The Negro Hipster

I woke up this morning thinking about what would be the Black equivalent to Stuff White People Like. The thing is, that this list reflects a lot of hipster values. And as of late, I’ve come across many of these types. I also began to think about the most recent trend in the Black community, something which has spilled over into the Muslim community, “Negro Hispters.” The assimilated Negro wrote a great piece, Quest for Negro Hipster Continues. So here’s my randomly generated list of Stuff Negro Hipsters like:

Gentrified Neighborhoods
Negro Hipsters love them. Many Negro Hipsters come from suburban areas and mourn the loss of their street cred. Most Negro Hipsters were one of the few Black kids in their high school. Moving from suburban neighborhood to gentrified urban area is a way to reclaim the lost part of that “urban” Black identity. A negro hipster will move from San Jose to Lake Merritt Oakland because San Jose has no Black people and is in general pretty wack. The thing is, Lake Merritt doesn’t have many Black people now either. The last time I went, me and my friend were like, “Where did all the Black people go?” But that’s okay, it used to have Black people and the buildings are old.

Shopping at Goodwill or Consignment stores.
goodwill
Being cheap, but ridiculously stylish by buying designer clothes that someone else wore is always an excellent way of proving how non-materialistic you are.Fedora HatsFedora hat
The image should say enough for you

Vegetables
Well, let me clarify. A lot of Negro Hipsters hate red meat. Many Negro Hipsters are vegetarians. the best way to prove how down you are for mother nature and taking care of your body is by being a vegan. Most don’t eat pork. But the dietary restrictions have nothing to do with their tendency to dabble in Rastafarianism or Islam.

Books
They have them all over the place. It doesn’t matter if they don’t read them, they have book shelves of works like “I Ching,” “The Art of War,” “The Autobiography of Malcolm X, ” “Franz Fanon” and anything by Cornel West.

Blackspoitation movies

They like to watch them because they are so bad, they are good. Plus, by dropping a reference to Sweet back’s baadass song will make you seem more cultured

White Bands
Another great way to show how on point you are is by telling your friends how eclectic your music taste is. It doesn’t matter if Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” was featured a million times on VH-1, the fact that YOU, as a Black person know of it is a testament to how open your mind is to other people’s music.

Anime

Negro Hipsters may not fully appreciate the pretentiousness of foreign movies. But Anime fulfills the need to demonstrate the appreciation for entertainment from overseas.

Asian Girls
This excludes female Negro Hipsters, who are unable to appreciate them. Plus they are likely to be too angry to really be able to enjoy Hipster status. Negro Hipsters love Asian women. Asian women who love hip hop and anime hold a special place for Negro Hipsters.

Natural Hair

Negro Hipsters love natural hair and a disdain for Black women who relax their hair. They love dreads, curly hair, afros, bald heads, and asian, white girls, and latina women who have long straight hair.

Conscious Hip Hop

Negro Hipsters hate commercial radio. The more obscure the rapper, the better. Usually, that is their homeboy who’s music career is supported by their parents who pay their rent and feed them. Their favorite rapper is often from the suburbs. The MC’s lyrical dexterity has been enhanced by all the words he learned when preparing for the SATs.

Open Mic Poetry

Negro Hipsters like to converge at the local coffee shop and read their latest non-rhymed, unmetered, well basically stream of consciousness writing. The favorite poems often entail sexual metaphors, like “Will you titillate my consciousness and stroke my intellect…mmmmm….”

Lounges

Negro Hipsters like to sit at lounges, not clubs. Even though they can barely hear each other cause the music is playing so loud, they will attempt to have deep conversations. Meanwhile, everyone will scope each other other, but pretend to be nonchalant.

Metrosexuals

Many Negro Hipsters are metrosexuals and female Negro hipsters have a special appreciation for a man that knows his designer frames and high quality exfolients.


Ethnic Food
Negro Hipsters may not like Fried Chicken, cause that’s so stereotypical. But they love Ethnic food, especially things Asian. The weirder the better, stuff like Vietnamese Vegan Chicken soup or some doughy concoction at the local Mayan Restaurant.Well, my list will continue. Feel free to add you own in the comments.

Being the Only Black Person
Negro Hipsters like to be in environments where they are the only Black person. That way, the are the representative for all Black people, all the time. It also proves to them how black they are because that is the only thing that sets them apart from their non-Black co-workers, friends, or family.


