cnn Archives - The Jose Vilson


The Dreamer, The Believer [The Race Man Cometh]

by Jose Vilson on April 3, 2012

in Jose

This is what I get for reading comments on CNN blogs. Or anywhere else but my blog anyways.

The trolls spew racism all over a post that’s simply meant to help progress the conversation about race, not get us stuck in the same epitaphs of indifference and conservatism. For once, I’d like to see people who normally settle upon their asses when it comes to their racism look a kid in the eye and say, “We know you see differences between you and him, but really, we got a lot more in common than you can see.” Instead, I’m asked to answer questions about things like presentation, speech, and general colorism.

Thus, here are some of my personal beliefs, because I don’t think responding to all those comments on Twitter / Facebook / CNN will do me any good.

1. I don’t believe in reverse racism, just like I don’t believe in reverse sexism and classism. As I’ve said far too many times, racism is a function of dominance and power. Thus, racism assumes that the person in the dominant position would be racist / sexist / classist. This doesn’t bode well for those of you in the dominant position in all three categories, but with great privilege comes great accountability.

2. Using the term “reverse racism” almost guarantees that any substantive conversation is over because it’s usually used by people who don’t want to talk about it … and used against people who don’t have the language to discuss racism’s deleterious effects.

3. Don’t mistake racism for prejudice, bigotry, and discrimination. Each have different nuances that, if not used correctly, can make it seem like they all work the same way, especially in institutions.

4. This was by way of my colleagues Michael Doyle and John T. Spencer on Twitter, but it’s worth repeating: I could have chosen any picture for my CNN article, but I chose that one because I rarely use that image. New picture for new writing space. Mike and John both wondered aloud what the reaction would be to my CNN article if I used my hoodie picture from my Facebook versus the one I chose for the article. I agree to a certain extent that image is everything. That’s why I’ve opted for ties this school year 99% of the time. On the opposite side of the coin, people will see what they see. It’s why I can’t catch a cab whether I have a collared shirt or a jersey on.

In other words, people will feel what they feel regardless of what I’m wearing; the difference might be in whether they speak it aloud or not.

5. In case they did see the picture, a common reaction would be “You’re nothing like the other Blacks I see. You seem educated and well-spoken.” The issue with that is, being the exception in their minds proves the rule for everyone else in that group. If I’m considered exceptional for dressing well rather than the norm, then it assumes everyone else has no desire to dress civilly according to their standards. Right? Right.

6. We can’t not talk about race. Those that opt not to talk about race end up suppressing these inhibited thoughts about different peoples rather than confronting their own biases head-on. If we just hold hands and tweet at each other, the problems get solved in their eyes. People like it and we continue on in this cultural farce. Progress can’t be made without struggle, and we have a long way to go.

Having said all that, I tend to be hopeful. I have to be an idealist in order to accomplish anything. People call the goals unrealistic, but I’m not in the business of working within the dimensions of current realities. I prefer to think we can create new ones where we can simultaneously love one another and recognize that we’re the same and different at once.


Jose, who still can’t believe I made the front page …



Teens are the predominant target group for this movie. At some point, don’t we as a society have to step in and question what we’re teaching our children about race? Isn’t it our responsibility as caring adults to tell our children that our differences only make our country richer in experience? How do we get our young boys and girls to understand that the difference they see in skin color, facial features and accents don’t make other people any less human? How can we change the climate of America’s race relations to the point where more people believe that Rue, a fictional character, is still every bit the relatable figure for fans of the novel regardless of the race we assign to her?

Share this with everyone you know please. Post a link. Tweet and retweet. Comment over there. It’s my first CNN piece, so hope you like it. Thanks!

Jose, who wasn’t April foolin’ …


Us Against Them, Unless We Say You’re Not One Of Them

by Jose Vilson on August 30, 2011

in Jose

I'm Wherever Franklin Sits

Last night, I got into it with a few, well-established individuals of color over their union bashing. I’ll stop it there because every time I hear it from people of color, I often lay up a “whatthefuckisthisshit?” and then zip my mouth henceforth. The first time I saw it this summer, it came from a guy who I thought I would respect. Then, he implicitly had to bring the stereotypical “bad teacher,” who went by union rules (whatever that means) and didn’t cooperate with what he wanted to do. I wanted to say to him and the individuals in our community who joined “the other team” that, without unions, you wouldn’t have your precious book appearances, perch positions, or appearances on CNN.

One of the points I made recently in my post-SOS March was this:

I genuinely believe that there are 95% of us who actually believe in the cause. This 95% will move the objectives of the SOS and will do everything in their power to do what’s right for our students. The other 5%, the ones that can really do some damage, fall into a few categories, but it’s often a strand of selfishness that pervades their thinking. For instance, they might say they’re for a particular group being represented in this space, but only if they’re leading it. If they’re not leading it, then that group was never represented. Any new initiative makes it super-easy for someone to see things as a movement for self. That’s why we need to see things for the bigger picture, and the bigger picture doesn’t always have you in front.

As we turn our thoughts to making true progress, we have to consider the means and end by which we achieve this “win” of ours. I mean that for leaders of all backgrounds and colors, by the way. I’m of the belief that “wins” that matter don’t just belong to one person, but to a collective. As such, the collective would do well to include as many people of like mind as possible into their ranks. It’s as if people want to replicate the very power structure they purport to oppress them.

Is the movement about the people or about you as the leader of the people?

Thus, I find myself occupying this third rail where I want to do well by the proletariat, but not by emulating the very people who brought us here to begin with. I prefer to find ways to be ahead of the curve and be proactive, and not simply react to everything with a point-by-point retort. The latter suggests that we’ll always react and not get ahead of whatever corporatist / deformist movement we protest. Further, we need to take the long and wide view on the things we do if we even have a shot to make critical change.

People wonder how we become leaders. A big part of that is the simplest thing you can do: make sure that what you’re doing as a leader is selfless. It’s about the people. Even if you’re by yourself saying this, people understand your work as representative of the people, and that the work becomes so much bigger than you. If you’re bigger than your work, then maybe you should check behind you to see who’s actually following.

Jose, who prays that peoples’ pain be champagne …


The Tourist (or Not That Black in America)

July 27, 2009 Jose
Black in America

Sure enough, I didn’t catch most of CNN’s Black in America 2 special. I’ll most likely catch that sometime in the future; reruns prevail over original programming even on a 24-hour news channel. I caught bits of it and found inspiration in the story of Steve Perry, a Black high school principal whose high expectations […]

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Me Sube La Bilirrubina (It Raises My Bilirubin)

July 25, 2008 Jose

I’m honestly not that arrogant. I just like to call madness out for what it is. Eddie Griffin might be right: I’m insane, and that’s something to be congratulated. Watching Black in America over the last 2 days, at the encouragement ad nauseum of practically everyone in my Facebook, Twitter, etc., I’ve been somewhat reintroduced […]

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