This is actually happening features real experiences that often include traumatic events, please consult the show notes for specific content warnings on each episode and for more information about support services.
They were there to remind me who I was in the world, and it hurt too much on the inside, being hurt on the outside didn't matter as much. And there definitely come times when you're like, look, I'm not going to eat this shit. I would rather be beaten than eat this shit.
From wondering I'm with misalign you are listening to this is actually happening. Happenings, Volume three, this is America. Episode 175, what if you had their knee on your neck? Today's show is sponsored by Blue Fox Entertainment's Mazoe, the new film from Julie Delpy in Mazoe Delpy plays Isabelle, a brilliant scientist who co parents with their ex, their beloved young daughter, Zoe. But when a sudden accident leaves Zoe near death, she realizes that there truly are no limits to a mother's love.
Isabelle discovers that she will push the boundaries of science and ethics to find a way to keep Zoe alive. Begging the question How far will you go to save your child? Critics rave about the film. Indiewire says, quote, By the time the screen goes black, one final time Delpy has left enough to think about for another three acts. Mazoe also stars Daniel Bruhl, Gemma Arterton and Richard Armitage and opens Feb. 26 listings at Mazoe movie Dotcom. I was born in Blythe, California, in nineteen seventy two, it's a very small desert town along Ettin it's the last stop going anywhere.
It's a kind of strange place, but a lot of my family was born in Blythe, my mother and all of her sisters were from there as well. My mother was a single mother. I didn't actually meet my father until I was 30, and she moved a lot to a bunch of different places brawly El Centro, Holtville, and then eventually she got a better job and we landed in Pomona. I went to Kingslee Elementary School in Pomona and my two best friends were Brian and Michael.
They lived pretty close to where I lived and every morning we walk to school together. I really enjoyed that because my mother was gone when I woke up, like that was something that was really difficult for me to get over because I would wake up to an empty house and I would be scared a lot. But when I was with my friends, I wasn't scared. So during the course of Brian and Michael and myself hanging out a lot, we ended up finding an old Richard Pryor album and I think his parents house.
So one day when we were kind of alone enough, Brian, the old as he put it on and we just sit there and giggled. And like many kids, we would copy the album, Fuck You, Motherfucker, Fuck, and the next day at school. This is exactly what we did. We walk to school and we copy Richard Pryor. Fuck you go. You shut up, you punk ass, you know, and we're just laughing.
And when we get to school, we are escorted directly to the office. And I didn't know what was going on. And we were told that we were being suspended. I don't think I really found out why and to the mother's got there and when the mothers got there, there was a lot of anger from them. I think they were very angry. More importantly, my mother was very angry because she had to leave work and I'm pretty sure she was hourly.
So she had to take an hour off. That just meant less pay. And she was extraordinarily angry screaming in the office and we just kind of sat there. But in the end, the suspension stuck and we had to go home. And once we got home, our mothers talked about it. And the kind of general thrust of the conversation was why people are going to do what white people are going to do and you can't really do anything about it.
It does nothing for me but make me angry. And I was a kid, I don't think I would have really fully understood the discussion, but if there is no discussion, then that anger just grows and kind of festers and you have that sense of, you know, something that is distant and unjust that can still reach out and hurt you. I can't remember how long it was, but probably a couple of weeks, I was afraid walking to school and I would walk to school in the same way, and I would look around and I would try to get a sense of who was the person that called.
That kind of hurt me because I didn't know which house. And I would just be very, very scared. And after a while, I don't want that fear. And so I quickly understood that if I walked to school and I looked at these houses as if they were enemies and I didn't like them, that I didn't have to be afraid, I can just carry that anger with me. And I did. I don't remember how old I was, but I remember that I woke up and my mother was as a kid, she was what I called work tired, and I wanted to go play with a friend.
So as soon as she woke up, her eyes open and I said, can we go to Germany? So and we went to Germaine's house and Germein wasn't there. And so there was a kid down the street who was playing with the football. I look down there and I ask my mom, I was like, can I go down there and play? And I was weird because my mother and Drain's mother had a private conversation and I didn't really understand what they were doing.
But the kid down the street was white. My mother was kind of asking her, is it OK if he goes down there to play? Really, all this kid and I did was play in his front yard and it was just two kids kind of frolicking in the front yard, but every so often his father would come from the garage and kind of poke his head out and stand and watch us. And he would say, damn, that is one fast nigga.
