Monday, January 5, 2015

Sociology At Night

The Kitty Cat Klub perches with deep velvet colored d├ęcor and vampiric lighting. It had been some time since I’d performed a show there, however it felt like home. The placement of lights in the dark- always the true mark of a well versed venue. It reminded me of the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor, MI. Regardless of the time of day, it always felt like night. I feel that way about the Kitty Cat Klub.
Brock and I had texted a few times earlier that night to meet at a house party yonder. Collecting my cash, and gathering the merch, I hit the door for my car. Already wounded, leaking coolant from a tube near the manifold, Honda was running on 70 to 60%. The single-digit temperature saw to it the engine didn’t immediately overheat until 10 minutes into the drive. I hopped in and made my way to the house party Brock was already in attendance.

Stepping in, the apartment delivered a similar ambiance to the Kitty Cat Klub. Wax candles melted to their placeholders, tie dye patterned cloth draped along the wall, the look of a domain of holistic healing.

We sat and watched the television for what felt like 10 minutes, but in real-time clocked over an hour. Brock leaned back in a vintage cream-colored chair across the room, while Hannah and her friends lounged the couch producing multi-colored clouds hovering eye-level.

Time blurred to what felt like a slow crawl, but was creeping on 4am at this point. The ambiance and conversation (or lack thereof) almost put me to a slumber. Bordering on half-asleep, I recognized a sound persisting from the television. An annoying bright whine from its speakers beat into the air like an injured car alarm. Turning to the television set, I realized it was now the 3rd Iggy Azalea music video Hannah had playlisted.

“Ahh, she’s so bad”, I said without filter. “She’s a musical genius” crooned Brock.
Hannah quickly pointed out the “genius” in Iggy reproducing the movie Clueless into one music video, and that this particular work of hers was brilliant.

I nearly gagged. I don’t smoke. I don’t smoke anything, not cigarettes, not weed, not crack, not anything. And I never have. But if there were ever a high I was experiencing, it had been at the moment, and was currently being ruined. Yes, my high was getting ruined, and I was going to defend myself to the highest degree.

“Are you serious, right now?” I asked Hannah. I continued, “Iggy is appropriation in a bottle. That’s not even the way she talks- it ain’t her voice. She has a song where she says “when the relay starts, I’m a runaway slave master”. The woman is ridiculous!”

Hannah retorted, “ She is the best white female rapper out there, right now”.

This portion of the debate could have been perceived as civil, and most definitely would have if I hadn’t held Ms. Azalea so near and dear to my heart. However, Brock began declaring that her business model is flawless.

“Her manager is T.I.! He’s a minstrel on a VH1 reality tv show where they exploit the fact that his wife can’t read. He’s on record saying people need to get over race!?!?” I slammed.

The tie dye’s on the walls began spinning counter clockwise, while the music from the television speakers seemed to climb in treble- daring my ears to bleed, whilst the resin in the carpet started swimming with the rest of the inanimate objects on the ground. This is what it must feel like to think you’re going crazy. Looking up, I’d realized what I just said and that no one was going to empathize with the term “minstrel” or “appropriation”. I was screwed, and I just did it to myself. The discussion could end there and we could go on speaking of our Top 5 rappers of all time and make a civil love-in of it… But hell no. Once a brown guy in a room full of white people brings up appropriation… he’s solidified his place as “that guy” and will be given no such leniency to be anyone else.

Hannah held a calm face just as Brock and I hit a pause in our exchange. “Toussaint, it doesn’t have to be about race” she soothed. Ok, maybe she has a point. Maybe it can be the fact that our opinions just differ on the talent-level of Iggy Azalea and we can agree to disagree. “I just treat human beings as human beings. I don’t see a black person or a white person, I just treat people like people”.

If you stood close enough, you might’ve been able to see several atom bombs mushroom cloud in the reflection of my eyes. About my tired and sedated brain, a committed voice took over. There would be no helping anyone in this room to learn more about me, sociology, appropriation or hip-hop for that matter. It would be only one way, and that is mine. It was at this succinct moment in time that I knew I was going to say exactly what little to no people have told Hannah throughout her lifetime… and although it might mar her future for dialogue regarding race, I simple gave nil fucks at this juncture. I would be selfish, I would be fed up, and I would have none of what she just said.

“Oooohhh, I live in a post-racial world! I’m Jerry Garcia’s daughter, and I don’t have to see race because everything is fine and Disney” I sarcastically played about, and continued “Are you kidding me? Racial disparity in this city alone is top 3 in the country, and you’re going to sit here and refute a fact of socio-economics with me?”

… “You can leave” Hannah pierced with slight head jerk.

“Gladly” I responded immediately.

Once she claimed that she doesn’t see race (skin tone), I knew my response was going to be followed with an exit.

I grabbed my gloves and hit the road, carried the merch from the car to my house, and hit the bed.
… then it could have ended there, but for me it would not.

My stubborn, die hard, brick thoughted, (insert more here if you’d like), incredulous self, insisted on making a facebook post about the incident- because that’s what you do when you can’t have the moment any more, you look to the internet to revive the already dead corpse of the conversation. I thought nothing of it, until waking at the crack of noon, several hours later.

Checking my phone, I was notified there had been 15+ comments on said post. To my chagrin, I feared the commentary were to be barbs calling for my head, or worse yet, my social credibility. Alas, the comments referenced my use of the phrase “white privilege”… however after the 3rd contribution, the commentary turned in on itself like a self-loathing Cerberus. A litany of verbal shots and slashes marked the post to a literary clash of clans. People were now calling each other out, passively exercising low-blows and cuts that strayed further and further away from the post’s initial intent.

I had created a monster.

I zoomed out from the facebook page, scrolled to my newly acquired Boom Beach app game and began to liberate islander slaves held captive by the Hammerman army. It was easy. I could turn away from the facebook commentary collision just like that and pretend it didn’t exist. I wouldn’t think about the commentary for the rest of the day... or until I had to deal with human beings again. Surely someone would stop me later to ask "Just what the hell was going on with that post you made yesterday/today?"

Regardless of the post, the discussion or experience of race is a life long dialogue for me. I once heard a man of color quoted "asking me not to deal with race is like asking me not to swim while I'm drowning."


Going back to Hannah’s apartment, Brock sitting across the room, the white women perched on the couch sedated and subject to a non-white guy clamoring of appropriation & white privilege… it must feel nice to tell him to leave the room soon as his words got under your skin- soon as he struck a personal nerve ending that wouldn’t be satisfied until he got the hell outta sight. The room could go back to its peace and not have to discuss a single article of race, let alone think of it. I wondered if it felt anything like zooming out of an online commentary and switching to the next app…