Sweet Auburn

July 6, 2007

We have now returned from my family’s reunion, which was held in Atlanta this year. I must say, I was very surprised with how “black” Atlanta is. I knew a lot of young, black professionals moved there, but I still didn’t expect to see so many in one city. It was a nice change. Seeing successful black folks has always warmed my soul.

 

While we were in Atlanta, we visited the King Center. Talk about a powerful experience. Seeing the grave site, clothes and mementos that he owned just made it more real. It’s one thing to read about Dr. King; it’s quite another to see just how “real” he was. I recommend that visiting the memorial site should be on the agenda for anyone going to Atlanta. Hearing his voice in Ebenezer Baptist is very heart-stirring. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to tour all of the Non-violence display. What we saw, however, was enough to get our blood boiling. That display made me appreciate the sacrifices that were made for me to be where I am today. It also made me resolve to get off my tail and strive for the goals I’ve set for myself.

 

Our guide told us that Auburn Avenue (Sweet Auburn), where the church and memorial are located, was once the epicenter for affluent blacks. Now, the wealthy blacks have moved to the suburbs. I think this is very important in that the black community’s wealth is no longer centralized. This seems to have happened in most of the major cities. I’m not sure what we can do to regain the closeness and vitality of our communities. But wouldn’t it be nice if we had a lot of “Sweet Auburn’s” across the nation?


Driving While Black (DWB)

June 21, 2007

Yesterday, while driving home from work, I made a right turn and merged into oncoming traffic. All of a sudden, the car beside me flips on the lights and hits the siren. The policeman sped off. I assume he either thought I was about to hit him or he just wanted to mess with me. This incident brought back memories of two previous incidents involving our local law enforcement.

Incident One:

I usually take a back road home that goes by our local airport. On the route home, at a particular intersection, there is a Stop sign if you’re turning left, and a Yield sign if you’re turning right. I was making a right turn and slowed down just enough to safely make the turn. Because this was at night, I didn’t need to stop because I could see that there were no cars coming. This happened as a policeman was coming up to the intersection from the right. After I made the turn (without stopping), he made a U-turn and began to chase me down. I saw him coming so I proceeded to slow down and then he turned on his lights.

Once he got to my vehicle, and received my license and registration, he asked why I didn’t stop at the intersection. I responded that there was a Yield sign and there was no oncoming traffic. He said that wasn’t a valid excuse. I was supposed to stop. So I asked “when does yield mean stop? I don’t have to stop at a yield sign.” We went back and forth over this for a minute or so. Finally, he told me to drive safely and that I could leave.

Incident Two:

A few weeks ago, while going to work, I took a side street to avoid traffic. When I got to the stop sign, there was a policeman there. After he pulled off, I pulled up to the sign, stopped, and then pulled off. The policeman was going about 25 in a 45 zone, so I switched lanes and passed him. About half-a-mile later, he pulled up beside me at a red light. Once the light turned green, I pulled off and he switched lanes to get behind me and turned on his lights.

After he looked over my license and registration, he asked why I didn’t stop at the stop sign. I told him, “Sir, I thought I did stop at the sign.” He responded that I didn’t and then went on a tirade about obeying traffic signs and how it only takes three seconds for oncoming traffic to get up on you. He then asked if my loved ones would be grief-stricken if something happened to me. I answered “of course.” He then told me to make sure I pay attention and keep that in mind. Once again, I was let go with just a “warning”.

Now, my question is, if I ran a stop sign, why did he wait half-a-mile and AFTER a red light changed to pull me over. Maybe he noticed that I was black after he pulled up beside me at the light. Regardless, I had done nothing wrong in either incident. But once again, these two “protectors” decided to teach me traffic laws.

My wife was none too pleased when I told her what happened. Even though I was fine, but annoyed, she was pissed. It’s sad that this still goes on in 2007. But you know what the kicker was? When I got to work, I told my white co-workers that I was pulled over for DWB and explained that it meant “Driving While Black.” They all laughed because they assumed I was making a joke. I guess the serious look on my face told them otherwise.


Do You Bear The Torch For Your Race?

