Alive-Work In Progress

I have previously shared the first five pages of my third book, Alive, which was in turn inspired by my poetry series. I originally committed to writing one page a day, then I bumped the number to 1000. I was consistently writing 1000 words for a few weeks, but I am now aiming for 500. There are days when I do more, but 500 is a new minimum that allows me to write at least twice as much as I used to. I’m currently at 22,000 words, and as I continue writing I realize the final product could be near 100,000 words. Typical novel length is anywhere from 60,000-100,000, but for a new author agents will be wary of anything over 90,000.

When I was querying agents about my first book, Elseworld, one of the few agents who agreed to review the book said it started too slow. Correction, she was worried that the editors of the big publishing houses would think it starts too slow. The opening of Elseworld was much improved from my original draft, which made me more resistant to altering it again. However, I realized I needed to put my pride aside and accept constructive criticism. That need becomes more clear as I continue writing Alive. The book takes place in a fictional medieval world where the main character, Mason, is bitten by a werewolf. As a black man in this society, Mason’s subjugation continues when he is used as a weapon to attack Alexandria, a village that is systematically annexing others.

After his attack on Alexandria, Mason meets another werewolf, who wants to use their power to eliminate the people who have oppressed them. The book begins after the character’s first werewolf transformation, and he is now imprisoned in his village. As I near page 70, the main character has not transformed for the second time yet. It is clear that the book probably does start too slow in this case.

The first portion of the book has detailed Mason’s time in prison. I didn’t spend the time on mundane details, but I have developed his relationship with an older father figure and chronicled the development of Mason’s new abilities, such as a healing factor and enhanced senses. Prison serves as a sort of library, where Mason has the quiet and the time to experiment and strengthen his new body. Although I enjoyed writing this part of the story, I have to realize that these developments may not be as interesting for prospective readers or might be too dull if consumed in one long stretch.  I am not going back to rewrite at the moment. I figure I will finish it, and then edit the beginning as necessary. I’ll likely just be cutting the opening fifty pages or so and inserting them throughout the book as brief flashbacks. This way, I can begin with a part of the book that editors will hopefully deem more exciting. It’s just one of the small changes that I hope can contribute to finally getting an agent, and then getting published.

The Walking Dead- The Return of Filler

It’s Walking Dead season, so I hope you can all bear more The Walking Dead articles. I have previously shared my very strong praise for season 7, and I still stand by my praise for the first four episodes of the season. I did not like the fact that episodes 2 and 3 were entirely devoted to one location and group, but I figured that could be excused if the show cut down on the rest of its filler. One of my biggest issues with other seasons were entire episodes devoted to more minor characters. Episode 5 got us back to familiar territory, with a focus on The Hilltop and Carl and Enid (my most hated couple on the show). Now episode six gives us an episode devoted to Tara (Alanna Masterson) and Heath (Corey Hawkins). I am happy to see Corey Hawkins on screen again after he killed it as Dr. Dre in in Straight Outta Compton, and Tara has consistently been one of the more level-headed characters on the show. This episode still comes across as filler.

I don’t have a problem with the time given to minor characters, I am bothered by the insistence on developing them in one episode instead of splitting it up among multiple episodes. Rick’s struggle with Negan is a central part of this season and we went two episodes in a row without seeing it because the show runners insisted on avoiding it. Just like the cliffhanger, this seems like a maneuver that is meant to guarantee higher ratings for later episodes.

Some may argue that the singular focus allows us to become more attached to the characters and let them shine. Firstly, if an entire episode is devoted to a character we don’t care about that much (relatively), it can make people care less about the episode and make them impatient for the return of a favoured storyline or character. Even though episodes 2 and 3 were pretty good, I couldn’t help but shake this nagging feeling as well.  Of course, if the episodes were edited differently we would still have the same runtime. However, I feel as if the desire for filler makes writers add more storylines and interactions that help to justify a full episode for a character. At least ten minutes could have been shaved off episode 3 without impacting the main takeaways from the episode. The same goes for episode 2. It’s the equivalent of padding an essay with flowery words and phrases to reach a word limit.

All characters and locations have been reintroduced at this point so let’s hope we get more concise storytelling from this point on. It’s disappointing to see a season start so strong, only to fall back to the same things that prevented the show from truly being great. There were red flags in the first episode as well, namely the dragged out encounter with Negan. However, I ignored it, blindly hoping that the show was getting the filler out of its system. I was wrong, and now we’ll see if this season gets up to the quality of 6,5 and 1, or slides down to 3 and 2.

What are your favourite seasons of The Walking Dead?

