I was going through some of my stuff in my “music closet” the other day, and I came across a picture from 1996. At the time I was living in Scranton PA, and the picture is of me playing in the band FM and the MF Horns. What cracked me up about the photo is that I could see my beeper on my belt (that, and I still had hair at the time). I also remember getting my first analog cell phone a couple of months later (it had an interchangeable battery and car cigarette lighter adapter….cutting edge), and I remember how awesome it was to feel so “in the moment.”
I say this because feeling “in the moment” 24 years ago feels a helluva lot different that feeling in the moment in 2020. 1996 had its share of tragedy (the Oklahoma City bombing), but as a country, it felt much more like a feeling of hurting together and healing together when this happened. It wasn’t about the color of the people who lost their lives that day – it was about the Americans who perished. The same can be said for 9/11…everywhere you looked, you saw signs that said “USA” or “United We Stand.” The 3000+ people who died were from all different backgrounds, nationalities, religions and preferences. Again, we hurt together, and we healed together.
Now here we are – people cannot wait to say red when somebody else says green. People are all but at each other’s throats about having the last word, and not caring about hurting other people. We are truly 180 degrees from where we were on September 11, 2001, after what could easily be described as our country’s most devastating tragedy. How did we get here, and how do we get back to the simpler times of the past, where people had more genuine respect of others, and couldn’t easily hide behind their vicious comments on social media, or feeling entitled to be so vocal about their hatred?
This morning, the Quaker Company decided to focus on re-branding and renaming their Aunt Jemima syrup. People are losing their fucking minds over this, as there’s a divide that is all but based on color on this decision. A lot of social media comments have been made, varying from “this is ridiculous”, this is “extreme political correctness” (as well as some other vile comments that I flat-out refuse to reprint), to people saying that it represents a depiction of slavery, and is still part of the negative stereotypes of Black people that should’ve gone away a long time ago. What’s really pissing me off today is the feeling of hesitance – yes, I’ve always found the images of items such as this syrup and Uncle Ben’s Rice as “outdated”, and I can’t express how they make me feel as a Black person without fear of backlash, and that really fucking sucks. As a society, are we too stuck in our ways that we can’t even try to see things from a different perspective. I have one White friend who told me that they never saw this as offensive, because they thought this was a depiction of people who escaped slavery. I can see and understand why they had that perspective. What I really respected was that the also took the time to research the story of Aunt Jemima, and realized that this was created on the depiction of a ‘house slave.”
I shudder to think of how much worse things will become before they start to get better. I hope that there’s more of a focus of learning and understanding going forward, instead of fighting and trolling. There truly are no winners right now. All I can do is try to be the change that I would love to see in our society, and hope that others will join me in doing the same.
If you need to reach me, just call my beeper.