I'm young, I didn't really hear the word nigger, what I heard more than anything else was fast and I wanted to be fast. I thought I was fast. I just took it as a compliment. And later on, my mother came down and picked me up. And then sometime during that trip, I told my mother what he had said, that I knew I was a fast nigger. And she immediately pulled over the car and she was angry and she started to turn around, whip around and go back.
And then she stopped again and turned around and went home. And the weird thing was that when we got there, she when we got home, she looked me. And that was the thing she told me, she told me, don't you ever let anyone call you nigger? This was the first time that I think I realized that I was not just a kid, that I was black. I didn't really understand it. At all, I liked being fast, but I didn't I didn't really understand what being a nigger meant that didn't really kind of set into my brain until high school.
I was angry that my mom beat me and I knew I couldn't do anything about that. But it was just that message, don't let anyone call you nigger, and it was it was taught with pain. Because I had a single mother and she has a lot of responsibilities and I have a lot of responsibilities because she can't handle all of that. I was afraid of making mistakes as well because I knew that came with more punishment. If I was afraid and I ran out of the house without locking the door.
I knew I was going to get punished when I got home, if I was afraid and I wasn't paying attention. I lost my key. I knew I was going to get trouble when I came home. If I left the oven on, I would be punished. But one of the instances that I remember very clearly where I'm sitting at the table and I'm eating one of my favorite breakfasts, which is Cream of wheat, and my mother is rushing when she's rushing.
So she's doing two or three things at once. And as I'm eating my cream of wheat, she comes over, she starts to brush my hair. But what she doesn't remember and I don't really understand, is that I had a haircut the previous day. So as I'm trying to eat my cream of wheat, she's brushing hair into my cream of wheat. And I kind of knew that I was going to get in trouble either way, it didn't matter.
I'm sorry, but I knew there's nothing I could do and. Like, if I if I if I told her. That there was hair in the food that I was going to get a weapon if I didn't eat the food I was going to get. But when you bump up against those things, like over and over, you don't want to you don't ever want to be afraid. You just want to use whatever you have to, you know, to use your anger to be stronger than you are when you're afraid.
You know, now, in hindsight, raising a kind of a hyperactive child by yourself on a minimum wage job, that's incredibly stressful, incredibly difficult, but I was really kind of surrounded by a certain kind of fear when I was younger. And the best thing that for me that worked was to kind of fuel that anger. I mean, I'm still basically a pretty good kid, but I was just very angry and I didn't really understand why I was being punished.
Obviously, I hate when people hurt me, but when people hurt me and there's nothing that I can do to hurt them back, it's incredibly frustrating. You feel as if what I felt as if I was surrounded and there was nothing that I could do. And unjust authority, in my opinion, has always been there to remind me who I am. I begin to see more unjust authority in the world a lot and each step, I kind of used anger to get rid of that fear.
If I was angry about something, I was less afraid and I started to get comfortable with that anger. I would walk to school sometimes and I would look at the houses and I would kind of feel the anger kind of roil in me and like, yeah, fuck you and fuck you and fuck you. And just I threw rocks, you know, I was prone to pick up things in the alleys and hit walls with it. And if people look at me as a danger, then instead of being hurt by that, it's like you embrace that, like, yeah, I'm dangerous and I might fuck you up.
So don't look at me like that. My second grade teacher, Mrs. Frazier, loved me, she was a black woman and I sometimes would run to school to show her my homework. Like I said, when I was younger, my mother was gone to work. When I woke up in the morning so many times, Miss Frazier was kind of that substitute. And so I would take my work and I would run to her and she would always be there to hug me, tell me how smart I was, you know, and I really used to that.
When I went to third grade and my teacher didn't really like me at all, I didn't know that my third grade teacher was racist, I just kind of assumed she didn't like me very much. So in the third grade, I was put in a special group because my second grade teacher, Mrs. Frazier, insisted that I be put into this group. But within that group, I think there was eight of us and there was only two non-white students within that group.
And at the end of the third grade, there was an agreement made that every student within that little group in that class would get to skip the fourth grade, provided they received always and the report card. So I assumed that I was going to be able to skip because I had never seen a B never. Mrs. Frazier kind of came and talked to me about that, even though I was in third grade, and she would tell me with these stories about you going to do this and you're going to go to college at 15 and it's going to be great.
And so I really wanted to skip the the fourth grade. I really, really did. So when the report card came out, I had straight C's and the only other person had straight CS was a Vietnamese girl named Htwe and we both had straight CS. Everyone else in this group had straight A's. And so we were not able to skip the fourth grade. And that really, really bothered me and. There was really no conversation about it. It was really just, you know, it was kind of one of those things white people are going to do, a white people are going to do.