 

The Walking Dead’s Ratings Dropped Drastically-And For Stupid Reasons Apparently

Warning: Spoilers for Season 7

The Walking Dead season 7 premiere drew the show’s second biggest audience, with 17 million viewers. I am sure that the cliffhanger contributed to this. I originally did hate the cliffhanger but have grown to see some purpose in it, aside from getting more ratings for the premier. A friend at work mentioned that people’s hate for Negan is, for lack of a better word, “fresh” now. We didn’t see who he killed last season and have months to discuss it. We tuned in one sunday night to see Abraham and Glenn die.

The first death hit me hard since Abraham was one of my favourite characters. The second death is what caused a real firestorm online. After the infamous dumpster incident earlier in the season, Glenn undoubtedly met with death in the season 7 premiere, with a gory death pulled straight from the comics. Watch any reaction to the episode on YouTube, and you will see how people were dismayed that Abraham died, but became nearly hysterical when Glenn met his end.

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Since I read the comics, I was almost looking forward to the death. It is a sad, but pivotal moment for readers, driving home the danger Negan represents.

Episode 7.5, “Go Getters” experienced the lowest ratings since season 3, before Daryl’s fangirls were in full effect. Obviously, such a drastic drop is a huge development. When I came across the news the first cause that came to my mind was the issue of filler. Episodes 2 and 3 were pretty good but I could not help but feel like they were dragged out. One focused on Carol and Morgan, one focused on Daryl. In both cases, the episodes could have been condensed to show more characters and stories. Episode 4 thankfully features less filler, but then episode 5 brought back more filler and more of the Carl and Enid relationship: a weak love story with zero chemistry and two of the weakest actors.

The comments in this Yahoo article feature some complaints of filler, but the majority of them don’t blame that for the ratings drop. They blame the death of Glenn. It was to graphic and mean-spirited. It eliminated a fan favourite and made fans lose interest. One person even says that it will be looked back on as the moment the show jumped the shark.

Firstly, I was almost amused to see that the comments echo my comic book stigma article. People who watch this show, which is based on a comic, refer to the readers as basement dwellers. They’re not losers like us so what happens in the comics doesn’t matter. I find this argument to be nonsensical since the television show would not exist if it weren’t for the comic. The show you love, the character you are mourning over, would not exist if another “basement dweller” didn’t love comics and decide to write his own one day. An adaptation rarely follows its source material note for note, but I think it is fair to hear fans out on one of the source material’s most iconic moments. I have to wonder if people would have as much animosity if the source material was a book instead.

Despite TWD consistently being a violent show, it appears that many people felt that this last episode crossed the line. Perhaps because brutal violence was inflicted on a main character this time. This brings me to my next issue with these complaints. If characters are going to come across dangerous situations, whether it’s from humans or zombies, where is the dramatic tension if we know that our favourites won’t die? Do you want the show to keep introducing red-shirts to get killed instead? Glenn becomes one of the first people from the original group to die in a long while, and his death served the same purpose on the show. Do the show writers have to keep killing off ancillary characters like Denise?

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Yes, it sucks that Rick and Daryl are submissive for the moment. People are wondering why they don’t fight back. Remember that they did fight back when Negan’s men originally gave them the terms. That resulted in them being surrounded. Daryl fighting back is what led to Glenn’s head getting turned into ground beef. Daryl feels guilty for that, but so does Rick. Rick assumed Negan was just another threat they could overpower, and he was wrong. He referred to Negan as nothing but “hot air” in the comics and quickly found out he was mistaken. Carl could have shot Negan. Rick could have beat Negan with Lucille, but what would that accomplish in the long run? Negan’s men pillaging Alexandria and killing everyone in it. Bad guys win sometimes, and good guys lose sometimes as well. Rick won’t be like this for the rest of the show but people need to grow up and realize entertainment can’t always give us happiness.

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All of these complaints about TWD being too mean-spirited remind me of how people always criticize DC comic book films for being too bad because they’re too depressing. Maybe people would like it more if this post-apocalyptic tale just became all sunshine and rainbows and nobody died anymore. When Negan swings his bat it bounces off people’s heads like rubber, but gives a nasty headache. That way there is still some danger but not too much.  This rampant mentality is the reason I knew Daryl wouldn’t be killed by Negan. The fangirls would stop watching because they’d lose someone to drool over during episodes. The show is meant to be bigger than any single character. The only character that is arguably an exception is Rick Grimes, since the series starts with his singular perspective.

