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The Trouble With Normalization

There is a word that continues to bubble up to the surface. We hear it everyday on the news and radio and in conversations and we see it in blogs: Normalization.

Usually, right in front of or behind this nebulous word is a reference to as of this Friday, President Donald Trump.

I feel numb, but this election reminded me that America is doing exactly what America does. How our politics play out locally and on the national level, is a direct reflection of who we are at the time. I don’t agree with Trump supporters, but we were arrogant in thinking this segment of America did not exist or that they weren’t among our family and friends. And I guess that’s what made this whole situation even more painful and stressful. There were and still are a lot of assumptions about who the Trump voter was, and the world got it wrong. There is a diversity of reasons why they made the decision they made, way more complicated than just things like racism, sexism, homophobia. Aspirations to be rich and successful are American as apple pie. The sales pitch that Donald Trump was self made was appealing.

Even within our own lives, in our local communities, we’ve looked at businesspeople as the most successful, and in control of their own destinies. They are powerful, they are visible and we secretly wish we were them. They get to say and do what they want, because who will fire them? They are aligned with people who have power and make things happen. They have the best of everything. We want what they have and their success by any means necessary is real. It’s tangible. It’s sitting in the bank making more money with interest. Clearly, these people are smarter than us, they’ve figured it out. That was one of the reasons, I heard. And if Warren Buffett or Bill Gates ran, it may be a reason why I’d think of voting for them too.

Hillary didn’t help. Hillary Clinton was fruit of a poisonous tree and while folks are already stupidly propping up Cory Booker to literally be the “Next Obama” which he’s not, Hillary suffered from the same problem.

She’s not Barack Obama. Hillary had baggage. Hillary played just as well as the boys, if not better, but America doesn’t like those types of women. We bristle against them. We resist. The qualities, shortcomings and vices we expect in male leaders, we reject and condemn in female leaders. She was qualified, but there was a trust issue. Which makes Trump’s election even more difficult to swallow, but isn’t surprising. Rich, white and male is the formula for a president. Go back to basics if you’re ever stumped.

Let’s not get it twisted. And let’s not get high on our own supply. It wasn’t until the modern presidents in my lifetime, where you see that maybe folks grew up poor or working class, but they still wound up lawyers or successful business people before careers in politics. The majority of our longstanding leaders in this country over the history of this country do not come from humble beginnings. They are groomed for this. They are tied to business, they are tied to old money and power. It is the American way, we are used to this. It’s embedded in the American psyche as the fail safe.

I don’t make light of the situation we’re in. It’s serious. I get what people are saying when they use the word “normalization.” And no, we shouldn’t normalize hate, we shouldn’t normalize people treating women with disrespect, or bullying people of different religions or taunt them because of the color of their skin. But we’ve long normalized a culture where prior to his run for president, Donald Trump was a guest character, playing himself on “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” we’ve normalized worrying about what the fuck every Kardiashian is doing every hour of the day. We’ve normalized being just like Donald Trump stunting online in comments sections and feeling good about ourselves when several people endorse us and agree with us and taking pleasure in destroying the credibility of anyone who dare challenge us.

Since the election, I haven’t said much, because I didn’t know what to say. I wondered what my words would have meant. I was caught up in being hurt that white kids I grew up with, who I thought liked me, grew up to say things online that made me want to throw things. Well, it’s not about them. All of the things that led them to see the world the way they see them weren’t going to be resolved by them just having positive interactions with me as a child or a teenager. It’s up to so many other things of their choosing to raise their consciousness, just as it is mine. To be offended and so deeply hurt was a very real thing for me, but it’s something I can’t control and it’s something I can’t police or force them to face, especially on Facebook.

The powerful moments have been among the bookclub I’m in, where the majority of participants are older, white liberal women, reading works of black authors. They ask tough questions, and I answer honestly. There are tears sometimes, and frustration however, there is no attack. There are moments where they say, “I just didn’t know.” And they realize just how separate their worlds have been from mine and it hurts everyone. It’s emotionally taxing.

We can be fickle, with the exception of 9/11, we can forget often in the name of moving forward. We don’t study and we bank on sliding in at the eleventh hour being graded on the curve and achieving success. Big success. We take things for granted. We take shorts. When we only turn out in large numbers to vote for president and expect the changes to come from he or she alone, we’ve taken the short cut. When we don’t know who our local legislators are, making the rules or changing the rules under our noses, we’ve taken the short cut with the expectation to win big.

America is by nature reactive. If England didn’t start feeling themselves, taking liberties and taking taxes while folks were out here trying to make it happen, if early Americans were simply comfortable and good with the status quo, we’d still be hailing the queen. It takes drastic shit for Americans to make drastic change.