I was very lucky that. Sometime during that time, as my mother met my stepfather and sometime early during the fourth grade, we moved to Germany with my stepfather and so I left that environment behind and and it was an incredible change. I for about four and a half years, I really lived life, probably very similar to most middle class kids. We took vacations. I visited the Netherlands, Belgium, different places in Germany, Stuttgart, Darmstadt, on all these different places.
And it was it was wonderful. And the marriage did not work out. And when we came back, we moved back to life because life is far away from pretty much everything and it's very affordable. I grew up with my mother and her sisters listening to them talk about men and the one thing that they all talked about, men that they couldn't stand was men that wouldn't work. And I could hear often that they would say, oh, he did this and he did this and he did this.
But he's got a job. He gets up and he goes to work every day. And so that was really I mean, I focused on that. I was kind of thrust into the role of an adult, I ended up getting a job sometime during my freshman year in high school, and I've definitely been someone who has tried to be a man in whatever way I thought I could. And as a younger man, that meant having a job. And as I got older and I started bumping into more unjust authority, it changed from having a job to being able to fight, to being strong.
My mother read when I was a child, she would often give me books and so on long trips she would just give me a book. And that happened at a young age. And unfortunately for me, probably around the time when I was 12 and in junior high and I quickly realized that young girls didn't pay attention to guys who read books, young girls typically paid attention to guys who score touchdowns to guys who score a lot of points. That's probably what also led me to try to cling to whatever masculinity I could find.
And I didn't think that you could do that with any sort of books or literature. I felt that it had to be done on the court, on the field or inside of a ring or something like that. I really struggled with masculinity because I wanted to be strong all the time and a lot of these forces were invisible and some of them, I think, obviously directly connected with race. When you walk into a facility, wherever it is, and people trying to look at you when you're aware that you aren't supposed to be there, you don't really know what to do with those feelings.
And if you're angry enough, you just look at it and say, fuck you, I'm here. I don't give a fuck what you think. I would really think about that, if you don't like me, I'm going to whip your ass so you know that I can whip your ass and it doesn't matter if you don't like me and, you know, in high school not having a father.
I mean, I really I want it to be seen as strong. Today's episode is brought to you by Better Health. Is there something in your life right now that interferes with your happiness or is preventing you from achieving your goals? I know for me I can get bogged down in managing work and life, leaving underlying sources of stress overlooked and ignored. Therapy for me has always been a wonderful container to give space and time to address those stressors better. Help is not a crisis line and it's not self-help.
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When I graduated high school and I was in that little small town in Blythe and I left, I want to say hours after I graduated hours, I really think it was probably my four and a half years in Germany that I knew the world was a bigger place and I just didn't want to be in life. People already had idea of who I was and why, and I wanted to be someone different. After high school, I had assumed that I was an all star athlete, the news that I just wasn't as good as I thought I was, it didn't really sit well with me.
I felt weak and I didn't know what I was going to do with my life. A friend of mine told me he was joining the army because they were giving him twenty thousand dollars for college, and so I thought sounds good to me. We joined the military together and we went to Hawaii for three years, and when I joined the military, I made sure that everyone started calling me rather than Eddie. I didn't want to be Eddie anymore. In basic training, there was a couple instances when Drill Sergeant North, I think his name was, he would dog me quite a bit.
And one day he was we were throwing hand grenades. I think on this day, you know, I'm in the line to throw the grenade and he's dogging me telling me what an idiot I am and I should be loyal to my country and your shithead and this and this. And as we get closer, I keep thinking about throwing this grenade. And by the time I get up there to throw the grenade, I have the grenade in my hand.
And I was pushed to the point where I was so afraid I knew that I would kill to get rid of this fear. And I turned to look for this drill sergeant, and he is nowhere in sight, nowhere, you know, thinking my head like that's right, motherfucker, because I will take your life. And then I just threw the grenade and I knew I knew that he was afraid. I knew that he knew that if he was close to me, I might take his life.
And that was one of the most powerful feelings I had ever felt before. So when I got out of basic training, I was more, I guess I would say, dangerous, and unfortunately I liked it. I liked looking at other people and understanding that they were afraid. It gave me the false reassurance that I wasn't afraid. It was nineteen ninety one, I think, when I finally got to Hawaii, I want to say I probably fought two or three times my first week.
