The Rise of Passive-Aggressive Racism

Today is Tuesday, August 30, 2016, which means we’re a mere 11 weeks away from the most mortifying Presidential Election in recent memory.

Contrary to the claims made by Right-Wing, gun-totting, Fox News extremists, Obama is not going to rewrite the Twenty-second Amendment and succeed for a third term. Ain’t no way in hell the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate are going allow that shit. There’s a better chance of Ted Cruz shedding his human skin suit and revealing himself to be the soup guzzling alien we all thought he was.

But even if this preposterous scenario were possible (which it most certainly isn’t), I’m quite sure Barack would decline with the customary response Black people provide when we don’t want to do some shit: “Naw, I’m good.”

And I can’t blame him. After eight years of dealing with bullshit birth certificate claims, utter fuckshit from an inept Congress, and Oompa Loompa John Boehner, Obama’s got more pressing concerns ahead. There’s too much golf to be played and buckets to get. Not to mention ensuring Malia uses her gap year spending the necessary time with Michelle’s side of the family to acquire better dance moves.

While I appreciated Obama’s Presidency, I’m not about to deny him his freedom to walk off into the sunset sporting Chef Curry 2s. Enjoy yo’self, Mr. President.

To be clear, I’m not a huge fan of Hillary Clinton. Honestly, I don’t have any fucks to give about these pointless emails. Frankly, my distrust of her is derived from her propensity to do dumb shit, like claim she frequently carries hot sauce in her purse. In fact, my allegiance to her is mostly fueled by a great desire not to register my children like cattle, or exist in a cadaverous wasteland because some shallow, tyrannical zealot decided to play Battleship with our nuclear launch codes.

Thanks to Donald Trump’s perpetuation of xenophobic, bigoted, and misogynistic rhetoric, not only has he positioned himself as the nominee for the Party of Spoiled Misbehaving Children, but the steroid induced mozzarella stick has also ushered in a new era of radical nationalism. I’d like to call it Bitch-Ass Racism. (Not to be confused with Punk-Ass Troll Racism or Dumb-Ass Racism.)

Unlike its iniquitously barbaric predecessors, Slavery and Jim Crow, Bitch-Ass Racism seeks to disenfranchise non-Whites by utilizing established institutional racism and the social constructs of cognitive bias.

Yet, it rejects labels such as bigotry and discrimination, choosing instead to be identified as freedom of speech and good ol’ AMERICAN pride. And it gets worse.

Should anyone chide one of these Wypipo on their veneered, racist, bullshit, Bitch-Ass Racists will imprudently cite some nonsensical evidence as proof of their cultural acceptance. Furthermore, for accurately admonishing this bigotry, a person is labeled a racist for rejecting the Bitch-Ass Racist’s principles. The irony would be comedic if it weren’t so damn sad.

That’s an academic way of saying more and more White folks are acting on their suppressed hatred for minorities and justifying its validity under the umbrella of American values, while using White Fragility as a shield from being labeled a bigot.

Take, for instance, 49ers quarterback (and Kappa extraordinaire), Colin Kaepernick. Before Friday’s NFL exhibition game, this brother refused to stand during the national anthem to protest this country’s oppression of people of color–a dissent punctuated by wearing an “X” snapback and a graphic tee featuring Fidel Castro and Malcolm X. (Oh, let the White tears rain down like a hurricane.)

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Sure enough, for exercising his innate right, Kaep was bombarded with accusations of being an ungrateful, hypocritical, disloyal American citizen. Some were quick to point out his postgame attire featuring a “Marxist Dictator” and a “Black Nationalist Racist” as evidence of his own ignorant, racist beliefs. It was Bitch-Ass Racism at its finest.

Furthermore, others have foolishly suggested that Kaep cannot stand-up for oppression given his upbringing and massive NFL contract. As if money, being of mixed race, and White foster parents prevent him recognizing the atrocities this country has committed against Black folks. That’s that Dumb-Ass Racism.

Just a few months ago, many of these same people lauded Muhammad Ali as a great American champion and icon in the wake of his death, even though Ali refused to serve in the Vietnam War with convictions similar to Kaep’s. As did Jackie Robinson when breaking baseball’s color line. He’s now regarded as one of the greatest ambassadors of “America’s Pastime.” Again, the fucking irony is maddening.

