Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I Bought A Conversation That Came With A Shoeshine

On Monday, I decided to do something that I've always wanted to do since I was a kid.  I remember seeing people doing it on TV when I watched movies with my father back in the day.  As an adult, I've seen it in some airports.  However, I've never taken the time to actually have it done.  I'm talking about getting a shoeshine.

There's something nostalgic about sitting down on a sunny afternoon and getting the shoes nice and shiny while you enjoy banter with the shoeshine person.  What's funny is that I actually have my own shoeshine kit at home that I normally use.  But, I wanted the one-on-one experience that I've seen so many people receive in the movies.  The experience that I used to have with my barber before he retired (and I went bald).

I walked up to the shoeshine station in my building's lobby.  The gentleman who works there directed me to the steps and I climbed up and placed my shoes on the platforms.  The gentleman rolled up my pants into a cuff and proceeded to wipe the dust off of my shoes.  He was a late 50-something year old black man.  His hair was gray and wavy as it appeared to be slightly slicked back.  Although he was older, he appeared to be in really good shape.  No signs of aches or stiffness as he moved around the shoeshine stand.  When he looked at you it was obvious in his eyes that he truly appreciated you giving him the opportunity to gain your business as well as your friendship.

He asked,"where are you from?"

"Here in the Jackson area," I replied.

That's all it took for the conversation to take off.  Although there was a newspaper sitting beside me and my smartphone was in my pocket, I had no interest in entertaining those items.  I just wanted to enjoy something that a lot of people miss out on these days: a simple, face-to-face conversation.  And he was definitely willing to oblige.

His told me his name was Samuel and that he was originally from Georgia.  He would look up and smile as he spoke every few seconds as he buffed and wiped.  Although he was working, he was also engaging me in conversation and learning more about me.  In the 20-25 minutes that it took for him to buff my kicks, we discussed politics, local crime, downtown infrastructure, his wife, and even video games.  Yeah, Samuel is an avid Xbox gamer.  The experience really took me back to a time where customers and businesses actually had a relationship with one another.  Business actually wanted to work hard for your patronage and customers were loyal to good work.

After he finished the shine and I stepped down from the station, I gave him a firm handshake and handed him his fee plus a 50% tip.  I told him that I appreciated the conversation and that I would definitely be back.  He told me that in the future that I could even drop off my shoes to pickup later if I didn't have time to wait.  I responded, "where's the fun in that?"

He just laughed.  As I started walking away, Samuel shouted out to me, "you didn't even look at your shoes to tell me how they look!"

I replied, "Mr. Samuel, I didn't come for the shoes."

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Cop Shootings in America

Another tragedy has occurred in the St. Louis, MO area.  An 18 year old black male was shot and killed by a police officer.  Regardless of who pushed the first domino to commence the event, none of this had to happen.  Just one small variation could have turned the tides on this entire ordeal.  Of course the stories vary on who did what, but the overall picture is still the same: another young, black male is dead at the hands of police.  It's time that we re-educate America and stop these senseless acts and both black people and the cops can help.

Black People

Stop teaching your kids to hate cops.  I know that all of us don't do it, but there are enough of us who teach that even if subconsciously.  Cops are to be respected for multiple reasons: they're hired to be an authoritative figure our communities and oh, yeah, they also carry guns and a license to kill.

The latter should be reason enough to teach your kids how to protect themselves by respecting the law.  Teach your kids (especially sons) to remain calm at all times around the police.  There's no need to get emotional even if you're in the right.  If you get pulled over then already have your license and registration in your hand before the cop gets to your car.  Keep both hands on the steering wheel at all times.  You want them to always be visible and not move in a quick or unpredictable motion.

I know people are thinking, "why should I be forced to do that?"  The answer?  Because you want to increase your chances of getting home that night, that's why.  What's more important: how you feel or being alive?  Even if you're being harassed or unfairly targeted it's better to have your day in court than to do something that can cause a misunderstanding.  Ice Cube once famously said in a song that he'd rather be "judged by 12 (jury) than carried by six (pall bearers)."

And I agree with that 100%.

Cops

Stop assuming that all black males are dangerous.  If there is anything that is embedded in our brains in this country is that black males are to be feared.  We see things everyday that lead us to believe that they're unpredictable and have no respect for authority.  In some cases, that may be true, but you're not going to get me to believe that it represents anywhere near a majority of black males.  I know too many of them to believe that.

Here's what needs to happen: cops need training.  Badly.  Being a cop is more than just physical conditioning and gun training.  It should be more mental training than anything else.  Somehow you have to scrub their brain of every racial bias known to man and I don't think that it's as easy as one would think.  Even if you hire 500 cops, just 1% of that number can be enough to ruin the entire reputation of the police force.  That's right.  Just five people.

So, if and when a suspicious shooting does occur, it would be more beneficial for the police to treat it like a normal crime (which it is) rather than to start playing politics.  It would also give citizens more security in thinking that you are trying to protect and serve them and not just your own interests.

The police also need a change in policy.  Shooting to kill should never be the first option; it should be the last option.  Why some cops feel as if they need to empty their guns on a person is beyond me.  Especially when there are multiple cops on the scene.  Again, that goes back to training.  You can disarm a person without killing them.

Oh, I know that I only listed two things at first, but I have to add a third and it may be the most important of them all...

Media

Often they are the root cause to the mental images we all have of black males (and sometimes the police).  Whenever there is a shooting of a black male some of the media can't wait to post the most "gangsta" of photos of the victim.  Just like with Mike Brown who was shot in Ferguson, MO.  A recent high school graduate who may or may not have been a model citizen (I won't claim to know the kid), but he should have been afforded an "innocent until proven guilty" opportunity.  What does the media do?  They post this photo of him all over from the USA Today to lesser sites.


That's right. Show a photo of him throwing what a majority of the country will consider a gang sign.  That makes the police so much more believable when they say what they said about the incident.  After all, Like Trayvon Martin, he's not here to defend himself, so there's no backlash, right?

What was wrong with using this photo below instead?


Oh, too tame, right?  We wouldn't want people thinking that black males graduate now do we?

I know that I'm starting to get cynical with all of this, but it comes from a point of frustration.  We all realize that there is a problem yet we choose to only protest a few days after an incident happens.  Then it's on with our lives until the next incident.  I'm somewhat guilty of that, too.  However, I do exercise my right to vote and makes attempts with each election to actually vote for the best candidate and not my favorite political party.  If a majority of people gave Independents a chance we could actually see a change in this county.

But, that's a blog post for another day.  As for Mike Brown and other victims, all we can do is hope for justice.  Hopefully convincing evidence will show that either Mike Brown was well within his rights and gunned down unfairly or that the cop was well within his rights to protect himself.  It doesn't matter as long as it's the truth.

The only problem is: who's willing to tell it?

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