These are young guys and they're all in many ways arrogant and overconfident. And they're told that they're killers and they're told that they're invincible and this sort of thing.
And so guys get into fights. It happens. And then when I started to get trouble on base, I realized that I needed to go to clubs off base. And so I'm standing out in front of this club waiting for a guy to come to the door, I think his name was Steve, and I knew that if I waited for Steve to come to the door, he would let me into the club. But Steve wasn't on the door. And so I was standing outside of the club, standing on a wall, and this was probably six or seven feet tall.
And the sidewalk is blowing. And as I'm standing there waiting for Steve to come to the door, I start waving at some of the pretty girls walking by and me being me, I started cracking jokes, trying to be a jokester and a clown. And one of them, I assume, told a cop, I see the cop walking down, but honestly, I'm not really doing anything other than being somewhat of a nuisance kind of standing on a wall.
So when he walks up to me and starts giving the orders, I don't really pay attention to him. I'm kind of kind of blowing them off my mind. Who you're talking to, I don't do anything wrong. I'm just kind of standing here.
So he says, jump down, jump down. And I start to say, well, move, you're not giving me any room. And then I'm making jokes. I'm like, you need to give me a space where I can jump. And then he move back and I'm like, you need to give me a circle where I can jump. And people were laughing. And I agree that I'm being a bit of a shithead, but I'm not really breaking any laws.
But as soon as I jump down, he grabs me and throws me to the pavement. It's difficult for me to explain exactly what was done because there's so much emotion wrapped up in it. When I was standing on that wall, kind of in some ways probably embarrassing the cop a little bit, when I jumped down, he didn't say anything to me. He grabbed me and he threw me to the floor. I tried to get up and he jumped on top of me, turned me over and forced me to the ground.
I'm yelling and screaming. And I just remember more of the force and I get the treatment that many black men get on the pavement, you know, face down. And it's like my what like what did I do to be in this particular position here? So you can just come and grab me and you roughed me up and throw me on the ground and push my face in the concrete, because you don't like what I said to you. And the answer was pretty much, well, yeah.
And that is just very unsettling, and I don't I didn't know what to do with that except kind of try to build more anger up. I was told that I should have obeyed orders, and you're telling me that I need to be better so he won't do anything wrong anymore when stuff like that would happen? I would I would feel powerless. I don't like the Game of Thrones, but I liked Tyrion when Tyrion said, never forget what you are.
The world will not. What I added to it is that the world will not be kind when it reminds you who you are.
I think what he was saying was like, I need to remind you who you are here and who I am, and it just it forces the blood to boil and there's really nothing to do with it except drink.
And that's what I did. I think many black men have this experience where if you are trying to be a man, you're trying to be masculine, there are forces that pop up and they say, no, no, no, no, that's not who you are. This is who you are. Another instance that happened in the same laws area, I was actually in the bar and it was it was a good night. There were a lot of people dancing and drinking and having fun.
And there was a group of incredibly beautiful women who was about three or four of them. And they were sitting together. And, you know, during the course of the night, you watched guy after guy approach them and ninety eight percent, which is shot down, boom, boom. They were all they go to the table. All these guys were sent away. And I kind of figured I was going to be sent away too. But I wasn't.
I walked over and I tapped this woman on the shoulder and I said, You want to dance? And she said, sure. And we went out to the dance floor and the first slow song came on and I felt brave. And I was, you know, a little drinking at the time as well. I just kind of pulled her into me and got a quick kiss. And we started dancing. And after I did that, I looked around the room and I noticed a lot of the guys looking at me and looking at us dancing, and that was really intoxicating.
I liked being the guy that other guys looked at and said, why can't that be me? I really, really like that. I was a big component of what I thought masculinity was. And after that dance, I said, did you want to take a walk on the beach? And she said, sure. So we held hands and we started to walk towards the beach as we're walking. I noticed that some of the guys that were angry in the club had also came outside of the club.
And they're not being too obnoxious, you know what I mean? You know, they're maybe saying a few things here and there, but they're just kind of making their presence known. And I asked her to put her arms around me and my waist, and this is how we were kissing, so anyone who was looking could see that she was holding me and my hands were on the wall. I I very specifically wanted people to see that. And so, you know, we're kind of, you know, softly kissing and whatnot, and I feel the tug on my shoulder, you know, I kind of brush it off and then I feel another harder tug of my shoulder.
I turn around absolutely with an attitude and I turn around and I kind of thrust myself into the face of the person who was pulling my shoulder, like, what? What? And then as I'm in his face, I realize that this is not one of the guys from the club like this is a.
