racism

Rent-A-White-Man Super Bowl

I found the 2015 Super Bowl commercials somewhat lacking in the humor department. Nothing made me barked out aloud in laughter. (Although the Kia Sorento car commercial with Pierce Brosnan, who imagines himself being pitched for a James Bond-style car ride with snipers, missile launchers and explosions that became rather uninteresting, made me smile.) A Satire Bowl commercial that most of America and the world haven’t seen was “Rent-A-White-Man”, where black people can rent a white man to act on their behalf in post-racial American society without getting shot by the police.

Unless you’re living in a cave and watching Fox News TV, this is really funny. If you understand the irony of white privilege that is, which most white people can’t comprehend because they’re never judged by the color of their skin, have to think twice while walking down the street, or followed because someone think they’re up to no good. Being a native Californian with redneck parents from Idaho and living my entire life in the multicultural San Francisco Bay Area, I can appreciate—and laugh at—both sides of the racial divide.

And rent a white man is also a fantastic idea.

As a white man in my mid-forties with graying hair at the temples, I’m deeply concerned about being aged out of the tech industry that favors younger foreign workers over older American workers. That was obvious at a job from several years ago where Indians made up the majority of the workers and only vegan pizza got served at company events. I’m transitioning my career from general information technology (I.T.) into information security (InfoSec) that requires 10+ years of general I.T. experience to get into, a difficult hurdle for anyone from India or fresh of college to overcome. If I do get aged out of my current career, I can always rent myself out as a white man.

Rent a white man isn’t all satire. Chinese companies routinely rent white men in business suits to present their operations with American faces from a non-existent U.S. company and project an international aura over the local competition. Who knew that white privilege was a marketable skill?

Yes, Virginia, Santa Claus Is Black As Hell

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As a child growing up in the 1970’s, I heard evangelical Christians on the religious TV channels complain about the commercialization of Christmas as mass-market retailers emphasized the importance of giving—and receiving—gifts to the extent that God was often forgotten during the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Unlike the Puritans who actually cancelled Christmas for two decades in the 17th century, these Christians wanted people to slow down, consider the birth of Christ and their relationship with God.

Never mind that Christmas was a Roman pagan festival called Saturnalia that celebrated a weeklong period of lawless, as the courts weren’t open and no crime committed during that time was punishable. Some communities even designated an unfortunate soul to become the “Lord of Misrule,” encouraging that person to indulge in all kinds of pleasure, and then brutally killing that person at the end of the holiday. Which, ironically, is what Black Friday has become these days with all the mayhem over getting the best holiday deal.

Fast forward a generation, evangelical Christians on Fox News are complaining the mass-market retailers are removing Christmas from the holidays by changing “Merry Christmas” to “Happy Holidays” in their greetings. There’s a “war on Christmas” to prevent evangelical Christians from shoving the spirit of Christmas down everyone else’s throat.

Did that make your head spin like the little girl’s in “The Exorcist” movie? Mine did too.

Now it didn’t help that Fox News host, Megyn Kelly, proclaimed that both Santa and Jesus were white and tough luck for anyone who wanted to believe otherwise. Saturday Night Live has a great skit about Santa Claus being black as hell. I wrote a tanka poem about Santa Claus being black from climbing down so many chimneys that his old lady called the cops because he forgot his keys.

Of course, this nonsense had to spill over into the real world. A white teacher told a black student that he couldn’t play Santa. A black Santa was shot in the back with a pellet gun at a toy drive. The famed Macy’s of “Miracle on 34th Street” has a white Santa in front for everyone to see, and a black Santa hidden away in the back, where you need to ask an elf inside the Santaland maze for to find his secret location. Seriously. I even wrote a tanka poem about that.

Did anyone noticed that the controversy of a white Jesus was quietly dropped by the news media? No one wanted to open that particular can of worms. Most evangelical Christians haven’t read the whole bible and memorized only certain scriptures on sin to hurl into someone’s face. That Jesus was a Jewish carpenter might unsettle some folks. Fox News published an article that the race of Jesus is unknown.

As a white Christian who read the bible from cover-to-cover six times, I’m going to have a very Jewish Christmas by seeing “47 Ronin” at the movie theater and eating orange chicken from Panda Express. On that note, happy holidays!