UPDATE: So not only has the San Francisco Police Officers Association asked for an apology, but the Santa Clara Police Union has issued an ultimatum to the 49ers organization; apologize or we’ll stop protecting your games. This is the most paramount example of Bitch-Ass racism at its finest. It’s white fragility, reduced in threatened egos, wrapped in fuckshit, with a side of privilege and abuse of power, drowned in bitch-assness. Bon appétit!

It’s amazing what ignorance, privilege, and a reliable wifi connection can do. Now more than ever, any white person can recklessly disregard circumspection, offend or disenfranchise unsuspecting Brown people, and hide behind the shield of domestic pride.
But despite the pitiful attempts to camouflage their bigotry with claims of patriotism, I still see them for who they are: chauvinistic assholes, void of original thought, and an unwillingness to recognize the culture of others. Y’all are about as accepting of non-Whites as Rachael Dolezal is Black.

And because I see this shit for what it is, others can too. It’s impossible not to. Unless of course, you’re Stacey Dash, Ben Carson, Clarence Thomas, or any other self-hating Black person in America. There’s no reason for you all to hide. Shed your Bitch-Assness and adopt your feelings of White supremacy. Or you could just stop being a narrow-minded monomaniac and embrace some gotdamn diversity. The choice is yours.

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Sometimes Older People Just Want To Talk, And That’s Okay Because Being Older Is Hard

“His name is Wolf. No really, that’s his real name.” This is what Nadine said to me this morning. At the time of writing this, it occurred nearly an hour ago. The comment caught me completely off guard. I was patiently waiting in line at Panera, eager to purchase a spinach, mushroom, and sofrito soufflé and get on with my day. I have a lot of shit to do today, like write, read, study, apply for jobs, look up Madden ’17 ratings, buy shoe cleaner, etc. It’s going to be a busy day.

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It wasn’t until I looked towards the cashier that I realized she was addressing me. She gazed at me with a sweet smile (the kind that looked as if she just baked a dozen chocolate chip cookies from scratch), anticipating my response. “Excuse me, ma’am?”, I replied.

“Wolf, my husband, that’s his real name. It’s not a nickname,” she said, gesturing towards the older gentlemen standing beside her. “Our grandkids always say, ‘Hey Grandma Wolf’ and I always tell them, I’m not the Wolf, your Papa is the Wolf,” she said with a cute snicker. I could tell she frequently enjoys a few humorous anecdotes from herself. I can appreciate that. I crack myself up a lot these days.

Unsure of what to say, I responded with a sterile, “Gotcha! That’s funny.” It wasn’t my intention to return with a short antiphon. It’s just that I’m a bit of an introvert and extremely awkward when speaking to strangers, especially in the morning (having just woke up less than an hour ago) and before I’ve consumed food (did I mention I woke up less than an hour ago?).

She smiled again, calmly turned to her husband, and finished placing her order. I faintly sneered as she looked away, and approached the counter to purchase the egg pastry that I intended to gormandize less than 5 minutes upon receiving it.

I collected my food and drink from the nearby pick-up trestle and turned in search of an area to cocoon myself for the next 5 hours. As I began walking towards the general seating area, I locked eyes with Nadine once again. Disappointed with my response during our prior encounter, I attempted to be as warming as possible with my facial expression. I flashed an inviting grin, then looked to continue my search for a place of solace.

“Are you gonna eat that? You must be hungry,” Nadine said chuckling. She was cracking herself up again. I can dig it.

“Yes ma’am, I am,” I replied.

“Well, would you like to sit with us? We certainly don’t mind,” she said, sliding her tray aside to clear room for my arrival.

Under any other circumstances, I would have declined the invitation. After all, I have a ton of shit to do today, remember? People need to know why I think Frank Ocean’s new album is palatable mediocrity. I need to know Golden Tate’s overall Madden rating given Megatron’s departure. And I still need to clean a few sneakers that I wore just once a few weeks ago. Dammit, there’s never enough time to do anything.

“Are you sure?” I replied.

“Of course. Wolf and I could use some company.”

I glanced at Wolf, seeking his approval. He hadn’t said anything since his wife began speaking to me. I wanted to be sure his wife wasn’t writing checks that his humility had no intention of cashing.

Picking up on my subtle social hints, Wolf smiled and said, “Yeah, c’mon young man. Have a seat.”

