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Diva's World
My World. My Thoughts. Let's Discuss.
Being Black in Philadelphia (and these United States)…

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Welcome to the Colored Section...

We are a nation of immigrants…

And “illegal” citizens, as if by virtue of being born in another country and coming into America to seek opportunity makes you some kind of human contraband…

and slaves…

and descendants of slaves…

It has not been easy for us people of color; the “illegals”, the slaves and slave descendants. See, if by the virtue of foreign birth the “illegals” are human contraband, then by virtue of our birth, we slave descendants are even lower on the totem pole used to measure the value of a being’s existence.

A person of any descent has always been able to enter the plot of land we now call the United Sates of America. In fact, there were entire NATIONS of people of color living on, working and loving this land before White people of European descent arrived. The problem came when the new residents decided it was their right to kill and destroy these people and take their land from them. But that was only the beginning…

The new residents, who had now become pillagers and murderers instead, decided that just destroying the people who were already living here wasn’t enough and decided to go to another continent and buy and/or steal other human beings of color to use for cheap labor as they built up their new plot of land. The original sellers of these people were their own countrymen and that’s a whole ‘nother blog post, but adds an element to the conversation of race within the Black community that needs to be discussed as well… later.

Once the pillagers had their cargo, they treated the other human beings as just such, most of them remorseless for their actions. The treatment of these Black people was that of cattle to be used for back-breaking labor and whores to be abused. It was beyond description. A HOLOCAUST the likes of which this world has NEVER seen. No. Not even World War II. The brutal treatment did not end when slavery ended but simply changed its form, as the serpent in the garden wraps around the tree of life. It subjugated itself and festered just beneath the surface. It was incubated in the laws meant to keep people of color from being able to vote, from becoming educated, from being HUMAN. It was nurtured in the womb of Lady Liberty, and the effects of it can not easily be understood by those who did not feel the sting of a whip, the shame of being called nigger or being beaten and lynched by a White person for nothing more than being in a public space.

I recall the first time a white person called me a nigger. Wanna know something sick? I was maybe about 8 or 9 years old at the time and it was a student in school who called me that name. My friends and I wanted to play kick ball in the school yard. We ALWAYS played our games on this particular square, but this day a group of older white girls, maybe in 8th or 9th grade, were playing. We asked them if we could have the square and they immediately became indignant. At first, we could have chalked it up to us being the young kids, our school was K-12. But that changed quickly, when we asked if we could join their game. Suddenly, they were enraged! We weren’t at all punks so we got loud as well and now our crews were all in each others face, yelling… the next thing we knew, we heard the word nigger being yelled and it was like lightening struck. We were in shock, but we weren’t having it. Now we’re yelling epithets back and forth and ready to fight each other. Punches were in fact thrown. Not only was it humiliating, but as my fists were raining down on whomever I was hitting, I just remember wanting to hit her until I BEAT the racist out of her. AT 8 OR 9 YEARS OLD. How devastating to a child’s psyche do you think that is?

Now imagine it happening to probably 3 in 4 children of color all over the country. Ummmmmm… it happens to our PRESIDENT, for crying out loud! And with all that, I realize my mother graduated high school in 1965. The Voting Rights Act was passed on August 6, 1965. My mother’s birthday was only a few weeks later. She got the right to vote 2 months after graduation. I cannot imagine that feeling. If only she was alive, I could ask her… it always grabs my heart that she never got to see us elect the first Black President. She would have only been in her 60’s now… i digress…

NINETEEN. SIXTY. FIVE. This year marks 48 years since that right was granted to us. Being granted that right took 200 years in America… are we trying to pretend we’re so naive to believe that it has disappeared in 48 years? You cannot seriously expect me to believe you when you say that. If you do, you don’t know me and that’s OK. You will…

The last few weeks have seen some blatantly obvious stories of racism still being ugly and real in this country. I often wax poetic and ranty about abhorring the word “post-racial” because it’s the biggest trick the devil ever played… convincing you racism no longer exists. From former LAPD officer Christopher Dorner‘s epic manfesto charging the LAPD with racism within it’s ranks and toward citizens, his murder spree and final demise in a fiery cabin in Big Bear, to the Justice Department deciding on February 11, 2013 not to charge three Denver police officers for brutally beating Alex Landau and calling him a nigger after he asked the officers for a warrant to search his car, which he was within his rights to do, to Tanya McDowell, a Black woman serving 12 years in prison for “stealing” a better education for her son; this has become a boiling pot of racial tension, the likes of which have not been so close to the surface since… well… 48 years ago.