Another complaint I have to address is the mantra that “this show is supposed to be about surviving zombies. Not your fellow man.” I could write an essay on how poorly thought out this argument is. Firstly, the show would become boring if every single season revolved around the zombie threat alone. If people are complaining about Rick’s group finding one bad group of people after another, how do you think they would react to Rick’s group killing zombies again and again or trying to avoid another herd? The zombie apocalypse represents a breakdown in civilization, whether in terms of institutions and nations, or in terms of people’s relations with one another. With zombies running rampant and humans split up into pockets, you can rest assured that people like The Governor and Negan would emerge. Some of the comments question why people would fight against one another in such tumultuous times and I have to ask what world these people have grown up in. People will fight and scheme against each other for the same things they always do: power and resources. Spencer is trying to paint Rick as a bad leader because he wants to rule Alexandria like his mother did. He feels like Rick stole his birthright. Negan simply craves power, which is manifested by his desire to control the communities and their resources. People aren’t always rationale. They can be petty, immature, greedy, selfish beings and that doesn’t change whether it’s a zombie apocalypse or not. Ask yourself, would you honestly prefer 7 seasons of the group just fighting zombies? Would you be interested in the show if the group came across one dangerous situation after another, but everyone always made it through alive unscathed?

Stay True

As I continue writing Alive, I get closer to approaching the most controversial part of the story. When I started writing the novel, I knew I wanted to create a werewolf set in a medieval fictional society with a black protagonist. I knew I wanted him to live on an island with warring villages, where one village was systematically annexing all the others.

More brainstorming led to a more fleshed out story, and I realized I wanted the protagonist to meet another werewolf on the island; a black woman who wanted to use their gift to eliminate the people who oppressed them. Like Elseworld, a story of interplanetary slavery, the book doesn’t shy away from exploring discrimination.

I remember presenting Elseworld year to a literary agent at the Writer’s Digest Conference in New York. I was able to successfully pitch the book to four agents, although this ultimately didn’t get me anywhere. One agent honestly didn’t seem that intrigued by the idea after I described it, but she also said she didn’t want to represent a terrorism story. At the time, I was interning a few blocks away from The World Trade Center and it clicked to me that maybe my subject matter could be one of the reasons I am having a harder time getting an agent. I never truly considered this since there are so many recent films and books that explore the topic. However, being a nobody always makes it tougher to sell something.

As I get ready to explore black supremacy in Alive, I start to wonder if those two words might scare any agent away from my work. My problem is that I am writing the story I want, not just a story I want to sell. Maybe it will come at a cost, but a part of me believes that I will still be able to see my work published someday.

The Next Five Pages of Alive

Hello everyone,

As I have mentioned before I started writing my third novel at the end of October. It is inspired by my poetry series, Alive. Set in a fictional medieval world, Alive tells the tale of a villager who’s curse is used to attack another village. Instead of writing one page a day, which usually equals about three hundreds words. I am now committed to writing at least 500 words a day. It is a small change but will allow me to cut the expected completion of a rough draft down from June to April. I am excited about where the story is going but I also realize that the direction I am taking it in could be very controversial. However, the controversial story is the one I want to tell. Below I have the second excerpt from the novel. Along with the first excerpt, these pages account for chapter one.

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About ten minutes passed before the cuts healed. Mason was doing a rough count in his head, to satisfy his own curiosity. He knew the cut was starting to heal before William left the cell. It was a sensation he became familiar with over the past five weeks. He could feel his skin stretching to sew up the holes that William created. It started with a burning sensation that gave way to a prickling one as the skin stitched itself together.

Mason peeled off the bandage and used his sleeve to wipe away the blood, revealing unmarked skin. He then put the bandage back on. He didn’t want to give William too much information yet. The longer William had to spend doing his tests, the longer Mason would stay alive.

These tests made it clear that Mason could heal quickly, but he was sure he could still be killed. There was a good chance his body might not heal from a severed head, and the village council must have thought the same thing. Maybe Mason’s head would reattach itself, but there was only one way to find out and Mason was eager to avoid it. He was also hoping that William didn’t have that test on his agenda.

About twenty minutes in, Mason heard footsteps approaching the door. Either his count was far off or William was eager to see his patient. The footsteps continued to the door, and then stopped for a few seconds. Mason heard the tell-tale clink of a key ring, then the sound of a door unlocking. The sound emanated from the base of the door this time though.

The straps pulled taut as Mason rushed to the foot of his bed, with his eyes fixed on the door. A panel slid open along the bottom, reminding Mason of the door he made to allow his dog to get out of the house. The bottom two feet of the door now revealed a food tray that was pushed into the room, sliding until it hit Mason’s feet.

Mason quickly gripped the tray with his feet and dragged it until it was at the head of his bed. From there, the straps allowed him to bend and lift the tray onto his lap. He looked to his right to see that the panel was already closed. The guard probably figured his job was done once the tray was in the cell, it didn’t matter if Mason could reach it or not.

The tray held three chicken legs and nothing else, which suited Mason fine. He knew meat was in shorter supply due to the recent raids, but it seemed like William also wanted to test Mason’s appetite. Mason could see the marks made when the guards deboned the legs, but he didn’t mind. Mason finished eating in a few minutes, leaving nothing but the tray. The tray itself was made from parchment, molded by a printing press into a single, thick sheet that folded up and formed a wall around the food inside. Mason tossed the tray back to the foot of his bed and washed his hands, barely able to reach the sink to his left.