This list is a work in progress. Feel free to add your more.

Islamic Salon: Are DC Muslims building the BlackAmerica’s Muslim intelligentsia?

One of my friends pointed out that living in Cali I was pretty much living in an intellectual wasteland for African American Muslim intellectuals. Even with two other Black Muslim women from other parts of the Diaspora in graduate school, our schedules too hectic to come together. I didn’t have many peers to share my ideas, build on my research, or to find support. Even though my personal background and experiences had influenced my research direction, I had no one to share the insights I found in my research or make my research relevant to broader issues in the Muslim world. My friends and adviser said that I would likely find a support network outside of academia, through continual exchange online and academic conferences. Slowly I’ve been working on building a peer group, where the respect is mutual. I’ve been looking for people who are intellectuals and activists, people committed to asking deep questions in order to think about creating a better future.

That’s when I began to reach out through blogging. While there have been some amazing sites that have shown promise, I have been disappointed by the distracting posters who follow up discussion with uninformed and counterproductive commentary. Ultimately, I know the limitations to open discourse on blogosphere. I have found promising and civil discourse in academically based discussion groups. What is clear is that we need high standards for our discourse. Moreover, we need real human exchanges with discussion groups, work groups, and writing workshops.
So, today, when someone forwarded me a link to AbdurRahman’s latest post. I was happily surprised. Here’s a brief account of what’s going on in DC:

Imagine for a moment that you’re a highly educated African-American living in the segregated Washington, DC of 1895. Modern distractions like radio and television haven’t been invented yet, and most other avenues for culturally rich and intellectually stimulating entertaiment have been racially proscribed. What do you do? This was the predicament facing the elite members of the race at the close of the 19th, and beginning of 20th centuries. In those days, education meant a heavy dosage of Latin, Greek, or French, great familiarity with the classics of western civilization – like Shakespeare and Plato – and usually the ability to perform a difficult piece of music on either piano or violin.

In learning to cope with the injustices of segregation, these educated Blacks turned inward and developed their own avenues for cultural and intellectual expression. They formed debate clubs and literary societies, attended plays ( held usually in churches), and wrote books and papers. However, one of the more important outlets they turned to – one which we are attempting to rediscover in the Washington D.C. of 2007 – consisted in holding lively and engaging programs in each others homes.

So often we hear that our masjids maintain an atmosphere inhibiting free discussion and thoughtful debate, a lamentable state of affairs. Most masjids, whether African American or immigrant, usually follow some type of “line” ( some ideological Kool-Aid they want you to drink), and all topics not sanctioned by the administration are strictly prohibited. But the home “salon”can be the perfect remedy to combat the intellectual and cultural stagnation that so many Muslims are experiencing today.

Here in the nation’s capital, Muslims are beginning to meet not only in homes, but in little coffee shops as well. Some attend to hear the short lectures and the discussions that follow, while others go simply to find a mate, and that’s o.k. too.

I really hope this idea catches on. After reading Sherman Jackson’s work on BlackAmerica and talking with several up and coming leaders, I am convinced that we need to go back to the drawing board. While we may look at faulty ideologies and failed movements, I think this is an exciting time for Muslims in the West. I believe we may be on the brink of some cutting edge thought. Our thoughts in exchange with the thinkers coming from Muslim majority countries may really help provide some real world solutions to the problems that we face all over the world.

An Inspiring Muslim Man: Salah Lashin

Admittedly, much of my blog focuses on negative or quirky things I observe in the multiple worlds that I occupy. As I am going through these challenging times, I’m trying to remember all the things that inspire me. Time and time again we read about horror stories of the miskeena Muslim woman. One of the most common mantras you here in women’s gathering is how wack Muslim men can be. Even if the women aren’t implicating their own spouses, few hold up good examples that others should follow. That really raised a big question: Where are the examples of good men in general, and good Muslim men specifically? I know several who I really admire.

