Gun Show

While ducking under a Confederate Flag at the gun show this drill weekend, I bumped into a circle jerk town hall meeting led by a card carrying black NRA member from the hood.

“And you know, ain’t no criminals in here buying guns. It’s just people that wanna protect their families and hunt and shit,” he said.

“I know brother, I don’t know what the fuck is wrong with this president,” said a talking mullet.

As circle jerks do, the Astroglide was passed around to each of the participants and they took their turn stating–in slightly different derogatory terms–how the president is evil, wants the guns, all the guns all the time, and how hostile it is to demand that someone get a background check when buying a firearm. They made claims about how unpatriotic and “dumb” it was to require universal background checks.

I didn’t say anything. I didn’t mention the lack of patriotism in sporting the Confederate Flag. I didn’t ask whose car had the Swastika on it in the parking lot. I didn’t inquire about why said parking lot was prioritized for gun show goers instead of soldiers.

Sometimes I forget that there is a physical face to the enemy of every ideal I’ve ever held. It’s easy to declare particular ideologies dumb at a distance. I’ve completely dismissed many, but it’s easier to dismiss an argument from an office or your apartment, or a Facebook post than it is to confront the reality of an asinine belief in someone who shouldn’t really exist. I’ve frequently had conversations with people who say “Donald Trump supporters don’t really exist, no ones that racist, sexist, etc. and willing to admit it.” False. Plenty of those at work and in the army. But another supposedly non-existent character, I’ve been told, is the hood nigga NRA member.

For quite some time I couldn’t picture any of the dudes I grew up going to school with, playing ball with, listening to Nas with or even getting beat up by ever considering membership in the organization. Clearly I was wrong but I wasn’t a believer until I turned 21 and this was the first time I had seen one in person.

It was much less Bigfoot, more Loch Ness, with only the head exposed and the real magic of the scene–the cognitive dissonance with NRA connotations/supporters–hidden beneath all the nauseatingly phallic bro-ness. I was certainly not the first to spot the creature, but I wanted to take a picture anyways. Instead I decided to ask “does anyone know whose car has the Swastika on it out there?” But no one said anything.

 

Where Indeed.

Back when Yu Gi Oh cards and Final Fantasy 11 were life, Terrell and I took a short break from Ryan’s basement and jogged down to the basketball court a block away. Mayfair was the nice neighborhood then, where one could go to shovel snow in the winter because people there owned houses and would pay good money for weak minds and strong backs. Half a block into our run we came dangerously close to a white woman in her 20’s wearing a matching sweatsuit (this is before yoga pants were poppin). I hadn’t even noticed her (sans yoga pants), until Terrell started cracking up as we ran past her. She dove off the sidewalk with a ghastly expression on her face. The reaction was similar to when people see un-neutered male pitt bulls strolling around off leash.

“Haha, did you see her fucking face?” said Terrell.

She stared us down as we passed until we were a decent ways off, then she continued running. In the opposite direction. I laughed and Terrell and I made infinite jokes about what she must have been thinking about the two basement dwelling soft-core nerds who ran past her. Two ornery naggers assaulting her space in broad daylight. Certainly if she’d ever seen the news, there was an intractable belief that we were evil–violent rapists and “super predators.” This is way before America admitted to unarmed black kids being shot at more casually than a game of Duck Hunt, before Black Lives Matter, before the Charleston Church shooting (which was almost the 100th such shooting…) But that’s because, like Coates said, all of this is old to black people.

But I digress.

We were Black Men in Public Space after all, even though I hadn’t considered it at the time and that woman wasn’t my first or last victim. I had been largely optimistic, that is to say ignorant of more subtle racial tensions on a personal level until then because my life was surrounded primarily by brown faces and troubles of more immediate concern. My conversations about race up until then had simply been jokes or listening to white friends complain about how hard their lives were in spite of their being white (which still happens), but I never felt threatened by that. I never felt like having disagreements with friends–even about race matters–directly diminished my place in the world, plus I always thought they’d grow out of the constant need to be the societal centerpiece (like I said, optimistic). Clearly I was wrong, and often times their subconscious beliefs manifest themselves in infuriating ways. By that I mean our subconscious beliefs.

There have been numerous times growing up where I felt the need to apologize for black people. Without realization, I bought into the idea that everything black had to be exceptional or else. I never judged other races by this same standard but I had nothing but vitriol for other blacks whom I’d thought embarrassed me, or the race. Why must only blacks be judged by our most diabolical members?

