22 November 2016

My Daily Internal Dialogue About Suicide

There are a couple of points in the day, every day, where I consider if life is worth it. A couple of times a day, an action or an inaction- some monumental and some minuscule- an observation or sometimes a realization causes me to consider the world, my place in it and whether or not I even want one.

I call it my daily internal dialogue about suicide.

It's one of those conversations I don't ever like having, but I think there are more people out there that may feel this way and think they're alone, and this may help. It's also possible this is some shit that only happens to me, and may be the first sign of my impeding hospitalization....

It's not like I walk around all day, teetering on the brink of killing myself, but I do think, on far more occasions than I would have imagined or wanted to admit, reflect on my life, and the world I live in. And upon that reflection, as I look at the world I live in and/or the world as it's projected upon me, I think that either the world would be a better place if I wasn't here, or that the world is what the world is, and that like a shitty book or movie I'm in the middle of, I just need to remove myself from it, not for the good of the world, but for myself: that I deserve better than this world is willing to offer me: that this is just a bunch of bullshit and I don't need to deal with it.

The morning when you wake up and already feel like you're hitting against The World with a two-strike count, you walk by a homeless man who asks you for cash (aside: debit cards have gutted my charity-I almost always gave any extra cash away, now I never have cash). When asked, I have to say no, because I don't have any cash. His response to me:

"Fuck You Nigger!"

Now we can have conversations about homelessness and social location, but that seemed a particularly hateful response to what has to be seen as a predictable expectation. And it hurt me to my core. And most days, my Anti-Blackness Force Field is on point, close to impenetrable. But on this day, from this person, at this time, in this framing, for this reason, it shook me to my core. In retrospect, I'm pretty proud of my response, which was to go home broken and think about why it's even worth it to live in a world where that happens.

Let that marinade for a second.

I'm proud because my other possible reaction probably would have me in month nine of what would easily have been a 15 year bid, that would have, at best had me choking him out and at worst taking 45 years of anger and frustration out on him, which would have meant I had killed him. So my options were kill him or contemplate killing me: one option guarantees someone's death and the other just reflects upon the idea and desirability of my mortality, as a response to the world that is.

Or this morning, in my daily deluge of morning news, from the New York Times, I read this quote...

"It’s baloney to come out now," Dianne DeWolfe, a Donald J. Trump supporter, said. "They’re opportunists. Listen, no man attacks a woman unless she’s looking like she’s asking for it."

I think about the people I know and it seems every one of them has a story: about somebody taking liberties, they "thought you were kidding" when you said stop and no. Or "you wore that skirt and got drunk so you must have wanted it." Or "she said no at the beginning but stopped so it was cool." And I used to wonder how in the world, in 2016, do we have all these problems. I grew up in a time when a lot of fathers told their sons that "girls are supposed to say no" and that "no is really maybe"- that sucked and was the fuel for thousands of rapes. We should have learned from that, we should have recognized that without killing this mindset in the home, there's really no hope. A world this shitty, with no real hope for change (she's probably got kids who think that way too, set for untold damage just as a set of falling dominoes would on the lives of the people they touch. That also sounds like a world I want no part of and have no real ability to change.

These are but a snapshot of the myriad of examples that make me wonder: why is this worth it?

And in a world when I had nobody or lacked a reference for the devastation of suicide, I can't say that I'd be here today. And nobody would have had any idea when it would have happened: I might have just left a place where I was with friends and had an awesome time: I might have even been the life of the party that night, cracking jokes, punning all over the place, being the me that most of you know.

And then, I'm alone in my head- wishing that my mom would have gotten a chance to meet Carol and her family- gotten a chance to see me at my happiest. Wishing that I had courage to drop off the grid with Carol and try to make a living on the outskirts of Yellowstone, roughing out snowed in winters but the most amazing springs summers and autumns imaginable. Thinking about my friend Chris, who I was hanging out with 45 minutes before he hung himself in his bedroom. Thinking back about my friend Evan who I talked to about two hours before his heroin overdose. Trying not to be overwhelmed by the emotion that just thinking about those days: was there something I could have said or done to have maybe changed either fate? What if I invited Chris to my house for dinner, like I thought about doing but didn't? What if I'd gone to Evan's: he'd have never done smack in front of me: he never had and knew I'd have made us do something that would have made injection impossible (which was his main complaint with me-and I took pride in- his non addicted friend).

