Let’s be a little frank about race

Last week I had a conversation with a hard-working and pretty influential guy about race in Metro Detroit (it’s kind of a big deal right now) and how difficult it is to talk about race, especially when the parties in the conversation are on opposite sides of the spectrum.

He’s an older white guy and I’m a young black guy. That alone, even before the nationwide Trayvon Martin conversation, can make someone nervous. I’m honestly nervous talking about anyone. I think about my words too much before speaking, I “talk with my hands,” I don’t always make 100% eye contact and, as a reporter, I have to choose my words  and contexts carefully — one, to not show bias, two, not to sound like a wet-behind-the-ears dumbass. But in front of a white person, you don’t want to — what some of us black folks say in some circles — “embarrass the race.”

“Embarrassing the race” involves many things. Some would say that the Real Housewives of Atlanta, god love them, embarrass the race because of their reality theatrics. On the other hand, a well-spoken commentator like Roland Martin would be embarrassing the race because he chooses coded language to bash gays. I’m not on Bravo or CNN, though, and my fears of accidentally embarrassing the race come from a place of self-awareness. I don’t know how many black people that this white person, or any white person, has talked to today, this week, this month — so I have to do my duty to show that we’re competent, we’re capable, we can hold a conversation and, as of this month, not suspicious.

All this aside, the conversation went well and it gave me the confidence to be a little more frank about race in all conversation — and that it’s possible to talk about it without berating or preaching. So…there are white people moving into our neighborhood.

White people have been coming (back?) into Detroit, we know this. It has been alarming to the old-guard Detroiters who are concerned that Starbucks will eventually drive up their property taxes. Based on my observation, though, white people have only been flocking to Midtown, Corktown, downtown, Lafayette Park, the Villages…(I have some thoughts on this I hope to share later). But rarely anywhere else in Detroit –’til now.

I live in a very un-trendy neighborhood between Linwood (gasp!) and Dexter (double gasp!) with solid brick colonials and a hell of a lot of black folks that moved in when the Jews moved out after the riots. The pages of Central High’s yearbooks get blacker year by year after 1967. But black folks moved here when they were young and have maintained their homes all this time, and they’re much older now and still here. In many cases, their children have worked to continue that tradition — though, like all Detroit neighborhoods, we have some blight and we’re not immune to crime.

A white family moved on my street this month and they actually — wait for it — let their kids play outside and walk their dog up and down the street. I honestly don’t care who moves in as long as they cut their grass and don’t sell drugs, but I must admit I was shocked. That they’d come here — to Linwood! — and not flock to the trendy -towns or Villages.

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Just wanted to try this out

I made this

Some things that I am proud of

I interviewed Detroit’s own K’Jon for Soultrain.com, my first (of hopefully many!) contribution to the site. Check it out here.

And I dug a little deeper on the situation in Highland Park schools for my day job at MLive. I believe it’s a cautionary tale for small school districts and/or districts in predominately African-American populations. Check that out here.

And speaking of school districts, my old stomping grounds in Detroit announced a round of changes today. I was front and center for that, too.

The realest struggle

I don’t think there’s a realer struggle than the tall man’s struggle to buy clothes on a budget. Back when I was in college, I was a champ at this. I had stacks on stacks on stacks (stacks!) of shirts and jeans from all of the Lansing area’s finest chains, including the Gap, Express, Hollister and Old Navy. At one point, I owned at least 20 pairs of jeans and more than 100 (I counted) shirts.

A few years and several closet purges later, I have only a few shirts from my college days. (Don’t worry — I’ve bought new things since college over and over again.) And while my style hasn’t changed that much, my luck with shopping has changed drastically. I don’t know if it’s this economy or what, but getting that lucky find — the 99-cent shirt or the $3.99 jeans (which I’ve done several times before) — is no more.

I still refuse to pay full price for anything. But the days of waiting for final, final, everything-must-go clearance are over for me, and lately I find myself paying a little more than what I’d usually pay for clothes. In college, I had way more free time and way less financial responsibility to shop every weekend. These days, I don’t even make it to the mall once a month.

So today was going to be the day to restock and replenish. The last two pairs of Gap jeans I bought — $30 each, marked down from $80! — were ruined after a few washes. (This is the bigger struggle — finding jeans in your size at a fair price that won’t become unrecognizable.) My other jeans have overstayed their welcome in my closet, and I needed some more professional wear. And some of my most beloved shirts have started to rip. I needed a re-up.

If this were 2004, I would’ve had this problem solved in an hour and less than $100. Today, it took trips to four malls, at least 20 stores and about six hours to not only NOT take in a large haul, but spend way more than $100. What happened?

Already backing out of this commitment

OK, I didn’t forget.

