Still A Slave…

A while back I was at the mall, attempting to buy a baseball cap to cover my now thinning hair and to promote whatever team the hat highlighted.

It was my luck when the store I was in had a two for one sale; two hats for one price is a steal! I knew I wanted a new Jays cap to join my collection of Jays caps and my renewed allegiance to our local team (note: this was before Reyes & Dickey…) but I couldn’t choose the other as easily.

I knew I couldn’t wear a snapback so that was out of the question (I’m old enough to remember when snapbacks became uncool and were replaced by the now-known fitted caps. I also remember when toques with pompoms were so uncool that I cut my off so I could fit it…oh, to have my authentic Expos toque again…). So it was another regular fitted…but which one? As I looked at my options, my eyes moved to the black and white newly minted Brooklyn Nets logo hat. So I tried it on. And it looked great. My mind went to every Jay-Z song where he referenced “his” Nets, the new craze that everyone had to rep this swag and how much I actually didn’t like the Nets. At all.

It reminded me of when all the rappers would where Yankees hats, even if they were from anywhere BUT New York. Suddenly, the Yanks were EVERYWHERE, even as people couldn’t tell you if Don Mattingly was still on their team! The culture of music videos, magazines and such made a logo WAY more popular than it already was.

And so I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t wear something because a popular figure said it would be cool to; plus, those who know me well know my basketball colours run purple and gold  and so I compromised and got a black and white Lakers hat (The colors of the Nets, the power of the Lake Show.).

But I realized something that day, and everyday since. While I am a free man I am a slave. A slave to public opinion. A slave to culture. A slave to my own selfishness and desire to have. And you are too…even if you say you ain’t, in some way you is. Whether clothes, shoes, popular Christian author, type of person you date, how you DON’T spend money, we’re all slaving somehow to someone else’s idea of what works best. And at worst, we’re telling others how they should be like US, as opposed to how they should be like their Creator’s view of THEM. This is even worse when you have kids; to help them be themselves is delicate dance of both pressure and grace.

And the only way to be free is to say no. No to the Jay-Zs and commercials. No to everyone else’s opinion and ideas (or at least the non-helpful ones). Now does that mean we can’t be inspired? Not saying that. But there is a difference between inspiration and influence and I hope I’m inspired to be me and not influenced to be like someone I’m not.

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Does it Matter if You’re Black or White?

Last night before falling asleep I toggled between channels to hear the latest jokes about NBC’s late night fiasco when I stumbled across CNN’s Larry King Live. On this particular episode, the specific topic was on comments made by Democratic leader, Sen. Harry Reid  about then-Senator now President Barack Obama. His comments, if you haven’t heard or read them were centered around the idea that if Obama was darker skinned, he would not have been elected. He also made mention that his ‘non-Negro dialect’ helped as well. Basically, his light-skin and ‘proper’ way of speaking made “people” feel safer to vote him, in his opinion. Of course once the words came out in public, he was apologetic, though now it looks like his job security is in trouble.

On CNN, the argument went on and on about race relations in the States (which comes up every now and again) and how we should look at what was said and such. That was the least of my thoughts. I thought about the comment on dialect and how blacks are judged on that…let me explain.

Now those of you who have met me or who know me, know that I don’t speak with a ‘Negro’ accent (whatever the that is)…maybe a hint of french due to my MTL upbringing but nothing more. Now I have people who are friends say to me, “You sound white” or “You’re not black enough”. Now they are friends of mine…a bit ignorant in the race department ,but I love them. They are…like that cousin who says dumb things around the table or when they visit, but you will still give a real hug to when they leave…you cringe inside and then let it go. I’ve never understood how someone sounds white or black. In fact I’ve asked a few of my white friends this and they don’t have an answer. I’ve also asked what it means to act “Black” and out of  their fear of a racist answer, they choose to not respond. Again, I’m all for a good joke and I probably live on the side of error here (some of you are thinking, Chase you’re a hypocrite…what else is new…) but it’s something worth asking, is it not?

Not all white people are the same, right? Some talk different, like different things, eat different foods and have accents (case and point, my Newfoundland peoples! What’s good, friends!?) and such. Which is cool. Yet, if one white kid who loves hiphop rocks Jordans and listens to Young Jeezy pops up, the kid is a ‘poser’, a wannabe-black and such, which sucks. In our society, nobody can be ANYbody…they HAVE to fit into something…which is sad.

I talk like THIS because I came home one day talking like I was from NYC in high school and my dad said I sounded stupid…so no more accent, I guess. I still love hip hop, joking around in a busted half Bajan-half horrible patois accent but at the end of the day, this is me and how I talk. I used to let skin define me and while some will try to allow it to, I won’t. I am person. I can apply and get any job like anyone else (that being said, I love this one!). I can rock a suit one day and then a ball cap and ‘timbos’ the next (well not Timbs cause we ‘Off That’…lol) and still be me. I’m black and I sound like me. I wear clothes like people wear, not white people, not black people, not asian people (though I just found out that I’m 1/16th Chinese…it’s true)…just people. I DO go to a black barber , though because they know my hair….lol…

So one day I’m at Wild Wing and while eating my wings, the server and I begin to chit chat about college football and other things. While sharing my opinion about something else, her response was something to the effect of, ‘well I didn’t know people like…” followed by me saying “people like what…?” That ended that section of conversation as you can imagine (and I should say that she quickly apologized and ended being really nice from that point on…)! And again last weekend, a friend said to me something about me being white because of something or other. On the flip side, my white wife got me a book called ‘Stuff White People Like’ (and I learned that I like many of the same things…like the Daily Show, coffee and shorts.) so it’s a whole bunch of hoowee! I guess stuff like this makes me think, does character go beyond what we wear or how we sound or what we look like? I think of my closest friends and mentors, many of whom are white and I know that it does. The opportunities I’ve been given have nothing to do with my color, choice of music (for every Jay-Z tune, there’s a beatles track or Dave Matthews or GASP, the Dixie Chicks!) or clothing. It’s who I am that make me what I am.

Today, look at people as people. Or just call it out. Say what you think a black person is or what a black should look and sound like so that I can prepare to spend money on new clothes and dialect classes.

…just realized that my beautiful light-skinned daughter is going to have it tougher than me…

Dang.

…And now Rob Blagojevich is saying he’s BLACKER than Obama…it goes on and on…