I set my belongings down and eased my way into the vacant chair next to Nadine. She was overly enthused with my decision to dine with her and her husband. I’m not sure I have ever seen a White woman over the age of seventy excited at the prospect of eating with a 30-year-old Black man. From my brief existence on this planet, shit like this doesn’t happen often, not even in movies. Unless, of course, you’re Hillary Clinton looking to score votes. Seriously, when’s the last time you saw Diane Keaton opposite a young, Black male on the silver screen? I’ll wait.

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“So, what’s your name?” asked Nadine.

“Morgan,” I replied.

“Morgan? Oh, that’s our granddaughter’s name. That’s such a lovely name,” she said.

It’s a response I have become quite familiar with. Other than Morgan Freeman, the fictional character on The Walking Dead, and a guy I once interviewed for a management position at Nike, I have never met or known another Black man with the first name Morgan. Occasionally, I would come across a Black chick named Morgan. But it’s exceedingly rare. I’ve long accepted that my name is now synonymous with, “White Girl.” There’s a movie coming out this fall about an “exceptionally gifted” white girl aptly titled, Morgan, which I’m sure will only exacerbate my conundrum. Oh, joy!

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Nadine and I had a long, spirited conversation (it wasn’t much of a conversation, just her talking to me really) about a wide range of topics. She told me more about her grandchildren – eight total, three girls and five boys – their ages, and the various activities they’re involved in. As it turns out, Morgan is a phenomenal athlete. I guess we have a few things in common.

She described the first accident she endured and how her father nearly had a heart attack when he found out.

She told a few tales about growing up in the 1950s; about her dream of becoming a professional baker, but instead relishing the opportunity to become a stay-at-home mom, her love affair for Mission: Impossible (she had a huge celebrity crush for Peter Graves), and the sadness she felt upon reading about Steven Hill’s death this morning. She expressed frustrations with technology, namely the new oven her daughter bought her, and why she is convinced her baked goods don’t taste as good as they did when she used her antique Maytag (the character of an appliance provides flavor in her opinion). She talked about the friendships she built over the years, but how many of her closest acquaintances had now passed on.

Wolf chimed in a few times, mostly with anecdotes about how much society has changed and how he didn’t understand it, but he was virtually quiet during the conversation. He might have been on some Clint Eastwood shit, who knows. But he was content with letting his wife do most of the talking. I surmise it’s a resolution he came to years ago.

About halfway through the conversation, I came to the stark realization that Nadine just wanted to converse with someone, anyone, other than Wolf. It’s not that she’s grown tired of her husband (she is very much still in love with Wolf and told a beautifully romantic story about when they met, and how he needed permission from her father to take her out to a local diner and grab malts). It’s that she needed to interact with someone different. I just happened to be the complicit stranger she was seeking. Or maybe I was the “Magic Negro” that would suddenly give their lives purpose, I honestly can’t tell.

I can’t say I didn’t come away from this experience with some substantive jawns of my own. A few advantages of spending time with old folks is obtaining delicious hard candies and life gems. According to my dentist, I can do without the former. The latter included timely advice about the importance of chasing your dreams and pursuing happiness, which is always appreciated.

Recently, my mother has continuously asked me if I would put her in a nursing home when she reaches the age of eighty. It’s a topic I wish to avoid, as the thought of my mother aging saddens me. But it’s a legitimate question that concerns her, one fueled by the fear of being forgotten.

We all have stories; life is an incredible matrix of complex and compelling tales and experiences. And we all want our existence to mean something, to have purpose. In a society where technology has afforded us the ability to interact with one another from afar, it’s easy to forget the importance of intimate human connection. I suppose Nadine, in the winter of her life, sought to espouse this affection. I was privileged to have been a witness to her abridged biography.

The older we get, the harder life becomes. Yesterday, I was concerned if I would have enough money to see Europe again within the next five years. Ten years ago I was worried about whether I had enough money to get lit at Night Kap. (It was a Kappa party. What the fuck was I thinking?) Twenty years ago I was coming to terms with rejection from my elementary school crush. ({Insert name of unnamed woman here} broke my heart because she wouldn’t wouldn’t go with me. The nerve of her!)

Life is short. But it’s shorter for older people. So if a card-carrying, AARP member attempts to spark up a conversation with you, and you have time to indulge, do it. Oblige gotdammit. Lord willing, that will be you in 50 years, and you’ll expect the same.

