My Life Matters: A Black Perspective in 2020

by Rachel Story

We interrupt our regularly scheduled travel content to talk about current events in the USA. It just doesn’t seem right to talk about anything else right now. The last few months have really laid bare many of the issues plaguing America. But the last two weeks specifically have truly brought the topic of racism to the forefront.

It must be said: America has a problem with racism.

As tragic as George Floyd’s murder by a white cop on the street is, it’s sadly not an isolated event. Incidents like these have gone on for far too long and it’s well past time for us (white people) to stand up and do something about it.

I’m also learning about and owning my own racism and how my silence contributes to the issues. Well, that ends now.  I stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter.

Over the past week, as I’ve watched the peaceful protests turn violent, I’ve been trying to figure out what I can do to help, to be a true ally.

I’m not qualified to speak on the issue of racism but I know people who are, so I’m using this blog as a platform to elevate voices that need to be heard, starting with my friend AJ Freeman.

Meet AJ

AJ is a lifelong dreamer and venerator of human progress finally radicalized by the white supremacist American nation-state after 32 years.

He’s also part of my beloved crew of friends in Puerto Vallarta and just so happens to be an incredible writer. I hope his story will bring to light the discrimination that black people face on a regular basis.

Without further adieu, here’s AJ:


Left to my own worldview, I typically don’t even classify people in my mind by “race.”

I´m much more likely to discriminate against you based on your beliefs…I know plenty of amazing “white people,” like the duo who have so graciously offered me this platform today, but flat-Earthers are intellectually subhuman and should be removed from the general public for re-training.

Man, I’m a little cranked up these days…I´ll turn it down to like a 6.

Yeah tho, the point of my opening riff is that there are so many more significant details to a given Earthling that for me, the color of a person´s skin ranks around the color of their shirt when playing the Sherlock Holmes game with random members of the public: sure, a given shade could say something. On the other hand, probably not.

Just another stat on the trading card: male, speaks English, right-handed, permanent suntan…right?

RIGHT??

Solipsism aside, it´s become impossible to ignore since about Trayvon or so that the color of my skin is a significant detail to OTHER PEOPLE…perception being a reality, that means it is a very significant detail about who I am as a human being.

Fuck it, let’s go directly ‘there’: George Zimmerman certainly recognized the specific shade of the teenage boy he stalked and murdered on that rainy night.

Even in the most violent seconds of his pathetic, overlong life, the aforementioned coward was completely secure in the belief that he could leave this black body in the streets, the full weight of the United States legal system standing staunch behind him.

Spoiler alert: he was correct to believe this…

Watching that tragedy unfold from my suddenly divided workplace (imagine thinking there is another side to that story!) along with witnessing the naked racism unearthed in everyday society by the ascension of former President Obama, quickly made me realize that I was not entirely welcome in the nation of my birth.

Of course, my parents had The Talks with me that so many black parents have to, how life will be just a little bit harder around these parts because brown, but these were the years that cemented my eventual departure from the Old Country.

For the record, my ticket was officially punched around the time The Living Embodiment of White Privilege, a failed businessman and game show host, was taken seriously as a Presidential candidate…I arrived here in México in February of 2016.

The Friday “not-working lunch” in Puerto Vallarta

Since that saga, there have been many validations of my Decision.

Guy did end up winning the election, in case you missed it…pretty sure the entire executive branch is compromised, so that’s cool.

The actual plague ended up striking the nation, and brilliant, gun-toting randoms stormed state capitals from coast to coast in protest of basic protective measures.

My good judgment in abandoning the US was even reflected in something as simple as Amy Cooper (aka Dog Park K****….who has her little dog back, btw) knowingly brandishing the power of the white supremacist American nation-state in response to the most trivial perceived slight from someone she considered beneath her.

Still, to say I had arrived in paradise would be an overstatement…sure, it was nice to get out of the burning house and take a walk to the beach, but even in my new and beautiful surroundings, it was nearly impossible to escape the pervasive contagion of white supremacy.

Puerto Vallarta is home to a large community of people who delight in calling themselves “ex-pats,” which for me–someone with a keen eye for such things–makes a certain statement of superiority in and of itself…someone who goes TO a poorer country and someone who comes FROM a poorer country get two different names. Isn´t that cute?

I´m a writer and was always broke, so I´m an “immigrant” too…but you get it.

By any name, the social stratification was clear. Most of the area’s prime real estate is only affordable for those who can buy more than one home, with the legion of locals that keep the attractions running and all the beer fridges full shoved rudely up into the towering hills and sprawling void beyond the carefully developed city center.