And that's the thing about depression: it hits when it hits and is largely oblivious to things that should matter: fun and connection and companionship, all things that should run depression off like a homeless man at a sorority party. But here's the thing about depression: it can happen in the middle of all that happiness.

Being happy does not solve being depressed. It pushes it back. Sometimes. But other times, seeing people who are enjoying themselves so purely, so completely, while you fake it and never understand why they are having so much fun, and why you're so miserable in the midst of so much fun. So many of the evenings when my friends have enjoyed my company and then spoken in reflection of the time we had, a lot of those times I have no recollection of specifics of that evening: I was just hoping the smoke and mirrors of the person I was that evening wasn't spotted, which would force me to answer questions I'd prefer not to think about. And so many of those same evenings, I've truly enjoyed myself, had a great time, connected in those instance where connections can happen, with full knowledge those are short term, temporary feelings that change as fast as Bay Area weather.

The only way I’ve been able to resolve these issues in my mind have always been twofold: my connection with others and my personal experience from loss. I have very important people in my life, and I know they’ll always be there for me, which means that, even at my lowest, I can slow those thoughts to a state of inertia and allow myself to get to a place where no true, physical harm can be done. I have my wife, family and friends who have been there for me even in times where I wish they'd left me alone, making sure I couldn't forget I was loved. I recognize the great deal of fortune I have, being able to pool that love from necessary reserves. But even in a world where I didn't have access to that plentiful and abundant resource, I’m still sure I’d not be able to do it, and it has much more to do with the unexpected losses of people close to me, one from an overdose and another from suicide. In both instances, I was one of the last people to speak with them, and in both instances, I feel like I was placed at that crossroad for that reason, to help my friends in their most dire time of need.

Needless to say, I feel like I failed both of them.

And the weight I feel about their deaths, despite hundreds of hours of therapy with a doctor telling me and everyone I've talked to about it telling me the same thing: you can’t hold yourself responsible. And I don’t think I'm responsible as much as I was irresponsible in my inaction, which is different but not as different as I’d like it to be from just being responsible. But the memory of my inability to act, the paralysis I felt immediately after both deaths, the confusion and pain I felt. And the pain I felt for both I thought was spirit crushing- until I went to the funerals, and I got to see the pain and confusion I felt magnified on the faces of the parents, family and friends with way more history, knowledge and expectations than I'd ever had of them.  The faces of their anguish are branded on my soul, and every time I ever think about death in any framing, I find myself working to make sure I never do that to someone, to leave them unexpectedly, with the pain expanded exponentially based on my choice to leave, for lack of a better word, willingly. Their memories, despite the pain they cause me, are always a driving force to keep moving forward, the best I can, and to remember the Maya Angelou quote:

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated.”

I think it’s important to note the person that told me that quote: my therapist. I need to state that because the only way I could have lived through a variety of experiences that would have broken me was with what would be described, at times, as pretty extensive therapy. Without support, I could have been easily broken by my issues: Valuable and important figures in my life dying, fighting a terminal disease and the psychological bumps and bruises faced throughout life.
Add to this that therapy is generally frowned upon in society, and the lack of access within the black community only magnifies these issues. There was also an issue with empathy: I had to go to multiple therapists to find one that didn’t dismiss my issues or frame them from an social location point inaccessible to me- finally finding one with whom I had common experiences with- she was Black too. It took me some time to find the right one, and it took me time to open up to her, but in a world where I’d been unwilling or unable to do that- I can’t guarantee what I would have done- but the violence would have been played out- just a matter of externally (me hurting others) or internally (me hurting myself). It took the combination of having people that care, my own desire to refrain from hurting them by leaving them with so many questions and therapy to get me to the point where I am now. It took the combination of having people that care about me, not wanting to hurt others because of the questions they’d have and therapy to get me to the point where I am now- where the ideation of suicide and the execution of suicide are not two sides of the same coin.

22 March 2016

Even homelessness allows for anti-blackness

i had my dignity stolen from me recently. and when i mean recently, i mean less than 24 hours ago. not because i' done anything undignified, far from it, but because someone decided to call me a nigger. say all you want about sticks stones and the impotence of words, i have never felt them as ineffective as described...