And so I kind of pause and I'm kind of confused, I don't know why this guy is bothering me and I kind of pause and I look at him and I remember this.
I took a step back and remember this, I took a step back and I repeated myself without as much anger, but it was still you know, it still had an attitude. And so I took a step back and I said, what? And I think maybe I scared him when I turned around as quickly as I did, but I didn't actually touch him. I looked to my left when I see three or four cops running towards us. And by the time I look back towards him, he had already hit me.
You know, he hit me and then I went to the ground and then at that point, you know, three or four cops, they said me, and then there was a cop's knee on the back of my neck, one at my waist and another one holding my feet. Again, to my knowledge, I haven't done anything wrong, and when I finally start to settle down and I'm I'm not I'm not struggling anymore. One of the cops goes up to her and know asked or he was like, Are you OK?
And I. I went into a rage and I was like, I remember screaming, Yeah, motherfucker, she OK. And then I just I start trying to get up again and I'm trying to get to the cop that asked this question. And again, I can't really be specific about some of the brutality. I mean, obviously, I was I was being hit, pulled. And, you know, I'm really kind of, in a way, blind with rage.
I'm incredibly angry. And once they subdue me again, she she goes back to her friends and I'm left with these cops answering questions. And I just I never really got over that because it really let me know, at least for me, that I was never going to be the man that I wanted to be because they weren't going to let me. They were there to remind me who I was in the world. I never forgot that that incident, I really began to hate almost any authority at that point, but specifically cops for any authority.
And I began this phrase, that nigga that I'm not a that. And I would tell myself that. I will tell other people that. I will tell anyone. I'm not nigga that you don't want to fuck with. I'm that nigga that does this. I'm not nigger that does that and that very much carried over into after I got out of the military. I saved up about five grand in the military, and when I got out, I thought it was a Honda Prelude at the time and I put rims on it, of course.
So I bought one hundred Prelude enough for rims on it.
And it was a nice car. I was I liked it and it kind of got me the attention that I wanted. But it also ended up getting the attention of some police. I knew this girl and she had a friend, so I was taking my friend to her house to meet her friend and we were going to smoke weed and eat and whatnot. We were on the way over there and we get pulled over.
I think the reason we got pulled over is based on the car. The cops assumed that I was a dealer. I don't know for sure, but we were just pulled over when we were pulled over. We did have about an eighth of weed on us because that's what we were planning to do with the two women when we got to her apartment.
Because we had the we they did a complete full search of the car and so we were set on the curb and I was I was angry. I was embarrassed. One cop, he was just searching the car and the other cop, he was standing right next to us and talking to us. If you would, walk up really close. And because we're sitting on the curb, I mean, he kind of has his dick in my face and he's looking down at me talking shit.
And it's really hard for me to explain the anger that you feel in this position, because for me, this is exactly what he's doing. He's reminding me who I am here. And I really feel that I can't do anything about it. He picked up my military ID or something that indicated that I was in the military and he said, you're in the military. And I said, yeah, and I'm bragging Mangrum again, I'm like, I'm a ranger, so I'm airborne ranger or whatever.
And then he said something like, well, I guess you dropped in the wrong hood this time, Hambro. After he said that he was kind of walking away to go see what was going on with the other cop in the car. I said a and, you know, kind of a and then he stopped and so I kind of softened my tone because the cop came back over quick and stood right next to me again. And so I just asked him the question.
I was like, man, why do you think you get to talk to me like that?
And honestly, it looked like he had never considered that like this was something that he never he never considered. And he kind of stood there for a moment, lost, like, why do I get to say stuff like this to you? Like, I never really I never really considered that. And when I look back up at the cop, he was, he was frowning now, he was looking back down at me, frowning. They make you into your pockets, and so all of the contents of my pockets were sitting right next to me, my keys, my pager, any money or whatever I had.
And in the couple of weeks prior, Shannon and I had gone to L.A. and we went to go get a beeper from this place. And I had never seen one before. It was kind of a gray see through pager.
And I liked it. I just really liked it. The cop was looking at me, he looked down, he reached down and he grabbed my pager, pretty much looking my eyes the whole time, and he holds the pager for a minute and he says, Oops. Wait so for like three seconds and then drops it and man, when I when I heard the pop of the plastic on the pager.
I just got lost and I kind of lost, I was I tried to stand up and that was, you know, obviously I was put back down very quickly.
He wasn't very far away from me when I tried to step up.
