Tag Archives: blacks

Skip Gates Busted- At Home While Black?

Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates was busted last week in the comfort of his own home. As far as anyone can tell, the reason was because he wasn’t happy at being confronted by police after a neighbor reported a break-in.

skip gates mugshot

The break-in was Skip Gates trying to enter his own home.

skip.gates

Even more interesting, Gates was arrested for “loud and tumultuous behavior in a public space”.

Okay. This happened in Cambridge, which last I checked was in the Boston area. If cops arrested every college kid who got “loud and tumultuous in a public space”, how many kids would be in jail?

Skip Gates was mad because he felt he was being profiled.

At issue here, beyond whether he identified himself to police (there are reports he did, and reports he didn’t), is the maddening sense that no matter how far you get in life, to some people you’re just another black m an. That, and whether expressing that emotion to a cop who at some point must have known he made a mistake constitutes a crime. There will be people, both black and white, who will argue that this incident is being blown out of proportion. Some will even bring up Barack Obama as proof Skip Gates is simply a malcontent with no beef here.

To all those who think there is no consequence to being black in America, I give you the case of Shem Walker.

This Brooklyn Army veteran was shot and killed by an undercover cop on July 11th. His crime? He confronted the cop, who was posing as a drug dealer, on the stoop of his mother’s house.

shem walker

Shem Walker had experienced problems before with people dealing on his mother’s stoop. He paid for his concern with his life. No one is alleging overt racism. The cop who killed him was also black. Yet for all the news about Skip Gates, Shem Walker generates no national headlines.

Some may make the case there’s no link between the two. Those of us who are black and have made it to a certain age know better. Law enforcement makes certain assumptions about black men. Not all do, but enough do that it’s a problem for those who live their lives within the law.  It may not be as pronounced as the days when Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Les Payne was stopped by cops a black from his Long Island home and told there’s no way he could actually live there.

But then, to Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, it’s as if very little has changed. To the family of Shem Walker, you can change very little to nothing.

So you tell me. Was Henry Louis Gates racially profiled?

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Can a 10-year-old Beat Down the "N" Word?

Being a man of a certain age, I have a long history with the “N” word. I have heard it used in every way imaginable. That would be as a derogatory, ugly reference to my race (by wither black or white people), as a term of endearment (mostly but not exclusively by black people), and as a throwaway utterance (I didn’t mean nothin’ by it).

It’s always made me wince, no matter what the context, because I know its history.

That means no matter how rappers tried to rationalize their use of the “N” word, it rang hollow for me. Even gifted hip hop artists seem to just throw it into their lyrics as a means of gaining “street credibility”.

Now, all this having been said, it seems to me that use of the “N” word is starting to decline, at least among black people. Maybe it’s the election of President Barack Obama, or maybe linguistic fashion is changing, but I don’t hear it quite as much in ordinary conversation among young black people.

Some might argue that, as a black man of a certain age, I just don’t hear as much conversation among young black folks as I used to?

It’s possible that my perception is wrong, and that groups like Ban the “N” Word have had no impact at all.

NWord-tshirt

However, a friend sent me one of those Funspace videos on Facebook the other day. Normally, I play about 10 seconds of it and then move on, but this one was different. It’s really only after the first 10 seconds that it gets interesting.

It’s a young man named Johnathan McCoy, winner of an oratorical contest at Baltimore’s Empowerment Temple, and his words about moving the “N” word from the vocabulary of black America might just have an impact.

So, instead of continuing with this rant, I give you  10-year-old Johnathan McCoy, whose voice hasn’t even changed yet, dispensing wisdom that should command all our attention.

Many thanks to my old friend Curtis Waller for sending this to me on Facebook.

But bottom line, you tell me. Can the words of this child make people think before they use the “N” word?

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