The other day I had a conversation with my friend where our mutual friend’s father’s name, Salah Lashin, came up. His name really set a smile on both of our faces. My friend said that she wanted to write him and tell him what deep impact he had on her life. Both my friend and I went to school with Salah’s daughters. Occassionally I’d spend the night and on the way to school or to the masjid he’d start the car and make a du’a. My friend pointed out it was a heartfelt du’a. All his bismillahs were. My friend and I were both moved by his constant dhikr. His heartfelt connection to Allah contrasted with the dry version that I was acquainted with. He was is hard working man, devout Muslim, and happily Muslim. His example showed me that you didn’t have to drop everything, perform hijrah, or join some Islamic program to be a good Muslim. Islam was about balance and the emodiment of ideals. I saw how his life was centered around Islam and it manifested itself in the love and care he expressed to his wife and three daughters. Masha’Allah, I really admire him for his role as a husband to Madeha (Allah Yarhumha) and as a father. Over the years I became convinced that this man was destined for jennah. I even have proof based upon Prophetic traditions:

The Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) said, `Whoever had three daughters and showed patience in their keeping, their pleasure and displeasure, Allah admits him to Paradise for his mercy over them.

A household of four women is not easy. Women are moody and it is easy for the lone man to get ganged up on. That’s why I especially admired Salah. He didn’t have an complexes about his manhood being attacked. He never seemed mournful that he didn’t have sons. I never saw him be mean to anyone and he supported his wife and her community work. Did I mention he loved his wife? He defied all the stereotypes we read abut in the West about Arab and Muslim men. Masha’Allah for some of us salty Muslim sisters, he was proof that there were good men out there.

Salah and Madeha inspired me because they supported three daughters through college. One of the things that makes supporting daughters through school even more laudable than supporting sons is that parents invest in their daughter’s education not for prestige nor for future investment with an expectation that their daughters will take care of them. Daughters often go to their husband’s households, their careers may stop because they have children. But Salah and Madeha educated their daughters as a way to ensure their daughter’s future and to afford them all the opportunities young women should have. And they didn’t half step. They sent them to a prestigious private school. And that was no easy feat on their salary. They sacrificed and strove and made it happen. The third daughter to attend the university applied for financial aid so it would not be such a burden.

I was definitely inspired by the value that many of the immigrant Muslims placed on their daughters’ education. It contrasted with the culture in my family where when you were 18 you were expected to hold it down on your own. My mom pointed out that from age 16, I basically took care of myself. I gave up my college aspirations in high school because I felt like I could not afford to go to school. Years later, after I transferred to Santa Clara, withdrew in 1998, and finally went back in 2001 I got more family support. It took a lot of encouragement and some solid examples–the primary one being Salah and Madeha’s hard work. In the back of my mind, I felt that the way Salah and Madeha raised their daughters was the way to go. It was also my aspiration to work in Islamic schools at the time that drove my initial academic interest at Santa clara.

It just wasn’t in our rizq to have two dedicated parents. I have been blessed to see a wonderful Muslim man embody the beauty of our Islamic values. I witnessed the inner workings of a functional American Muslim family.They worked hard contribute to the Muslim community in Silicon Valley. The family pulled together during hard times and sickness. During that time, the only thing many of us could do was make du’a. Normally I don’t do this. I try not to name names on my blog. But for years I wanted to dedicate something to this brother, for all the hardship he endured with patience and constancy. I think that we should acknowledge everyday heroes. We should remember the people who touched our lives in positive ways. Mr. Salah Lashin, you have touched many people. I will ask anyone that knows you, and even those who don’t to make du’a. May Allah reward your efforts.

How Am I Doing?

You want an honest answer? Really?

One of the things I hate about my own American culture is the typical greeting, “How are you?” In truth, most Americans don’t really want the answer. In fact, it is rude to answer honestly if things aren’t going so well. The point is that “how are you?” is really a rhetorical statement. The inflection at the end of the statement is really just a formality. Sometimes it isn’t even there. People say as they pass by, “How are youuuuuuuuu.” voice fading as they speed by. Over the years I’ve had a lot of people ask me how am I doing and then get really annoyed when I tell them the truth. I’ve had friends who call me up and get really annoyed or impatient as I talk about things I’m struggling with. I’ve had close friends who have shared their stories, who I have helped work through issues, who I have sat for hour listening and trying to understand, go off on me or shut down when I share my story. But at least I can write uninterrupted. I don’t have to spin my wheels worrying if my complaints will offend someone’s sensibilities before I can fully articulate what I’m going to say.