I cared way too much about what white people thought. Sometimes I still do and I have to catch myself.

Years later, while helping me (I use that word loosely) move into my new apartment on Pennsylvania avenue, Terrell said something in the hallway that I later gave him shit for.

“Damn, this place is nice. Where all the white bitches at!?” he said.

Granted, it was a little too loud, and I can’t exactly defend it. The associations in his words were troubling; nice=white. Bitches=women. But they were not out of the ordinary, and he was clearly joking. Yet the disdain I felt for that little instance was completely out of proportion, which in retrospect, makes me feel a little nasty. What I should have done was introduce him to my new roommate, and left it at that.

 

 

On Gay or Potentially gay Black Children

After watching a Thug Notes review and analysis of Ender’s Game,my son leaned into my friend Ryan’s ear and whispered furtively, “you know what my favorite part was? It was when the boys were fighting in the shower naked.” Which of course, I thought was hilarious.

Not long after the event I made a slight joke about Jojo’s interests  with his mother when she posted something on social media. The result was disastrous. Black people came out in troves to assault the idea that I suggested even the slightest possibility of non-heteronormative sexuality in my black child. There was a lot of “He ain’t gay, YOU gay,” hurled around and I wasn’t sure whether I was back in high school nor was I sure if people thought I was implying something negative about my kid, which I clearly wasn’t. It was armageddon. The sky had literally fallen and O.J. was still innocent.

One of the angrier denizens was someone who was gay herself–a point which I tried and failed to make eloquently in a fit of righteous anger. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I think when Yana text messaged me saying to keep my opinions to myself is when I really fumed up. Her phone was apparently blowing up with calls about the issue. Yes, apparently it became a matter of national security. I tried and failed to appeal to Yana’s rational side, questioning why she’d allow such bigotry within her circle. One of whom was a close homosexual friend. Perhaps more importantly, one of the people who called Yana was her father. When she told me that, a few obvious things became clear, but much more complicated.

  1. I had clearly forgotten how much black people hate homosexuality. Especially old black folks. That shit is just super out of the question, no matter how liberal they might seem about other things–homosexuality, especially in a male family member, is not an option. One would think I’d have this in the front of my brain. The years of being tortured through childhood when everyone assumed I was gay and Josephine may as well have been my real name were never forgotten. Even back then, one of the biggest haters towards my supposed homosexuality was my aunt who, by anyone’s account was clearly gay and finally got around to saying so over 20 years later like it was news… After being such a slutty teenager, moving out of what we traditionally call the hood, and having two kids I hadn’t been gay bashed in quite some time and the only constant reminder has been every black dude I know on the DL. And to those I’ve encouraged to come out and have said “naw son,” I see your point. The presumed gay part of me kind of faded away when circumstances of school and work shifted towards my associating primarily with white people and suffering from John Henryism instead. But I remember now.
  2. Some old black people who hate away the gay or those i’d barter to call bigots in Yana’s circle care about my son like he was their own. His grandfather has taken him on fishing trips, those people have bought him plenty of things, babysat him and everything–especially when I couldn’t. Plenty of times when I’ve had no money or was in Iraq or weekends now when I have to work and can’t get the kids, those same people are there to support Jojo and his mom. So in one sense I feel like complete shit for even broaching the argument, but in another sense I’m supposed to have all these principles and shit that I don’t always live up to. Since in comparison to me, Yana does everything for our kid–because let’s not pretend that weekend dads have comparable child workloads–do I even have the right to launch a righteous protest for freedom of hypothetical future sexuality around Jojo? Even though clearly, supporting whatever he eventually chooses will be important.
  3. It’s likely that Jojo will be traumatized by something I either do or don’t do. Say or don’t say. But will he need counseling sessions because he got screwed by having me as a dad, or because he turned out to be gay and everyone who loved him decided to hate him?
  4. Does anyone talk about how much the hatred towards male homosexuality in the black community is inked to being anti-woman? The fact that all of the negative attributes associated with gay black men are simply the stereotypical traits associated with women, mostly synonyms of the word “soft?” I’m reminded of this every time I step near a basketball court today, when I’m transported back to the basketball courts of my youth, sitting and waiting for next game–everything was soft and gay. Everything.

While I do not immediately have the means to rectify all of these things, I can make the joke to friends that if Jojo turned out to be a gay teenager, he might actually like me more since I’d be one of the few people not bothered by it.