 

 

 

 

Ahhh, Frankie, Let’s Talk

When I was a young boy, living in the (inner) city (of Detroit), I did young boy things, like read comic books and participate in Boy Scouts. Contrary to the stigma associated with the Boy Scouts of America, I learned a substantial amount of life skills. For instance, I know how to sculpt a race car from a block of wood, the importance of deciphering knots (I got that Bowline and the Double Fisherman on lock, fam), and ways to peddle stale popcorn to strangers in front of K-Mart. (Before there were fire-ass mixtapes, there was fire-ass popcorn in these streets, son. Fuck them Girl Scout cookies.)

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One of the best perks of Boy Scouts were camping trips. I’m not talking about the modern version of camping that we’ve become accustomed in which you sleep in an air-conditioned cabin with wifi and propane powered stoves. I mean actual camping, with a tent, a military-style duffle bag, a compass, a Swiss army knife, and a book of matches, outside in the gotdamn woods, with animals and shit.

They were remarkably enjoyable; a welcomed escaped from the gritty confines of the Motor City. For 3 to 5 days all that consumed me was playing Capture the Flag, shooting shotguns, canoeing down rivers and hiking through nature’s beauty. I loved it. Every bit.

But it certainly had its drawbacks. There’s only so much camp fare a puberty stricken teenager can stomach before he morphs into a primordial monster. We gotta eat instant oatmeal, again? FUCK!

I remember possessing a ravenous craving for Coney Island, a Detroit staple that features chili-cheese everything. Hot dogs? Chili-cheesed! Fries? Chili-cheesed! Burgers? Chili-cheesed! Eggs? Chili-cheesed! EVERYTHING IS LOADED WITH CHILI AND CHEESE! Except pancakes. That would be blasphemous.

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After my mother scooped me and my brother up from the drop-off location following our outdoor escapade, she’d take us to our favorite Coney Island spot, L. George’s on Six Mile and Schaefer. We’d stuff ourselves until our bellies were full and wash down the high caloric mass of fat and cholesterol with Vernor’s. It was the best food ever. Or at least we thought it was, back in 1998.

This is how I feel about Frank Ocean’s much-anticipated album, Blonde, but stylized as Blond because apparently that’s a thing these days.

Only, I haven’t been living in a tent in Northern Michigan. It’s Christopher Francis Ocean (born Christopher Edwin Breaux) who’s been tucked away in the abyss of his creative wilderness for four long-ass years.

I should mention that I wasn’t always a Frank Ocean fan. While I did enjoy Channel Orange, I didn’t listen to it until about a year ago. Before then I wasn’t inclined to tune into Frank Ocean. Had it not been for his vocals on Jay-Z and Kanye’s Watch The Throne, the news surrounding his sexual orientation, the countless memes poking fun at the timeliness of his sophomore project, and a former female acquaintance, I’m not sure I’d even know who he is. Eh, that’s a little dramatic. I’d probably still know him without all that other stuff. But I doubt I would have listened to his album any earlier than I did. I just wasn’t intrigued.

With that said, I like many other Frank Ocean stans, eagerly awaited the release of Boys Don’t Cry. It wasn’t just about a follow-up to an impressive debut. We’ve been waiting on Lauryn Hill to bless us with a second studio album for years now. But, you know, she’s predisposed to making negroes wait for shit.

It was more about what Ocean’s music represents: a new wave of R&B sound; an experimental foray of euphonic noise that speaks to our souls. Much like Janelle Monáe, Miguel, The Weeknd, Anderson .Paak, and The Internet, Ocean’s music feels like the beautiful offspring of George Clinton’s Parliament Funkadelic, Prince, and Erykah Badu, backed by The Legendary Roots Crew.

There’s no denying that Frank is an incredibly creative human being capable of producing quality music. While his voice isn’t anything to write home about, his keen wit and eclectic musical production is worth a listen.

Which brings me to Blonde. I’ve been waiting so long for this album that I wanted to devour it whole while savoring every nuance. I craved this latest iteration of alternative R&B like a blood-thirsty zombie feening for living flesh. I needed this to be everything that it was hyped to be (in my mind): proof that Frank Ocean is indeed the millennial version of Jimi Hendrix.

While this chaotic record satisfied my basic appetite, contrary to what I’m sure Pitchfork will say about it, it’s not the greatest thing I’ve ever listened to. It’s not even what I hoped for. It’s palatable mediocrity. It’s a collection of melodramatic, electric funk cacophony, with a few witty lyrics weaved in.