I had just travelled to Atlanta on a consulting trip, where I worked hard doing something I enjoyed. It could be said that the work I did produced high levels of success for those who purchased my services. I'm getting to do one of the few means of money generation I've truly enjoyed, and feel like I'm being compensated in a way I can appreciate.

I was back home, and after sleeping in to a point where I was actually rested when I woke up, I meandered through my morning until I realized I needed to go to the bank to make a deposit and get a bite to eat, two relatively harmless actions. Shit that literally everyone with a bank account has done. So I get in the sled and begin the day...I go to the bank with little expectation of a day turning shitty with limited expectation...and my trip to the bank is uneventful: I deposit my work check and decide I want to get some ramen...which requires me to go across town and wait in a 30-45 minute line...so when I arrive and the line is REMARKABLY SHORT i think that everything is coming up Millhouse...

I wait and get my ramen (FB,GR) and am about to head home. I drive home down San Carlos Ave to the freeway, and while stopped at a stop-light, I see a homeless man. He's standing on the median of the road, with a sign (two sided- one side- his wife and kids, the other- solicitation for money), and I was moved. My guy Joel reminded me that my problem was allowing myself to be moved by White Suffering (he was nowhere near as explicit) and if I had followed his advice, I'd  have been straight...but I didn't...

...I was moved by the pictures of his kids, his two year old (I'm assuming) and his 8-year old, and he was married. The pictures of his wife and his family- it was clearly a happier time than this. Also, couple the fact that it's beginning to rain really hard outside, and that i had a little something extra in my pocket, and I made the decision I could help him: it seemed the only "right" thing to do. So I gathered my money (a $5, a couple of $1's and some loose change- not winning the lottery, just tryin to help) and rolled down the window. Usually, when you roll your window down around soliciting homeless, they are pretty quick to pick up any money, as the location doesn't allow for smalltalk or really anything but brutal logistics of exchanging money. So when my window had been rolled down for a few seconds, I assumed he hadn't seen/heard me roll down the window, and was thus not aware of the possibility of getting a few bucks. So I try to call for his attention....this is a verbatim conversation...

me: hey man, i have some money for you.
homeless man:  I don't take out handouts from niggers. You probably stole it from a white man...

Day shatters.

Homelessness validated by White Privilege. 

All of the good that i've done seems to be washed away by this man's hatred. The things that I think establish value for me are literally set ablaze by the incendiary (the irony of such a word is i'm not sure if i asked him why he'd chosen such incendiary language that he'd have even fucking known what i was saying. The words themselves were hard enough to put my head around, and maybe it's my arrogance and classism speaking, the audacity of telling a man who's trying to offer you money that his "nigger" money wasn't good enough  and that it must have been "stolen" from the white man....I wasn't alive at the time of my parents, obviously, every thing they told me with regard to their lives revolved around the idea that "nothing is defaulted your way" and to "expect the system to fuck you at every turn, which is why you need to be able to relocate nationally in 72 hours." I always thought complete evacuation in 72 hours was odd until i realize we did it..twice...different time...

And at that point I felt...empty. Entirely fucking empty. And it nearly killed me. I don't really have a clear recollection of obtaining the food that i ate for lunch other than to know that, based on what was in the photo, that i must have gone to Race Street Market to get a Grilled Lobster Tail and some Drawn Butter, and decided the to get a Fish and Clam Chowder meal as well. All not terrible choices, except that I'd already PICKED UP LUNCH, The Soy Sauce Ramen at Santouka with Special Pork, which was sitting in the car the entire time. I don't really recall the drive home, except that I must have stopped at a grocery store as I had items from there, as well as a donut shop, as I had two sugar donuts (this says way more about me than i probably want it to, but here we are). I don't really know how I even got back to being in my house in front of the television when i kind of flashed back to the last 30+ minutes of my life when i just went on auto-pilot and just accomplished tasks- not even tasks that necessarily had to be done, but they were things to do while i tried to not become so enraged that i would get back in my car and run that motherfucker down [aside: i'd never have done that, not because i wouldn't want to, but i'd not let the media play me out as the cold hearted motherfucker that ran over a homeless man, removing all the context and making me a black Pol Pot]. But here I was, back home. There's a full length mirror that's next to the couch in The Man Cave, which is where i was sitting, about to eat a glorious lobster tail and The Weight of it all just hit me. And i started bawling. I'm to this point not really sure why. But I do know that i felt worthless and pretty fucking hopeless, in a heap of my own emotions. 

