip-Mall no-wheres/
Imprisoned by cars/
#Haiku

11. Don’t live in projects/
Lego-stacked suspensions of/
Human civil rights/
#Haiku

12. In our middle class/
Pretentions of normalcy/
Black lives lack value/
#Haiku

13. Our white friends can’t know/
Insecurity we feel/
When Blacks are gunned down/
#Haiku

14. Projects or exurbs/
“They are poor in those ghettoes/
So diff’rent than ‘us'”/
#Haiku

15. But to the dull tool/
Of racist policing we’re/
Just some more niggers/
#haiku

16. Reduce privilege/
And pay the police much more/
We might get justice/
#Haiku

17. Uneducated/
Underpaid police receive/
Unjust Power’s Pay/
#Haiku

18. We need to attract/
Better people to police/
Not red-necked bullies/
#Haiku

19. The black cops we have/
Absorbed the racist power/
Of job they strap on/
#Haiku

20. But many Blacks fear/
Blacks men inordinately/
Just like the police/
#haiku

21. White supremacy/
Lies all over our culture:/
Suffocating snow/
#Haiku

22. We cannot see Blacks/
As just individuals/
In racist matrix/
#Haiku

23. “Devil’s food cake” is/
The national confection/
Of America/
#Haiku

24. It’s “our” racism/
Contrary statements of race/
Are simple “white lies”/
#Haiku

26. Race is a prison/
We reconstruct for ourselves/
We need more jailbreaks/
#haiku

27. Lamenting order/
Over human righteousness/
Suggests racism/
#haiku

28. Tranquility lacks/
The drama of infringement/
Victimization/
#haiku

25. “Faith has to [function]/
[For us] 24 hour [days],/
Or we [will] perish.”/
#Haiku 16

George & Trayvon

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George & Trayvon
This one’s too complex for a haiku:
Being white’s always been a “participation sport:” hate blacks or latinos correctly & be accepted by the clan-cops-continuum. If you declare white supremacy’s goals your own, you will get the privileges of that fiction (see the Samuel Jackson character in Django).
Zimmerman was probably the least comfortable in his family (& lightest) with the fact that their afro-diasporic-latinos and might have been teased about it by his siblings & parents. Being also the dumbest in his family he would have tried to prove his “superiority” by playing the neighborhood Gary Cooper (or Clint Eastwood) as a neighborhood watch junior sheriff, with a cereal box badge & REAL GUN.
Latinos, Asians, Australian aboriginals, -fuck- Haitians & Nigerians & Senegalese will all distinguish themselves from working class African Americans as a shortcut to getting some of that “American Dream” (sold at Walmart & denied to underclass blacks, Latinos & Asians).
Calling out & murdering an underclass Black kid is the surest way to get the stain of mother Africa off of your identity: the catharsis requires blood. As Hurston wrote “real gods require blood” regarding the anxious climb up the color cast system ranking system. Zimmerman, as an insecure light-skinned son of the African Diaspora with pretensions to middle class normalcy, had to kill a nigger (since he washed out of the police academy-lottery).
Interestingly his german/Jewish surname suggests another axis upon which this all plays: by breaking the covenant of the civil rights era Blacks & Jews he might be finding a way to get goyem approval as well, proving not all Jews are liberals & can be accepted by mega-church-christendom (adorned with parking lots & SUVs).

Performing Whiteness:/
A participation sport/
(Just hate them coloreds)/
#haiku

Killing a Nigger/
Earned Zimmerman Acceptance/
Of GOP-Klan*/
#haiku *NRA-Klan

In apartheid South Africa, Japanese were “honorary whites” while the Chinese were simply coolies (or so I was told), racism is a participation sport. It is one that j participate in with my pompous vocabulary & Ph.D. Since I was a boy my ability to arch language over working class whites gave me a feeling of satisfaction directly related to Zimmerman’s automatic pistol. We all participate. & yes this is related to 70s identity politics & essentialism, but the problems of white supremacy haven’t changed enough to merit new remedies.