As I said earlier, the election of President Barack Obama brought out the vitriol that many were keeping in check by decrying that such a thing as a Black Commander in Chief was even possible. But no. It happened. TWICE. Sorry, crazy racists in rural towns, he’s YOUR President too… you gotta respect it, even if you don’t like it. Hey, we sucked up GWB for 8 whole entire years and I think I even lost BRAIN CELLS watching his State of the Union Addresses… sheesh.

And now that brings me to date. Star date March 8, 2013. And here in my own city of Philadelphia we have the now infamous Philly Mag article, Being White in Philly and people’s pantaloons are all bunched in their taints. I say chill, everyone. At least for a moment.

I read the article and found it to be great. I got the point; here in Philly, we live a divided life. I work in an office building in Center City and have done so in various offices since I graduated high school. I have often heard from people, “Oh… you work in the city, with the White people. The people with money…”

Yes. I do… And it dawns on me that there are clearly many more White people living in, working and loving Center City than Black people and yet, in the impoverished neighborhoods the Black people are overflowing. Living in neighborhoods so rundown, they are even dubbed The Badlands… how can that be good for a child to grow up living in a place that’s basically referred to as a barren, jungle wasteland?

But that’s just it, these neighborhoods are exactly how they see them because institutionalized poverty has kept them that way. How can a person be expected to maintain their home if they are denied having enough money to provide for basic needs? You say, get a JOB! How, if you have been systematically denied a viable education? PULL YOURSELF UP BY YOUR BOOTSTRAPS! That can be really hard if your family is to poor to afford boots…

Just this week, the School District of Philadelphia decided to close TWENTY. THREE. SCHOOLS. Guess what areas of the city these schools were closed in? Don’t worry, I’ll wait…

And the article in Philly Mag addressed that when they discussed how a White mother in “Fairmount” (which USED to be the ‘hood) decided to send her child to Bache-Martin school; a school where, coincidentally, I used to work.

I think the issue people are taking is just what was addressed in the article; if we aren’t having a dialogue, we are just keeping our own narrow views of each other. I admit, I have my personal stereotype folks in my head. I spent my first 9 years in public school with white kids who identified themselves as “guidoe” or gweeds. The excessive amounts of hair gel, the heavy make-up and accents… in fact, it was a group of “gweed girls” that called us niggers in the school yard all those years ago… but that’s just it, if our families had lived on the same side of 63rd street, would we have had that kind of confrontation? And even if we did, if we had used that moment to find a way to discuss it, even in kid terms, would we have really made any kind of difference?

I have heard the “some of my best friends are Black!’ and “…but… my BOYFRIEND/HUSBAND/JUMPOFF is Black!” excuses for many a year… 33 of them in fact. I used to hear my Grammaw and my Mum try to talk in code around me when I was 3 and 4 calling White people “W’s” and Black people “B’s”… When I got to be about 6, I thought it was insane they thought I didn’t get it and they were still doing it… but it taught me a lot… and as I said, i have my own stereotypes in my head as so many of us do.

The issue to me isn’t that we have them, because that’s actually logical. The problem I have is that the dialogue doesn’t seem to be able to be had RATIONALLY, and that people can’t seem to open themselves enough to BEGIN the healing that was SUPPOSED to be STARTED 48 years ago.