By his count, he had another five minutes before William returned.

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The door opened again in three minutes, by Mason’s count. William didn’t wait for the door to be closed behind him before he rushed to Mason’s bedside. The guards rushed to catch up to him, standing only within arm’s reach of William this time.

“Do you mind?” William said, as he reached for the bandage.

“Like you said, I don’t have a choice. Go ahead.” Mason said.

William offered a wan smile as he peeled the bandage back. He pulled a cloth from his robe and wiped away the blood, revealing the unmarked skin underneath.

“Amazing,” William said.

While William was fascinated, the guards both looked horrified. They both took a step backwards; as if they were worried the curse was contagious. It was, in a sense. A bite had apparently transferred the bite to Mason, but that appeared to be the only way for anyone else to get it. That didn’t matter to the guards at this moment. Protecting William was the least of their concerns.

“Not a single scar. Like anyone, smaller injuries heal faster. Took a few weeks to recover from your attack. What makes you special is that your injuries don’t leave a single scar. So many of our men have died in battles from injuries far less severe than yours. It’s possible that you could still die from old age, but I believe that if that does happen, it would happen much later than the average person. You weren’t affected by any of the diseases that normally kill someone after an animal attack. It’s possible that your body is able to resist infection completely. If we could find a way to transfer your healing to others, we’d never have to worry about raids again. If you work with me, you can save this village.” William said.

“How can you transfer it to others? Does the council want an army of…people like me?” Mason said. He still couldn’t bring himself to say the word.

“They want people with your abilities, without your alternate persona of course. Trying to create that is the greatest challenge.” William said.

Mason knew an army of soldiers that could heal from injury could protect Torville, but they could also turn against their people. The risk of coups and abuse of power would be amplified from people that didn’t fear death. As expected, there was something else that William wasn’t telling him. Probing for the truth wouldn’t get him anywhere right now. Mason kept focusing on the next full moon.

“Thanks again for your cooperation, Mason. It truly makes things a lot easier for all of us.” William said. Mason knew another test was coming.

William reached into the front pocket of his robe again, pulling out a syringe. The glass tube was about four inches long, with an iron handle and needle protruding from either end. The tube itself was filled with blood. At least that is what Mason guessed; he didn’t know what else the dark red liquid could be.

“I’m going to inject you with this; it will serve as one of the most important tests.” William said as he approached Mason again. “Is that alright with you?”

The second sentence seemed like an afterthought. Maybe William needed to maintain the charade of friendliness in order to sleep at night. Mason was smart enough to realize that the blood in the tube was altered somehow. Maybe it was tainted with some sort of chemical; a type of weapon that William was developing to kill Mason’s other half. Maybe William already had everything he needed and was now worried that the guard’s weapons wouldn’t be able to end Mason’s life. Mason realized that even if he was right, there was nothing to be done now.

Mason could feel his heart beating faster as it pumped his own blood. He extended his right forearm, seeing the veins bulging against his skin. William wasted no time finding his target and injecting the payload. The alien blood flowed into Mason’s body, and he held his breath as he waited for his body’s response. By the time Mason exhaled William was by the cell door.

“I’ll check on you tomorrow morning, good night Mason.”

Mason’s arm trembled as he brought it back to his lap. He knew the trembling was from fear. He was fine for now, but he worried what the future would bring. If he was injected with some sort of disease that could kill him from the inside, he might go days without seeing symptoms. William mentioned that Mason didn’t get any of the diseases that could normally result from an animal attack, and that was the only thing stopping Mason from panicking. He started counting again.

Twenty minutes passed, with Mason staring at the ceiling as he counted. Although he knew how much time passed, he realized he had no idea what time it was. He was losing track of hours and days. He only knew of the date for the next full moon because William told him, and William’s daily visits were the best indicator of time moving from day to day.

The cell door was never open wide enough for Mason to get a good glimpse outside. He only ever made out white walls. There appeared to be a hallway that led straight ahead, with no other cells in sight. Lanterns hung along the wall and there was one window carved into it about fifty feet down. There wasn’t any light filtering in from the window this time. It was dark out now, so it was probably at least seven o’clock already.

There was one lantern hanging from the ceiling, about twenty feet high and far out of Mason’s reach. The lantern wasn’t going to be in the room originally, William said it was only there due to his requests. Mason couldn’t be sure if William was telling the truth. Otherwise, the room would be shrouded in darkness for the entire day. There were no windows or openings of any kind, except the door, which was open for only a few seconds at a time.

This was his life now; Glimpses of sunlight, followed by one test after another.

