The Casualties of Masculinity

Of all the things that my masculinity has forced me to suppress I can never get used to losing things. I can’t normalize losing relationships, losing time, and losing what’s pure. I have spent the better part of my adulthood nurturing a little bird and now it’s ready to fly away. It seems too soon but I suppose I would have never been ready. And now that this bird has discovered her own wings I must watch her flutter with great anxiety, trying to motivate her to go higher only with my words. And it all makes me feel very helpless.

I don’t go to Rolling Hills Cemetery anymore. I try not to look at it from the freeway either. There is too much death in that place. There is too much loss for me. If I were to go there and give everyone their due respect then I wouldn’t have enough for me. Some died violently, some of natural causes surrounded by the rest of the family on their death bed but not by me. I wasn’t there. I can’t take the loss of precious things, I never could.

Then there are the ones that float around me like ghosts, clearly out of their minds. They used to be sharp. They used to be hilarious in the cap session and now teenagers point at them and laugh. Indeed, if they could see what they are now when they were 16 then they would laugh too. Some of them speak to me while others don’t. But we used to talk for hours. We used to get turned down by beautiful girls together and fail the same classes and then talk about how it was all a conspiracy. And now, somehow, I am evil. My spirit has been tainted and I no longer know their language. I no longer see what they can see. I’m not down anymore. Not only am I gone but I have to stay gone. We will never be on the same level again. They live on the streets, oblivious to all judgement and free from all of the rules that confine me. When I try to say more than hello to them it sounds fake. For there is nothing to talk about. There are no more connections and I know that but I am a drug addict strung out on nostalgia.

I remember being hurt as a young boy and not having anyone to talk to about it because in my subconscious mind I felt like a man should never allow himself to be hurt and though I wasn’t a man yet I wanted to be one so badly. And then I remember seeing him at school and him listening, like really listening with his eyes and his arms crossed and he—having a far superior physique than mine, though we debated about it all the time—looking down on me with empathy and telling me not to trip and that he had been hurt in the same way. This made me feel like a man. My problems all of a sudden seemed worthy and my emotions had been validated. Then the conversation transitioned into far less pressing topics like an episode of Martin, or a cute girl, or football practice. I never said thank you. I could always come to him and he would never make me feel weak. I never thanked him for it though. Now I lost him. He speaks to himself but he won’t speak to me. Sometimes I try to break into his world with a smile or a question and try to disregard his condition but he never lets me in. Then I stay taking large doses of nostalgia like so many Xanax and like so much lean in my cup, I always drink too much. When I’m high I see that kid who I lost. He was so hopeful and pure. So talented, loving, and incapable of hurting anyone. And then I realize that the day that I lost him was the day that I lost myself. I will never be pure again.

-YB

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Notes on the Gentrification of Oakland

 

It’s strange to me that it’s now considered cool to live in my hometown of Oakland, CA. When I was growing up it was just dangerous. There were very few young “hip” people who were brave enough to move into an area that was known as one of the most notorious ghettos in the state of California. Even the people who lived there didn’t want to live there. A small two-bedroom house on the Eastside of town was the last place my mother wanted to raise her three children but what else could she do? Housing discrimination was a lot more blatant in the late 1980’s. Meaning no realtor was going to show her a property in Napa or Piedmont.

So we ended up moving to a street that was relatively quiet however trouble was never far away. On every major thoroughfare around our home there was drug dealing and wanton violence. I was only allowed to ride my bike down half of our block. My sister and I often times watched TV on the floor because we heard gunshots outside and didn’t want to get hit by a stray bullet. I witnessed so many crimes against humanity just trying to get from the bus stop to my house that I’m still unable to completely process it. Somewhere along the way Oakland has both traumatized me and desensitized me but now all of a sudden it’s the place to be for young people who want to be involved in some kind of cultural adventure.

I guess my main issue with those hoards of upper-middle class bred white folks who have come to gentrify certain sections of my city is that everything I experienced in Oakland has been real—real death, real poverty, real loss—while what they want to experience seems very superficial. To live in a brand new town home that was erected in a space that used to be a housing project while telling your friends that you stay in the ghetto is tantamount to a person going on a Safari and saying that they braved the harsh jungles of Africa. I feel like some of these people are trying to capitalize off of my pain and it makes me nauseous. There is way too much dried blood on the streets of this town for people to act like it’s charming. I don’t think they’ll ever understand.

-YB

 

Her Fairytale

March 19, 12

At this moment I find myself thinking about that point in life where fantasy and truth intersect. I know a woman who had a child by a man who was murdered over 10-years-ago. I knew both of them and I knew the dynamics of their relationship very well. I can honestly say that she was in love but I’m not sure that he loved her back. As a matter of fact if he were alive today I seriously doubt that they would even be on speaking terms.