To answer your question:

Alhumdulillah…Things have been challenging and frustrating. I’m just coming out from some major upsets. Thins are looking better, but I’m still wondering if it will work out just as planned. Things operate differently here. And there are different levels of shadiness and ineptitude. Overall, it is a mixed bag. I’ve already written about boredom and being judged. I have felt homesick, isolated, disoriented, and lonely. It would be far worse if I lived on my own. I’m grateful for my friend and her family. They basically keep me going. But sometimes I feel intrusive and like a burden. There are times when I felt like packing up everything and going back home. And then I realize, I can’t because I don’t have anywhere to go back to–somebody’s subleasing my room for the year. Plus through the past few years many of my relationships and friendships back home had become strained or distant at best. The nice ones were ephemeral, kind of like “hi-bye good luck on your trip!”

Before I left for this trip, I had no doubt that I had to take this step. But I had trepidations. I felt like I was putting life on hold. But then again, I wonder what life? I have spent the past 6 years focused on getting into graduate school and then trying to survive graduate school. It consumed everything. Even my few diversions and leisure activities (including laundry, foot soaks, blogging, visiting friends) were just coping mechanisms for graduate school. Even my leave of absence was full of reading, researching, planning, worrying, re-planning, writing proposals, and preparing for graduate school. This whole leave of absence for French and Arabic study took a huge wind out of me.

Cramming a year’s worth of French in six weeks was a piece of cake compared to embarking on this trip. I’m not saying that I don’t enjoy many things about being in the Middle East. But is absolutely frightening to know you don’t have a safety net. By safety net, I mean family members who will send you funds if you get ripped off or stuck in a jam. I know a Muslim woman who was actually stuck, really stuck, in some Gulf country. All our affluent friends did nothing to help her out in her jam. I suppose those car notes and bargain shopping had ran up the bills. There was even one brother all into tasawwuf with a site about sacred knowledge who treated this sister poorly. He ran into her at the house of some people who might have helped her and her children find a safe place to live until she could get a ticket back to the states. But this well known brother sent her packing and told her never visit those people again. I guess he wanted to protect wealthy Muslims from helpless and homeless American Muslim women who are stranded abroad. After a harrowing story full of drama, she finally made it out and eventually made it back home. You can have your passport lost, credit card stolen and personal items stolen, put in jail, or become really sick. I’ve known people who have gone through some tribulations and trials abroad. Some of their accounts speak to my worst fears.

I’m still working on my fears and insecurities. I still get embarrassed speaking Fushah in public. I still don’t understand Kuwaiti Arabic and there are some days when your confidence in your language abilities gets knocked right out of you. I try to motivate and work harder despite the most recent setbacks. I try to think about the overall purpose. Learning Arabic has been a dream for 15 years. Going abroad wasn’t just important for my academic career, but my spiritual well-being. Maybe it was about letting go of some control–even though I finally had taken the reigns of my own life following my divorce. 5 years ago as I prepared for graduate school my adviser David Pinault said that graduate life was monastic. It entails poverty, lonely long hours, etc. He assured me that it was a good kind of poverty. You don’t starve, it is just a modest living. After a few years in graduate school I wasn’t in debt (except for those deferred student loans), I could pay my bills, I was even saving some money. I found history to be isolating. That was just part of the field, the long hours in archives, the long late nights writing, the time in the field. I knew that going abroad for graduate work was looming in my future. And it felt like a destabilizing force.

Two years ago I asked for guidance and support about graduate school and my requisite year in the field. One imam’s wife told me to look at graduate school like it was a prison–I was just doing my time. There are some mind trips about this training and the constant insecurity of graduate school. Academia is medieval in its structure, from the apprenticeship approach to developing your own masterpiece after demonstrating your worthiness to be in the guild of scholars. I haven’t even begun to think about the publish or perish world of tenure. My African American peers in graduate school tell me to keep up the fight. We’re so few, 3% of the graduate population at my university. With more African American men in prison than in dorms, I have to keep trying to make a difference. There are people who don’t want us there. There are people who don’t think I can do it. Jan Barker said that if we felt like we’ve been through a hazing in graduate school, it is because we have. Through the hazing process, my Muslim friends often tell me about having patience and faith. Keep going–it is a test. So, that’s how I’m doing. I’m in the middle of another test. I’m not sure if I’m passing. But I’m doing the best I can.