The Stupidity of Carrying A Toy Gun in Public

toysA teenager committed suicide in Santa Rosa last week. Wearing a hoodie over his head, carrying a pellet gun replica of an AK-47 assault rifle across his chest and a toy gun inside the waistband of his pants, he probably thought he was some badass gang banger. He was walking down the street when a sheriff cruiser pulled up behind him. With light flashing and the siren screaming, the deputies got behind the doors of their cruiser and ordered the teenager—twice—to drop his weapon. He turned to look back with the gun barrel rising towards the deputies.

Seven shots later, he’s handcuffed and declared dead. Suicide.

When I was a child in West San Jose during the 1970’s, my friends and I played with cap guns. Some of the older teenagers had BB guns for shooting small birds and pockmarking the windows around the neighborhood. San Jose was still rural back then, surrounded by orchards and the suburban sprawl that would later become Silicon Valley. Most stores sold fishing gear, department stores sold hunting rifles. All the kids got taught basic gun safety when playing with toy guns. Anything less would get someone hurt.

Basic gun safety meant you kept the gun barrel pointed to the ground and fingers off the trigger guard when walking down the street. If you’re playing cowboys and Indians, you did it someone’s yard, stay out of the streets and never pointed a cap gun above shoulder height. (Shooting from the hip was popular back then.) And you never ever pointed a toy gun at a police officer under any circumstances. You were likely to get shot—regardless of skin color.

Walking down the street with a hoodie and what looks like an illegal assault weapon in California is asking for serious trouble. I can’t blame the deputies for this one. The gangs are using teenagers to commit murders because the juvenile system provides short prison terms and sealed records. Unless a teenaged murderer gets tried as an adult, he gets a proverbial slap on the wrist and instant street cred with the gang. A bad deal for everyone involved. We don’t need teenagers playing gang bangers with toy guns.

Driving While Black In My Apartment Complex

Justice For TrayvonWhile the Trayvon Martin protests took place in a hundred cities over the weekend, I listened to Brian Copeland on KGO Radio. (Sign his MoveOn petition to boycott the state Florida until the “stand your ground” law is repealed.) Like President Barack Obama sharing his experiences of being a young black man in America, he shared of his own experiences from living in the East Bay during the 1970’s.

He dropped his car off at Jiffy Lube and walked over to Tower Records when a van cut him off at the gas station in San Leandro. A white undercover police officer jumped out with a gun, told him get down on the ground, frisked him while pointing the gun at the back of his head, called in his driver license on the radio, and let him go because he had no outstanding warrants.

On another occasion, he helped a white woman moved out of her dorm room. After they got on to the 580 in Oakland, a CHP officer pulled over the van that she drove and asked for his identification. When the officer returned from calling in his driver license info and founding no outstanding warrants, he asked the woman if she was okay and wasn’t under any duress from being with a black man.

An Oakland woman called in with a story about her eight-year-old nephew that also happened in the 1970’s. A neighbor around the corner called over to say that she had a batch of cookies fresh out of the oven. She told her nephew to walk over to pick up the cookies. Of course, he didn’t. A moment later she heard police sirens, ran out of the house and found her nephew in a chokehold by a white police officer. The poor kid pissed his pants from being terrified. She called a police officer she knew to come over to rescue her nephew from being booked in jail for running through the neighborhood.

Some white callers gave Copeland grief for “whining” about being a black man, provoking hatred between the races, and complaining about a problem that wouldn’t exist if black people stopped talking about it. If a black man could be elected President of the United States, most white people think we must live in a post-racial society. The real world doesn’t work that way—at least, not in my neighborhood.

One summer afternoon a few years ago I heard a commotion coming from the parking lot outside and walked out on to my balcony to see what was going on. An older black man stood with his wallet in hand next to his big car in the fire lane, and five San Jose police officers—three whites and two Hispanics—with hands on their holstered guns stood behind three police cars in the parking lot. A traffic stop being made this far back into the apartment complex was unusual. A black man screaming at the cops about driving while black for a half-hour was something else.

Although the SJPD has long denied committing any racial profiling, officers will have to record the race of any person they stop for any reason by the end of the year.

As a white man in California, I can’t ever relate to being a black man. Race isn’t something I think about at all. The only racism I run into as a “minority” technician among Indian engineers is finding only vegetarian pizzas for the catered meetings and special events at my tech job. No pepperoni and sausage for this fat white boy.