I fell asleep in a drive thru once. I’m thankful I get to write about it.

Below is a post I wrote on 06/13. I wrote it when Rayshard Brooks was murdered. I wanted to try and point out the difference of experience I had when I was about his age as a white man at a Stone Mountain Krytal maybe 30 minutes from where he was. I went down there that morning to see it myself and then that Wendy’s burned that night. I went back the next morning and saw the community turn it into a beautiful memorial. Pics below.

I’ve acknowledged my privilege for a long time now, but this one hits me harder. Being literally so close to home and happening to someone who had fallen asleep at a drive-thru. That was a story I had been telling as a sort of joke for years. It’s part of my recovery story now. I wrote this prior to seeing Rayshard’s body cam interactions with those cops. I don’t think I can describe in words well enough the difference of how it was handled between the two of us. And before anyone replies with anything about fighting back – I just watched a naked white man suspected of murdering his whole family chase an officer around his yard like a chicken with its head cut off.

Yes, I’m carrying guilt with me on this. The least I feel I can do is keep sharing my experiences in hopes of some people finding relatability or challenging old ideals. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m no stranger to fighting this fight. The difference now is I hope to do it with more of an open mind and heart and stay principled. Focused on healing and not destroying . So below is what I originally wrote , thank you if you take tine to read 👇❤️🙏

I too fell asleep drunk in a drive-thru line (Krystal). When they banged on my window I drunkenly reached a $20 out the window to the cop (its in the report). Before they gave me field sobriety tests they gave me multiple avenues to explain my way out of it. I had mentioned that I had worked all day and my blood sugar was probably low and that was why I had passed out, so they quickly went into questioning to see if I was diabetic. I was “hangry”. After I failed multiple field sobriety tests they allowed me to call my mom to prevent my car from being towed away. They even moved it for me. Honestly, they were nice guys.

There’s more to come from this report and I’m not interested in arguments from anyone on this. I just want to point out that falling asleep in a drive thru line can escalate to an entirely different situation for some people. Rayshard Brooks ended up being shot and killed, I stumbled around doing an impromptu tight 5 routine with the police and got to call my mom to prearrange bail and not have my car towed away.

That Time Candace Owens Appropriated my Culture

“I figured out the problem yeah the problem is you. You didn’t see us comin’ now there’s nothin’ you can do. Times are gonna change, change or step aside. It’s out point of view that took you by surprise. Actions could erase all the fear that we suffer. People segregated no one understands each other. He’s a different color, but we’re the same kid. I will treat him like my brother, he will treat me like his.” -Rancid

I think my words were something along the lines of “Trick, don’t you dare appropriate my culture!” This was my response to Candace Owens calling Donald Trump “Punk Rock.” Something she has repeated multiple times now. My ego was bruised. I felt personally assaulted hearing someone who I feel has no clue about what Punk culture is and what it represents, say something so outlandish. But did she have a point?

Her claims are that he rebels against the establishment and mainstream media and that’s what makes him Punk Rock. He definitely says wild stuff to the media, no doubt. And I do believe that he says things that play well to a base that feels they are forgotten and he leans into their fears to exploit. He’s brash and vulgar doing it, which is edgy. He may say things that seem against the DC normal talking points. But in my eyes his actions show him to be the epitome of the establishment incarnate. I’ve had issues with Trump that go back far preceding his presidency and I don’t want to get into that much here. That’s not what this is about. I do want to talk about what my identity as a Punk means to me and why I felt so assaulted by this claim.

“There was a boy who had too many toys and and an ache inside of his bones. He sought extrication through chemical vocation and now he answers to Jones. It’s deadly and alluring – the sound of pounding heat – enslaving all who dare succumb to the temptations of the forbidden beat.” -Bad Religion

Few things have struck me in my life like that song, that album and that album cover did (Bad Religion, Suffer). I was given a copy of the cassette by some neighborhood Punks when I was 11 and it forever impacted my life. They drove one of those huge old school Chevy Blazers with “Doom” spray painted on the tailgate. Those were the cool kids to a kid from a broken home who’s day’s were spent with other latch-key kids, running around getting into whatever mischief we could muster up.

I was a broken-hearted kid from a home stricken by alcoholism and felt that God had missed our house. Traumas I went through as a child made it easy for me to build resentments at God. I was surrounded in a region of Bible-thumpers who said racist, homophobic, xenophobic and all kinds of bigoted things – then used the cross as a shield for their fear based judgments and generational hatreds. It was easy for me to find something to rebel against. Punk Rock was my alleyway into the counter-culture I needed to escape my own mind and much of the time it’s what kept me alive. Even if it also nearly got me killed.