I've had people way closer to me say way more hurtful things, in the heat of the moment, in jest and sometimes, just because. People, even ones you love, can be incorrigible ass-hats. That being said, I've experienced way more vitriol from the parents of a woman i was dating, from a teacher at my high school and from a woman in a Burger King that tried to mace me for whistling Superstition by Stevie. Each garnered a response, and most would say that the response was of larger magnitude than the initial claim (read: i was way more hurtful in response- not proud of it, probably one of my most significant character flaws-but at least I recognize it's there). But this time, I'm sitting at home, an emotional hot mess, and I couldn't figure out why. It was at that moment this popped in my head:

Why do I want to live in a place where an attempt to give money to a homeless man and his inflammatory response can make me feel like I'm worthless? I'd be better off if I was dead. 

I've never had that thought before. And it scared the shit out of me. Immediately into my head floods all the good things that are going on- an incredible wife and family, a strong support system of friends and acquaintances that i know care about me and a drive that says "fuck you" more than "i quit" and within a few minutes, my thoughts had gone from "maybe i'd be better off dead" to thinking "what do people do when they don't have that support system? what happens if the person they love is the root of their pain? what happens when they run out of "fuck you" and "i quit" is all they see left?"

In short, what happens to you if someone takes your dignity and you're not able to get it back. I imagine it would foster what looked to be illogical amounts of distrust and hostility to the victims toward those inflicting the pain...does that sound like anything familiar to you all?

In the future, I'll resolve this the way my guy Joel does- I'm just not giving to white homeless people. Someone else will get you. You'll be aight....

11 January 2016

Dark Days coming for American Unions?

The Supreme Court of the United States will hear a case today that has the possibility of having massive, far reaching implications, the possibility of overturning constitutional precedent, and essentially changing the way unions in the United States function. These are some pretty broad, sweeping claims, especially about something that most people won't even know is happening, and won't really be an issue until June/July, when these decisions come in. 

Fredrichs v. California Teachers Association will be heard by The Court today. The question of the case is simply complex. There are actually two questions being asked: 1) Can public employees be forced to pay union dues as a mandatory condition of employment? 2) Whether requiring individuals to opt out of dues is in violation of the First Amendment. Since this is a little more formal than most of my writing, I should give some sort of road-map of the discussion. Initially, I'll give a limited history on Abood v Detroit Board of Education, Knox v. SEIU, Harris v. Quinn and how those cases play a role in this case. I'll then give the framing of the case from the position of the Petitioner, and afterwards, I'll give the case from the framing of the respondent. And finally, I'll go on record and tell you how I think the case will go, so I can have concrete proof of my choices for all to see, while remembering this key piece of information: Predictions are free, and worth what they cost. 