And I mean, I kind of knew what was going to happen, but it was one of those things I couldn't I could not do anything. I couldn't just sit there. At that point in life, I'm like, I would rather take a bit of a beating than allow this to happen again. I'm angry and so I'm struggling, trying to get back up, and he's forcing me back down, the other cops stop searching, the car comes back over, one's on my butt.
One has his knee in my back and my lower neck. And then that's kind of how they subdue me. That hurt too much on the inside, being hurt on the outside didn't matter as much, and there definitely come times when you're like, look, I'm not going to eat this shit.
I would rather be beaten than eat this shit. Unfortunately, I think many men, not just black men, probably poor men in general, kind of have this relationship with authority, especially unjust authority, and I think that's probably hard for many people to understand. But I know that's exactly heartfelt. They ended up not giving us a ticket for the weed. I think that was because of everything else that happened. But I think the worst part about it for me is that I was in no way and in any sort of state of mind to do what I wanted to do, which was to still go over to see this young woman.
It really felt like that I was stolen from me and I was just like, so angry. I'm like, how can you do that? I want to go see this woman and smoke a joint with her and eat some fries and hopefully have sex. But when, like, those kind of things are denied, then it just it bothered me because I had you know, I had served my country at this point and I actually served during wartime. You know, it bothered me that I love none of this matters.
And it was like he's here to remind you of who you are in this country and this is why he's allowed to do it. Today's episode is brought to you by Honey, we all shop online and we've all seen that promo code field taunt us at checkout. But thanks to honey, manually searching for coupon codes is a thing of the past. Honey is the free browser extension that scours the Internet for promo codes and applies the best one it finds to your cart.
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When I was younger, I did read a lot. I'd always done fairly well in school. I mean, I've been a pretty good student throughout, but when I got to my first junior college and this was in Blythe. While I was there, I took an English class and the professor was very kind, and at the end of the class he pulled me aside and he says, what are you what are your plans for college? And I told him basketball.
And he said, sit down with me and he said, look, I don't know I don't know anything about basketball, he says, but I think that you can write and I think this is probably you should consider this. And so I took a few more classes with him and he kind of impressed upon me that I could. And he also gave me books to read.
He didn't give me books that he thought that a young black guy would want to read, he just gave me books so he would give me things like Dostoyevsky and Upton Sinclair. And I just like I kind of absorbed them. Once I realized that I enjoyed it, I had a conflict with who I thought I was versus who I wanted to be. He continues to help me, and then once I got to UCR, I had another amazing professor, Susan Straight.
She never treated me like I was something that needed to be improved or anything, like there was something wrong with me. She was like, look, I think you have a little bit of talent and I want to try to help you cultivated. And she just kind of offhandedly mentioned she's like, you don't think you'd like to do what I do? And it clicked. I'm like, you know what? Yeah, I think I would like to do.
And I made a plan to go back to graduate school and then I. So I teach English at Valley College English professor, and there was one instance that I remember I was leaving work, not a big fan of meetings, and I was leaving a meeting that, for whatever reason, made me really angry and I couldn't run anywhere.
I mean, I have a profession. I have a career. I own a home. I couldn't run away. So I was on the way home and I decided to stop into a bar. And I kind of felt myself standing here looking at these two or three guys at this table, wanting one of them to say something to me so I could, you know, in some way try to pick a fight. And luckily for me, I hadn't had too much to drink when I've been sitting there.
And I realized, I mean, like, what are you doing? Luckily, I kind of remembered that you're an English professor. What are you doing? In the military, I would mean we had a phrase we would drink it off and you would drink and pal around with friends and you feel better, but, you know, I mean, I'm an English professor. I can just go get drunk every time I get angry. I felt that I was walking around looking for a fight that I needed to fight someone because I just didn't know what was going on, and the only way that I was going to feel better is that if I picked an enemy and picked a fight and then I would everything would seem to fall into place.
And it was at that point that I knew that something was wrong and I knew was something that I needed some help with. It was really on their way home, I decided I have to do something and I didn't know what I was going to do, but I had to do something. You don't have insurance, and so obviously I went to try to get an appointment to see a therapist and I said I'm having extreme problems, I need to see someone need to talk to someone.
So two or three months later, I have my first meeting with this guy and he says, how do you process fear? And my immediate reaction was to look at him like, motherfucker, I will fuck you up asking me some shit like that, OK? And in that moment, I instantly understood that I don't process fear. And I think that is because I haven't been I haven't felt that I've been safe enough to kind of allow myself to be vulnerable to process fear.
