Dear DeTrading Post Shop Owner,
You made my friend and I smile when you handed back change from our purchase. You said, “1967. It was a good year”. When I asked you why you thought that, you said, “Because everybody was hopeful then. We believed that things were going to get better. We treated each other with respect.” It was sweet to hear.
I thought the small talk was over. I really didn’t want to engage. I wanted to take my purchase (a lovely leather and bead bracelet) and get back out into that gorgeous sun, heat, and blue, blue, sky. But, you continued with your commentary. I assumed you were going to complain about Trump’s tweeting, the border wall, or even the Mueller report. It was clear from your accent that English was not your first language. I assumed you were either Native-American or from South America. Arizona may be a Republican state but most non-whites who live there identify as democrat or liberal or Mexican. However, you threw us for a loop when you asked us if we knew who “Adam’s first wife was?”. I did know the answer. “Lilith”, I said.
Apparently you mistook my response for an invitation to share your ideas. Lilith, you told us, was evil. You warned us about the evil that exists in this country. And, here is where the conversation got really scary. You complained that we have “Muslims in our government and the next thing you know we are going to have Sharia Law in our country.” I countered with the first thing that came into my vacation-addled brain. “So, are you okay with the U.S. doing business with Saudi Arabia?” I cannot remember what you answered. You blamed, “Bill, Hitlery, and Obama” for bringing “Muslims into this country.” “Hitlary?” Yes. “Hitlary Clinton, who is just like Hitler”.
I continued to listen to you politely. You extolled the virtues of Judaism and said it was the most progressive of all world religions. You made a joke about Jewish women being closer to God than Jewish men. You also said: that you loved Trump; that Trump is helping us to see who our real enemies are; this country is the best country in the world; and that you would die for this country. You ended your monologue by saying “If people don’t like it here then they can go back to where they came from”. I made no gesture of annoyance or discomfort. I just kept smiling. When you were finished, I thanked you for sharing your thoughts, shook your hand, and exited your shop.
Do you remember me shopkeeper? I was the woman wearing the Free Palestine t-shirt. Now that my vacation has ended, and I have had time to think about our “conversation”, I would like to ask you several questions.
Thank you for reading my questions. I hope my letter helps you for the next time you talk with your customers about political issues.
This is my response to the dreadful Fashion Focus column by the Home and Style Editor, Susan Martin, of the The Buffalo News. If you read it, you would think that the only “fashions” worth reporting are those worn by mostly white, middle-class, shop or gallery owning, suburban-looking types. Most, who I assume, are her friends.
Name: Henry Louis Taylor, Jr., Ageless
Who He Is: A Black-Marxist Intellectual, Scholar, Full-Professor, Writer, Activist
Soldier, Warrior, and probably someone’s lover. Or depending on your perspective, a really scary, and angry Black guy. A Tennessee native with a penchant for raining on people’s parades, who came to Buffalo because the struggle is really happening here. He’s won multiple awards and is affiliated with numerous professional organizations. You will not find him at The Buffalo Club. Nor is he an “Uncrowned King”.
He can’t sing and he can’t dance. But, he can act. He knows all the lines to The King and I. He can whoop your ass ‘cause he knows karate. He exercises regularly to maintain a level of fitness that keeps him ready to work at all hours of the night, and morning, and day, and evening. Oh, and he drives a little sports car that he named, “El Diablo”.
He is a black cat: smooth, singular, and indifferent.
What He’s Wears:
Whatever the fuck he wants! The important question is what he won’t wear: a Polo golf-shirt, a suit with a tie, Sperry boat-shoes, socks with sandals (unless it’s really cold in the office because the air-conditioning is on and no one else is around), a leather logo jacket, a sweater vest, or anything that is defined as being “professional” or that screams “white-guy”.
1) Sunglasses: A Black-Marxist Liberation Movement soldier has no problem looking white people in the eye. But, sometimes, that soldier cannot afford to be identified.
2) Wrist Cuff: In direct opposition to the cuff-link, Taylor can always be seen with an Afro-centric leather cuff, a Native-American silver cuff, or a beaded bracelet made by one of his beloved students from Future’s Academy.
3) Necklace: An Inuit face-mask scrimshaw carving on a leather cord.
Cool by all standard definitions. The fashion intellectual center of the left in Buffalo; and uncompromising in his resistance to the oppression of the established fashion order. Upscale (i.e. expensive) athletic sports clothing: Black Hugo Boss sweat-pants coupled with a black Calvin-Klein (super soft t-shirt) and a black or brown military-style sneaker.
Last Purchase: He won’t say.
In The Market For:
A pair of Fort Belvedere Napa-leather, hand-woven, driving gloves, with an adjustable snap-button and woven knuckle pattern, in British Racing Green and Off-White.
In 2016 Colin Kaepernick took a kneel to protest police brutality. The NFL owners reported that they felt “under assault”. Trump told them to “get that son of a bitch off the field.” And, fans reacted as if the football field was a political-free zone and told Colin that he “should just focus on the game”.