To have a legitimate understanding of Fredrichs, it'll be necessary to get a little background on a few decisions that are integral to it's legal implications. The first is Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, 431 U.S. 209 (1977). Unions take dues from federal employees, which makes them members of the organization, whether they want to be or not. This also includes nonmember workers, people not actually represented by the union, but are beneficiaries of union actions (these people will be called free riders for the duration). Louis Abood, a school teacher, objected to the union itself and was against the unions endorsement of political candidates, so Abood sued in Michigan state court., claiming a 1st Amendment violation. The decision still has far reaching implications, as it's the engine most unions use to generate the necessary funding, and it still does (part of the reasoning behind the case now). SCOTUS determines in Abood that, consistent with decisions with the private sector with regard to collection of dues, but only for collective bargaining purposes, as opposed to political purposes. This distinction is at the heart of the conflict within the Abood decision. It's important to note that Fredrichs intent is the overturn of Abood, which is pretty rare in SCOTUS decisions, as limiting and expansion are way more consistent actions...After Abood, the question of explicit vs presumed consent with regard to union involvement was brought forth in Knox v. Service Employees International Union No. 10-112, 567 U.S. 310 (2012). The SEIU needed to collect "special fees" and did so from union and nonunion members with an opt-out system, one that presumes consent to an action unless the individual makes an affirmative action to remove themselves. Otherwise, the person is presumed to consent and no actions need to be taken to collect fees. The Court, on a 5-4 decision, decided it was imperative to, in the case of special fees, to have the affirmative action- you have to actively want the fees taken, as opposed to having them taken from you and you have to act to have them not do so. This has the potential to be a devastating decision to the unions, but was severely limited in scope...this lead to Harris v. Quinn 573 U.S. This case seems like it's more in line with the questions in Fredrichs, as it has to do with the collection of union dues from nonunion members. The issues dealt with home health care workers, who are hired and fired individually, which was an important distinction noted by the justices when they made their decision that, in Harris, it was unconstitutional to collect dues from these nonunion workers. The warrant of the decision, once again, came back to collective bargaining. The Court determined, since the individuals are hired and fired on an individual basis, by the patients themselves, the discussion of collective bargaining for these nurses was irrelevant, as they would not be protected, as they were hired and fired from a different process...these three SCOTUS decisions provide a backdrop for the discussions in Fredrichs.

The Petitioners in the case are making two distinct, but important arguments. The first is that there is effectively no distinction between "collective bargaining" and "political speech" and that this false distinction is at the core of the conflict. The logic isn't hard to see- conversations about wages and benefits within the public sector, which is the area unions are allowed to use their fees, can definitely be seen as political speech, and at least, in the petitioners eyes, the core part of collective bargaining may be substantially more "political" than many core political issues (example: pension benefits being paid or cut is probably a bigger story than what state senator is endorsed and backed by the union). If the logic of Abood says it's unconstitutional to use union dues for "political purposes" then the petitioner, if they can prove there is a false distinction between political speech and collective bargaining. The petitioners also feel there is flawed logic in "free rider" rationale.

The logic of free rider rationale is that members who gain benefits from the union should pay dues, even if they're non members, as they are beneficiaries of the union actions for a couple of reasons. Initially, petitioners believe the the unions framing of what the union does and what they get out of the union is problematic. Unions, they claim, frame the issue of representation as an onerous burden placed on the union to represent all the members of the union, and it may be, the petitioner would say. However, it's also a base of incredible power, something the union has in spades: they're essentially a monopoly on access to the marketplace for negotiations between the employee and the employer- they have the power to speak exclusively for all employees AND prohibits the employer from going anywhere else and dealing with anyone else. And because of this, it means the cycle is always self-fulfilling, there will be dues which will allow representation which will increase wages which increase dues, etc. Secondly, their argument is that under the current agreement, unions are the representatives of the employee, whether they like it or not, which begets a certain amount of coercion- it's not really a "free" ride if you didn't ask for it or want it as much as a "forced" ride, and in this country, we're not forced to pay for things we didn't ask for. 

The second part of the petitioners claim is tied to the opt-in/opt-out option for union dues. As of now, when you get a job for the government, the union has the option to take dues from you outright (mandatory) or through an opt-out, presumed consent framing (this instance was an opt-out, which they also find problematic, for the reasons described in Knox above). The petitioner agrees with the logic advanced in Harris, indicating that, with regard to fees for unions, that members should choose to affirmatively engage with the union, as opposed to having their inaction the point of engagement.  They would argue that this means, without affirmative consent, the union gets to claim members as representative of views in collective bargaining and out (and remember, the initial claim is tied to there being no distinction between collective bargaining and political speech as they're one in the same). And because of this, the opt-out clause, specifically, does damage to the 1st Amendment rights of nonmembers who have to live with the implications of a union they're not members of with no voice in the matter. 

The Respondents are not without their positions on the matter, and feel they, too, have a strong case. They feel the premises of both components of the case are problematic. Initially, they feel there is a real distinction between political speech and collective bargaining conversations, and that the problem of the free rider is real. Their claim is that conversations determined during collective bargaining, things like wages and working conditions, are things that benefit all employees, regardless of their participation in the union, and that, in a world where people would still get the benefits of the union without paying for it through these union dues, that the union would have a couple of substantial problems: 1) they would have substantially less funds with which to operate and would crush the unions ability to do its job, and 2) would give incentive for people to NOT be in the union (human nature- you can get the same item, one for free, which do you take?) and would eventually be the end of the union as we know it. 

