Originally written: 03/15/2021
I drank the (corporate) Kool-Aid. First, out of survival. Then, out of leisure and luxury. Going from thirsty skeptic to an indifferent or even entitled wino, seeking the most sanguine and anticipating that buzz that gives me those reduced inhibitions, that momentary escape—a taste of the good life, if you will.
Until that next morning when I wake up to Trump tweets and kick drums thumping behind the voice of Grandmaster Flash: "broken glass everywhere, people pissing on the stairs like they just don’t care…"
Until that afternoon, when white faces in Subarus and Volkswagens drive past me, with signs hanging out their windows, yelling “Black Lives Matter!” and “Justice for George Floyd!” As they perform their innocuous or insidious “drive-bys,” they seize the opportunity to make direct eye contact with me, a black guy, who simply was unaware of this protest, spectacle, and or social media self-righteous selfie photo-opp; also, a man confused about whether they were looking for some black person’s validation or if he was looking for some white activism to restore his faith in justice. Honestly, I can’t restore something that never really existed…Upholding an illusion would make me delusional, right?
“Don’t push me ‘cause I’m close to the edge.” No worries, I know the ledge. I grew up moonwalking. Don't sweat the technique. I can just retreat back into my mind, entrenched in the myth of my middle-class living— out of all places, in Oakland, California, with its rich black and brown history and its Black Panther adaptation of liberation theology, now being "consecrated," co-opted, or complicated by a White middle-class racial awakening. Eye-brow raise? Yes. I have two eyes, two ears, two feet, and too many damn questions. Regardless, I am always open to dialogue.
And I’m the perfect one to probe and push, right? For I have proven my Whiteness, I mean, pledged my allegiance to the flag, given my blood, body, and knowledge base to this country time and time again.
I have purposely participated in prestigious private predominantly White institutions.
I have charmed scholarship benefactors and donors alike with a charisma, a command of the English language, and a consequential complicity that make me just good enough to serve them their food while picking up their crumbs.
I have rubbed shoulders with the best of them, just to have them wear off on me as I share that mythical proximity to the upper class—that my-little-one-bedroom-apartment-is-5-minutes-from-the high-rise-condos humble brag, which makes me feel and act like I’m moving on up just so I can take part in self-harming and proudly declare: “I’m not like them other n..." Fill in the blank, fill in the quota, fill in the void... I’m that much closer to the ruling class, especially after purchasing some FAANG stocks. Who wants to be a millionaire? Can’t wait to be a paper millionaire, rich in assets, void of values, and uncomfortable in my own cognitive dissonance. Fitting, I one day hope to own a home on stolen Ohlone land.
I took one macroeconomics course in college. The concepts of “opportunity cost,” “supply and demand,” and “free market” have always stuck with me as a) someone who had to make choices between getting into the streets or laying in the streets; b) someone whose frequently incarcerated father met the demand of free prison labor; c) someone who had great freedom in choosing his major ( African and African-American Studies) but little forethought in envisioning his career. If anything, before the books and based on my life experiences, I knew nothing or no one was ever free. There was always a trade-off, a price, a cost incurred by someone, somewhere. Yet, my Christian family and friends told me to never count the cost. It'll all be okay once I drink the blood. Whose blood? Our blood? You do remember what happened to Jesus, right?
And no, I’m not one to simply say down with the corporations or Venmo me my reparations. I’m more so interested in giving people a shot of reality and raising their political spatial awareness as they consider fighting for a spot at the decision-making table in the good ol' boys' club or "BYOB-ing" their own spirits to a new house in a new neighborhood.
Before I am dismissed as a "Marxist" "liberal arts" wannabe "Communist" "keyboard warrior," writing and living in one of the most monetarily rich ( and morally-depraved) states and countries in the world, I recognize the importance of investing in myself, not just financially but also intellectually, spiritually, and physically.
Start a small business. Create a useful product. Provide a useful service. I just have to be mindful of when my eyes are bigger than my stomach; and when I am drinking to self-indulge rather than drinking to self-medicate.
I'll hopefully know I have a drinking problem when my creations begin to commodify and corrode people and natural resources ironically for a bit of paper, cultural capital, and a spot in an imaginary aspirational class (Currid-Halkett, 2017). Maybe I already have a problem. Let's be honest, don't let them make you think that the "cloud" that stores all of our photos, data, and this very post is natural and environmentally-friendly. Communities across this country are being pushed out due to the large carbon footprint and the imperialistic nature of tech companies needing more and more land to build giant data centers with millions of servers.
"Don't push me 'cause I'm close to the edge" of employment and extraction; empowerment and exploitation.
Red or green? Perhaps something brown? Your drink of choice is your business. Their big business. So, drink responsibly.
I'll take a water, please.
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