 

The Treadmill

Everywhere I go I come across people content to loaft through life,

Putting the minimal effort into everything they do,

Content to force their misery onto everyone they come in contact with,

Content to think about their life one day, one hour, one minute at a time,

They live for 15 minute breaks,

Half hour lunch breaks,

The last break comes,

They go home,

Using their free time to reflect on how much they hate their lives,

Or to seek escape through family and friends,

They hope something else comes along,

Yet they don’t work towards it,

Some do,

Knowing that their hunt will pay off,

Eventually,

It could be months or years,

Until then they have to bear their burden,

Some bear their burden with grace,

Adapting to stress and pressure,

Learning how to control or vent it effectively,

Others lack the fortitude and become walking vessels of rage and self-loathing,

Projecting their insecurities, fears and anxiety onto others,

We have too many of these people in the world,

I want them purged,

But we need them,

A twisted dependency that won’t end anytime soon.

 

 

 

 

The Rumour- A Lesson in Blocking Out What People Think of You

Earlier this year, after completing my Master’s Degree, I reconnected with an old friend from high school. Socially, high school was a terrible time for me. I was the (more) socially awkward, lanky kid who wasn’t good at any sports and who had nerdy interests: not exactly a magnet for friends or girls. This friend I met up with was one of the few who hung out with me and accepted me for who I was, and I’d been meaning to see him again for a while. I had a great time catching up, but actually went back home with a bad taste in my mouth.

My friend let me know that some other high school acquaintances were spreading a very damaging rumour about me. He told me exactly who he heard it from, and who that person heard it from. There was another University of Ottawa alumni at the end of the chain, let’s call him Neill, one of the few ones from high school who graduated in the same year. It was easy for me to figure out who Neill heard it from, since we had few common acquaintances at OttawaU.

I tried to get in touch with the person who started the rumour, let’s call him Dylan. I messaged him on Facebook and when I didn’t get a response a day later, I called a friend at OttawaU. Dylan often hung out with some of our friends, and I was able to get his number. I sent him texts, and waited days for a response. Finally I called multiple times. I managed to get a hold of Dylan once, but he said he “had nothing to say to me” and then hung up.

To say that this situation angered me would be an understatement. It weighed on my mind more heavily than anything else. It was all I could think about at work and at home. I actually ran into Neill at my local gym and approached him politely, advising him I heard he was spreading a rumour about me. He wasn’t man enough to own up to it.

I realized that what bothered me so much about the situation wasn’t just what Dylan said. I had wronged him in the past and I figured the rumour was his way of getting revenge. It was petty, but it made sense. When it came to Neill and the other person spreading the rumour (let’s call him Mark), I was lulled into thinking there was some level of respect between us. We weren’t friends in high school and I know that during high school they thought of me as a loser. There was no bullying, but I knew they never wanted to hang out with me.

At one point, I though the social stratification of high school ended with those four years. My first year at OttawaU taught me that wasn’t the case. I was still a socially awkward, lanky guy with nerdy interests. I still repelled plenty of girls, although I had an easier time making friends. University was an improvement but it wasn’t the utopic, nerd-friendly, clean slate that it’s made out to be. Knowing this, I never thought Neill and I would be best friends at OttawU. I knew he would still be the popular guy with money and all the other things girls valued. We saw each other around a few times, exchanged a few words and moved on. I thought that there was some semblance of respect there.

Dylan started the rumour during first year, so it was clear that Neill was already spreading it by the time we graduated. Behind all those smiles and kind words was someone who refused to see me as anything but a loser. He heard the rumour and immediately believed it. My good friend didn’t do that. He told me about it. Gave me a chance to clear things up. He did that because he either didn’t believe the rumour, or didn’t want to. This realization is what made me realize that the rumour didn’t matter. People who believed it, spread it, and treated me differently because of it obviously never thought much of me. I wasn’t losing any friends. I wasn’t losing any respect. I never had any from these people in the first place, and that’s fine.

It’s always easier said than done to ignore what people say or think about you. We hear that mantra from kindergarten on, but it can take decades of self-improvement before we finally start applying it effectively. I know writing about this may seem to negate that message, but I hope that this post can help anyone who has struggled with people’s perception of them. I never thought that I would be able to think about this situation without getting angered. Now I write about it just to share a lesson with others, and to reflect on my own progress with developing more mental toughness and maturity. There was a long time when I thought I would want to kill Dylan the next time I saw him. Instead, we’ve now buried the hatchet. As for Mark and Neill, they’re little men and what they do doesn’t matter.