The respondent would also disagree with the logic of opt in vs opt out discussion, indicating that, because of the reasons above, that members should have an affirmative obligation for involvement, and that if they choose, they have the chance to opt-out of such a system- if you think the union isn't saying what you want them to say, you can sign some forms and no longer be obligated to pay. This means that, even if the petitioner was right and the union, through collective bargaining took stances on positions the member was dead set against, they could go to an office, sign a form and at that point, no longer be obligated to paying this.

Now that you've gotten a little something something on this, what do I think is going to happen? I'll start with what I think should happen- I'm not a legal scholar, so bear with me...historically, SCOTUS tries not to 1) overturn decisions, and 2) change law that would have overarching effects on society- only a handful of decisions have actually been overturned and SCOTUS doesn't generally like to set the world on fire with a decision that requires wholesale changes in the way societal structure functions. Overturning Abood, which is what Fredrichs wants to do, would set the union contracts world on it's head, as literally thousands of labor agreements are tied to the language, law and logic of Abood. And it's pretty important to have unions, in my opinion. Sometimes you and your administration may not see eye to eye, and you'll find yourself out there with nothing behind you, no support system to help you get what you deserve. This is the function of the union. And because in a capitalist system, I'll never believe the employer will do what is in the best interest of the employee, in terms of pay, conditions, hours, etc without some impetus to do so. Unions are that impetus. 

Now, what's actually going to happen? I think SCOTUS will affirm Fredrichs, which effectively overturns Abood. I think the majority, The Conservative Four and Justice Kennedy will decide there is no distinction between political speech and collective bargaining, that there are many staunchly held views by individuals that unions, in their collective bargaining agreements, take positions in direct opposition to those views, and that union dues, in effect, are funding speech they don't agree with and simultaneously squashing speech they would, but for the union. I think the discussion of the opt-in/opt-out will largely be irrelevant, as the court will have the opportunity to do something I think they want to do (the language in Harris indicates they felt Abood was problematic but that the question of the case made addressing Abood with an overturn was probably a constitutional stretch). The question I have is with that fat Italian racist Scalia, who is on record with having problems with the problem of the free rider with regard to unions and nonmember dues, but once I remember that 1) he's Scalia and 2) he voted with the Conservative Four on Knox and Harris, it becomes apparent that, when I call Miss Cleo about the future of unions in America, she, after leaving me on hold for 4 hours at $4.99 a minute, tells me:

The Future Is Bleak. 

04 January 2016

New Year, Same Racist Cops

I hate writing blogs about shit like this. I actually usually sit around and spend a fair amount of time talking myself out of doing things like this. Other than the minor reflective value this provides for me, I'm fairly sure these fall on close to deaf ears: and if not deaf ears, usually very friendly and cooperative ears, the ones who feel your pain and feel sorry for your experience, but when the day is done, they can do as much for you and you have the ability to change the weather...

...i was pulled over by the police last night. Those of you that know me understand this is not a new event: this makes 77 (yes, that's two fucking sevens next to each other) times in my life I've been pulled over. This may seem like a lot, and that's because it is a lot. The benefit I got from growing up in a "good neighborhood" was being treated like I didn't belong in there, like I was a foreigner invading their White landscape. So I got pulled over essentially all the time: pulled over in front of my house on multiple occasions, pulled over on the same street (the main street leading to my house) by the same cop four times in the same day, I've had my car searched on the side of the road (seven) more times than I've gotten tickets (three) and have been held at gunpoint, well, let's just say more than I've been pulled over.

So getting pulled over, in and of itself, is not an event that will rattle me. Been there, done that, got more than a few t-shirts for the occasion (in high school i actually had a t-shirt i wore under my shirt that had a cartoon Donald Duck "Assuming The Position" as a quiet means of protest- never allowed to wear it in public as "those motherfuckers will kill you" was Ma Dukes' sage advice)....fast forward to last night....