So here goes:

Dear Vanilla Homies: SOME MOST of your ancestors were total dicks. They were murderers, rapists and pillagers. Some of mine were too, but this isn’t about me… I need for you to ACCEPT that this happened. And no, it doesn’t automatically make YOU a dick or a murderer or a pillager, but it is a part of your history. You can’t pretend it’s over because your grandfather gave my grandfather the right to vote. That shouldn’t have even had to be a fight. But if it had stopped there, we might be aight at the moment. Unfortunately, your fam still found ways to keep my fam down and still do. Understand that because this still happens, we can’t all be expected to have over come 200 years in the last 48. The only way to really make any reparations is to own it and to REACH OUT. I don’t mean by just saying, “come to my church” or whatever. I mean invite me to dinner with your family and lets TALK. Let our kids discuss what THEY think about race and let’s LISTEN. Let’s discuss what WE really feel and get it out in the open. You can’t move on and solve the problem if you keep denying we have one. Let’s get together and understand we’re all just needing the same thing, love from others and safety and comfort for our families. Can we talk? Call me.

And also…

Dear Black People: I love you, but you also need to get your asses off your shoulders. YES!!! YESSSSSS!!! We have been severely oppressed and continue to be, but subjugating yourselves will not WORK! You have to be able to take your own responsibility and ownership of  YOUR side of the coin to be able to rise above it. You need to be DEMANDING better services in your neighborhoods, it doesn’t take a lot of money for that, just PEOPLE to do it. Feet to the ground. You need to be taking RESPONSIBILITY for the education of your children. Talk to their teachers, STOP SITTING THEM IN FRONT OF THE PS3, and MAKE THEM do their homework. If you don’t understand it, make them explain it to you. Let you children teach YOU something too, it’s just as important to listen to them as it is to GUIDE them. TAKE BETTER CARE OF YOUR HEALTH. There are farmer’s market’s all over the city where you can get fresh, seasonal, sustainable veggies and fruits to feed your family well, inexpensively. Don’t use food stamps as an excuse, they take stamps too… Take pride in yourself. Stop tattooing your faces!!! We have so many talks we need to have about the way you have been presenting yourselves. Although Blacks in this country have always been poor, we haven’t always walked around looking like we don’t care. This may sound harsh, but I don’t CARE. I LOVE YOU. I am TIRED of seeing you angry at everything around you, but not being accountable. No, it isn’t ALL of us by a long shot, but yes… WE HAVE ISSUES WE NEED TO ADDRESS. Let’s do so, because if we don’t, we are shortchanging ourselves, even as others are as well. It’s ridiculous and although we do need to take The Man to task, it’s really hard to do so when we aren’t respecting ourselves…

So there. My two cents. After hearing Adam Carolla‘s recent rant asking, “What’s wrong with the Blacks and Latinos,” (and subsequent calling out of the media for not fostering a more substantive dialogue), I knew I had to pen my response because the fact is that something IS wrong, but it isn’t inherently the fault of the oppressed. Maybe now you can find a way to openly have the conversation.

And when you do, call me. I have some thoughts…

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About the Author: Diva Bleu (155 Posts)

Diva Bleu has written for Helium.com and had her pieces featured on Urban Politico and SinuousMag.com. Also known as Miss D. Bleu, she has been a fixture in the Philadelphia music scene for 20 years, starting as an singer/songwriter and then venturing into the femmecee circuit. She has performed at the Black Lily and held various concerts around the city, but can also be seen gracing open mic nites with her presence. Currently, she is a podcaster, blogger and President of Bleu Media LLC; with Bleu as the focus, the sky's the limit!


  • http://theurbanpolitico.com/ Shady Grady

    The questions around race are usually posed as “What’s wrong with blacks” and rarely “what’s wrong with whites”. That automatically tells you who’s asking the question and what their answer will be.

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    • http://wwtf-world.info/ Diva B.

      True… which is why I felt that the Philly Mag article was not a bad idea. In reading it I had that thought; THIS is what’s wrong… but how do we fix it?