The Dying Engine

“I used to think that maybe I’d let my anger serve as an engine. But I’ve since discovered that my anger over each new racist incident is now rivaled and augmented by the anger I feel when asked to explain, once more, why black people shouldn’t be brutalized, insulted, and killed. If you’re a person of color, the racism beat is also a professional commitment to defending your right and the right of people like you to be treated with consideration to an audience filled with readers champing at the bit to call you nothing but a nigger playing the race card.” Cord Jefferson- The Racism Beat

I originally read this article about a year ago, at a time when I was starting to publicly share my thoughts on race more frequently, whether through YouTube or this blog. Many of my videos concerned the overlap between film and race, two of my greatest interests. However, many discussed issues such as racial profiling. I remember hearing about the verdict for the Trayvon Martin case back in 2013. Although I knew about notorious incidents of police brutality against blacks, such as Rodney King, I was shielded from this particular manifestation of racism for some reason. I experienced racial profiling numerous times growing up, such as always being asked “do you live here” when I walked around the courtyard of my apartment building in London, England. Or when a flight attendant insisted I use the bathroom in coach, instead of the first class one that I had the right to use since I was sitting in first class.  I’ve also experienced the more subtle forms of racism e.g. “you’re smart for a black guy”, “you speak so well” etc.

Hearing that a neighbourhood watchmen took it upon himself to kill a teenager, because he “looked suspicious” infuriated me since I knew that teenager could have been me.  I have had people cross the street or pull their loved ones closer seeing a 6’4, threatening black man come their way. I always wear hoodies, especially when it is cold or raining (like it was on the night Martin died).

Back in 2013, it was a shock to see Zimmerman acquitted. I thought he would be charged for murder, or maybe manslaughter as a worst case scenario. There were numerous comments defending him online: Martin was a thug, all these people talking about racial profiling are “race-baiters”. Like the Trump election, I wanted to believe that these people must be a loud minority.

They weren’t a loud minority. They were the voices of resentful, racist whites who would say anything to justify the death of a black person. They would say that the liberal media shouldn’t vilify the cops. They would say we need to wait for the facts of the case. Then these people would donate $500,000 to officer Darren Wilson before the trail began. There is no desire to let the trial speak for itself. People’s minds were made up once they saw who got shot, and who shot them.

The shooting of unarmed black men doesn’t faze me as much as it used to. It’s not because I don’t care, it’s because I’m used to it now. I’m used to the police testimonies, the online comments saying that black people would be better off if they “just obeyed the law” and the host of other excuses that rely on racist assumptions.

A part of me worries I could be on the list someday. Maybe I am walking down the street in an area that is deemed too nice for me, and someone reports me for my presence. Maybe I am driving a car that is too expensive to be mine. Maybe I threaten a cop’s ego by showing him too much attitude, maybe I reach for my wallet and end up dead. What then? I become a thug, another black guy that just couldn’t follow orders.

The fact that I am educated would probably be ignored by a lot of people. They would point to pictures on Facebook where I am dressed in hoodies, drinking, throwing up “gang signs”. Maybe they would bring up conflicts I had with previous landlords, one of them a divorced bylaw officer who was on a power trip (Abdulkadar Mohamed “Mo” Dualeh): He would say I was a troublemaker, aggressive, confrontational. I can be whatever they need me to be. People will lose track of the fact that the trial isn’t to determine if I was a saint; it is to determine if the cop had the right to shoot me at a specific moment and time. The gofundme money would start pouring in for my killer, giving him more money than he could ever hope to make as a cop. My death would be unfortunate, but not a crime.  Some will be outraged. They will be called “race-baiters,” “social justice warriors”, or whatever new terms people come up with by then.

I will leave my family behind. They will be confused and angry, but that won’t matter. They’ll be powerless. The cop might lose his job but he’ll have enough money to buy a new house and start a new life, just like Darren Wilson did.

The New Dirty Words

I have found myself spending more time on Facebook since Trump’s election. Not to peruse selfies, but to see what all my “friends” are saying about the election.  These “friends” could be someone I met just once, a former classmate or coworker, or someone I considered a close friend. With each status I come across I get more insight into how some of them really think. I have seen plenty that I like, and have also been disappointed from some of the truths these friends bring to the surface. Everyone has the right to free speech, so I am not judging them for making their voice heard. As a matter of fact, I like to have people’s thoughts on such a topic out in the open. I can now exercise my free speech to challenge some of the views presented.

There are certain words that appear repeatedly from Trump supporters; “political correctness”, “race baiters”, “identity politics”, “social justice warriors (sjws)”. I collectively like to refer to these as the right-wing buzzwords. People love to say that they don’t like pigeonholing themselves as right or left wing, or that they don’t identify with the spectrum at all. They are a unique snowflake who isn’t like the rest of the sheep they look down on. This argument parallels the infamous “race is a social construct” argument. The fact that something is socially constructed does not mean its impact can be ignored or simply dismissed. Our use of hours and minutes to plan our day is a social construct that has developed over centuries, and the political spectrum is the same. Are you pro-life or pro-choice? Are you against social security or not? Are you a gun-control advocate or not? The answers to these questions will place you somewhere on the spectrum. The totality of your views about different political issues will see you land somewhere; left, right, center-right, center-left etc.