But he did die. He was gunned down shortly after his son was born and his ex-girlfriend will never move on. It’s a tragic situation for multiple reasons. She has his name and the image of his face tattooed on her chest. Her son looks a lot like his slain father, and she keeps his memory alive via social media.

All of this brought me to the conclusion that one good thing about his unfortunate demise is that the young lady gets a chance to know a love that she probably never would have achieved if her man was still breathing. She gets to continue the relationship in her mind and design her own wedding cake. She gets to sleep with him every night and she only speaks positively of him. It’s kind of like a very hood fairytale and I suppose all girls want to have a fairytale love life, or at least that’s what I’ve been told.

She’s got his face permanently displayed on her bosom, and she’s got his child, so whose to say that she isn’t living happily ever after?

-YB

Lost in the Details: Notes on the Murder of Trayvon Martin

March 15, 12

It’s amazing how technical some folks get about the law when a young black man is murdered by a white police officer. What is even more amazing is the asinine things that people say when a fake cop, whom for whatever reason is allowed to carry a real gun, kills a young black man.

Let’s use the most recent case of George “The Jackass” Zimmerman as an example. The Jackass was a rogue volunteer captain of a Florida neighborhood watch group before he decided to use deadly force on 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Apparently this wasn’t your average neighborhood watch group that The Jackass was heading. It was not by any means an organization that encouraged community members to sit on their porches and document suspicious behavior, and it for damn sure wasn’t about planning neighborhood movie nights.

George The Jackass decided to follow Trayvon because he looked “suspicious” while he walked down the street with a bag of Skittles to take back to his little brother. Now I’m not sure why this is, but for law enforcement officers (and wannabes) the word suspicious is synonymous with black. I suppose it’s the American way.

At any rate The Jackass decided to confront Trayvon who was visiting his dad for NBA All-Star Weekend even though when he radioed it in to the real cops they told him to stand down. I guess he just couldn’t resist the opportunity to put a young black man in his place—which from a historical perspective, most white men can’t.

From that point on the details are sketchy as of right now. But we do know that The Jackass was bleeding from his nose and the back of his head. And we do know that Trayvon was killed by a single bullet wound to the chest. Mr. Jackass has not been charged with any crime because…well he’s white.

People really trip me out in these kinds of situations. I’ve seen the extremely ambiguous self-defense laws in Florida cited several times in this non-case. I’ve also watched the news media casually bring up the fact that a few homes in that Florida neighborhood had apparently been burglarized in the months leading up to the shooting. I even saw one journalist report that Zimm—uhhh I mean The Jackass was very well liked in the community.

Oh my god. So what!

An unarmed high school students was shot to death by a man who is supposed to be making sure elderly women aren’t mugged on their way back home from the grocery store. He’s supposed to be armed with binoculars, and a walky-talky, OK pepper spray at best. So why the hell is he toting a damn 9mm pistol like he’s in 50 Cents entourage? It’s the most ridiculous thing imaginable.

It’s just as bad as when Oscar Grant was shot in the back and killed by a BART cop.  BART is routinely one of, if not thee, safest rapid transit system in the country. So why does a BART cop like Johannes Mehserle need a gun in the first place? The main difference between that incident and this one was the Oscar Grant murder was caught on videotape, but unfortunately it didn’t matter. People watched the video of a handcuffed man on the ground being shot and scratched their heads and said; “Well he does seem to be resisting a little bit. I mean look at him squirm. He’s being belligerent. And on top of that it was New Year’s Eve. I’m sure those cops were having a long day.”

It was this kind of not so subtly racist rhetoric that landed Mehserle a sentence of less than one year for killing an unarmed man in front of dozens of people. And it is this kind of thought that justifies The Jackass not being brought to justice after murdering an unarmed teenager carrying a bag of Skittles.

The general reaction to the tragedies of Oscar Grant and Trayvon Martin prove that American racism has come a very long way since Jim Crow and the K.K.K.  Just like medicine and technology racism has advanced. It is no longer out in the open like the word “nigger” but rather it is hidden in details like the word “suspicious.” Evil folks don’t hide behind sheets and burn crosses anymore. In 2012 they make up titles and get permits to carry guns so they can continue to kill with impunity and be supported by a society that will never admit that they are enabling these racist psychopaths.

Racism is in the details these days. It’s in the questions that people have and the doubt that is cast over whether or not it’s actually wrong for an unarmed black man to be murdered by a white authority figure.

Because we all know Trayvon instigated the situation and why was he wearing that “suspicious” looking hoody. And as for Oscar Grant, he had drugs in his system and he had gotten into a fight earlier that night. I mean I’m not racist but I just don’t know. It seems a little suspicious to me.

Meanwhile Oscar Grants daughter Tatiana will never really know her father and Trayvon Martin’s parents will never hear their son’s voice again.

Black men continue to be gunned down like animals while we scratch our heads and ponder about silly little details.

-YB