Here, moderately wealthy Americans and Canadians can take up the White Man´s Burden, leading these noble savages out of the wilderness to a lifetime of service at the newest resort, where the privileged can snap their fingers at a teenage girl for a refill on their mimosa and quack at a pool boy for the extra towels you deserve by birthright.

Dirt roads and tin roofs surround a nexus of American chains…it’s basically colonialism with work uniforms, all because a couple of movie stars arrived on these shores about half a century ago and decided “yeah, this place should be A Place.”

Seriously, look it up…it´s kind of a wild story, but not why we´re here today.

Today some establishments in PV openly cater to foreigners only. Many venues are priced completely out of the realm of everyday earners, and disrespecting service staff is shamefully common in this community of retirees and kinda-riches.

Entitled vacationers who would ask if they should use pesos or ¨real money,¨ who demand Mexicans speak perfect English in service to them…it´s far from universal, but it´s shockingly frequent. The harsh reality that many people that profess to enjoy life in our gracious host country really just love the idea of stretchy US Dollar$ and a servile, dark-skinned underclass is often as obvious as daylight in this sunny city by the sea.

One learns to suss these things out as a survival strategy.

Yes, a mixture of bemusement and disdain was palpable to my person in many white-dominated environments, but sometimes the message was more direct than others.

Once, at a party hosted by a local “ex-pat” one observer thought it would be hilarious to suddenly start shouting ¨get away, black man!¨ as I walked into the room.

She must have found my colorful sashes threatening…I guess it would have been a funnier joke if that exact attitude and the society that supports it couldn’t leave me on one hell of a bad trip in the wrong set and setting.

No doubt, these are your neighbors and family members…incidentally, this specimen was a friend of a friend. The episode was emblematic of practically my entire life experience…being made to feel like The Other, pretty much anywhere…after a while, all you can do is lean into it.

Eventually finding some public-facing promo work, I soon found myself in a singularly strange position. Here I was, the exact kind of person much of my prospective clientele had left the Old Country to avoid, intruding on their spaces as something of a novelty.

I felt their fake smiles, the corrosive cordiality shown purely because I was the guy from the thing…the flumdufferous Seussian creature here to take some pictures and make things a little more colorful. The Entertainment to go with The Help.

I think people forgot there was a guy under the face paint…I damn sure didn´t.

Nope, the underlying guy was still black wherever he went, including my adopted hometown…during a standard-issue shakedown in the city I still love, the friendly patrol officer noticed that I was freaking right the fuck out while being questioned and amicably laughed off the source of my concern:

“Relax buddy, it´s not like this is America.”

Please read that again: “[American cops shoot people that look like you with no problem…around the world, it is known. Not like you´re going to end up dead this time, pretty lucky choice of country kid! That´ll be 15 bucks.]

Suffice it to say it took more than a couple of grams to smoke off that anxiety.

…but yeah, that´s pretty much how it went for a year or two, trying to ignore the feeling that this was all there was, a somewhat comfortable and frequently enjoyable existence…with the caveat that concrete change was not on the menu.

Read More: The Time AJ Spent a Night in Jail in Puerto Vallarta Because….well, you know

Sure, I didn´t have to be in the office at 8:30 Monday morning any more, but here I was still hoping for the thinnest tolerance from people who probably also thought George Zimmerman deserved to be walking around eating cheese fries and making memories today. More small-minded humanoids who would be nice as long as I made them smile, but would also be happy to both show and tell me that I did not matter.

My saving grace, the release valve for my sanity, was that as an adamant absurdist, I believe that existence itself has no objective point–there IS no fairness, no justice, only stuff–and so having a few beers and enjoying the ride to the dystopian cyberpunk white supremacist future seemed like as good a use of time as anything the fuck else.

…and then, 4 uniformed gang members in Minneapolis set the entire world on fire.

At a police officer´s glance, and in my mind´s eye, George Floyd could have easily been me. During those nine long minutes, I saw myself slowly dying on the asphalt of American City, a peace officer´s knee on the back of my neck strangling the lifeblood out of my physical form while two others made sure I was powerless to resist and a fourth used public authority to keep concerned civilians from preventing my ignominious demise.

So pardon the FUCK out of me if I´m beyond overjoyed to see that people around the world have had enough.

In case you somehow still haven´t gotten it yet, I support the demonstrations currently unfolding in the US with the entirety of my being, the depth, and fullness of my mind and soul… and furthermore, I could not give the foremost fuck what enduring justice costs your stupid economy that you decided long ago that I should have had almost zero stakes in.

FUCK YOUR NORMAL.