Here’s a brief side note: Endless was kinda fresh. And by fresh, I mean it in the sense that the music was decent, and it put away the notion that Frank Ocean was somewhere in a ritzy Beverly Hills condo, trolling the shit out of people with his extended absence. But how entertaining can it be to watch multiples of the same guy in a shop class, listening to music he created? That’s like watching Kanye exist in the world while he ogles at the many works of genius he’s bestowed upon us, ordinary folks. Minus the duplicates, we’ve seen this shit before.

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Blonde was an enjoyable journey for the sixty-one minutes I devoted to it, immersed in its arbitrary oblivion. But once I emerged from the rabbit-hole 18 tracks later, I found myself asking, “What on Earth did I just listen to?” followed by, “Was this supposed to be random?” and finally, “Holy fuck, that was André 3000 on the track!”

If you’re a Frank Ocean evangelist, I imagine his latest work will elicit feelings of Nirvana, and you’ll likely categorize the project as an instant classic. If you’re a hater, you’ll probably feel grave distaste and utter disappointment, assuming you’re even open to giving it a spin. However, for the average fan who enjoys good music, like me, it’s aight. It’s not terrible. But it’s also not a masterpiece of epic proportions.

It’s very much like the coney dogs and chili-cheese fries I inhaled years ago following my excursions into the wilderness. It tasted great because I was yearning to sink my teeth into meaty cheesiness. After all, for days I was merely getting by on soggy oats and cardboard disguised as granola. However, my growing appetite, coupled with consuming less desirable food, should not serve as an indicator for Coney Island’s awesomeness. It’s still an acquired taste. While (some) Detroiters will vehemently swear by it, it’s not the culinary awesomeness that it’s declared to be. It’s delectable while you’re eating it, but no one in their right mind should eat this shit more than twice a year. Hell, I rarely eat it when I make my biennial trips to my hometown. (My palate has matured. And I should visit Detroit more often.)

Blonde has a few profoundly beautiful moments. “Nikes” is pretty dope (the track and the video) and André 3000’s feature on “Solo (Reprise)” sent the world into a frenzy when he dissed Aubrey “I Stay In My Light-skinned Feelings” Graham. We find young Frank at his sincerest on “Siegfried” where he transitions from discussing a break-up to penetrating reflections of his own life. It’s some deep shit layered in there.

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But there’s too much randomness, and apparently, I’m just not cool enough to get it. Like, why is Ocean’s mama emphatically preaching about the perils of drugs, particularly marijuana? (Does she not know weed is Heaven sent?) Or why does the album close out with a slew of mashed up, uninteresting interviews, seemingly recorded on someone’s iPhone? Why does that shit matter? Why, Frank?!

It’s like nuking Tostino’s Pizza Rolls in the microwave, staring at them as they rotate, and waiting patiently for them to cook. Only once you remove the savory snacks from the large clock that occasionally cooks shit, you realize a few are still slightly frozen, even though they’re all hot on the outside. Like, how? HOW, SWAY?!

I’m not going to replay Blonde this week. Maybe not even the next two months. I’d much rather listen to Jamila Woods’ Heavn. (It’s really Heaven, but stylized as Heavn, because as I said before, apparently that’s a thing these days. And it’s free to download, so you don’t have to sign up for Apple Music.) Blonde is the musical version of the movie 300. I’ll give it another listen when I’m in the mood, but it’s not in my steady rotation. I ain’t stuntin’ it like that. Which makes it enjoyably average.

 

All Hail King S. Dot

Today is August 6. It is Sean Lowe’s birthday. I imagine this day beginning with Sean’s 1-year-old son (a supreme bundle of cuteness) waking him up in the most inadvertent toddler way possible. Maybe it would be a smack in the face. Or a sippy cup to the nose. Or deafening wailing to signal hunger, or a soiled diaper. Either way, he would have enjoyed it. All of it. Even the diaper.

I envision Sean glancing over at the boy’s beautiful mother, grinning with a playful smirk. She’d then say something cute and loving, which would prompt a quippy retort, and they’d embrace in some picturesque, beautiful black family way.