Three weeks after starting this blog, it’s dusty as West Robinwood in this piece. (Wait, do we still say that?) Anyway, I’ve been thinking a bit about Twitter personalities…

Twitter is far too much pressure as a young professional. Particularly as a young professional working in journalism. I’ve had my account for three years as some tweetbot reminded me this week. Three years ago, I wasn’t a reporter. I was just a copy editor with a locked account, a few followers and a lot on my mind.

Three years later, I’ve got a noticeable “name” — I’m not a celeb by any means. I’m not a veteran reporter. I’m not even going to put myself on any kind of pedestal here. But when you write a piece or two for a large news outlet that goes viral, people search for you. People want to know if you’re going to keep them just as informed on Twitter as you do in your profession.

In a competitive media environment like mine, everything you say can be held against you. One slip could land you on the competitor’s front page. Open whispers among fellow journalists using your screenname in their mentions are there for an audience. Even worse, the journalism demigods at Poynter could shame you into the abyss of journalistic screw-ups. I don’t want that to happen.

But I’ve been staunch about not being a 24/7 super-media guy on Twitter. Frankly, I’d much rather livetweet award shows, “Braxton Family Values” and “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” if I could. And I do. Occasionally, “The Game” as well. And shade my high school classmates. Exchange in-jokes with my closest Twitter buddies, give my observations on society and help out those with questions. I’ve made no apologies for it and I’ve even lost a follower or two the morning after I’ve clogged your timelines with what I consider to be witty.

But I don’t want to be seen as some trash-TV junkie who isn’t aware. Being in media gives me a front-row seat…well, maybe two rows back…to the goings-on that keep you functioning in society. Outside of the job (which I’m still not talking about!), I consume a variety of news sources. Newspapers, blogs, magazines…I read everywhere. I read everything. I read the tire industry magazines when I get my tires rotated.

I just choose not to share every link I come across on Twitter. Does that make me a bad person? I would hope not. And no, I’m not trying to justify what I do tweet about. I’m just saying…

“The Game” comes on tonight, by the way.

But what I’m not going to do is…

The last thing I ever want to do here is give you advice you didn’t ask for, especially when it comes to Imagerelationships. I just realized that when I started this thing. If you feel inspired by something, fine, but it’ll never be my purpose to tell YOU what to do from my pulpit.

Why do I say this? Because I know about 11 million people from high school and other places trying to Steve Harvey their way into some guru position by telling people what they think they need to hear. Sirs and madames, you are not as smart as you think you are. Just had to get that out.

OK, now let’s begin!

Bringing blogging back in 2012

Hi, there. Let me introduce myself.

I’m Aaron. I’ve been sharing my life online for more than a decade. (Scary thought, actually.) I’ve had accounts with BlackPlanet, AOL, Blogspot, Xanga, LiveJournal and Tumblr. It’s about time that I purchased my own corner of the Web world. So I’m here for the moment.

I’m not that interesting. But I find blogging — if that’s what we still call it in 2012 — to be soothing. Cathartic. Eye-opening. Thought-provoking. Inspiring. And fun. So it was time for a comeback.

Twitter and Facebook have dominated my online interests for a minute now, but I started to miss telling stories. As we all know, there’s only so much you can say in 140 characters or in a status update.

And on Twitter, if you go over 140 characters, you’re asked to become more clever. That demand, almost like peer pressure, turned Twitter into a clever contest. All wit, all the time. And pro tips. And you’re-doing-it-wrongs, PSAs and other reminders that if I made a mistake here, the Twitter gods would cast me into exile until I redeemed myself in the next 140.

With blogging, there were no limits. I mean, there were limits, but mistakes were allowed. And there’s no pressure to add followers. No worries if links were to be clicked. Just more freedom.

So I’m bringing blogging back. I’m paying $25 a year for this site, and I don’t like wasting money. So I am committing to this. But I’m not going to stress over who’s reading and how many people are reading. Like I said, this is my corner of the Web world.

What I’m not going to do?

-Talk about the job. If you know me, you know what I do and where I do it. I might mention some tidbits here and there, but there won’t be any office talk.

-Talk as if I’m on the job all the time. I’m a grown adult with bills in my name, so if I want to say “I ain’t” instead of “I’m not,” then that’s my grammar problem and not yours. We’re here to relax.

-Talk about you. I’m always an observer, but your secrets are safe with me. Tell me something in confidence, and it won’t end up here. I won’t comment on something you talk about on a different social platform. And on that same note, there will be no “subtweets,” cryptic posts or blind items — we’re keeping it grown over here. And also, this is a judgment-free zone. (But I will be snarky when I see fit.)

So that’s my intro for now. Let’s continue the journey and see where it goes.