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Think that’s deterministic, rigid, stupid? Ok, then let me throw off another social construct. I no longer recognize myself as a black man. So a girl who only dates white guys will still be interested right? Cops who are more suspicious of black people will no longer feel the need to pull me over or frisk me, right?

The funny thing about people who reject labels such as “right-wing” is that they often do not hesitate to criticize “liberals”. In their own minds, they are just following common sense. It is the other side that is stuck in their ways and is blind to reason. I feel the same way sometimes. Trump was able to capitalize on a climate where people felt like their free speech was stifled. They wanted to say racist things without being labelled as racist. They wanted to say sexist things without “feminazis” labeling them as sexist or misogynist. These oppressed people then see a man who unapologetically calls Hispanics rapists, blacks lazy and calls to ban Muslims from the US. Their hero was born. No more of this “political correctness” or “race-baiting” that held them back.

The term political correctness originated in the 1980s, and was a term developed by conservatives to criticize policies that they viewed as being too accommodating for minorities. These policies included avoiding the use of certain words to describe minority groups and policies such as affirmative action are often lumped into this category too. Realize that the term was developed by conservatives. Now there are times that there may be genuine cases of people being too sensitive about a issue. However, I find that brandishing the term “political correctness” often allows people to defend bigotry. I have heard people rant about their empathy for minorities, but complain about sjws or race-baiters saying “everything” is racist. “Everything” is obviously a blanket term. It could include Madonna referring to her son as “dis nigga” or it could refer to Trump saying Mexico “doesn’t send its best“. Maybe prying would reveal the Trump example, or maybe someone would throw out something more harmless in order to avoid a debate.

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The right-wing buzzwords have become scarlet letters that no one wants to wear. Even people who may genuinely hold some enlightened views about minorities reject the terms and go out of their way not to be misconstrued as “politically correct”. Sometimes it isn’t about being pc or not, it is about being racist or not, about having empathy or not.

Tucker Max, an author and businessman who I follow, started a new project called The Mating Grounds. It was a podcast that helped to promote an upcoming book, and was designed to give men actionable dating advice that was devoid of the sociopathy offered by pick-up artists. One podcast in particular caught my attention and served as a great example of someone showing empathy, but also being wary of being labelled a sjw.

One caller asked for advice on dealing with a racist area (Arizona), where he was repeatedly rebuffed due to his race. Max was quick to advise that Arizona is one of America’s most racist states, demonstrating that he doesn’t embrace the right-wing narrative of a “post-racial” society. He acknowledges the historical and present racism in Arizona. Max was also quick to say that he wasn’t a “sjw” by any means.This fear of the right-wing buzzwords sends us all back to high school; we want to be one of the cool kids. We don’t want to be caught socializing with the losers, the pc horde and those sjws.

This brings up another feature of the right-wing buzzwords, and many political terms. They are all relative. Your own position dictates what you view as being liberal or conservative. There are many people that would condemn Max as a sjw or race-baiter for his comments about Arizona. Additionally, the podcast criticizes rape culture, and stresses the importance of empathy and female choice in dating. There are plenty of people who would consider that “feminazi propaganda” or the work of a “white knight”.

You can call me politically-correct, a sjw or as white knight. I am not ashamed of my views. My views mean more to me now more than ever, especially since people with clashing ones decided to elect Donald Trump as president.

The Rebirth of a Nation

FILE - This undated file photo provided by Christie's auction house shows Jasper Johns' "Flag," a pop art rendition of the American flag created in the 1960s that author Michael Crichton bought from the artist in 1973. The painting is one of many in Crichton's collection that will go on the auction block during Christie's Post-War and Contemporary Art sale in New York on May 11-12, 2010. "Flag" has a pre-sale estimate of $10 million to $15 million, but art dealer Richard Feigen said he believed "it'll go through the roof," fetching upwards of $30 million.  (AP Photo/Christie's, File)

I didn’t watch the entire electoral race last night. Like many people, I woke up to some pretty shocking news. I think this was an outcome that many people didn’t think was truly possible. Author and marketer Ryan Holiday, believed that Trump had no chance of winning. Holiday believed that Trump simply received far too much media attention, and that his supporters were a very loud minority.

The thing about a very supportive minority is that they are very likely to vote. Early results show that voter turnout is only about 50%. Out of approximately 241 million eligible voters, 124 million votes have been counted so far. The number is expected to fluctuate, but the final result is expected to be around 52% voter turnout.