This time drastic has arrived via Twitter and the ballot box and painted the town in orange.
Don’t get me wrong, I love America. I love the things we get right. I love how far we’ve come, but I hate that as a nation, we are the embodiment of the old black mother’s warning “a hard head makes a soft behind.”

As a nation, we are only 241 years old and in that time, we’ve managed to become a world power. We lead and the world listens, but in the grand scheme of the timeline of humanity, as a nation in terms of age and experience, we are also teenagers. Optimistic, determined, contrary, difficult, fickle and moody. One day we’re hip hop, one day we’re goth. That’s the only way I can logically look at the bigger picture and see how we’ve made the change from President Barack Obama, who represents pragmatic intellectuals, carefully choosing words and actions, to the complete opposite in Donald Trump. Self-centered, rich and reported to give speeches at less than a sixth grade level.
But here we are. And here comes that word. Normalization. Over and over, we hear people saying, we shouldn’t normalize Donald Trump or his ilk. But we already have. His election alone normalized him. Our rejection of facts has been normalized. Ugliness was pervasive throughout the entire election from the individual party primaries onward. Ugliness was normalized.

Even prior to the election, when Sandy Hook and all of the other acts of mass violence before and after it wasn’t enough to cause immediate, sweeping gun reform, we normalized apathy. We normalized having semi automatic weapons for hunting taking the second amendment literally, when at that time those types of weapons didn’t exist.

We normalized disrespect across parties when Representative Joe Wilson stood up during President Barack Obama’s State of the Union and yelled, “You lie.” And when republican leadership said day one they will do everything they can to block President Obama’s policies. And they kept their word, even when it was legislation they liked. We normalized police brutality when we kept watching black and brown men, women and children die at the hands of police when we actually argued with each other on Facebook that demanding reform for how police respond to daily, everyday interactions, was in fact anti-police.

All of the behavior we’re seeing that we are so outraged by, we’ve already implicitly accepted it. But like the kids who don’t study, but still expect an A, we are incredulous by all that we are witnessing.
I’m glad that people are marching, but what will we do when the marches are over? I’m glad that people are having conversations, but what will we do when the conversations are done?
America is still a place where the impossible happens everyday and where people united and unrelenting will find a way to win. Good finds a way. That is the true balance. However, as America continues to age and grow out of whatever phase we’re currently in, my prayer is we grow into our potential and keep growing. I hope we will mature to the point where our biggest goal will be simply the maintenance of democracy that is decent, fair and just– not having to keep rebuilding after we tear it apart and fight over who made the mess. It was us. It has always been us.

Dave Chappelle, Please Return to Calm America Down

David Chappelle DVD cover/Comedy Central

I’m so weary.

I’m so upset.

I’m so angry.

The whole Trayvon Martin situation and its ridiculous aftermath has got my pressure up, my sugar up, every thing is just up and tense.

There is so much ignorance spreading, and what kills me the most is people being called out for spouting racist garbage on the internet and television are trying to back pedal and call it everything else than what it truly is.

As hateful as they were, previous generations were honest, out and didn’t try to clean up what they said.  Angry white people just said plain and simple they don’t like black people. They don’t want to know em, they don’t want to be friends with em, they don’t want to worship with em, they are obviously less than human in their opinion.

Don’t get it twisted. apparently people still feel the same way and in this new day where a biracial man is president; under the guise of free speech, all of this direct/indirect talk of whether someone looks suspicious and probably deserves to be stopped, detained and killed and just happens to be black and male, is suggested and accepted. It’s also accepted to throw into the mix whether or not a dead kid was or wasn’t a stellar student who may or may not have engaged in stupid teen behavior deserves to be dead or shouldn’t be around a gated community anyway.

Then people can plead ignorance later and say they didn’t think it was racist, or what they said was taken out of context.

Black people and most people with a heart are particularly peeved because the man who shot and killed the child has not been arrested even a month later. Period.

People are angry because an unarmed child was profiled and killed and then on top of that, the laws we are supposed to abide by and believe will protect us all equally were supposed to work. It didn’t. People are most incensed by this.

Black folks in America have sadly become accustomed to everyday injustices, accustomed to violence especially involving black children– black males in particular, but this situation was a powder keg. This situation was just. Too much. It was just too blatant.

I wish Dave Chappelle would create a skit to diffuse this shit, because right now, everyone is mad. There are people who are afraid of the coloring and multiculturalization of the world which is well underway and has been happening and they don’t know how to react to it.

The reaction of the police, the Sanford city officials, fellow Americans who agree George Zimmerman was still standing his ground after 911 recordings show he was told not to follow the boy and he did anyway prove the disconnect in the thinking of some of our U.S. citizens when it comes to just even interacting with black people.

