personal

BLACK IN 2020 AMERICA


I thought that it would be a good idea to maybe paint a picture for some of you who are genuinely interested, or just curious, about what minority life looks like in America, at least for me and my family. So here are just a few of the very real considerations I have to take into account daily.

– When I mentioned that wearing glasses makes me appear less threatening to some white people, this was not just conjecture. This is from personal experience. I can see people visibly relax when I enter a room and they notice that I’m wearing glasses. I’ve had white people actually say things TO MY FACE about my apparent “harmlessness” because of my glasses. If it was just once, I could pass it off as an exception. But on several occasions white people have “jokingly” said variations of, “Bro, your glasses totally kill the gangster vibe.” Yep. Gangster vibe. Really. Did they mean any offense by the statement? Not at all. But they still got the super eye roll. 🙄

– I’m acutely aware of the substantial risk I take every time I leave my house. Not sometimes, during holidays, or on the weekends. No… EVERY. TIME. There’s an ever-present anxiety because I never know if this will be the day when I’m pulled over by the police, not because I did anything wrong, but because I “fit the description”. I would venture to guess that if you polled a sampling of black people, a majority would tell you that “fit the description” is a trauma trigger. When I get in my car, before I put it in drive, I place my cell phone in a holder attached to my dashboard. Why? Because I want to be able to call my wife or start a live-stream within seconds of being pulled over by the police. It’s on my Driving While Black checklist. It may not keep me alive, but it may bring some justice.

– There’s some weird notion that being “other” is preferred to being “black”. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been asked “Are you Cuban/Dominican/Puerto Rican/Non-Black?” by white people. It’s as if believing I am something OTHER THAN black, will make me more… acceptable? If I’m NOT black, maybe they somehow think I’m okay to like or believe or trust or befriend? Just a guess, but when I say, “No, I’m Black/African American”, there’s a noticeable sense of disappointment.

Again, I’m not speaking for all black people. I’m just sharing my personal experience. And if you take nothing else away from this message, please understand this… no amount of data, statistics, or reports should ever invalidate someone’s personal experience. We’ve lived what we’ve lived and we often see life through the filter of those experiences. Remember that before attempting to trivialize someone’s trauma.

Categories: commentary, current events, opinion, personal | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

BROKEN


Ughhhhhhh!!!!!! 😩

My heart hurts. My mind is full of anger, confusion, and worry. I want to CRY and SCREAM and RUN and FIGHT… and hide, all at the same time. As I told someone else, I don’t have the emotional bandwidth to engage with people right now. So there will be no debate here. You either hear me, or you don’t. But that’s up to you. What I know is that I have been unable to sleep, and in my time of reflection, there have been myriad thoughts swirling around in my mind. Up until now, I have not spoken freely. But this must change.

And so, I will no longer remain silent.

To say that we reside in a nation divided, would be an understatement. It hinges upon readily observed and documented injustice, along with a perceived hopelessness, perpetuated by the repeated occurrences of mistrust, brutality, prejudice, and discrimination that I fear have now come to define the character of our country, to its citizens as well as the rest of the world.

These attributes have been affixed to the very nature of who we are as a population, brought about by the actions of those who have been appointed, and thereby obligated, to be the benevolent and compassionate custodians of liberty, safety, and justice for all.

But somewhere along the way, the vision was lost, or perhaps it was intentionally discarded.

We have become a nation in which the pursuit of wealth and success comes at the cost of compassion and consideration of others. We are teaching our children that it is socially acceptable to be selfish and obtain their definition of happiness by any means necessary. And in so doing, I fear we have developed a culture that prizes possessions over principle, money over morality, and status over solidarity. In a country whose very name embodies cohesion and promotes collaboration, The United States of America, we now seem to encourage divisiveness and egocentric aspirations.

We have been broken.
Broken promises.
Broken relationships.
Broken trust.
Brokenhearted.

I’m not sure how much more my heart and mind can endure. I used to think that civil dialogue could help heal the wounds between us. But in this current civilization, civility is not always possible. I learned a long time ago that people motived by feelings, who take action before considering the consequences of those actions, are NOT interested in talking. They are only interested in purging their emotions by any means necessary. There is no reasoning with them.

But I’m tired.

Tired of being the black man who is all too conscious of the fact that wearing glasses makes me appear less threatening. Tired of being the one who some people point to as the example of a “good black person” (wth is that anyway??). Tired of being the father who is constantly updating the Minority Rules of Social Engagement, and reinforcing them to his fives sons and one daughter, as a contingency against the very real possibility that their lives could one day depend on them.

I am a black man in America. And to some, that means I am a life without value. Disposable.

But my life has value as much as any other human being. And I will do everything lawfully within my power to uphold that right and recognize that value, in myself and others.