Cultural Matters–Bridging Worlds

One of the great things about travelling to Muslim countries is to be able to witness the various ways people express this faith and its traditions. Even if some of the things I’ve witnessed were strange and seem illogical (one day I’m going to write about my field trip to an oracle in Morocco), for the most part I have enjoyed the similarities and contrasts. There are all sorts of ways that culture plays a dynamic role in keeping the tradition alive. Culture is important, it is dynamic, culture is a dialogue. There are many cultures that are disappearing under globalization, but at the same time new ones forming out of hybrid identities and close encounters of the humankind.

This raises questions about Islamic culture? What does it mean? Last year I taught a class and one of the major themes was showing that there was no monolithic Islamic civilizaiton and no single Muslim culture. And none of us saw that as a bad thing, but a testament to the beauty of our faith tradition. I taught the period from early Islam to the early-modern period. While the Mughals, Safavids, and Ottomans were exciting Gun powder Empires, I didn’t get to explore the questions that preoccupy us in the 21st century.

Today, my friend’s husband asked me if I thought there was an “American Islam.” Some of the neo-cons are in fear of it. Their arguments sound pretty close to what some of the early 20th century progressives (and KKK) had said about Catholics and the Catholic schools. They didn’t think that Catholics were loyal Americans and that they hoped that the Pope would become ruler of the world. That resonates with the crazy arguments that establishing a Khalil Gibran school will make inroads into Jihadism and will someday works towards establishing Shari’ah and imposing it upon hapless Americans. Well, there were a whole bunch of polemics then and there are a whole bunch of polemics now. Despite the intolerance, America has always been made up of a mosaic of faiths. And I know for a fact that there is an American Islam. I think there are several. But if we are going to talk about American Islam, we should take into account the largest indigenous American population who are Muslim, African Americans. Many of us are converts, and a number of us are children of converts. Our lives are intimately tied with our non-Muslim family members. In a major event I spoke up and said, “Hey I don’t join an organization or hold an event to participate in interfaith dialogue. I do that everyday with my family and loved ones.” Nothing dispels myths and misconceptions than close personal relationships.

In August, Just before I left the states, Christine Morente of the Oakland Tribune interviewed me about the depiction of African American Muslims. I talked briefly about the role of African American Muslims and their marginalization in the media African-American muslims fight misperceptions. Other commentors have mentioned that African American Muslims have been rendered voiceless in the media. Much of the media focuses on the immigrant struggle integrate in America while maintaining their cultural and religious values. I have also known that in the past decade, immigrant Muslims propel white Muslims to leadership positions. The conversion of a White American affirms their faith, rather than the conversion of those who they deem as lowly and marginalized (but contrary to what many foreign Muslims might think, 3/4 of Black people are living above the poverty line. And many of us are doing well with institutions established like universities, libraries, political lobbies, and large companies).

I became kind of nostalgic for the days when the Warith Deen community was really strong and that there were clear African American Muslim institutions (And Halal Soulfood and catering). Back in the 90s, a lot of Muslims really had it out for culture. Muslim Student groups looked down upon leaders who catered to ethnic communities. The most important identity was Islam. Culture was the source of all bad things. It was the source of nationalism, bida’, superstition, and division. We were one Ummah, there were no differences. Yes, that’s what we learned in halaqas and lectures.

I took Shahada at Masjid Waritheen because the brother (a family friend) figured I’d be freaked out by the gender segregation at MCA. This was even though I lived 45 minutes south of Oakland. Masjid Waritheen’s sunday Ta’alim (pronounced Taaaleem) had the feel of Church. There was call and response. Imam Faheem Shu’aib told us stories and parables that many of us were familiar with in the West. He used Greek myths and parables, historical figures, Prophetic sayings, stories of the Sahabi, Great Muslim leaders, and Western classics to teach. And there was call and response. “Umm hmmm!” “Teach!” “Ameen!” “That’s Right!”
Their modes of dress differed from the dour black, grey, and navy blue abayas and jilbabs Black and white big square scarves pinned neatly beneath chins at the MCA. MCA by the late 90s turned into a modesty contest. The contest for who could be the plainest contrasted directly with my experience at Emmanuel Baptist Church, which was about who could be the fliest at church. There is was a shame if you wore the same outfit twice. But me being the impressionable Muslimah that I was, became a true product of the MCA. I wore the jilbab and big square scarves came to look down upon the sisters who wore bright colorful patterns and African prints.

