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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

THE GENEROSITY OF BLACK PEOPLE

Like most people, my heart almost broke into when I saw the body of a little boy that had washed up on a beach in Turkey after his Syrian mother and father took him out in a tiny boat on the ocean trying to escape to someplace where they could create a life.  His mother make it either. His father told the story of them having no choice but to take their chances with a mule, a man that promised to take them to safety, but jumped off the boat when the water became to rough.

You have to understand. Nobody puts their children in a boat unless they are safer in the water than they are on land


This was probably one of the stories that made the Syrian refugee crisis real for many leaders of many countries. Suddenly there were leaders of countries stepping up to say how many thousands they would take in. There were anti-immigration debates and disturbances in a few countries. 

Here in the U.S. it was just the talk that got ugly over Syrian Refugees. And I was proud to see President Obama and various other black people talk about our obligation to take in those who need help. 

Then people started justifying the acceptance of refugees based on the United States would benefit eventually,  and I tried to turn away. But I wasn't fast enought. People trotted out Steve Jobs, the deceased creator of Apple Brand products, and my heart took a hard-hearted turn.

And I know perfectly damn well I wasn't the only person of color to feel this turning take place inside.

Many of us know that these pale Syrians will be here half a generation before they are accepted into whiteness, so long as they don't clump together in communities.

And that seems to be Milana Vayntrub's story.

I read about how unwelcome Milana Vayntrub,  famous due to her stint in AT&T commercials, felt when she first came to this country. I read about how moved she was by the Syrian's plight, and I understood her empathy. But I also understood something else. As I looked at the photographs of her as a model and saw how young she is, I understood that her feeling of acceptance probably moved forward at an equal pace along side her acceptance into white privilege --- just like Steve Jobs, whose company, Apple, has earned a solid reputation for fighting diversity. 


This knowledge of ancient and recent history leaves my head and heart, both of them, split in two.

Yes, I want to save everybody too. Yes, I know helping the Syrian refugees is the right thing to do. Yes, I know my prayers will be answered with "Do The Right Thing Anyway."  Yes, I intellectually understand Milana Vayntrub's identifying with the Syrian refugees because she was once a refugee from Russia. But part of me still wants to make the Syrian Refugees safe then ship them somewhere else to build a life.

The logical part of me just doesn't see the need to import oppressors. 


The pale folk notoriously selective about reading their own history with black and brown this will think I'm making assumptions. The black and brown folk that do know their own history will look back over time and understand that this has happened to us over and over again for hundreds of years

I don't know what to do other than provide the support I can to refugees who are running for their lives and then hope for the best.

I mean, how can I demand reciprocation? 

Then again, maybe I should demand reciprocation.

I suppose I could.

Maybe I could write to, not the Syrian refugees but to a refugee that's made it. I could write to Milana Vayntrub  and say, "Yeah I'll support your cause if you support the black people in inner-cities being treated like unwanted refugees inside their own country, shot at will by policeman that look like you. I'll support your cause if you stand up for #BlackLivesMatter and #SayHerName." 


Everybody doesn't have to be focus on every cause, right? We'd be so scattered if we all focused on every cause equally. We can pick and choose. Still, maybe some causes come along and demand everyone's attention like the Syrian Refugee Crisis has recently and the Black Lives Matter campaign should have a while ago.

Maybe I found my answer.

I have the right to pick and choose which causes mean most to me. Maybe I can decide that Black Lives Matter means more to me. Maybe I can decide that #SayHerName means even more than #BlackLivesMatter too if  #SayHerName cannot be absorbed back into #BlackLivesMatter.  (It makes me mad that so many black people do not know Gynnya McMillen's name, that they don't care about her story as much as they did Tamir Rice's. She was a child that didn't deserve to die either.) 


Everybody chooses the causes closest to their hearts

Black women can choose too.

I can choose

It is right for me to choose. 


I've been taught to put others before self, and as a woman to put a lot of others before me and mine. I want to stop doing that. I want to put black women first. And I want that to be my habit. I want putting black women first to be so ingrained a habit that I have to force myself to remember others.

I will learn to choose us. In that choosing me and mine I can say, 'Yeah I'll support your cause if you show me you will reciprocate.' I don't expect the Syrian Refugees to reciprocate now. But I  do expect the Vayntrubs to reciprocate now because she, and people like her, owe us. 


If people were requesting money for the poor refugees coming here with nothing got anywhere near a black church, I know they walked away with something.

Jimmy Carter once put together a list of states and cities and counties in the United States that donate the highest percentage of their income to the poor. Do you know where the most generous people lived? They lived in the poorest and blackest cities in this nation.

I know the pale and the smattering of dark refugees allowed in took black donations and survived on them during their earliest days in this country. And I, for one, expect them reciprocate a hell of a lot better than Steve Jobs did.

P.S. Please do not come at me with how much Jobs donated here and there. I care about that about as much as I do Bill Cosby donations. Jobs generosity over here or over there don't decrease his company's support of racial stratification (at the very least) Bill Cosby's donations don't remove the facts of his admitted behavior. We know that folks like Cosby and Jobs take away with two hands under the table while giving back with one hand on top the table,  

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