February 17, 2007

On the Black In Business blog, Jim posted about personal weaknesses and improving them. I made a comment about how one of Jim’s weaknesses (poor spelling) could be interpreted as making blacks in general look like poor spellers. His response was very profound:

Every thing we do as black people reflect upon the whole race. If a white man cannot spell, he may be excused or just be a dumb white man, for us we carry the burden of representing the whole race. Until we are allowed to be one aspect of a diverse race of people, we risk never taking risk for fear of making all black people look bad.

Now in my defense, my comment was from the point of view that his misspellings would be interpreted as ignorance, which in turn would unfairly reflect on blacks in general. I correctly determined that he wasn’t very proficient with using a computer. Still, I’m embarrassed that I too fell into stereotyping.

Jim’s response made me think about how I also often bear the torch for my race. There have been plenty of instances in my life where I’ve been the first or only black to accomplish something. Whether it was the first to receive the Eagle Scout award, or being the only black at a technology company, I felt that I was representing my whole race. Even today, I feel that I have to be successful so that I can open doors for other blacks. Chris Rock said it best in “Head of State” when his aide said he shouldn’t quit in his campaign for the presidency:

“I wish I could quit. I wish it was that easy. You’re lucky, you are so lucky. You don’t know how good you got it. You just represent yourself. Me, I represent my whole race. If I quit, there won’t be another black candidate for 50 years.”

I’m willing to bet that most successful blacks feel that way deep down, that they have to succeed for our race, not just themselves. No other race gets this level of scrutiny. No other race has this level of pressure placed on each individual of that race. The Asian and Middle Eastern cultures probably come the closest, in that family honor is important. But like my wife said, “it takes a special person to be black. Most people don’t have the inner strength to live out what we go through in our lifetime.”


DRM Go Bye-Bye?

February 8, 2007

Even Steve Jobs thinks DRM sucks. I must say, I almost feel vindicated. Total vindication will happen when music companies totally do away with this DRM nonsense. Believe me, I understand the arguments for it. I just feel that in the long run, its futile. I’m firmly in the camp that believes that if I already paid for the digital media, I shouldn’t have to pay again just to have it in another format. Music companies didn’t have a problem when we made copies with tapes. They only began to care when copies were able to be distributed to millions at a time for free.

 

One interesting point I’d like to make is, the rise in illegal downloads coincides with the decline in music singles. Right around the time Napster hit the scene, I found it hard to find singles to music I wanted to buy. Those I did find, cost almost as much as the whole album. And record execs wonder why their sales started slipping. Some how, they forgot about the whole “demand” thingy in “supply and demand”. Hopefully Apple will help the music companies see the light. Then I won’t have to register every single computer I use my iPod on.


NFL History in 2007

January 22, 2007

Well, it finally happened. Lovie Smith became the first black head coach to lead his team to the Super Bowl. Later this evening, Tony Dungy, another black head coach, joined him. Who would have thought…a Super Bowl where no matter what, a black head coach will win.

There is a struggle with getting more blacks in positions of power in sports. It seems to me that the NFL has made the most strides. Today, we witnessed another step in the right direction. Black coaches haven’t been given a fair shake in general, but the black coaches in the NFL have exceeded when compared with there white counterparts. So far, there have been seven black head coaches: Art Shell, Ray Rhodes, Dennis Green, Herman Edwards, Tony Dungy, Marvin Lewis and Lovie Smith. Every single one of these coaches has lead their teams to the playoffs. Here’s an except from another article:

…In fact, with the exception of Marvin Lewis, every black coach in NFL history to date has gotten his team to the playoffs within two seasons. Art Shell, Ray Rhodes, Dennis Green, Dungy, Herman Edwards, Lovie Smith all did it in their 1st or 2nd season with their first teams. Only Edwards can be said to have walked into a situation that was not marked “Total Disaster”.

Johnnie Cochran Jr. and Cyrus Mehri released a report in 2002 that caused the NFL to establish the Rooney Rule. The Rooney Rule required each team to interview at least one minority candidate when filling a head coach position or be fined.

This rule has had some effect. Even though its sad that such a rule is necessary to promote an equitable opportunity for minority coaches, I’m proud that those coaches that have been given a chance, have excelled. Now if we could just apply all this to the Fortune 500.


