I DRIVE AN OLD CHEVY Tahoe from the year 1995. It is black in color. I have the all the windows tinted to a black shade of 94%. You cannot see into my truck. Consequently, I get pulled over often by local, county and state police because windows that dark are illegal, unlawful and prohibited in the state where I currently reside. I finally went to my doctor and had him write me a prescription for tinted windows. Given I did have a stroke in my right eye a few years back I sort of had a medical excuse. So, I hand over my little red envelope containing my doctors excuse to whoever is driving the car parked behind me with flashing blue lights. The amazing thing in all of this is that I’ve been pulled over by two local sheriffs multiple times.
They know me. They know I have a written prescription from my doctor. They know my sheer black Chevy Tahoe. I live in a small town now. A rural area scattered with other small towns. There are some cars and trucks that even I have come to recognize. Point being; my Black truck is noticeable because of its sheer blackness. The blackness stands out. I don’t know why the cops keep
pulling me over. It’s not like my truck is going to get any whiter or more transparent anytime soon.
I asked one of the County Sherriff’s, “Why do you keep pulling me over?”
He smiled and told me because he can’t see what I’m up to and it’s his duty to protect the general population he is paid to serve and protect.
I reminded him that every time he has pulled me over, I’d done nothing, I comply to his inquiries. I also told him every time he’s pulled me over I have had one of my four children, all under the age of twelve, with me. One particular cop has made my oldest son late to sports practice a few times because he just had to talk to me on the side of the road for a few minutes. It’s always the same routine. License, registration, insurance. I told him once that I was really disappointed that he didn’t know my first name by now. My kid in the back, the oldest, seat laughed, the cop didn’t. He takes my cards to his cruiser, returns with a contraption that measures the tint on my windows. It’s always the same 94% dark tint. It’s really just a fun little time kill of harassment for this local sheriff.
One time this particular sheriff was parked in the small town that I live in. When I say small town, I mean there is stop sign at one end and a stop sign at the other end, that’s it. It’s not even a town. More like a village or hamlet. He was sitting in his cruiser about fifty meters from my house. I was out for a walk and had to walk by his cruiser. So I stopped and knocked on his transparent colored window.
“Hi, Joe.” I said, “Say listen, you can see my trucked parked over there in the driveway of my house right?”
“Yea, so, Later I’m going to be driving over to school to pick my kids up. Did you just want to walk over now and measure the tint on my windows, so I’m not late picking my kids up?”
I stood there, my eyes smiling through my Ray Ban Wafer Sunglasses. The tint on those babies are 94%. For some reason, he wasn’t smiling in return.
He just looked straight ahead and replied, “What’s your point?”
“Really? What’s my point?” I asked. “My point is, I’m getting tired of you pulling me over just because my truck windows are black.”
“Well, I think it’s a nuisance. Your blacked-out windows scare people. They can’t see who you are.”
“I’ve been living here for a year. I’m active in the community. People know who I am. Give me a break.”
“Well, maybe I just happen to think that you’re up to no good, with your all cool black truck.”
“Well, you got that right. I am cool.” And with that, I walked home.
He hasn’t pulled me over since.
As I walked home that day, my mind wandered back to when I was working in Nashville, TN inner-city projects where I worked for eight years of my life. I thought of the men I knew from the projects. I thought of how they would get pulled over, stopped, harassed and watched over, not because they drive a black colored Chevy Tahoe with black tinted windows. They all get that treatment just because their skin color is black.
Black men and women being pulled over by those who have sworn to uphold and protect are sadly too many times pulled over just to be harassed and unfortunately, these men and woman can end up being killed. Shot with a pistol given to protect…who? These tragic situations have been happening and going on for a long, long time now. It’s only with the advent mobile phones that can film videos and then be posted to social media has the rest of the nation been awakened to the everyday realities our Black brothers and Sisters deal with. Whatever happened to use the Tazer Guns? Good God.
You don’t have to look very far to see that very thing happening all over America every single day. Far too many times as we’ve witnessed over the last few years that these incidents tragically end up with a black man or woman lying on the street suddenly dead without just cause. Just because they were black.
During the summer months, the non-profit where I worked in Nashville’s Inner-City as the Operations Director, would host high-school and college youth groups who would come for a week and help out with the different events we had going on. It was always an eye-opening experience for these young minds.
Stop for a moment, think of the inner-city housing projects that you know of. Most are just outside of the central hub of the city, but still close enough to walk there. Most projects are located just off the inner-state. We drive by them not even really noticing them, or choosing not to see, either way, most people don’t want their car to break down anywhere near the projects. The projects are a whole other culture unto themselves, and they can truly be a scary place to visit. Imagine if you had to grow up in one.
The projects I worked in Nashville were called the John Henry Hale Projects, but they were always referred to as Joe Johnston or Jo Jo for short. These buildings were right downtown right off of Interstate 40 that ran through the center of town. Nashville actually began its boom into the “It” city in the early 2000’s. Right about the same time the John Henry Hale projects were razed to the ground and replaced by the HOPE VI Project.