I know that many people feel like this election has not presented two ideal candidates. As a very brief summary, Clinton detractors believed she will not fight for the working class and the email issue continued to hound her throughout her campaign. Trump detractors (like myself) believe Trump is a narcissistic, racist and misogynist grunt who doesn’t have the faintest grasp of politics. However, many Trump supporters liked that. They wanted someone different. Someone who wasn’t an entrenched participant in the political arena. Many of the working class people voting for him believed he would fight for their issues.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are tightening their grips on the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations.

With this divide comes the issue of voter turnout. After all the comments Trump made, whether it is about hispanics being rapists and murders, building a wall on the border, banning Muslims from entering the US, grabbing pussy etc, voting for the man requires a high level of conviction. Eligible voters who supported Trump weren’t likely to abstain from voting or vote for a third party. They were going to make sure their voice was heard.

It is clear that many people did not believe in either candidate, but I hope those people realize that they contributed to Trump’s win as well. I have heard some people say the votes spent on third party candidates are pretty much a waste; a vote spent for a candidate that was never going to win, and a vote that is stolen from a democrat or republican. However, I can empathize with the people who voted for the third party candidates. They didn’t like the two most popular choices, but they still made their voice heard. They actually did something about it, instead of sitting around and letting the world pass them by. I have heard the sentiment that the two party system is not real democracy, and that the people don’t truly have choice. They only have more of the same. Well, if that is how you feel, what are you going to do about it? Yes, you might hate the system but you need to combat it, or learn how to live with it. Historically blue states were taken by Trump and key states, such as Pennsylvania were lost by only 1000 votes. You have no right to complain about Trump being president if you did not vote at all.

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I wrote a Facebook post on this earlier, when I was still trying to gather my thoughts. I was watching CP24 and heard one of the people being interviewed refer to Trump as “the epitome of the working man”. Let me use my earlier response as a launchpad for my next point:

Most working people can’t get a small loan of 1 million from their parents. As I’ve mentioned before, people want to say this election wasn’t about hate, it was about the working class wanting someone who represented them. Pretty much the same as saying the confederate flag isn’t about slavery, it’s about state rights. Yeah, state rights…to continue slavery. Trump followed a long line of leaders by scapegoating minorities for economic woes, and his biggest “policies” are building a wall on the border and banning Muslims from entering the US. Yeah he’s not racist, he just “tells it like it is”. He’s not “politically correct”. He’s a pied piper for all the disgruntled bigots in America who feel like racial equality and other social issues are just liberal propaganda that hampers their free speech and is an attack against white people.

All the people who complain about ‘social justice warriors (SJWS)’, ‘feminazis’, ‘race-baiters’ etc. all feel vindicated when a presidential candidate unflinchingly expresses all the bigotry that they try to hide. Some may be quick to argue that minorities voted for Trump. Plenty of white people voted for Obama, that doesn’t mean racism is dead. Even Obama has acknowledged that his presidency is not a sign of post-racialism in America.  There are still Americans who think Obama is a foreign Muslim, such as some of Trump’s supporters. Don’t tell me that any black person could have said half the things Trump has and gone on to become President. 

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Obama’s speech today emphasized that we are all on the same team. Even Trump’s speech had a conciliatory tone as well, but I like to judge someone by how gracious they can be in defeat, not just victory. Trump has now changed his tune, he wants to fight for all Americans. Does one manufactured speech make up for a campaign that was built on singling out one minority after another? Does the speech make up for refusing to condemn an endorsement from the KKK? Trump argued he doesn’t know who David Duke is, a former Klansmen. Fair enough. When the interviewer clarifies that he is talking about “David Duke and the Klu Klux Klan” Trump just repeats that he doesn’t know who David Duke is (Fast forward to 1:00 in the video). You don’t need to be a “social justice warrior” to know who the KKK is. Trump knows, and he consciously accepted the endorsement. He knew he needed the votes.

Although I am severely disappointed by this outcome, I hope it can serve as a cautionary tale when we look back on this moment in American history. Bigots and the people who support them aren’t always just a loud minority. Maybe if more people voted Clinton would have won, maybe not. Maybe hate would prevail: All the hate that has built since the Civil Rights Act, the hate building since a black man became president.  Maybe Saturday Night Live will be less likely to have people like Trump guest star if they thought such a corrosive candidate could actually become President. Maybe we can stop pretending like America has cured its racism problem and that race-baiters are the real enemy now. We can’t dismiss crowds of racists as a lunatic fringe anymore. They are now more emboldened than ever. How does this fare for America’s minorities; The muslims, hispanics, blacks and gays who may be surrounded by bigots in their respective communities. Maybe this is the wake-up call we needed. As political commentator, Van Jones says, this election is a “whitelash against a changing country”.