...just got back hanging with a friend talking about life stuff, and after getting an Uber home, i decided to go to the store and get something to snack on. It was almost 10:30pm, so I decided to go to the Wal-Mart, which is a little further up the road than the typical grocery store (and this is the place that accused me of walking out of the store with food and without paying, so even this store had some history). I decided to head to Wal-Mart....I'm about six blocks from home when I see the flashing sirens. Seems odd: I'm on a straight road, going under the speed limit and there's literally nobody else around (and not sure if this makes sense to those with less melanin- when i get pulled over, I like there to be an audience, so if i get shot, they'll have to silence witnesses as opposed to me having none). So I'm on a side street, with no traffic and really nobody around: i do see peering through the windows- but it's that "what's going on i don't want to be involved" peering that, when cops ask questions at the door, nobody sees anything. Police officer sits and waits before approaching my car and I know what that means: they're waiting for 'backup'- not sure what about me makes a guy call for backup...wait...I think I may have figured it out...

...once the second car arrives, the officer approaches the vehicle, and asks me for my drivers license and my registration for the vehicle. I inform the officer that my wallet in in my front pocket, and that I needed to move my right hand to my front pocket to retrieve my license, and that, although this was my wife's vehicle, i was pretty sure the registration was in the glove compartment, and that i would have to reach across the vehicle to open the box and hand them the registration. I reached into my pocket without incident, retrieved my wallet, pulled out my license and put the wallet back. I then went to reach across the car to go to the glove box when I hear:


At this time, I look back and realize that there are two officers, flashlights in my eyes to blind me. I'm a little disoriented as you can imagine: I just told them what i was going to do, specifically to avoid this exact scenario.


"I'm not moving. I'm reaching to grab my registration. I just to"- and then I see them- i don't know enough about guns to know what kind of guns were drawn, but i can say this: there were two officers, one yelling at the top of his lungs with a gun aimed through the drivers side and a second light and gun being aimed through the back window (which was that really necessary: it's a Prius- there's only like 5 feet between both officers.


So I stop. But as I stop some names pop in my head. John Crawford. Akai Gurley. Sandra Bland. Tamir Rice. Eric Harris. Walter Scott. And it occurs to me that I might actually fucking die at the end of this exchange. This feeling was more real: more so than it did on the other four occasions where I have been held at gunpoint, by police, in my vehicle, for a traffic stop that did not end with the police officers issuing a citation.

Let that marinade, as my mamma might say, 'for a hot minute' and you'll realize that means that, on five separate occasions in my life, I have had police officers pull their weapons on me for a 'routine' traffic stop in which i was never issued a ticket.

In what felt like 10 minutes of time in Real As Hell Freeze Tag where moving gets you shot, the officer finally tells me I can move again, and as I reach to grab the registration (which I told them I was grabbing initially but I wanted another reminder), the officer tells me there's no problem here, hands me back my drivers license and tells me I'm free to go.

Entire length of interaction: less than four minutes. two hundred and forty seconds. And what did the police get to do in that block of time: 1) remind me of 'my place' which, despite being pulled over in my own neighborhood, couldn't have been more clear that i didn't belong there as if it has been 1865 and I'd ventured out past Sundown, 2) remind me that, as an African American male, there are no simple or implication-less tasks, and 3) that power is something that can be wielded upon me at their leisure, and there's really no recourse. What am I gonna do: complain to the police? The degree of presumption they get from the law is devastating: Tamir Rice and Eric Garner grand juries should be proof of this (we all know Grand Juries are full of shit, but that's another blog)

I'm here right now, I firmly believe, because I didn't sneeze or cough at the wrong time- and those who know me, i cough a lot. I'm here right now because despite me being a threat, I wasn't enough of a threat to these individuals to warrant being shot. Maybe they just didn't feel like filling out any paperwork.

And when people ask me why I don't have kids, I give them an answer: I don't really want kids. Which is true- I don't. But if I was to examine what the reason behind not wanting kids, there are many, some of which are probably legitimate reasons. But for me, it's all those, with one major reason as a backdrop: Fear. I do not believe I could bring a child into a world where I fear they would never be welcome, and that I don't have the ability to keep them safe.

An American citizen who doesn't want to have children because he believes, in all of his being, that this country would not be safe for his children. That should sting more than it probably does.