Even as I became fully entrenched in the whole MCA thing, I felt torn between those two communities. One of the things I struggled with early on in those youth groups and student groups, was that I felt like so many people pulled me in several directions. There were so many causes overseas: Bosnia, Chechnya, Palestine, Philipines, Afghanistan, etc…. Plus corrupt leaders in the Muslim world who didn’t let Muslims practice Islam and Allah forbid didn’t let young Muslim men wear beards. Their was a critique of the secular leaders, religious repression of the Muslim brotherhood, petty tyrants, Kingdoms (which we were told were haram). There were dreams of revolution and the creation of an Islamic Utopia. As youth, we were the vanguard, we had the energy, we had the sincerity to change everybody’s perceptions of Islam, as well as change the world.

But that stuff started to break down. I was struggling as a young Muslim woman on my own. I felt like no one really cared about social justice issues or economic disparities that affected African Americans. All the zakah money went abroad. There, the need was far greater, in their minds, than the needs in the states. But there were real economic issues that I faced as I tried to put myself through school. Those same economic disparities increased the steady decline of African Americans from the South Bay. Not many African Americans felt like they belonged there or were really wanted there by the organized leadership of the MCA. For me, it was a mixed bag. It was in that community that I forged really strong ties with my immigrant friends (mostly Arab and North African and a few Pakistani and Indian women). But there was always a peripheral feelings. At the same time, when I visited Warith Deen community, I normally got the cold shoulder. I wasn’t Black enough, as evidenced by my “wanna-be-Arab-style-triangle-scarf-and-jilbab.” It seemed like in the women’s parties, we created little utopias where we were all equal. But all of our realities were different.

I struggled to straddle my multiple identities and deal with all the communities that I belonged to. Back in the 90s, I remember an overzealous Arab Muslim woman (who now longer practices or associates with many people in the Muslim community) chewed me out because I wrote a paper about my multiple identities with a title something like this “African American Muslim Woman.” She was upset because I put African American first. She said that Islam should come first. Mind you at that time, I had been Muslim less than two years. Second, even in the MCA, the quickest way to identify me was to say the African American sister. There were only two, so it wasn’t that hard.

Most of my life and cultural values were shaped by my Western and Christian upbringing and experience as a Black child growing up in an integrated community. My conversion experience did reshape how I engaged with those values, cultures, and experiences. Islam became the filter by which I viewed my world, my moral lens, the basic framework that guided my actions and ethics. My engagement with Islam gave me meaning and still to this day, my life’s work is really about understand Islam and how various people understand and live this faith. But at the same time, I’m influenced by Englightenment thinking. Freedom, rational thought, inquiry, questioning, basic underlying assumptions about truth and justice shape my orientation to Islam. When I began my academic career, I realized how much I was a product of multiple worlds. Even when I rebel, it is within that framework. I know there are people who consider me less than Muslim because I don’t conform. There are people who consider me less than American and some who think I’m not Black enough. Who is it that decides how does one engage with the communities that you belong to and who decides for you what those traditions should mean? I am beginning to ramble…knowing this blog entry really started out to talk about how fun Girgian was.

Good-byes

This week-end, I drove with a friend to the Grizzley Peak. I said my good-bye to this chapter of my life, good-bye to friends, good-bye to the Bay Area.Tonight is my last night in California. This time tomorrow, I’ll be on the first leg of my journey. It hasn’t been easy saying good-bye. The past three days have been full of tears.
berkeley_lab_view.jpg

I will be returning to my home town before I go abroad. There will be a family reunion and I’ll know more about where I come from. But what do I know of any place? I know that even though I have never belonged or felt at home here in California, that it is beautiful. I’ll really miss so many parts of Northern California. Time was too short to soak it up and really enjoy it before leaving.

I have anticipated and feared this moment for the past eight months. It became all more real four months ago. My anxieties even creeped into my dreams. But there was no question as to whether I was going to take this journey. The only question was how. The how still unfolds. What do I return to is still unanswered.