If you mistake anger as something that is actually protecting you when you want to let go of that anger, then you automatically think that you're weak. And that's not necessarily the truth.
But that's what I kind of thought. So that particular session, it was there was a lot I mean, he had to leave the room and he said, I want to go another half hour and I don't have the time.
I mean, it was like it was really big for me. Getting a little emotional, but he did tell me about about mindfulness, and so I figured what I would do was I would just read everything I could until we had the next meeting. As I started reading, I really kind of thought that this is actually the path, this is what I should be doing. And I've been practicing meditation now for, I guess about four years, and I went to my first 10 day retreat last year, which I think was very, very useful for me.
When I'm angry, the answer is always clear, it's always simple. If I'm angry, I'm either going to fuck someone up or bide my time and wait until I can fuck someone up. The answer is very simple, but when you're not angry and you're just afraid and you have to kind of sit with it for a little while, it's not it doesn't feel good.
You don't feel strong and it's just very foreign. But I understand that I've been conditioned to do that. And I do see how my anger, especially the anger that I've carried for so long, it blocks my ability to trust sometimes and to love. After had been maybe meditating for about a year, I suppose I was in class and I I formed groups at times to help students work through particular problems, and I'm walking around the classroom going from group to group to check on people.
And this one student was having a particular problem. So I sat down with them and I'm kind of going over this problem. And another student from another group comes up and asked me a question and I quickly turn the student said, one minute I need to finish this. And then I turned back to the students I'm helping. And then she just starts yelling at me. She starts screaming, I don't know why. She starts yelling at me. I felt anger.
It was like I was lit on fire, I felt anger in a lot of places in my body and my face, in my hands and my chest. And I was extraordinarily angry. And right before I spoke, I just realized that I was angry. And for whatever reason, I became curious. I looked up at her and then I said, Why are you yelling at me? And then she started yelling even more. And the most interesting thing happened.
I was no longer really angry. I was still more than anything curious. And as she was yelling more, I was trying to calm her down. And I was like, OK, I understand, but why are you yelling at me? And then at that, she paused and she looked at me like she didn't really understand what I was talking about, and she turned around and kept cussing and screaming and grabbed her bag and left.
But at that moment, I was no longer angry. So I simply turned back to the students I was helping and just continue to help them. And for me, that was kind of like a miracle. I guess it was the first time that I realized that sometimes negative emotions don't last as long as you think they last. The reason that they last is because you keep thinking about it. And as you keep thinking about it, you're creating that in your head.
And it's that thought process that is causing the problem, not necessarily what happened. And I've been trying to pay attention to mindfulness meditation ever since. I try very hard not to see people as evil when I see people as evil, it becomes very clear what needs to be done. They need to be fucked up. That's what needs to happen if they're evil. But if I don't see them as evil, I see them as other people. And these other people either have they're holding onto a belief that is false and that is causing some of this behavior.
Or maybe they're just scared and confused like I am. And that is causing the behavior. And once I kind of understood that, it was easy for me to see that unjust authority and why some people did the things that they do, that it has nothing to do with me, that they're trying to make themselves feel better about themselves. And all the only reason they're doing what they're doing to me is that they know they can get away with it.
And I really try to remind myself, I'm like, haven't you done some awful things to other people simply because you wanted to impress other people around you? And that really humbles me, it really almost me I have to take into account what I've done, I don't think it should be excused. I think it's understood. I have to be honest, if I was in their position, I can't lie to myself and say I would never do what they did, I would never do that, because that's probably not the truth.
It's probably not I would like to think that I would be a completely different person. And even if it mattered that I lost friends or family members, I would not be that person. But I mean, I don't know. My last encounter with police threw me for a direct loop, I mean, I was already English professor at this point and I made an illegal left turn leaving campus. And it was a term that I knew that I shouldn't make.
But it was a that if I made it, I can beat the rush and I can get on the freeway and get home. I think I just wanted to watch a Laker game or something like that and pull me over. I like all of the humans, I'm conditioned to a fight, flight or freeze, and over time is that when I'm around cops and I don't think I can run like I have this habit of freezing, like you don't I mean, it's like I look around and I freeze because I'm not sure what's going to happen.
He pulled me over and he came up to the car and looked at me and he was like, you don't I know? Yeah, I was like, Oh, OK, OK. And then he did something that I have never heard a cop do up until that point. He apologized. He apologized, he apologized for pulling me over. He said, staff pulling you over. He said, you know, but you can't make this turn. And he pointed like down here, you can you know, you need to make this turn again on the freeway.