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He’d then post evidence of his model family via social media, equipped with a witty, thought-provoking quote on the joys of turning thirty. He loved to do that. He’d respond to an onslaught of texts, calls, and other messages as diligently as possible. The sheer volume would be a challenge. He’d speak to the strong woman who raised him, thanking her for the endearing love and support she’s showered him with over the past three decades. He’d then share laughs with his younger brother, who adored and exalted him.

He would later jubilantly celebrate into the night, an event that would be a privilege to attend. He’d trade funny barbs as he reminisced about the times he shared with those lucky enough to call him a friend. All of which would fade in comparison to the tall tales in his best friend’s arsenal. He is a comedic nut.

It should be a joyous day. It would have been. But it’s not. These thoughts only exist in my mind. They will never come to fruition. Because Sean is not here and neither is his son.

I’ve tried many times to make sense of the events that took place on February 10, the fateful night that claimed the lives of two exceptional souls. I frequently replay the events before and after, looking for nuances that could have altered the tragic outcome. It’s a painfully futile habit.

I try to justify Sean’s absence, attempting to convince myself that it’s part of God’s plan. There must be some reason for ending the life of a remarkable young man, right? There must be. It’s a notion that remains unanswered. The only logical conclusion that I can surmise is sometimes terrible things happen to good people because it’s the nature of our existence. There is exceptional cruelty in the randomness of death. We can only celebrate the life that was.

Sean Ameer Lowe is perhaps the most extraordinary man that I’ve ever known. I do not use this superlative lightly. This is not intended to be hyperbole. He was a phenomenally unique person.

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I remember when we first met. I was a part of a newly minted retail management team tasked with opening an outlet store and we were conducting interviews for associates. Having interviewed approximately 200 candidates over the course of three days, the exercise had become a banausic undertaking, to say the least. There are only so many introductions, fake smiles, and unimpressive statements a person can endure before voices become muted trombone cries.

I recall walking in Hampton Inn & Suites on day 4, with my backpack in tow, thinking just how exhausted I was. I grabbed a cup of coffee, settled into the familiar confines of the hotel’s boardroom and greeted everyone with a pseudo-enthusiastic “good morning”. After discussing our criteria and objectives for the upcoming applicants, I retreated to the hallway to receive our latest candidate.

Against the wall stood a thin Black man with a goatee. His attire was oddly formal, especially given the setting. Interviews predictably warrant business casual attire, but we were hiring for an athletic company and expected some informality. I certainly didn’t anticipate seeing someone draped in dress shoes, black slacks, a red Oxford shirt, and an argyle sweater vest. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought he’d be attending a Kappa convention rather than a Nike interview.

As I approached the gentleman, he flashed a cunning smile, extended his hand for a customary handshake and said, “Hey, I’m Sean Lowe.”

“Morgan,” I replied. We shared a few more pleasantries, entered the room and prepared for yet another interview.

I fully expected to recommend this candidate for hire, as others  within the company revered him. He exhibited a cordial first impression and a friendly personality. But I was tired and didn’t forecast a memorable interaction.

Within 5 minutes this man from Jamaica Queens, New York obliterated my expectations. There was a calm confidence in him as he spoke with unrelenting zeal about his belief in the power of sport. He shared tales of his days as a track athlete for the University of Maryland, his failed journey to become an Olympic athlete, and his deep passion for helping others reach their full potential. And he did so with a genuinely warm smile. It was the kind of smile that gave others a comforting resolve The entire room held onto his every word.

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Nearly 30 minutes, and a heap of superb anecdotes later, the interview concluded. My boss recited a few procedural instructions, some salutations, and Sean began to depart. “Thank you so much for the opportunity guys, and girls,” he said, thoughtfully acknowledging everyone’s gender. Sean always wanted those he spoke with to feel respected. “It was a pleasure. This was a lot of fun.”

As he disappeared beyond the laminate door, I turned to my supervisor and said, “Wow. He needs to be on my team. Period.”

Over the years Sean and I developed a remarkable relationship. We seamlessly bounced ideas off each other. Though we disagreed often, there was profound respect in our contention. We used the contrarian nature of our bond as fuel to become better leaders. It didn’t matter that I was his superior. We were equals, a formidable team, capable of doing remarkable work convivially.

It wasn’t long before our rapport extended beyond a professional accord. We reveled in our shared presence. We habitually reenacted Key & Peele skits, spoke to each other in Pootie Tang, and discussed the beautiful complexities of J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar.

