Believe it or not, this humble blog has lasted for exactly two years. We’ve put out an article roughly every three days, something that I’m particularly proud of. We’re not making fine art here, but they’re articles that I like, that make me laugh, and I’m glad they’re part of my FBI profile.
Lacking an ombudsman, I have to self-reflect on our work. A man I very much respect once told me that the biggest room in any house is the room for improvement. There are two things that bother me about how things have turned out.
I always wanted this to be a collaborative effort, and I wanted other people to get involved, especially women. I wanted to do more than pay lip service to diversity. That was a miserable failure. I cannot tell you the amount of women I approached to participate, even under anonymity, to no end, and so I’ve let it go. This site is going to reflect a male point of view and there’s not much I can do about it.
Our biggest failure is one I still don’t know how to address, which is that because of the title and look of our site, white people often don’t feel welcome.
Tom and Tom Black like You is a reference to an In Living Color skit, (which I suppose dates us) it was Tom’s idea, and I thought it was a hoot.
But a lot of white people didn’t get the joke.
The moment they saw that, they thought it was a ‘black’ site and there was nothing to appeal to them. The idea that white people are excluded from what I’m talking about is preposterous, my wife is white, and I’ve written about rock guitar players and British teleplays. We are black, that is our identity, and we’re never going to pretend we’re not, but hopefully at least some of what we talk about can simply transcend race, and so far, we haven’t really communicated that, and I’m not sure how to tweak that yet.
On a lesser note, I know I did a terrible job of editing, something that I had to work on, and the tone of the site is all over the place, which I think is difficult for a couple of reasons. We’re both diverse guys, and the site was going to reflect that, but it’s a little more than that, I think.
The first reason was a change in my philosophy. We used to kind of check the cultural barometer and write about what was happening. After a while, I didn’t see the point in being the 200th website to write about Lady Gaga, as no one was going to see us anyway. So lately, I explored what I liked about the Internet in the first place.
When I first got the Internet (in 1997) it was a lot cruder, but a lot more fun. If you had the patience, you could go through search results for any topic and find the most obscure webpages imaginable. For somebody that loved minor subjects and actors with sparse filmography, it was a goldmine. Then search engines changed and no matter what, you mostly got the same websites for stuff, because they paid to be at the top. What you’re seeing right now is me trying to give you things that you’ve never heard about, or stuff that other sites don’t talk about. I want fun Internet.
The second thing is harder to talk about.
Some of this site was dedicated to satire, or at least social consciousness. I’m kind of burned out with that. That’s because of Trayvon Martin, which for me is one of the most mortifying social moments of my life.
My wife and I are talking about having children. I have a lot of anxiety about the idea of children and the responsibility of shaping a human life. I worried about the world this kid would have to live in. This did not help.
Imagine your child wants to go to the corner store. Like all teenagers, he’s a goofball, and right now he’s driving you nuts doing stupid stuff in school, but he’s a good kid. And he goes to the store and never comes back.
Some random guy in your neighborhood decided he was a threat. He stalked him with a gun, a gun that he wasn’t supposed to have, as part of a Neighborhood Watch duty that he wasn’t actually on. Your son ran, but eventually he decided he wasn’t going to run anymore. And he got shot in the street, fighting for his life.
Of course you don’t know that, because even though the police are on the scene, no one tells you about your son’s death. What they do is carefully remove the killer (who is the local magistrate’s son, and buddies with a lot of the guys on the force) from the scene. They don’t even put him in jail overnight, which you would get for outstanding parking tickets. They don’t interview witnesses. They let the scene go cold. The first officer on the scene, who is responsible for creating the crime scene is one of the most notorious fixers on the force. And the only reason they even bring charges after more than a month, is because of national uproar.
Your neighbors loudly support the killer.
Your son died in clean khakis, designer sneakers and a hoodie because it was raining. They demonize him. They find old pictures of him, making faces, wearing a ‘gangster’ grill and they try to make him seem scary. They say that he shouldn’t have worn a hoodie and maybe he wouldn’t have looked suspicious. If you’re scary to some people its okay if you die.