Raise Your Hand If You’re A Token

January 15, 2007

Today is the celebration of Dr. King’s life and work. There have been plenty of posts and articles posted today in remembrance of him. All this made me think about what effect Dr. King has had on my life.

 

Since I’m a 70’s child, I’ve grown up knowing nothing but “diversity” and “equal opportunity”. At least this is what my parents tried to provide for me. My sister on the other hand, is from a different generation. She’s old enough to actually remember seeing “White Only” signs and she went through integration in high school. As for me, I grew up being the only black in my honors classes, so I can somewhat relate to the seclusion my sister must have felt. But for the most part, to my knowledge, I never encountered racism while growing up. Actually, I was ostracized by the black students more than I was by white students. There was one other black male that started off in the honors classes, but he ended up dropping down to the “college prep” tract. Looking back, I think he was just tired of being picked on by the black kids in his neighborhood.

 

As for me, my education minded parents encouraged me to stay the course. Because of their influence, I achieved some “firsts” in my life. I was the first Eagle Scout in a mostly white Boy Scout troop. I was also the first Black Eagle Scout in my county. I’m sure this upset a lot of White parents of the boys in my troop. Especially a troop leader or two whose sons were older than me. Anyways, because of always being the only black in my classes, I went to a HBCU for college. My classmates were all shocked by this. Everyone figured I would go to a big White state university. My close friends, however, always knew I’d go to a HBCU. The surprise for them was the fact that I didn’t go to my parents’ alma mater.

 

I finally started to notice racist attitudes when I got to college. Because I was now hanging out with a “black crowd”, I began to notice how store clerks treated us. It was all good when I was with white friends. Now, I noticed people following us around and immediately “helping” us in the stores. This was a shock to me, but a valuable learning experience. When I went back home, I began to notice things there also.

 

One day, after I graduated from college, I talked to my mom about my experiences. She sat quietly and listened to me. When I finished, I asked her if I’d unknowingly gone through this when I was growing up. She looked up and told me that she and my dad tried to shield me from as much as they could. At that moment, I had a sudden thought. I asked her, “was all this prejudice the reason I was never in the “gifted” program until I got to high school?” She gave a sad smile and nodded.

 

Now, I never had high grades in school because I did just enough to get by. However, I always tested in the highest percentile. She told me that it just wasn’t worth the fight to get me in the “gifted” program when I was younger. Since she worked in education, she figured it was just extra work for no reason. Besides, I’d already had more experiences than 98% of the kids I ‘d gone to school with. Not too many black kids could say that they’d been to Europe, Canada, Mexico and all over the US by the age of eighteen unless they had a parent that was in the military. Heck, most white kids in my hometown hadn’t been off the east coast, much less out of the country. My mom said that once I got to the point where I could take high school level classes early, they fought for me. They wanted me to have the option to graduate early. Hearing that was pretty sobering.

 

Today, I’m out in corporate America. Once again, I’m the only Black in a lot of cases. Since I’m a black male in IT, I tend to stand out. There have been occasions when I’ve sat down with management and I know I’ve been told “no” about something specifically because I’m a black male. They might tell you “it’s lack of funds” or “it’s company policy” or some other reason, but other white co-workers don’t seem to have the same constraints. I’ve seen this happen with other black employees also. Oh, and the favorite excuse seems to be either “you don’t have enough education” or “you don’t have enough experience”. I’ve gotten the experience excuse myself.

 

All this tends to lead me to the conclusion that I am a token, a statistic that can be reported to the government. But that’s okay, I don’t mind. One day soon, I’ll really be able to use my knowledge and experience to help others come up. This is the reason I volunteer in my community. By constantly seeing a positive black male role model, kids will be inspired to be successful in whatever they want to do in life. Only by opening doors and helping others can we help achieve the dream Dr. King had for all of us. The question I have for you is, will you continue to just be a “token” or will you answer that knock at your door?


What up?

January 1, 2007

Hello peoples. As the title suggests, this blog will be about random thoughts and views that I have. There may be some rants. There may be insightful views. If I offend you, I apologize now. Now let’s get it.