All those old tenement buildings were torn down and replaced with bright, colorful duplexes with driveways and a little yard. Ain’t nobody who lived there before isn’t living there now. They were all displaced. Most, if any, didn’t have the proper qualifications to apply for one of these bright new sparkly homes. The other Inner-City Project Community’s in Nashville that were also built along the main interstates passing through the city weren’t torn down and rebuilt with brand new homes painted in colorful pastel colors. Nope. The remaining projects just had big white walls of cement built in front of them. Walls between them and the highway.
After all, Nashville is a huge tourist town. The money the tourist and entertainment industry produces is staggering. People come from all over the world to visit Nashville, and it is a beautiful city, but it also has big white walls along the interstate corridors so that all the visitors don’t have to look at the reality of the projects. It makes them uncomfortable. Millions of dollars went into building those big white walls to make the visitors feel safe, safe enough to spend their money and be entertained.
Here is a little more perspective just to share the scope of our countries Institutional Racism. The reason the projects I worked in were referred to as Jo Jo or Joe Johnston, is because Joe Johnston was the street name that ran in front of the projects. It was the borderline. In fact, immediately following the Civil War many towns in the South suddenly had what is called, Line Street. The Line Street was the border that said, “Blacks live on this side of the line. Whites live on this side of the line.” Joe Johnston was the name of Line Street in Nashville.
Pause now. You as an American, how might that make you feel if you lived on the other side of those Big White Walls that run parallel with the U.S. Interstates that run directly through the heart of Nashville, or any of our other Great American Cities?
Aren’t these just a newer, bigger, better, harder to cross, harder to escape versions of Line Street?
One-Hundred and Fifty years after the Civil War later, Line Streets are still being built, still being enforced, keeping a people groups subjugated and beat down.
The Line Street in Nashville, Joe Johnston, was named after the highest-ranking U.S. Army Officer to join the Confederate Army. He was the 4th highest ranking general in the Confederate Army. Naming the dividing line in Nashville after a Confederate General was just another way of saying to the Black community of the day, “we are going to keep you in your place, we’re going to remind you that we don’t like you or want you. You remember General Joe Johnston? Got it?”
What about the Black community today? I mean, Nashville still hasn’t changed the name of the damn street. We haven’t come as far as we think.
That mentality really hasn’t changed today. When we had these young high-school and college students come with their chaperons to the projects for a week, I would upon their arrival give them a tour of our facility and what to expect for the coming week. The tour usually contained two points that I wanted to highlight:
1. America’s inner-city projects have accomplished what they were established to do; to keep a people group separate and without access to tools and means that will help them succeed. (Go to an inner-city school and look at the outdated textbooks they use, the playground equipment, the lack of air-conditioning, then go visit your own child’s school and tell me who has the advantage. (I had many adult chaperones get in my face after this comment.)
2. The other thing I did was have everyone stick out their tongues. Everybody’s tongue is pink. Regardless of our outer appearance, we are the same on the inside.
The pink tongue is all I had to offer as a common denominator at that time. It still holds true of course, but it is still a narrow view of others. I would say it is even naïve.
It amazes me that humanity, though we really are all the same, we are still thrown off by different shades and hues of color. It’s true that all colors have cultures and even perhaps different ways of living, or should we say, ‘forced to live’? The bottom line is that color can color us ugly, judgmental, fearful and with a very narrow world view.
As I said, some folks did then and still to this day get angry with me for saying that the Inner-City Projects have accomplished what there were created for. Let me quickly break it down.
1. Blacks find themselves in the cities after the Civil War, and in the following years looking for work.
2. Line Streets and Housing Projects are created along with segregation and the perpetuation of racism.
3. There are factory jobs available to the black men who once lived in our inner cities with their families. Men who were fathers and lived in the home.
4. Capitalistic Greed runs rampant. The factories that once employed our inner cities are shipped overseas, where another colored people group can be exploited at even cheaper rates.
5. Without meaningful work to provide for their families, the fallout is a massive welfare system, which keeps people dependent and subjugated. This kind of depression leads to making money by any means possible. Primarily the slinging of drugs. Some of the drugs being dealt are in fact terrible. Schedule 1 drugs like, heroin, cocaine, crack, meth, but the kicker is that Marijuana is put into the Schedule 1 drug category as well, being it is the most prevalent drug being used and distributed.
6. Hundreds of thousands of black men find themselves incarcerated because of a natural growing plant, Marijuana. A natural God given plant that turns out to have all kinds of medicinal uses backed up by empirical medical science. Listen, black men are serving twenty years in prison today for possession of two measly joints. Hell, I smoked two joints yesterday all by myself.
7. Here’s the BIG ONE! ARE YOU READY? The creation of FOR PROFIT PRISONS. Most current statistical information will tell you that Black Men make about between 12-14% of America’s population. Which then, in turn, equals to about 40-45% of the prison population. America has more people in prison than any other nation on the planet. Why? It makes money.