So many of the relationships I have forged in the past few years have changed and a number have ended. I have no idea what will happen over the next year. I let go of old resentments and hurts so that I can be open to new experiences. I try to hold on to feelings of love and gratitude, rather than the fear and anxiety. I am tired, I am sad, I am excited, I am grateful. I have a few more things to do, and then there will be closure. I have a few more strings to tie and long list of prayers to make during my travels. My friends have kept me alive this long, and their love still carries me. I will keep them in my prayers. They say the prayers of a traveller are always answered.

N-gga Talk

Last year I wrote about a teacher who was suspended for telling his student to “Sit Down Nigga!” I made a brief reference to the Michael Richard’s racial tirade in a blog entry about Cross cultural discourse on Black Culture and the Black Family . Even though the NAACP staged the funeral of the N-word, it appears that the N-word is alive and well and exploited by all sorts of people.

Let me tell you my most recent experience. I met a friend at a random franchise Mexican restaurant for a bite to eat. We haven’t been able to catch up in a long time. She’s from the East Coast and spent several years in New York. Anyone coming to Palo Alto from a major East Coast city often experiences a major culture shock. This is especially the case for African Americans who move from areas where there is a significant African American population. I know of a very WASPy guy whose father moved to Idaho because he felt like the Mexicans and Asians were taking over. One has to wonder how do some of the old timers feel when they see brown faces walking in their multi-million dollar neighborhoods and local spots . You see Palo Alto is an affluent suburb of San Francisco that is predominately white. Rarely do I experience racial hostility, except for the one time when my brother and I were seated next to a skinhead couple at another more trendy franchise restuarant. He had a Black jacket that said “White boy” and “Fuck all yall!” his girlfriend wore a hat that said “Skin.” I am sure they felt like us two Black people invaided their white space of Palo Alto. They didn’t say anything to us, but then again there were only two of them. The issue was that they wore their white supremacist ideology as accessories in order to let people like me and my brother, and the dozen or so Somoans who would have destroyed them in an altercation, that this was their town and Fuck all of us.

While this was a rare occasion, I do get other instances when I am very much aware of my outsider status. Normally, I get stared at a lot. Last Monday, one of my friends who is racially ambiguous but clearly not white noticed how all these white people stared at us. Some with mouths agape. I assured her it could not all be just because I am black or they are staring at my hair. On occassion someone will pay me a compliment. So, I just assume they are staring for more positive reasons. Not that I should let that get to my head. But last Friday, an old white man at a cafe just stared at me with one of those stone cold stares. I swear it had to last about 20 minutes. There was no friendliness involved, just one of those stares that made me quite uncomfortable. But I tried to act like everything was normal and not let it phase me.

Maybe something was in the air this past week. But it wasn’t just me. I’m not hyper-sensitive or something, and it was more than just stares. That Thursday evening my friend and I ate outside at that franchise Mexican restaurant. After I got up to take wrap up my leftovers my friend informed me that a young hispanic/latina/Chicana used the N-word. She was talking to her Asian and White friends who sat at the table. From what I recall, she said “Oh he’s using that nigger talk.” Immediately I got pissed. My friend, who has dreads, just experienced a child commenting on her hair. This was the last straw. So, my friend went up to the girl and checked her. My friend’s point was that if this teenager felt comfortable saying the N-word in front of her, then what else does the girl have on her mind. The thing that was so disturbing was how comfortable she felt saying it. The girl defended herself by saying that her boyfriend was Black, so she’s not racist. So my friend said, “Would you use that language in front of his mother or grandmother?” The girl said that his mother wasn’t black, he was mixed. That logic amazed me. My friend tried to tell the girl how disrespectful that was and that as a young woman she needs to think about what she says. I am sure in that girl’s mind we were two Black women with attitudes, so I wonder how much did it sink it. We did not appreciate hearing the N-word appropriated by some teeny-boppers who don’t know the gravity of that word. We did not appreciate having to be confronted with that type of issue when all we wanted to do was relax and catch up. But somehow this young woman felt that it was okay to use the N-word within ear shot of two Black women. Who said it was okay? Was it her boyfriend or some of their Black female friends that gave them a pass? Did one of their friends tell them, “Hey you’re one of us, so you can use the N-word around us.” Guess what my friends, none of us are authorized to give out that pass. We ned to think about the gravity of our words when we say them. We need to hold ourselves and others accountable for what they say and how it can affect others.