A general disdain for authority, parents, school or any system was all that was needed to enter into this way of life. And it is a way of life. A skateboard also helped. Skating the suburban streets we found kids with the same pains and grudges we had. It became a foster family. There is a real DIY (do-it-yourself) sprit in the Punk community that only exists where you can find the down-trotted. We advertised our individualism by being a loud, bright, abrasive and sometimes a very troublesome group. Everyone had everyone’s back despite the trouble we got into and there was one thing and one thing only that came as a priority: We don’t talk to police.

I could wax poetic about going to shows, house parties, crashing other people’s house parties and all kinds of various Punk things but I won’t. I can give you hundreds of examples of Punk songs about bucking the system, fighting against racism, social injustices, stamping out corporate greed, etc… Inquire within if you like . The spirit of Punk started in the streets and tells stories of people rebelling against injustices caused by systemic failures. The same exact thing can be said about Hip Hop. The two have similarities many people don’t realize. But if you’ve been out here then you know it. Real recognize real.

Culture; the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively.

So when Candace Owens said Trump was the Punk Rock President why was I losing my shit? Maybe I couldn’t fathom the thought of a “law and order” president being Punk. There was nothing Punk at all about his response to Charlottesville. As someone who grew up in the shadow of losing flags and monuments made to intimidate, segregate, discriminate and miseducate, hearing a president defend them isn’t anything Punk has ever taught me. Again, I took this very personal. And she hasn’t been the only one to make this claim. My ego was taking a beating.

Identity; the fact of being who or what a person is.

Uniqueness; the quality of being the only one of its kind.

Calling myself a Punk but yet being able to look like an otherwise “normal” person is something I’ve always taken pride in. It’s often been the point. If a tee-shirt, spiked belt and dangerous mind are the only things separating you and me then it’s easy to assimilate and infiltrate from within. These were honest thoughts I had growing up. I can seem normal, but be a Punk on the weekend. And I did that for a long time until the lies of hiding who I really am caught up with me. That’s a privilege not everyone has. If you can’t connect those dots please meditate on it. If you already know then you know. But, I also suffer from “terminal uniqueness.” My mind used to make me think I was so special and unique that no one could possibly understand what I was going through and maybe I was just meant to suffer. That made it easier for myself to go on self-martyrdom/God-complex trips. But, thank God that I’ve recovered enough from that insanity to see that I’m not the only person in the world.

“Dick Gregory told me a couple of secrets before he laid down in his grave. All of us serve the same masters. All of us nothin’ but slaves. Never forget in the story of Jesus, the hero was killed by the state.” -Killer Mike, RTJ4

P.S. I want to add a couple random solution nuggets on here as talking points I pick up from various places incase you are reading it all the way down. As always this is about healing and I want to share my personal experiences that you may not see. Thanks.

  1. All Police Body Cams MUST be linked to a third-party cloud monitoring device. Figure out the details somehow, but they should not have control over those cameras ever.
  2. Mental Health reform across the board. And this goes big for Police. I’m going to write my thoughts on Defunding the Police. And I’ll sum it up as we ask them to do way too much. Take away money in areas they aren’t equipped to deal with, BUT resources have to be dedicated to handling PTSD on the job and more therapists and counselors need to be available if not mandatory. Don’t just dismiss what some of the cops have to deal with. I’ve seen firsthand what witnessing violent crimes does to minds. Asking someone to go right back out to the job is not a good idea. I’ll leave it at that for now, thanks! ❤️

Are you starting to get this yet?

My first arrest came at 19, the summer I graduated high school. Disorderly Conduct and Underage Possession of Alcohol by a Minor.  A Sunday sunrise game of crabapple baseball resulted in 5 cop cars showing up for 4 of us. One of the officers didn’t quite fit in with the good ‘ol boy routine they had going on and bailed right away. A neighbor had accused those “punk kids” of hitting their car with a baseball bat when they drove by. We hadn’t. We were, however, being loud and obnoxious teenagers from broken homes under the influence of PBR, weed and misguided aggression making a mess with crabapples all over the road. 

I should of prefaced this with a statement about how that year almost the entirety of my crew was being harassed and locked up by these cops for something or another. A few of these altercations resulted in violence. Mine included. What I should of prefaced that with is that for 5 or 6 years prior to that we were all minors running around Five Forks, Georgia causing general mischief. We skateboarded everywhere they said we couldn’t, raided garages, stole from stores, crashed parties, harassed yuppies and were generally up to no good. Broken home kids breaking things as should be expected in a broken system made to keep people broken. We ran from the cops at every turn, but when they caught up with us there wasn’t a whole lot of punishment. My reflection on this now is that they were generally concerned about dealing with “agro” suburban parents. One thing I do know is that the kids that looked down there noses on us got off way easier than we ever did, sometimes for doing way more. Plenty of us went to juvey and that became more of a thing to the younger kids who ran with us. But once we all started turning 18 it was open season and there was some recompense to be had in the cops eyes. But we still got away with our lives. I got the crap kicked out of me but not before I had an opportunity to talk a bunch of shit, stash my weed inside the house (gotta keep those charges low) and behave like a Punk with a chip on his shoulder would. This is a privilege I had back then and I am more than happy to admit that and use it today for the right reasons.

