Everything is Not Roses and Rainbows

I told someone over the phone the other day that when I wake up tomorrow I’ll still have Cerebral Palsy. That’s a knowable fact. Starved for interaction, I was a people-pleaser in a religious family that encouraged “the good boy”.

The good boy is: he who is the consummate volunteer. A shapeless peg in an ambiguous hole. That one understands that where ever he is needed, he just sits, fits, and acts.

And when it’s over— programs, songs, activities, skits, choirs, jobs—he bows and then accepts half-hearted praise because he “acted” for the good of the group.

I needed people to like me because they openly ridiculed my disability. I needed them to see that behind the veil of awkwardness, all this “good boy” stuff was a mandatory necessity to work within “the system.”

Cerebral Palsy was never FUN. Acceptance is all I sought, and denial was the product of that reward.

Note: Don’t be so quick to believe the smiling faces you see when you watch an ad for a charity that needs funding for a disabled child.

The kids are handpicked. And no one thinks twice that those Kool-aid smiles are just nuances for your checks, sympathies, and endowments. It is not because Cerebral Palsy is this fun, sunny treat we experience.

We need other people!  And we all walk an intricate line between needing help and needing space.

And each passing day is different. In the past, I agonized over having Cerebral Palsy even after reams of medical proof and doctor visits confirmed it. Certain people —who I won’t name—-encouraged my ignorance.

Surely, it’s some conspiracy that those “others” have bamboozled you into, they said.

To which I replied: Oh, you. You don’t know anything about my condition. How can that be? And then there’s there is often the confusion over Cerebral Palsy and Multiple Sclerosis. I just don’t get it.

I wanted acceptance so much that I coped with almost anything to gain approval.

But something happened: I realized that no selfless act stopped these “lovely people” from being angry with me. “Lovely people” are the assorted elders, friends, and spectators who seemed  always contrary, disassembling every valiant effort I made to right the ship that is “my life”.

Even worse, I numbed.  “Lovely people” beguiled me into thinking that I was doing —-whatever I was doing—to benefit me.

The ocean of criticism was as follows:

  • I could not write the “right” reading for the program.
  • I couldn’t play a song that the choir director knew.
  • I couldn’t continue accompanying a relative to visit someone that I disliked immensely.
  • I couldn’t stop reading the wrong things.
  • I didn’t like the “right” kind of music.

Worse yet, I never had the “right” friends. And I seemed to embarrass everyone around because I was curious about ideas that actually mattered.

I couldn’t make the “right” grades in school. And when I miraculously finished high school, people assumed I was done with my life. Roses and rainbows abounded.

Or at least that’s the sense I got after I left technical school.  All this was over a decade ago.

Today, I still don’t like the “right” things. A month ago, I bought Enema of the State by Blink-182. After a smashing performance of  “All the Small Things” at karaoke one night, I decided with my old classmate Hillary that I should reconnect with the music I loved in high school.

I get it. I’m black and they are white. But who cares. Everything is not roses.

I would rather listen to Adam’s Song by Blink 182 than listen to Sidepiece by Pokey Bear. For me, Adam’s Song feels much closer to what being a teenager was like for me. When you’re 16, you can be lost or naive because you’re just 16. Sidepiece just feels like the lamenting of  someone who just cannot stop having sex with people.  (Yes, I really think that.)

I never confronted my grandma when I was  bombarded with Tyrone Davis, B.B. King, and Bobby Bland. I rarely dialogue with anyone who listens to  anything resembling”Sidepiece”. And that’s because I’ve never wanted a “Sidepiece”. Has anyone told Pokey Bear that Louisiana is crawling with HIV infected black women who probably got infected because they were involved with too many sidepieces? I’m not going to Popeye’s, I’m just objectifying the woman who I tricked.

I didn’t behave harshly when themes of heartache and devastation were billed as everyday events at home. I was in my boxy bedroom “getting the party started”. I was letting Third Eye Blind wow me with “Never Let You Go”. I was listening to Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda’s “Papercut” because I was always asserting an identity contrary to the rose-pedaled filth that I saw in my own environment.  I was never perfect. I was just confused and lonely. I was disconnected from those who “loved” me.

When you want a man to be a “good boy”, you’ll deny heaven and earth to save him. You’ll say you never saw it, because the guilt is worse than the responsibility.

When you look at  what is “black progamming”, you see a rainbow of guilt and a rose for responsibility.  You see black women who do not know who the father is. You see cage-style fights on Black Ink Crew. You see hair thrown and microphones stripped because a black person just got in to another stupid argument with his girlfriend, co-worker, or worse yet–his own child.