We debated the Stay Puft Marshmallowness of Aubrey Drake Graham, the comedic repertoire of Eddie Murphy versus Kevin Hart, the terrible luckiness of Eli Manning, and the frustrating process of purchasing Jordan’s.

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But more than anything, we cared about each other. We appreciated each other’s struggles as fellow Black men and fathers.

One instance, in particular, was a few weeks before his tragic departure. I was overwhelmed with the vast amount of pitfalls I’d been experiencing both professionally and personally. I was catching more Ls than Meek Mill and having trouble coping with them. As I sat in the communal office we shared, dejected and uninterested in doing anything, Sean walked in, displayed his signature smile and said, “You look stressed. There’s no reason to be stressed. Just find your happy place and focus on what you can control: You. We gon’ be alright. We goin’ straight to the top.”

It was a simple pick me up. But the sincerity in Sean’s voice was incredibly striking. He believed in me, even when I doubted myself the most.

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I miss Sean every day. I miss him when Kendrick Lamar does something Kendrick Lamarish, like release an album out of the blue, or give jaw-breaking award show performances, or catch passes from his label mate during an NFL training camp. I miss him when my son reaches a milestone (like saying new words or imitating a video), and I need to unload my joy onto a fellow dad. I miss him when the Maryland basketball team creates annoyingly viral dancing videos. I miss him when Michigan State does frustratingly idiotic things, like losing in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament, and I know I’ll be the victim of unrelenting shit talking.

I miss him because we never experienced these things due to a person’s dreadfully irresponsible judgment. I miss him because his family wasn’t allowed to share moments that meant so much more than my own.

I recently read that Monty Williams, an associate coach for the OKC Thunder, still texts his late wife at times. She too was killed in an automobile accident. It’s a habit I’ve also adopted. I know Sean’s will never reply. I know we’ll never exchange memes of corny dog jokes again. But there’s solace behind the action.

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I regularly view Sean’s social media accounts. I also keep his obituary on my person whenever I travel. It’s my way of ensuring that I never forget him. Even without the benefit of technology, I’m not sure that I could. Despite our brief time together, Sean had a profound impact on my life. It was an honor to know him, for which I am incredibly grateful.

I haven’t spoken to Sean’s family much since his death. With each passing day, I feel guilty for my lack of communication. It’s convenient to become swarmed within the perils of my life. But I mostly refrain because I don’t know what to say. It’s ironic, given that I dub myself a writer (and a crafter of words). I just don’t know what I could express that would undo the excruciating pain and sorrow they’ve endured. I don’t believe there’s any amount words I could construct that would resonate enough to console their heartache.

I suppose the only thing I can do is attempt to live my life as a testament to his. Sean was everything I aspired to be. He embodied the noblest traits a man could possess. He cared deeply for those around him and had an everlasting desire uplift those within his circle (he called it his Happy Place). He was an incredible father, and found joy in life’s minutia, rarely taking moments for granted.

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He should be here gently scolding me for scarfing unhealthy food too fast. Or working too much. Or getting upset about insignificant things I cannot control. We should be raising glasses of Grand Marnier, celebrating thirty years as Black men on this planet, looking forward to 100 more. We should be formulating the many ways our sons will one day take over the world. I should be telling him how he was the greatest Olympic athlete that never was, as we share our observations from this year’s Games in Rio.

But for now, all I can do is write. I pray that it’s enough, though I doubt that it is. This one’s for you Sean. You in there dog, until we meet again. All hail King S. Dot.

If you would like to donate to Sean’s family please do so here. Every little bit helps.

 

The Necessity of Pointlessness

As a black male, there is no shortage of reasons to attend a HBCU. Some are beneficial, like becoming more woke, finding ways to appreciate your Blackness and educating yourself in the presence of forward-thinking people who strive for Black excellence. Others are purely social, like being outnumbered by fine-ass Beyoncé wannabes 20-to-1, getting turnt for epic Homecomings or indulging in the spoils of Greek life (if you’re into that).

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One of the greatest takeaways from my time at FAMU is the high volume of caring professors I encountered during my nearly decade-long excursion in the highest of seven hills. (I don’t have a graduate degree, it just took me long as fuck to receive my Bachelor’s because I didn’t know what the hell I wanted to do.) I was privileged to acquire knowledge from educators who not only genuinely cared about my professional preparedness, but also my personal well-being. To this day, there are a few professors that I occasionally reach out to for counseling, mentorship, and even, shit-talking (whenever my Lions beat the Packers, there is bragging to be had).