And I'm like, oh, all right. And he asked me why I made the turn. I think I said something about Laker. He kind of laughed. Yeah, I know that's important. We kind of joked a little bit. He let me go and I got my car and left and I didn't go home.
I couldn't explain what I was feeling, but it really threw me for a loop because every other encounter with police, I don't think I've ever been seen that way. It was very clear that he didn't see a nigger in the car, what he saw was an English professor and I immediately went to a bar and started to drink because I I didn't know how to process that really. And I didn't know what to make of it. I really didn't. It's taking me a little little while to kind of be comfortable with the idea that this is who I am, like you are now an English professor, like you're just a regular person.
And even though it's refreshing to be seen as a regular person, it's unusual. It really is. There are still some times when I feel like that I need to cling to that old self for safety, especially in 20, 20. After George Floyd was murdered, I went into a taco shop. Typically, especially in my 20s, when I would go anywhere, I would survey a room as I walked in, I want to feel safe. So I would look around and see who was in it.
And this particular time I'm walking in and I'm not looking around the room. I'm looking at the menu up top. As I'm standing in line, once I get there, I realize that there's a cop kind of in front of me ordering and now I'm confronted with am I going to leave or am I going to stay because I don't feel comfortable anymore. And I had to go to the bathroom to kind of regroup. But while I was in the bathroom, I kind of put water on my face and I had to remind myself, I'm like the cop that's ordering tacos here has never done a thing to you.
What's happening right now is you're remembering something that has happened to you. And that is why you thought that was why you feel anxious. Then when I went back out, I honestly think the cops sense my unease and I think he was trying to make me feel comfortable, I honestly do. It made me feel really good that we were just a couple of guys who want tacos, you know, we didn't have to see each other as enemies, I guess.
And although I know I don't I know I'm not going to feel like that around cops all the time. I'm able to make that distinction at least sometimes now.
Now that what I'm trying to do more than anything else is I'm trying to make a commitment to love more, and when I was younger, because I was angry all the time, I didn't really see the use of love.
There are definitely some things that happened in my childhood that I wished that didn't happen and some of the things that happened when I was a child, I resented as an adult and as I got older and more educated, I want to talk about some of these things and the relationship with my mother and I has been complex because at this point in time, her mind is slowly slipping and she has a little bit of beginning Alzheimer's and dementia. I have to really learn to love the woman she is now and not resent the young woman that she was when I was a child.
And I'm able to see that I am not a child anymore and she's not a young mother anymore. And I think that does a lot for our relationship. But I think it helps me with just patience and compassion in general. And it helps me remember that. I mean, I've obviously changed and I should accept that other people have changed as well. And it's allowed me to really begin to care for my mother because like I said, I want to I want to love the woman she is and not resent the woman that she was.
I still get angry. Absolutely, I still get angry, but I now realize that I don't have to hold on to that anger. Holding on to the anger is not going to protect me. Holding on to the anger is in no way going to help heal me. If something happens to me and it's obviously racist, I am able on occasion to think about the person and what they did and to try to see a way to say, OK, what they did has nothing to do with me.
It helps me understand that the person that I'm dealing with here is human and flawed and that getting angry and fucking them up is not going to do anything for either of us and that I can't make him self reflect. But living life as a fighter, you know, and using that anger to fight each and every day, I think that has kept me farther away from love and that has kept me farther away from trust. And these are things that, you know, that you need to live a fully human life.
And if you feel like you're fighting all the time and you're powerless and so everything that you see, you're taking a swing at it before you even know what it is, you're pushing people away without realizing that you're pushing people away. And that's not something that I want to do anymore. Today's episode featured Edward Jones, known to most by his initials E.J.. He's currently a professor of English at San Bernardino Valley College.
From London, you are listening to this is actually happening, if you love what we do, please rate and review the show. You can subscribe on Apple podcast, Spotify, the Wonder App or wherever you're listening right now. You can also join one plus in the one free app to listen ad free. In the episode notes, you'll find some links and offers from our sponsors by supporting them. You help us bring you our shows for free. I'm your host witness Aldine.
Today's episode was produced by me and Andrew Waite's with special thanks to that. This is actually happening team including Ellen Westberg. The intro music features the song Gulabi by Tipper. You can join that this is actually happening community on the discussion group on Facebook where it's actually happening on Instagram. And as always, you can support the show by going to Patreon dotcom slash happening or by visiting the shop at actually happening store dotcom.
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