As I sit here in tears, I’m thinking about how I used to avoid making such precise statements about my feelings for fear of people misunderstanding me, unfriending me or taking offense. But I will say this without reservation, your approval of me will never be worth more than the welfare and well-being of my family. I’m committed to finding solutions and taking action. But I will not sit idly by while the world descends into chaos.

If I lose friends over this… ask yourself, were we really friends?

Categories: commentary, current events, opinion, personal | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Me. Human.


Which is to say…

  • I’m an irreparable tangle of contradicting actions that are both doggedly determined and laughably frail.
  • I’m one who often skates close to the hypocrisy of sound advice given, but personally unheeded.
  • I’m sometimes altruistic as a means of pacifying the self-righteous, legalistic martyr inside that would love nothing more than to indict me on multiple charges of being egocentric.
  • I’m just as broken as everyone else, with the most inane excuse for my occasional lack of consideration being that sometimes I’m just… tired.
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The Sugar Coat


I’ll be the first to admit when I don’t understand something. I think everyone suffers when you pretend to understand something you don’t. Usually, I’ll go to the source to try and find out whatever bit of information I’m missing so that I’ll have everything I need on which to base my opinion. If I’m unable to go to the source or the source proves unreliable, I just leave well enough alone. It’s not that I can’t have an opinion, I just don’t think my opinion is any more credible than those who formulate ideas about what an actor is really like, based solely on the roles they play.

Seems silly.

That being said, I’m trying to understand something… how is it that people somehow find a way to make everyone a hero? We make horrible decisions and must deal with the consequences. Nevertheless we will still find a crowd of people rushing to console and defend someone under the guise of being a “real friend”.

I don’t need friends like that. I need someone who will tell me point blank, “Riis, that was wrong.” or “Riis, you need to apologize.” or even “Riis, you messed up bad. Either you make this right or you suffer the fallout alone because I can’t support this kind of behavior.”

See… give it to me straight. Don’t sugarcoat my feelings or pity my shortcomings with silence. I will never grow that way.

Let me say that again…

Don’t sugarcoat my feelings, or pity my shortcomings with silence. I will NEVER grow that way.

Growth is invaluable.

Growth is sometimes painful.

Growth is necessary.

I can’t live without growth.

But I can live without the sugar coat.

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Results May Vary


You don’t know me.

And I don’t know you. I mean, not really.

You may know the things that I choose to reveal about myself. It’s usually the best parts of me (though I’ve been known to be quite transparent with the not-so-best parts of me as well) that I share. But if someone were to ask you to tell them about me, you really wouldn’t be able to rattle off much more than what I’ve listed in my profile. Sure, you could browse my blog or stalk my Facebook account, and maybe make a few guesses about what my taste in music or movies must say about me. But they would only be guesses. And more often than not, you’d be wrong.

For the longest time I’ve been rather careful about getting to know people and allowing them to get to know me. See, I have a history that includes a pretty severe wounding of the heart. So I’m not very keen on putting myself out there in a way that might reopen that wound. Unfortunately, my passions run deep and I tend to be, what one friend calls “emotionally progressive”. Rare in men, so I’m told. Among other things, this means that my heart can become vulnerable to the inconsiderate actions of others if I make an effort to get to know them. I’ve done that with very few people over the years. It amazes me how the pursuit of friendship can be liberating on one end, and weaponized on the other.

Interpersonal relationships should come with a standard label that states, “WARNING: Result may vary.”

Some of these people have become like siblings. Some of them are like my kids. And some of them are… well, something altogether different. But all of them have had an impact on me to varying degrees. My affections are at times painfully genuine. Sometimes to my own detriment. So I’ve learned to protect my heart a little bit more fiercely than I did before. It’s not that I don’t want people to know me, but sometimes I’m not entirely convinced I can afford to allow them.

I’m not a fan of heartache, confusion or misunderstandings. To avoid such calamity, it would make more sense to just keep everyone at arm’s length. It’s sad to me because many people I’ve met are deeply intriguing and I’d love to discover more about them. But this has brought me to the dispirited conclusion that the further away from them I stay, the less likely I am to get hurt if/when they implode.

I don’t know what bevy of circumstances has made them the way they are. They could’ve grown up in abject poverty, or could be the spoiled product of wealthy hands-off parents, raised by a bilingual nanny. They could be a recent parolee from a botched extortion attempt, or an as-yet-to-be-captured professional con artist. They could literally live across the street, or across the ocean. My point is that I won’t know them all that well, and they won’t know me. Unfortunately, past experiences have a tendency to make people gun shy. So I may never know them the way that I wish I could.

Hmm… I don’t even know what the point was of this post. Venting? Purging? Meh. That’s all I’ve got for today.

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