People are mad that some people are saying, “wait until more facts come out,” when the facts were there at the crime scene all along. People are mad the boy’s body lay in the morgue for three days as a John Doe, parents not notified (he had a cell phone) and was tested for drugs while the shooter was not tested.

People are mad about a sketchy history of the shooter that went ignored as he is allowed to still be free.  The facts some of these folks are really waiting on are the “facts” floating around about how Trayvon probably was a stereotype implying that his death probably did society a favor.

Two sides to every story. It reminds me of a great episode on a “Different World” where characters Dwayne and Ron were trying to explain a fight they got into with white guys from a rival school who they caught spray painting the words “Ni…” on Ron’s car.

Both groups tell their story, and their perceptions of one another were quite telling as their stories were completely different and littered with stereotypes.

How it ends. I’m a big fan of the cop in the end.

I am afraid for every black man I know.

This must be what it felt like during slavery when at any moment black men were separated from their families, and killed for defiance, killed for just wanting to be free men and nothing more.

This must be what it felt like for mothers and wives and daughters to get news their loved ones were lynched on the way home one evening.

This must be what it felt like for Coretta and Betty and Myrlie when they got the call about Martin, Malcolm and Medgar (they were considered suspicious too by even the FBI, they were always seen wearing suits and ties, no hoodies.).

I want to cry. I think black men are beautiful. When I think of black men I think of my amazing dad, grandfathers, uncles, cousins, close friends. They are the kindest, most gentle wonderful people.

However there are times I have been fearful of ones I didn’t know, walking down the street, or hanging out or being too loud or gathered in large numbers in a parking lot.

I would hate myself for fearing them once I was safely in my car or home, but there was a part of me– the street smart part of me that says you have to trust your instincts and keep it moving because you don’t know what anyone’s motives are. It is a fact black folk in America are more likely to be killed by other black folk. It’s a sad reality. Does this have anything to do with Trayvon?

Yes and no.

Not in terms of the right and wrong of what happened to him, but this statistic and others (including the ridiculous disparities in black males in the U.S. prison system, unemployment) contribute to the fears that compel the George Zimmerman’s of the world to act as he did.

What curious timing of such an event in the history of our nation.

The solution is to not tell our sons stop wearing hoodies. The solution is to not write blogs about how you thought all of the heroic characters in the hunger games should have been “innocent blonde haired blue-eyed” people. The solution isn’t to draw racist cartoons. The solution isn’t to put out a hit on George Zimmerman.

The solution is education, mentorship. The solution lies in reuniting families and instilling values in boys and girls. The solution is responsibility for one’s self, one’s family, one’s greater community and teaching the values of responsibility. Teachers alone can’t do it. Young parents can’t do it, and tired grandparents trying to hold up the slack are struggling to do it.

There is so much wrong. There is misunderstanding, a long-standing history of inequality and injustice and ugliness and economics and there are people of all colors who understand this and empathize and there are some folks who just don’t.

Right now we have our eyes on Trayvon, but what is making this situation so insane is what’s not being said and the fact that this one situation came out of no where and put all of America and our dirty struggle with race on trial.

The world is questioning our laws, our administration of justice for all citizens, stereotypes, fear of black men (including the president).

The rage and disappointment that black Americans have had with the justice system since forever and the confusion and frustration some non-black Americans are having with the current system and where it is heading has been a volitle mixture brewing and stewing.

The Trayvon Martin situation has brought to light the ugly truth that the United States still has a very long way to go. I think all of us to a certain extent drank the kool aid that we became a more evolved society because we voted for a biracial president in large numbers. It was a step, but it didn’t heal all of the pains.

So Trayvon’s murder, the aftermath, the handling of the situation, the ugliness of it all made us look at, what as a nation we have been so desperately trying to show the world we’ve finally defeated, and we failed. We’ve been failing.

The ignorance and hate right now is so loud. We all have to blot it out. Not do anything stupid and further damage our society and hope this is resolved in a fair and just manner.

We have to heal our black men and there’s so many complicated layers to this thing that I will never be able to articulate in one or a million posts. I’m just hurt right now.

I haven’t seen this much blatant racial madness post civil rights since the LA Riots and the O. J. trial.

We are in curious times. Trayvon Martin is not the first and he will most certainly not be the last. We have to hold those in charge and those who are supposed to protect the law accountable. We have the power to vote in Sheriff’s and District Attorneys and as I’ve said over and over, just caring about the presidential election every four years is not enough. You have to know who is running your city,  county, state and your schools and inform yourself about the candidates and vote as best you can for the people who care about the greater good.

To start, I propose that the U.S. government pay Dave Chappelle to put on a three-hour special to be broadcast on every channel, prime time to calm everyone down.

I don’t make light of this situation, but no one can deny through his humor, he opened doors in terms of making people talk openly, with their guards down about race than any organization. I’m sorry. That’s real.

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