He got suspended from school for smoking weed, a substance that America is rapidly legalizing, but in his case it just marks him as one of the ‘bad ones.’ You go to trial. It’s a joke. They tear one witness apart for her halting testimony, not realizing that English was not her first language. State law allows you extreme latitude to use your gun to defend yourself against any threat, but here the law does not protect your son, who had no lethal weapon, nor pursued anyone. There’s a Stand Your Ground Law, but in Florida, black people don’t have ground to stand on.
The killer gets off scot free.
The killer becomes a celebrity. He appears at gun shows where he is congratulated for gunning a teenager that he outweighed by a hundred pounds. The police give him his gun back. It’s the law after all. He goes on to terrorize his girlfriend and her family with his guns. He learned nothing from it all.
They make targets shaped like your son so white people can pretend they’re shooting him. You couldn’t stop the production of them if you tried. It’s a free country after all.
Elsewhere, Michael Dunn, a white, petulant, software developer fires ten shots into an SUV because he got into an argument with black teenagers over playing their music too loud. He kills 17 year old Jordan Davis with nine of those bullets. All of the teenagers were unarmed. The jury did not find Dunn guilty of murder on Davis. Not first, not second, not manslaughter. The charges he got convicted on were for the people he missed. Somehow he got convicted of attempted murder for the people he didn’t shoot, but got away with murder for the person he actually did kill.
Frankly, if you want to shoot a black person and get away with it, I’d head to the Sunshine State as soon as possible.
“He shouldn’t have worn a hoodie,” my father (the former Black Radical!) said.
Trayvon Martin stripped away everything else and exposed the ugliness in people that I didn’t want to see. Satire only exists when people are intelligent enough to understand the joke, when society has no perspective, then it simply becomes a form of autoeroticism.
I tried to work through it. But then I would see Trayvon Martin, lying on the ground, terrified, long-limbed and lanky like a faun, eyes wide open above the terrible rictus of his mouth.
I just couldn’t write.
Then Mike Brown got shot in Ferguson. I didn’t want to write about that either. I’ve been stopped by the police more times than I can count. I nearly got shot to death by police in front of my home with a basket of laundry. It was the second time police had nearly gunned me down at that point. But no one cares, because in America, my life isn’t worth anything.
Honestly, a fair-minded person knows what happened to Mike Brown with just the bare minimum of facts. For any police work, the first officer on the scene is the most important one, and most of his work is done in the first twenty four hours. Few witnesses were interviewed. Police confiscated cell phones, in case there was video footage on them. That’s all you need to know right there.
But something marvelous happened. At first, protestors were attacked by police, but no one cares if police harass minorities, just look at the Broken Windows policy in New York.
But then the media showed up. And the police unashamedly continued their knuckle dragging brutality.
They tear gassed children, threatened and arrested reporters with impunity, while simultaneously spouting Goebbels-level propaganda through various media. They attacked the crowd, claiming that residents had thrown Molotov cocktails, when embedded reporters saw only a peaceful protest. They tear gassed and detained their own Senator. They claimed that Mike Brown attacked the police officer and tried to take his weapon when there were no close range powder burns on his body and he was shot on the top of his head and inner arms – indicating a surrender gesture.
The entire country can see poorly-trained, armored, aggressive para-military troops that don’t care about the Constitution, or your rights, or who you are. They don’t see race, the only color they protect is blue. And they really don’t care if you film them or complain, because no one is going to do anything about it. In the end, the union will show up and fight any real discipline and that is how it will end.
And if those blurry videos with those shadowy figures pointing guns and screaming at you make you apprehensive about the people that are supposed to protect, if it makes you wonder where things went wrong, if it makes you feel like someone should do something before things get out of control – well now you know how I’ve felt my entire life.
I told you we were all black now.