Confessions of a white ally

peace

First, I dislike the word ally to describe a person in my circumstance. It sounds like I want to help someone with their struggle, but the struggle against injustice is also mine. In fact, the responsibility to fight injustice falls heavier on the beneficiaries of that injustice than it does on the victims. I have benefited my whole life from being a white boy, then man, in the United States of America.

Here is something you might not know about white people: we cannot bear to think of ourselves as the bad guy, even when (maybe especially when) we obviously are. This might explain the continued opposition to reparations and the fact that more than half of white people polled still support the reëlection of a man who is clearly unqualified and unfit to be president.

leaders

When I was a boy, it was taken for granted that I was a racist. My classmates threw around the n-word without fear of confrontation. I can see now that they were just parroting the bigotries they heard at home, and hope that they have since broken the chains of racism in their families, but I expect that most of them haven’t. I was not courageous enough to stand up to the racism all around me, so I made friends with the few kids who did not laugh at racist jokes.

In high school and college, I became one of the freaks. We grew our hair long and got stoned and had long meandering conversations about the evils of the world – racism, sexism, war, corruption, poverty – and how we would make a better world with our peace, love, and understanding. But we never made that better world.

authority

One day, on my way to a concert in Philadelphia, I jumped a turnstile in a train station. A cop grabbed me and yelled in my face with an anger that seemed disproportionate to the offense and I understood that it was my long hair, not the turnstile jump, that fueled his rage. I also understood that if my skin had been black, his anger would likely have found more harmful expression. Since then I have been arrested twice and had several other interactions with the police. I feel that I have been treated fairly each time. I don’t believe there are any black men in America who can say the same.

As good as my imagination is, I can’t begin to understand what it is like to grow up and live in a society that assumes I am a criminal and treats me accordingly. Like sex and war, some things need to be experienced to be understood.

mandela

After the election of Barack Obama, I noticed a shift that is almost too subtle to explain. I was standing on a corner in DC when a young black man stopped to ask for directions. It is a common enough occurrence, but it felt strangely foreign. It has been my experience that young black men generally avoid conversations with strangers who are white men, for reasons that are painfully obvious. But the fact that a black man was president, and the knowledge that he couldn’t be president without the votes of millions of white Americans, shifted the playing field. I felt a thaw, an ease in interaction, that I had never felt before. The election of Donald Trump shifted things hard in the opposite direction.

What is happening now in America needs to happen. The poison weed that has been choking us – literally for people of color, and figuratively for people of conscience – needs to be pulled out by its roots and burned. I am no fan of violence (a philosophy I came to through studying the works of great people of color like MLK, Gandhi, and Christ) but if this whole country burned to the ground to save one life it would be worth it. All the property and wealth in the USA is nothing compared to one life.

gandhi

Strange Days have found us

door

Strange days have found us
Strange days have tracked us down
They’re going to destroy
Our casual joys
We shall go on playing
Or find a new town

Strange eyes fill strange rooms
Voices will signal their tired end
The hostess is grinning
Her guests sleep from sinning
Hear me talk of sin
And you know this is it

Strange days have found us
And through their strange hours
We linger alone
Bodies confused
Memories misused
As we run from the day
To a strange night of stone

Yin

yin

I am yin
I am the empty space longing to be filled
I am looking for energy, different and excruciating
I am the silence between the notes
I am the gap between your heartbeats
I am the emptiness between breathing out and breathing in
I am the blank canvas behind every masterpiece
and the hush around a wave before it crashes
I am the place you lived in before you were born
and the place you go when you leave your bones behind
I am the answer to the question you forgot to ask
I am what becomes of hunger when it’s fed
and dreams when they are abandoned
I am the overwhelming part of every atom
I am the thought that cannot be expressed
I am your imaginary friend
Unless your imaginary friend is yang
I am not yang

 

Bad

Bad_Moment7

The last time I was in a recording studio was April, 2013. I have written dozens of songs since then but have only recorded rough demos of them, until now.

For my first studio recording in seven years I chose one of my most recent songs, written  just as the pandemic hit. Recording studios are not considered essential services so this song had to be done remotely. The drummer Chris DeRosa laid down his part and the rest of the tracks were layered on top of that foundation.

From my forthcoming album, this song is called Bad.

I know it’s bad, baby
Baby, I know it’s bad
I mean no harm but I know
People who mean no harm sometimes cause the most

I got it bad, baby
Baby, I got it bad
And there’s no cure for it
Now that this absence has found a presence in me

I need it bad, baby
Baby, I need it bad
‘Cause it’s been so long
Since we went to that place where all the dreams come from