I watched the BET Awards for the first time in years this past Sunday.  What else is there to do when your family won’t shut up about what’s branded as “BLACK ENTERTAINMENT”? And of course, it began with roses and rainbows.

1. I watched an older Jamie Foxx overshoot the Wakanda theme by bringing Michael B. Jordan on stage.

2. I saw him yell at the audience to “wake the fuck up”.

3. I watched in horror as Foxx mispronounced the “Fruitvale” in Fruitvale Station. (I hope I misheard.)

4. I winced horrifically when Fox reappeared as Wanda mocking an actual Black Panther—and then he rolled his eyes in the back of his head. (I wanted to throw up!)

5. I saw Tiffany Haddish win some award.

But then during a commercial break, I saw that lady punch Kevin Hart in the face.

The punch was amusing.  I pondered: Are we glorifying violence and ignorance again? They were showing a trailer for the new movie Haddish is in called “Night School”. I doubt I’ll go see it. I guess Tiffany Haddish is as low as we can go, huh.

I noted that Janelle Monae and Ledisi—-two classy, conscious women I respect—-were placed near the end of the BET Awards. Position says volumes about how BET prioritizes “black entertainment” . While I rank Anita Baker’s Lifetime Achievement medley as a big highlight, I couldn’t help but be bewildered by Snoop Dogg and Tye Tribbett. What were they doing?

“Eh eh eh vry—thing is gonna be alright” , they sang. Well,  Kelly Rowland said:  “everything is beautiful when you’re looking through rose colored glasses.”

New isn’t always better. Old isn’t always reliable. And loud praise doesn’t translate into happy reception.

As a disabled person who is black, I look with detail at the ignorance my own people settle for everyday. I don’t support the meme that says: “I am for everybody black.”The fact is not everybody black is for me. We are all different and have different values.

There is no one way to be black. And should we be worshipping Erik Killmonger so swiftly? How quickly have some of us forgotten that the death of Erik was supposed to teach us something!

BET still bets that every black person that wants “our culture” will be glued to their networks. But the black identity can be summed up for many like this:  ”

I don’t really give a *______* if I’m the only one who likes that. ” — Janelle Monae

In my community, because I love all kinds of different music.  I’ve been the only one “who likes that”. And I’ve always felt like the lone one who doesn’t run toward the popular trend of the hour.  Thank you Janelle Monae, for saying that it’s not always fun to be different. Often, you must celebrate yourself, by yourself.

The most profound thing about my experience is that: In America, we behave like Democrats are not conservative on some positions. We swoon like Republicans are always moral. We gasp like Independent don’t deserve an opinion.We often expect all disabled people look and feel the same. All young blacks are dying their hair blond, and emulating  H.E.R., Rhianna, and Nicki Minaj. And we’re all excited about how confused the next generation is making us. No, everything is not roses and rainbows.

Maybe if you’re young and white, you dig the Californian version of life that you see on so many American television shows. I don’t disagree. It’s very attractive, even if it isn’t even close to what most of us actually experience.  Thankfully, American TV isn’t like North America, the nation. Yes, we watch strange things. But mostly entertainment is a distraction that keeps us from facing our non-rose colored reality.

I’m glad to say that reading keeps me connected to a world that isn’t always killing people who look like me. I didn’t read Mrs. Fletcher because I was fascinated about a divorced white lady. Hell, I don’t read David Sedaris because I’m in full support of all his life choices. Maybe, I just wanted a vacation from the constant scores of blacks that get killed in Baton Rouge everyday. Maybe, I’m trying to make sure that I am not another rapper, entertainer, or sportsman. Maybe, I want my life to flourish outside that small vacuum of black stereotypes.  I’m saying that we sort of drop the ball on our own foot by believing that we can “turn up” just like people aren’t black and the consequences are somehow the same.

I can’t be Jamie Foxx even though I’ve been told that I look him. Jamie Foxx doesn’t have Cerebral Palsy. When Jamie Foxx plays a blind, black person, it’s brave, valiant, and unique.

When I play myself in my own life, I’m silly, weird, uncomfortable, contorted.

 (Note: I don’t think this about myself. I’m proving a point.)

But Jamie Foxx was a famous person paid to play another famous person. If he’s an excellent actor, there’s no big deal. But I’ve been an actor and been ridiculed because the directors of my production never conceptualized how the action might look on me.

Everything is not roses. So why are we in love with certain estimations of ourselves and not others? It’s because sometimes being confused and simple is better than being scared and complicated. Because frankly, you can’t buy into everything you see.  Everything is NOT roses and rainbows.

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