If I get my way, nothing in society works until it works for everyone…let every police station, sports stadium, movie theatre, office building, fulfillment center, theme park, and other pieces of civil décor be burned to cinders before We the Society tolerate a single repeat of George Floyd´s state-sanctioned murder. COVID-19 be damned as well, I like my chances better with hyperpneumonia than a racist cop.

Whatever that says about me, let it be said again.

My normal disposition

I´ve been very vocal about my perspective in recent weeks, there were certainly people that were surprised to hear me, normally a staunch supporter of parties and pacifism, suddenly morphed into a masked revolutionary in what might seem like the space of a few weeks…to those people, I strongly suggest enhancing your understanding of the world around you and how it affects those you must share it with.

My vitriol at the flawed structure of society is not something I´m emphasizing as a trending topic, but something I have had to repress for a very, very long time. I suspect people believe that my gregarious outlook and overall sunny disposition is one borne of ignorance, the blissful grin of an idle mind…allow me to forever disabuse you of that idea.

Being happy and black at the same time on this side of the planet is HARD FUCKING WORK.

It is a constant process, an almost militant commitment to gratitude for life´s small victories. I’ve thought about which picture I want the news to use if I´m murdered by police. I´ve developed a rich and fulfilling internal life in part as a defense mechanism for the world´s more unsavory realities. Hell…I have had to face the fact that I should probably hate you and everyone who looks like you.

Please use this photo if I’m killed by police

It would be pretty easy to make a case to myself for HATING “white people,” wouldn´t it?

It is important to understand that my conscious effort to embrace all of the monkeys in the circus around me is not in ignorance of what has happened before–indeed, is still happening even as the great cities of our Earth burn in righteous condemnation.

My difficult choice is a foregoing of vengeance, a generational sacrifice of gratification in the interest of possibly maintaining a world that works for everyone still fit to live in it.

The psychotic apes that designed this toxic system will NEVER get what they deserve for inflicting it upon the peoples they continue to victimize with warped and rapacious methods. The lineage of their unfathomable crimes should feel blessed beyond belief that only buildings and businesses are the targets of this long-brewing backlash in bloom.

The same way so many breathless op-eds in recent years compared men to bowls of poisonous Skittles–insisting that no sane woman would dare take of this treacherous indulgence at the risk of their dignity, body, and life–a cursory glance at history might dictate that I (and every thinking black person riding the globe) would be justified in dedicating my life to the destruction of whiteness and the fall of Babylon…but because my deepest interest is in a brighter future, that is not the path I chose, nor one I endorse.

You’re welcome.

8 comments

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8 comments

Lori Ford July 18, 2020 - 6:44 am

Thank you for sharing your truth. As a black family in PV presently looking to relocate from AmeriKKKa …I couldn’t have said any of this better. Everytime I watch a black person murdered, I see my children and the trauma has become to much to bare. This part…..“Being happy and black at the same time on this side of the planet is HARD FUCKING WORK””!

Reply
AJ November 15, 2020 - 2:15 pm

even several months and a national election removed from writing this, I still feel like every word I said on the subject is valid…I can´t see the United States as a beneficial place to live…the impact of the COVID crisis (particularly in the black community) demonstrates that beyond denial.

good on you for taking the initiative to make a new start somewhere else…there has to be a better deal somewhere in this world.

thanks so much for taking the time.

Reply
Simone June 20, 2020 - 1:50 pm

The best comment about the current situation that I’ve heard so far is a recent podcast by Sam Harris. Here’s the link, for everyone who’s interested:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=vmgxtcbc4iU

Reply
Rachel Story June 23, 2020 - 12:08 pm

Thank you so much for sharing, Simone! 🙂

Reply
AJ November 15, 2020 - 2:16 pm

appreciate the contribution, I´ll have to check that out.

Reply
Jim Brown June 10, 2020 - 9:11 pm

Really well done AJ. Of course you are correct- and correctly energized in this moment. But I also enjoyed your fresh, cool, in the moment writing style. These are important times indeed.

Reply
Rachel Story June 25, 2020 - 3:01 pm

Hi, Jim! Thank you so much for taking the time to read the post and comment. I will make sure AJ sees this!

Reply
AJ November 15, 2020 - 2:19 pm

hey Jim, thanks for the kind words.

I think we can agree that times have gotten even more important, here at the intersection of a global financial crisis and pandemic. institutions of all types are being tested like never before, and my hope is that in a time of rapidly changing questions that we can collectively contribute to coming up with the right answers…I like to consider my writing part of that.

thanks again for taking the time.

Reply

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