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003623950156 Taleeb Starkes

    I enjoyed your viewpoint. I too, live in Philly. In fact, I wrote a controversial book based on my experiences. Check it out. http://www.amazon.com/The-Un-Civil-War-NIGGERS-ebook/dp/B00BMHY5R4/?_encoding=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=ur2&tag=bookfree-20

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    • http://wwtf-world.info/ Diva B.

      Thank you for the love, it’s appreciated! Tell me what you may agree or disagree with in the post. I would love to hear your personal viewpoint.

      Also, thank you for sharing your link. The title of the book is a little daunting, but I may give it a read…

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  • http://twitter.com/BINOBANGOUT BinoBrownStr8UPnDOWN

    Makes perfect sense for us to open up the dialogue. The old adage would say ‘time heals all wounds’ but I say ‘understanding prevents them.” I implore one not to get hung up this writer’s spontaneous construction – it was merely customized for this discussion about ‘social wounds’ and how  arguably prejudiced views of one another do more harm when these views are not spoken to one another, more so than when  spoken to one other “rationally.”

     

    We all have stereotypes we hold true about other groups of people. We all have views about other groups of people. However we were not all afforded the same set of circumstances that would be conducive to achieving the nominal successes in this society. On top of that, people are quantifiably different even in the midst of similarities and people display duplicate patterns of behaviors even when behaving by one’s own volition.

     

    And people are going to form opinions. That’s why I align myself with many of the same sentiments you espouse. Let’s engage in reasonable discourse to understand one another better, and subsequently improve civilian relations, enhance quality of living, balance out gross incidents of unfairness through policy…things of this nature.  

     

    I must say, 9 times out of 10, it is a complete pleasure reading your blog. Your views are not always agreeable to every reader, which is perfectly fine and expected. However, your words captivate with heady intrigue. Keep sharing your observations and your truth.

     

    Some nuggets that stood out…

     

    Picking yourself up by the bootstraps “can be really hard if your family is to poor to afford boots.” Agreed!

    “I think the issue people are taking is just what was addressed in the article; if we aren’t having a dialogue, we are just keeping our own narrow views of each other.”

    “i have my own stereotypes in my head as so many of us do.”

    “The problem I have is that the dialogue doesn’t seem to be able to be had RATIONALLY, and that people can’t seem to open themselves enough to BEGIN the healing that was SUPPOSED to be STARTED 48 years ago.”

     

    “I knew I had to pen my response because the fact is that something IS wrong, but it isn’t inherently the fault of the oppressed”–  And I would add, it is not inherently the fault of the oppressor neither. The seed of the oppressor is slapped with a untenable position of being faultless and at fault at the same time. In a Utopian world, we could fix this exigency. In the real world, ‘it is what it is,’ so we better start talking to one another. That’s the only way we can grow forward with legitimate progression.

    “Being a Person in America” 101

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    • http://wwtf-world.info/ Diva B.

      Wow… thank you for your words, I feel amazing knowing that people are getting it. No, I’m not asking for complete agreement… but I’m asking for a chance to state my piece and to open a conversation, no matter the topic… thank you again…

      As for your point about the problem not being inherently the fault of the oppressed, the funny part is, I was thinking last night to revise that line to EXACTLY what you pointed out. No, it isn’t inherently the fault of either… however the complacency of each group causes the problem to fester…

      In watching the reactions to this article explode all over the internet and local news media outlets, I’m really surprised at how angry everyone is. I didn’t take offense AT ALL to the article… but then again, I tend to not jump on to these things when everyone is reading them and getting their panties in a bunch. That may have been why I wasn’t upset about it, I knew what everyone else was peeved about and chose to NOT come from that POV specifically… or maybe I just got it… who knows? Either way, I think the writer and editor are getting a bad rap for it. It wasn’t meant to be snobby or offensive. It was meant to show us that these thought processes exist…

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  • Jo

    So glad you did this. I love both of your letters! Excellent rebuttal!

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    • http://wwtf-world.info/ Diva B.

      Thank you, Jo! I was typing furiously for days. This one was a hard one to write! I think we as a people (humans in America, of any race) need to be real with each other if we want things to change. If not, we are in serious trouble and in danger of going backwards…

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