In 2017 Kaepernick remained an unsigned free agent. According to the Washington Post, signing Kaepernick “would be far more than a football decision.” The Buffalo News reporter Bucky Gleason wrote that hiring Kap would bring “controversy over something that has nothing to do with football.” And, Houstan Texans owner Robert McNair [now deceased] told fellow owners that the NFL “can’t have the inmates running the prison.”
Last September Nike used Colin’s activism in their Just Do It ad which read “Believe in something. Even it it means sacrificing everything.” Once again, people reacted. A Louisiana mayor wanted to ban Nike products from the city. The hashtag “boycottNike” erupted with images of people burning Nike products. And, some Christian colleges banned Nike products from their campuses.
It is early 2019 and Kaepernick is no longer a professional athlete. The NFL tried to ban players from any kind of protest, until they realized that such a ban was unconstitutional. And, most recently, the Wisconsin GOP leaders removed Wisconsin-born Kaepernick from a resolution recognizing Black History Month and Kaepernick because they considered him too “controversial” to be included.
Let’s be honest. Kneeling is a gesture of respect. More importantly, it has only been white America who has reacted with such hostility to Kap’s support of the Black Lives Matter movement. And, to other Black athlete’s who continued the conversation. Remember Laura Ingraham telling LeBron James to “shut up and dribble”? It is white America who believes they have the right to tell Black and brown people when, where, and, how to protest. It is white America who tells Black America who their heroes should be.
Nike does not speak for white America. Nike is a global corporation. Nike knows that many of their consumers are people of color. Nike knows that “Taking the Knee” is the modern-day legacy of Tommie Smith and John Carlos giving the Black Power Salute at the 1968 Olympics. Nike knows that Black athletes have a long history of being social justice activists; and those beliefs have always cost them something, if not everything.
The irony is that Nike’s ad truly represents American patriotism. Because to believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything, is the American way. Abraham Lincoln. Sitting Bull. Sacco and Vanzetti. Malcom X. So, white America, be honest with us about why you hate Colin Kaepernick. Accept the the fact that like Muhammad Ali, Kap will go down on the right side of history.
(I am just going to start out by saying that this so-called documentary, project, interactive whatever, is: cringeworthy, telling, and painful to watch. I have yet to decide if it adds to the conversation on whiteness.)
Filmmaker Whitney Dow, who has been recognized as “making smart films about race” with Marco Williams (or as Dow refers to him, “my Black producing partner”) decided to get serious about race. Dow believes that, “If white people are going to participate in changing the racial dynamic, we need to deal with our own shit.”I agree. In 2014 Dow premiered his documentary, The Whiteness Project, on PBS. The project is a multi-media documentary described as an investigation into how Americans who are white identify with being white.
Dow gets that white supremacy is one of the central organizing forces in American life and, that white is “the most powerful racial identity in America”. He does not want white Americans to get away from identifying themselves as being white. During an interview with CBS, Dow argued that being white is a defining characteristic that actively “impacts every interaction of every moment in our day.” The goal of his project is to encourage debate about the role of whiteness in American society among white people; people who “have been very tentative about engaging.” He offers the project as venue to help white people reflect on white identity and white privilege.
The Whiteness Project website states:
“By engendering debate about the role of whiteness in American society and encouraging white Americans to become fully vested participants in the ongoing debate about the role of race in American society, The Whiteness Project aims to inspire reflection and foster discussions that ultimately lead to improved communication around issues of race and identity.”
White individuals are filmed within a white frame with an intense focus on their face. There are no other distractions: no background, no interviewer presence, no interviewer voice. The viewer immediately understands that the participants are asked a series of questions about being white in general. The only conversation in the film is when the participants are talking to the camera. The audience gets to know the questions only from the interviewee’s comments, such as; “Do I think it is beneficial for me to be white?”, “Do I think about race?”, or “Do I feel a common bond with white people?” Between each screen interview a statistic is given. The statistics are there to help the audience place the views in a societal context and, to hopefully provide some fodder for self-reflection.
Described as “an interactive investigation into how Americans who identify as white, or partially white, understand and experience their race.”
In one word: Scary
Described as “an inspiration from conversations about the “Whiteness Project” which is a similar documentary discussing race and the perceived loss of white privilege by white Americans. The main purpose of The Blackness Project film is to bridge the gap between white and black Americans with in depth interviews on race.”
In one word: Brilliant
This is an oft-repeated statement by activist and scholar, Dr. Henry Louis Taylor. Dr. Taylor does not reject sexual or marital relationships among Black, white, and brown skinned peoples. What he rejects is the myth that these relationships by themselves will confront and defeat racism and racist practices — individual and institutional. He points to the color of his own light-brown skin; what in another time and place would have been referred to as “high-yellow”.
Dr. Taylor was quoted out-of-context when being interviewed by a FOX news reporter about the movie Green Book. In that article he said, “We can get caught up in the controversy about whether or not the film is an account of the white’s man’s view, which it is, and whether the story would have been different had Shirley told it, which it would have. But that doesn’t matter as much as the larger question,”What is the place of individual friendship within the process of social change?” What was excluded from that article was his answer.
“Individual friendships are important only if they inspire and incite the fight against structural forces that produce racism, prejudice, and discrimination.” (1/13/2019)