Sunday, April 24, 2005

Race Card Poker in the Hollywood Hills

There are many twists on the road to truth, sometimes you gotta get lost on the Freeway to find your way but if you've got cell phone (and a little sister sitting at a computer on a Saturday night) You'll eventually find your way...and if you pay attention, you'll learn a little something-something while in transit.

So I went to a send-off party over on Laurel Canyon, just up the hill from Hollywood proper in Studio City. The guest of honor had decided to join the ranks of the defeated, to retreat from the California coastline and scuttle back to his home town located somewhere inland, along the buckle of the Bible belt -- good luck with that, you're going to need it, brother-mean. Culturally and psychologically speaking, the whole process of moving to, living in and slinking back out of Los Angeles is a strain of psychic herpes that you don't even know you have coursing through your synapses until you've moved away...far, far away...no cure, son and if you're running back to a place that is not New York City you're going to have to live with it amongst a group of people who don't even know that the affliction exists...only you'll know that you've been bitten by the L.A. bug..or, better yet, the Cali-cockroach. I think he's aware of the latter though because throughout the night he'd joke "man, my welcome back party, two months from now, is gonna be a hoot!" The L.A. cucaracha is one of those gifts that keeps on giving...

I'd shot over to the party with a homie, Uncle L and his girlfriend -- we'll just dub "Tia" -- who I'd gotten lost with my scribbled directions. I hadn't been over in that neck of the woods for a minute but as we drove past the Getty Museum and approached the Sunset exit for Brentwood, it was clear that I wasn't Megellan. At this, L-boogie got on the blower and called his little sister and after relaying the appropriate data to her she found our destination on Map Quest and we re-adjusted our coordinates appropriately. As we wove our way around the San Fernado Valley and made our way toward Studio City, we began talking about all manner of things, among them race, education, T.V. and the effects the three has on society -- not exactly light-weight pre-party banter but such is our lot and disposition.

Once we arrived at the party we staked out a base camp in the kitchen and shot the shite while more people arrived. Granted, the mixed nuts at the shindig were predominantly white, I'd partied with most of them before, in more intimate settings so I wasn't feeling any "Funny Vibes" but soon, when a couple of L and Tia's friends showed up, their discomfort with partying in mixed company began to obviate itself. Initially I felt compelled to nudge them to mingle and drop their guard a little and eventually they all did, at least a little and they might've caught themselves having a little fun but the wall never really came down... I pulled my focus back and began to observe everything from the sidelines.

I'd been in this position in the past while at university -- serving as a conduit between very different personal worlds in a party setting or bar amongst acquaintances and colleagues that would never cross-pollinate in any other circumstance -- but this time was a trifle different. In the times before, I felt compelled to make sure that everyone got along, had a great time. Call me a sub-par host, if you must but this time I was going to take the path of least resistance. I wondered what would happen if I didn't pull a Wink Martindale and get everyone gladhanding like some kind of third-rate game show host. I started to wonder if these two groups of people who represented the halves of my consciousness at various states could ever occupy the same space without reaching critical mass.

People are really set in their ways, I've learned, and eschewing what they "know" doesn't really jibe with their reality. Not very many people are willing to take that bold step and to the heavy lifting required to point the microscope inward...and I think that's a shame because that's the first step to getting your shite together, otherwise your inaction makes you complicit with the status quo by default.

Recently there was a bit of a peer group S.N.A.F.U. when one of my caucasian cohorts stated his opinion about race matters in our society and it was not wholly embraced by some of the "melanin enhanced" members of our circle, to say the least. In fact, I think it's safe to say that most of us got defensive in thinking "how could you possibly relate to/ know what its effects are? You're white." True, a white person, if he chose to, could live an existence in America where he wouldn't ever have to deal with a black/brown/yellow/red skinned person (he'd really have to tweak his shopping schedule but it could be done, yo) whereas a minority is in constant contact with "the man" -- no way around it either. These are truths that individuals on both sides of the room are going to have to wrap their noodles around...and get the fugg on with their lives...history's a bitch, I know...wouldn't it be nice to change that up with a little living in the NOW?

I'm not saying forget and deny like so many have, I'm saying: remember and remind...change happens one day at a time. To my brown-skinned homebiscuit's credit, I will definitely agree that subverting the racial inequities suffered by minorities of this country by clinically pointing to "economics" can be construed as an invalidation of the horrors suffered in Southern cotton fields or WWII internment camps in the past and on orange groves/ fancy hotels in the present. If you go there, know this: once you've begun to visit that place, you better be prepared to go all the way.