8. With the creation of For-Profit Prisons being primarily filled with African American men, you basically have created legal slave labor. (for the record, the For-Profit Prison Lobby was an enormous contributor to the Hillary Clinton 2016 Presidential Campaign. The Clinton Campaign and Foundation also took gobs and gobs of money from nations who still stone women. You know, bury them up to their neck and throw rocks at them until they are dead. So let’s keep it real, okay?)
The John Henry Hale projects where I gave eight years of my life had these demographics in the year 2000: 523 single unit cinder block houses connected the together. 23 fathers were living in the community. Twenty-Three grown men for a whole community. 23 grown men out of thousands of residents in the community. 23.
The median age for the John Henry Hale Projects in the early 2000’s was 16 years old. I’ll say that again 16 years old. The average age for females was 22 years of age. The median age for males was 10.
TEN YEARS OLD!
Where have the men all gone? A simple, sad answer will suffice. The men were either dead or in prison. And not just any prison. A high probability they are incarcerated in a For-Profit Prison.
That leaves a lot of ten-year-old boys to learn how to be a man by themselves. Let that sink in a little bit. After that has sunk in a bit, get yourself down to the local Boys & Girls Club and help. Be more than you are now.
Black Is My Favorite Color
I was talking with a friend once while still living in Nashville, TN. He used to be in the music industry and still skirted around it from time to time. Very talented man. He was acquainted with lots of folks in the music industry. It was always fun hanging out in public with him. You never knew who you were going to sit down and have a drink with.
One day while sitting out on his back porch, for some reason, we were talking about Sarah Cannon, otherwise known as the great Opry Star, Minnie Pearl. Minnie Pearl was known for a few things that I can remember; she always shouted a shrilling, “Howdyyy!” when saying hello. She always wore a straw sun hat that had the paper price tag hanging from the brim. She also always wore very colorful sun dresses. Sundresses bursting loudly with color.
With her beautiful dresses splashed with every color in the spectrum, her priced tagged straw hat, and her incredible smile followed with that almost ear piercing ‘Howdyyy!” The character of Minnie Pearl was a sight to behold. She was a very kind woman. Centennial Hospital in Nashville has a wing called the Sarah Cannon Cancer Center, named in her honor after she passed from the disease.
I said to my friend. “I know her dresses were old fashioned and all but they sure were beautiful. She was a walking rainbow wasn’t she.”
My friend went on to tell me that one time Minnie Pearl was asked what her favorite color was, being that she wore practically every bright color she could.
Her reply is surprising. She said her favorite color was Black. A color that she never wore. When asked why her favorite color was black, her answer was straightforward and concise. “Because it takes all the other colors mixed together to make the color – Black.”
It takes all the other colors to make the color Black.
It was then, and still is today, one of the most beautiful statements I have ever heard. That statement actually changed my life. Minnie Pearl’s statement of ‘it takes all the other colors to make the color black’ opened me up to a new realm of celebration.
Now, I’ve been fortunate enough to travel some of the nations of our world. I love all the different cultures, people, and food. Although I do admit, I had a terribly hard time eating fermented rice in Ethiopia and if you’re going to sit down to dinner with a Russian man be prepared to drink shots of vodka for about three hours. But, you do it. You accept the hospitality. You engage the culture you’re in. You become.
I pondered that statement for some time for in it; I found correction and growth within my own heart. If you remember, when we had youth groups come stay for a week to help out in the Inner-City Projects of Nashville, one of the first things I told them was to stick out their tongues. We all had pink tongues. I suppose, it was just a means I used to combat any fear these young folks might have had. While it holds true the pink tongue analogy it isn’t enough, and as I said, perhaps a bit naïve.
Why limit humanity to a pink tongue, when this earth is full of colorful people adorned in different shades of hue than Caucasian? For these colors come with cultures and rituals and different sets of values than our own. This doesn’t make them wrong. It really doesn’t make them different, does it? It just makes them, people. Folks like you, folks like me.
These differences should be celebrated and participated in! Our differences are gifts to one another so that we may have a greater understanding of and in some cases, a new found empathy for others. Colors, when united become Black.
A pink tongue is a bit shallow, but it was a good start those many years ago…
We all have so many common denominators besides our pink tongues…
We all have the capacity to love and create…
We all have the capacity to hope and dream…
Given our circumstances we all could potentially be confined, shunned, used, and purposed for something other than we were created to be.
But all of us are so much more than the color we exhibit and display. Myself? I’m a two-toned Caucasian due to an overwhelming bout of Vitiligo. It can sometimes make people uncomfortable because, well, it’s different from what they look like.
When I stand in front of the mirrors these days with my tongue sticking out, I don’t see pink.
I see black.
Because all I am, is a collection of all the people I have ever come into contact with.
Pink is the new Black.