The most influential professor during my time in Tallahassee was Dr. X. He’s a distinguished gentleman, who boasts an impressive resumé and a delightful bowtie collection. (He’s worked for the CIA, the State Department, and a bunch of other cool-ass organizations. Out of respect, I’ve changed his name for this piece.) He sermonized the importance of efficiency and maximizing opportunity; fitting given he is an economics professor.

“Your life should be about purposeful movement. Everything you do must have value,” he frequently said. He seldom discussed sports, music, movies or any other form of entertainment. It was “fruitless frolic” in his opinion. It’s a notion that we debated often. I remember facetiously telling him once, “There is joy in indulging in pointless activities. LeBron’s field goal percentage is of grave importance.” He would always reply in his stoic, monotone voice, “Nonsense.”

But given the state of our society, and the growing presence of the world’s wickedness, it’s a notion that has become increasingly imperative. There is an absolute necessity for indulging in pointless shit for the sake of our sanity. Note: The events of today’s society are in no way new, or more heinous than before. Technology has just made us more aware of the evil that exists.

Last month featured a metric fuck ton of nefarious, gut-wrenching shit. There were two state-sponsored executions of Black men. Then came the cowardly retaliation that killed five civil servants. That’s in addition to the dozens of terrorist attacks that claimed more than 500 lives around the world (including Nigeria, France, Syria, and Iraq). And the four lives lost due to gun violence on Chicago’s Southside during Independence Day weekend. And the grandmother killed via a hit-and-run while tending to a community flower bed.

Not to mention the coronation of America’s most offensive, bigoted and demonizing political candidate disguised as dog vomit fungus, at a convention who’s political party is predicated on White supremacy, privilege, and bitch-ass-ness.

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Donald Trump, in natural form

This month is already off to a sadistic start. Less than a week into August and we’ve witnessed the state-sponsored execution of one black woman (and the wounding of her five-year-old child) and the grotesque murder of another. It’s a cruel fucking world that we live in.

Thus, to cope with this wickedness, I frequently indulge in some incredibly meaningless shit. Today was no different. I played NBA 2K15. I watched amateur-produced skits via social media. I cleaned barely worn sneakers. I listened to The Internet’s Ego Death. I found creative ways to duck Navient’s harassing collection calls (you’ll get this money when I get it gotdammit). I even researched stats comparing cornrow donning, Denver Nuggets Carmelo to outspoken, annoyed by Jimmy Bulter’s singing, New York Carmelo. Note: MSG Melo may be shooting the ball better from beyond the arc, but I’ll take Mile High Melo all damn day.

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None of this added any considerable value to my life. In fact, I’ll forget a few of these activities by the time I turn 30 years-old next week. But they all did one vital thing: they provided some escape. They gave me a much-needed distraction to the world around me. They allowed me to smile a little more and strengthen the hold on my dissipating hope for humanity.

For some reason, we’re quick to denounce profitless activities as being childish, or unfit for adult consumption. Everything’s about getting money. Or bitches. Or recognition. Or starting a revolution.

Just last week during a pick-up basketball game with a few older, suit-wearing professionals, the conversation frequently pivoted around the lack of urgency millennials have in regards to growing their fortune, and the fruitless distractions we adopt, namely Pokémon Go. As if working a job we abhor, for a company that considers us disposable, in a sterile cubicle for 30 years is a great alternative. Naw, fuck that. Stop shitting on other people’s rainbows.

Look, I’m not saying we shouldn’t adopt progressive behaviors. It’s important to build wealth, stay as woke as possible, and count calories occasionally. But just as managing your bank account is important, so is investing in your happiness. If catching Pikachus, or watching King Bach’s videos, or floating half naked on an inflated donut with a beer in tow puts a smile on your face, then good for you. Do that shit. Everything in moderation.

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Not every move needs to be a calculated, profound action in a futile effort to become the greatest human on planet Earth. The beauty of life is finding joy in the little things. So give adulting a break. Eat a whole tub of gelato. Watch some twerk videos. Start a Nerf war. Obliterate your homeboy in Madden. Reread Harry Potter for the third time. Have sex like there’s no tomorrow (wrap it up though). Your inner-self needs it. And our humanity depends on it.