Thing is, most of the time when a white man states his opinion on race, the only thing that he has to rely on is his objectivity, empirical data and his ability to empathize but what he doesn't have, and it's the most integral part of understanding the unsavory aspects of racism, is the experience of having to stomach that sense of entitlement and cavelier manner in which the white man's burden gets parsed out and affects non-white lives that could never be reciprocated (which kind of supports that economic fuedalism angle too). Sure, we can get over it and we do -- failure to develop thick skin in that department would result in an existence that is punctuated by nothing more than a string of unpleasant encounters and color-line cock ups that got us where we are in the first place -- unable to discuss the subject without drawing proverbial lines in the sand which leads me to some of my "brown-eyed buds."

While my homie didn't pull a Reggie Valentine -- Eddie Murphy's character in Trading Places -- [Lookit him, probably been stealing since he could crawl] I did notice a bit of "check out these crazy crackers/ too cool for school haughtiness" emanating from the pod as I returned from the can which led me to step aside and see if my two worlds would collide or not. Jokes about the O.C. were bandied about amongst my brown friends' group -- which had expanded by three when a couple of L and Tia's friends showed up -- and sort of stuck together for most of the night which is fine I guess, but it vexed me (I was terribly, terribly vexxed) because I realized that while these two worlds represented aspects of myself, never in the twain shall they meet -- at least not any day soon. It goes on and on, even when we really don't want it to which sucks...Fighting fire with fire creates an inferno...nothing ventured, nothing gained, all of that said, I still retain a bit of hopeful optimism vis a vis "my brothers and all the others."


Just because you're black/brown/ yellow/ red - skinned doesn't instantly make you an authority on the subject with a Master's degree in Cultural Antropology and I certainly don't claim to be one because of my sepia hue, I think we've all got some world-experience to get behind us before building our soapboxes and lodging those chips on our shoulder blades...And just because you're white doesn't make everything alright if you're progressive enough to accept that caucasians have done some serious dirt in past couple hundred years to each other (Scotland and Ireland) and to others (everywhere else in the world)...Classism/ economic fuedalism and, yes again, racism is fucked up -- always has been. Simply running toward politics or religion (both, refuges of scoundrels) or even authoritatively written texts won't right every wrong that's ever been committed in the name of political/ cultural control of a society based on the superiority of race which I've said and written in other ways before...I'll reiterate now: we've got to tear down those walls within and let just let go.

When it's all said and done, there's really nothing left to say or do, the healing is a life-long process that doesn't end until a few seconds before we start spiraling downward into the tombstone commode. We've got a long way to go, to be sure but as the old idiom goes, every journey begins with the first step...so be it. One thing to bear in mind: nobody can take that odyssey with or for you; that's one foray into the dense jungles of the unknown that must be explored single-handedly. No native translators, no tribal consiglieres. No passports, no go-betweens or shortcuts. Stick out that chin, drop that ego, stop stereotyping...adopt a mindset consistent with the multi-cultural times that you exist in and stop doing to them what they've been doing to us -- passing judgement without ever questioning the character of the man, himself. That shite begins within before it can take place in the world without.

You've got to sort out what your own, personal, Rosetta Stones are while exploring the dank and sordid jungles of racial hate ...I'm still on my little road trip, as it were, as are my friends and their friends and their friends' friends...hopefully we'll be able to compare notes in about fitty years or so..."If puss and dog can get together, what's wrong with loving one another?...What's wrong with you my brother?" I know that all of the answers can't be found in Bob Marley lyrics but they are yours to unveil if you look for them...they're out there for you alone to discover, if you can get off your arse and do the legwork, that is... I'm quite certain that my friends, all of them, will find what they need to find, as will I and in due time...there...that's all I have to say...Laters.

5 Comments:

Blogger Lucio said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:28 AM, April 26, 2005  
Blogger Lucio said...

Funny - to think I actually had a good time while entrenched in the minglings of said characters and the guzzling down of Becks in the middle of the domain wealth built. You know what they say about ASS-U-MeING...

This is true, we are set in our ways. Some through life experience, be it 27 years or so, some through ignorance, some through television, some through institutionalism, the combination of infinite examples, and so on. But the truth is - a night amongst strangers in every sense of the word serves as but an empty ream of toilet paper as ones sits and waits for the pinch of life (if you will), to make a splash. That is, if we're keeping score. Nil-Nil.

A lot CAN be said about the way strangers interact, but this night was not the time to implement theory into practice and add an equals sign to the end of it. White characters or not - my peeps remain top priority while on 'the mode' – party mode... besides, the age factor was obvious - how many twenty-somethings were at that party? I assumed about five, but then again I refer to the ASS-U-MeING statement above. Many a times I've been to parties in friendly El Monte (have you seen the signs? Welcome to Friendly El Monte!) Yea that's us... Anyway, I've been to a plethora of parties where 99% of the occupants tend to have last names ending in -ez, J-Lo like booties, Benito Juarez blood, etc. and have failed to speak to another one of my fellow Mestizos - lest walk around and mingle. Sorry brutha but I'm not built that way. Fortunately - as I see it, I don't want to accidentally run into some random pendejo that's gonna piss me the fuck off. "Yea foo, my ride's the one with the W '04 sticker, it's firme no?"