1a. White Supremacy/
Means devaluing Black folk/
Even by Black Folk/
#haiku

1b. White Supremacy:/
Devaluing Black People/
Even by Black Folk/
#haiku

1c. White Supremacy/
Means devaluing Black folks/
(Even by “Niggers”)/
#haiku

1d. White Supremacy/
Devalues All Black People/
(Not only by whites)/
#haiku #

1e. Media content/
Devaluing Black people:/
White Supremacy/
#haiku

*Man Gone Down* by Michael Thomas Haiku Review

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*Man Gone Down*
by Michael Thomas
Haiku Review

1. Starting *Man Gone Down*/
Gently riveting to me/
(I “Identify”)/
#haiku

2. Confronted by youth/
The youth that hides in novels/
With happy sadness/
#haiku

3. Fiction converges/
With readers’ realities/
History revised/
#haiku

4. “Strange… to go through life/
A social experiment/
Understanding… Gone”/
#haiku (Thomas 99)

5. “You can tell when someone’s been loved; they don’t question its presence, nor do they despair when it seems to be gone” (Thomas 165).

6. Three hundred pages/
Of fearing his decisions/
Vicariously/
#haiku

7. Protagonist’s life/
Both Virtuous & sinful/
Flirts with disaster/
#haiku

8. Faithful to his wife/
Staying sober, kind & fair/
When cheating is rife/
#haiku

9. Crazy decisions/
Like evading a mistress/
Are perfectly right/
#haiku

10. “I was born a poor/
Black boy of above av[‘]rage/
Intelligence[: CURSE]” /
#haiku (Thomas 216)

11. The Expectations/
Placed upon Smart Black People/
Prove to be unfair/
#haiku

12. “Representing” Blacks/
Burdens folk who need to live/
Simply for themselves/
#haiku

13. “Representative/
Man” must undo and fulfill/
All stereotypes/
#haiku

14. Protagonist can’t/
Simply exist for himself/
He lugs history/
#haiku

15. Meditative run/
Through the Brooklyn Bridge’s ribs/
Explored though nicely/
#haiku

16. Digressions of thought:/
Thinking man in thoughtless world/
Explored New York well/
#haiku

17. Manual labor/
Suspends thinking men in toil/
This book explores that/
#haiku

18. Texture of labor/
The Psychology of work/
Is rarely explored/
#haiku

19. The isolation/
Of immigrants languages/
Exposed in this book/
#haiku

20. Job sites’ loyalties/
Along and across language/
Was a nice detail/
#haiku

21. Surrendering job/
With a violent outburst/
To keep pride was nice/
#haiku

22. Swimming under the bridge/
Like a weird aquatic troll/
Strange symbolism/
#haiku

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23. Impossible acts/
Of the damaged superman/
Kept me reading on/
#haiku

24. When he cheats golfers/
He falls to earth a human/
Though they needed it/
#haiku

25. Boston backstory:/
Old Friends on the edge expose/
Promise’s burden/
#haiku

26. He survives for friends/
Not the noble ideas/
Placed upon his skin/
#haiku

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Grading Black Lit Finals Haiku

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Grading Haikus

16. Reading Endlessly/
Final exams showing much/
(Of their distractions)/
#haiku

17. Lectures and readings/
Turned into raw sausages/
Squeezed into Blue-Books/
#haiku

18. Some evade learning/
Like the startled trespassers/
Avoiding the light/
#haiku

19. Then I read a test/
That defiantly points out/
I could have taught more!/
#haiku

20. S/he takes my lectures/
Builds an elegant thesis/
That outshines my own/
#haiku

21. Some students clearly/
Overstand literature/
And have been waiting/
#haiku

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22. Harriet Jacobs/
Wrote *Incidents* way back when/
For TH!S young person/
#haiku

23. Race Repression in/
One-Hundred-&-Fifty-Years/
Have not changed at all/
#haiku

24. When Jacobs declared/
“Pity me & pardon me”/
She predicted now/
#haiku

25. Students are still moved/
By prejudice & the truth/
Of so long ago/*
#haiku
*Written so long ere

26. Reading this brilliance/
After seven hundred words/
Of summary: great/
#haiku

27. S/He revives my soul:/
Insight & Understanding/
Validate my work/
#haiku

28. I hope one day you/
See your work validated/
By a students’ thoughts/
#haiku