I dig people despite their skin pigmentation, sexual preference, religion, and what not. But not once do I feel inclined to reach out my hand without a reason in mind. I dig my friends a lot more; they ARE friends after all. I dig the drunk guy at the bar that says, "You're Mexican right? My ex-wife is Mexican. You mother fuckers are crazy." Why? Because that drunk fuck has lived it. How many white folks walk up to a random Mexican kid at a party in Laurel Canyon and spark a convo about women? Based on this experience, a whooping 1, despite the white numerical dominance. We still keeping score?

These walls of ignorance have been down for years and have been replaced by walls that recognize oppression and racism despite how subtle. I gotta say, I'm angry as shit about history, but I'm even more angry about the present. The NOW that you and I live in, but seem to have different perspectives on. One thing I will not do is move on and ignore my truths of life and pretend everything’s cool. Again, I'm not built that way. It's not fair to the women of Juarez, babies in Iraq, the Tutsis, Palestinians, Aborigines in Australia. I'm not that lazy brutha, and I hope that the passive attitude of fellow thinkers slightly older than myself is not bestowed upon me in years to come, or ever.

I don't who's got it right. But not one person on this planet can ever say whole heartedly, "I know what it’s like to be you." Introspection complete - time stamp insert here (til next time).

C/S
- Lucio

12:44 AM, April 26, 2005  
Blogger Crash Pryor said...

Glad you had fun...There's two parts to every story and I'm glad my take invoked a response in kind; can't have dialogue on a one-way feed, yo. More to the point, I'm feeling you on the "friendly partying" -- I recall similar instances @ parties/ clubs back in Harlem where Dominicans (browner than yours truly) gave black people "the gas face" for being black...while the lighter skinned Boriquas, in turn, gave said Dominicanos the hand for being...(wait for it) black. Hence my little aside to experience bringing wisdom...but I'm not looking at the scoreboards just yet. I certainly wouldn't place you amongst the herd of lemmings running around screeching "La Raza," without giving pause to think about other peeps of colors' struggles. Far from it and to that end, I wouldn't even pretend to flex like "I feel your pain" because let's face it, that would be an exercise in futility -- I wouldn't expect you to get fully absorbed in mine either. (the same applies to the "by any means necessary set on the blackhand side -- everybody's got their cross to bear and I was a dyed-in-the-wool believer until I reached the age of reason) The common through-line, however is that at varied points we can agree in common truths -- the Dred Scott ruling be damned, we're all human. All of that said, I'll still circle back and say that variety is the spice of life and I think we should enjoy as many as we can...but not to the exception of our own particular flavor (read: color). I've always loved that phrase "am I black enough for you?" because it touches on the popular myth that "real black people" act like this and "wannabes" act like that...which is a bunch of horse puckey...still, as a society, fishwives tales like these still pervade...I'm certain there's asian, latino and Native American equivalents to this mindset out there (what're they called bannanas...coconuts...apples?) -- still iggin' the scoreboard, son -- At any rate, I'll eschew any allusions to being a "handkerchief head- house nigra" who's pulling a Clarence (Thomas) flip on the race issue. Not a chance bro-ham. "I know where I'm from. Not dum-ditty dumb: it's the bass motherland...the place of the drum." (If I may crib an X-Clan rhyme from back in the day). In light of the latter, I'll close this with a little cipher I wrote way back when...before I came so "passive" that I called "Power:"

...Could you continue on in earnest while you're living the lie?
A vicious circle in which men die -- in the streets;
gang bangers, "oh the lead them shoot"
(I think) we all get together to partake of this truth
The struggle is POWER and the heat is real.
Dividin' up the youth with precision and skill
It's torture.
Destruction.
Confusing.
The Massives.
Deep in your foxhole when the enemy hits ya
Should you be peaceful or do what fits ya?
Aggression is easy, compassion is harder 'cause you can't forget
How the system scarred, ya.
Fast and furious, with plans to smite us
Strategically planned and inhaled like crackdust
Arms akimbo I stiffen my jaw. I feel enforcement
But where's the LAW?
My guard is up whenever I walk down
The streets and boulevards where he can be found
In vicious packs I'll dive.
A black Kamikaze -- I'm incognito so none of the cops see.
My weapon repels them
My brains are snipin'
So later for racists, 'cause I ain't hypin'
a situation.
Keep doing the right thing.
The words are brimstone with a message of lighting and
POWER.

1, CeeP

8:03 AM, April 27, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sadden by an empty desk, somehow I seen it coming. Bon voyage motherf*cker. You definitely are committed to your priorities.

8:29 AM, April 27, 2005  
Blogger Zija - drink life in said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2:42 PM, July 26, 2005  

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