Privilege; a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available to a particular person or group of people. 

Tamir Rice was a 12-year old boy who was shot and killed by the cops for having a toy gun. The call made to 911 stated that he was a juvenile and the caller stated that gun was probably fake multiple times.

Breonna Taylor was a 26-year old EMT who was asleep before being shot 8 times on a no-knock warrant for a suspected drug house more than 10 miles away.

George Floyd was a 46-year old man who was a mentor in his community and who seemed loved by all. A white officer knelt on his neck with his hands in his pocket for 8 minutes and 46 seconds while he begged for his life and called out for his mother and God. I could go on but I won’t.

“Open and shut case Johnson. I saw this once before when I was a rookie. Apparently, this ni**er broke in and hung up pictures of his family everywhere — well, let’s sprinkle some crack on him and get out of here.”

-Dave Chappelle

The thing that has made me the most upset in the last few weeks is the same thing that always happens. Misdirection of ones own guilt. It’s as if as soon as some of y’all were watching that video of George Floyd being murdered you were simultaneously googling reasons to character assassinate him. Common arguments using what they determine to be statistics or facts are always selective and narrated. It lacks perspective and discounts someone’s entire life experience. Saying things like “feelings aren’t relevant” are really annoying coming from people who genuinely get so upset at hearing the term White privilege that they spin into convos about “White genocide” or “reverse racism” while trying to say that we live in post-racism world at the same time. The fallacies are so often made that I literally can’t keep up.

I think instead of White people telling Black people to act more like Doctor King, they should look at what a real example of an ally is. John Brown or Jane Elliot to start. If you want to truly help heal a broken system then you should listen to those who live a life you couldn’t possibly understand. Read from Black scholars on the subjects instead of getting the views from internet talking-heads. And one Black person who may agree with your point of view does not represent the entire race on the subject.

It feels to me that a lot of the hostility comes from a fear that reconciliation of these issues means that you would personally owe something for your own transgressions. You do. Your time, understanding, open mind and open heart and most certainly your open eyes. The media is not telling you what’s happening out here and that’s from every side right now. I’ll get to more of that later in another post.

Acting as if you’ve never done or said anything racist is part of the problem here. We all have. You are being asked to be anti-racist. Level your pride and help heal this. Take initiative. This is about principles which this country was supposed to be founded on. Those principles were a lie and that lie grew and effected us all. Slavery turned into Jim Crow which turned into the Drug War and mass incarceration and the lines of intersectionality really start getting blurred from there. They use race as the construct to divide us from seeing that was how it was all designed from the beginning. It’s been taken a step further now using intersectionality to divide so that we don’t respect one another’s personal identities to keep us from unifying. For the land of liberty that’s kinda messed up.

Intersectionality; the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping systems  of discrimination or disadvantage. 

Supremacy; the state or condition of being superior to all others in authority, power, or status.

Exploitation; the action or fact of treating someone unfairly in order to benefit from their work.

We all have fallen victim from this but our problem is that we can be inherently selfish. When our privileges are checked and challenged we get defensive because most people go through challenges and struggles in life. But if we get honest with ourselves and use humility as a principle then we can reconcile what was always broken to begin with. If you want America to really be great again then maybe accept that it wasn’t great for everyone to begin with and SAY IT OUT LOUD!!!

I want to get a piece out about what’s really happening with these peaceful protests all around Atlanta as I’ve been out there at many myself. But I do need to be careful with what I say for fears of people who genuinely want to cause harm. I will say that last night we had to ask people to leave before we marched because they were unwilling to allow their book bags to be checked. After what happened at Wendy’s (really happened) I thought y’all should know that everyone out here takes this very serious about being peaceful and there are some that are not from these communities coming in trying to make it not-so peaceful.

My Thoughts on Monuments and Flags

I’m sure if I looked I could find family flags fought under on all sides going back thousands of years. I know I had family on both sides of the civil war. Those wars are over and they aren’t my wars to fight. However, I get to learn how to honor my family by not fighting the same wars over and over and try to make a better world.

I made my mind up about monuments and flags long ago much like I made my mind up about tattoos. I stopped getting tattoos at a pretty young age after regret and modification of the ones I had. The permanence of the decision never stuck well in my confused and ever-changing idealistic young mind. Maybe if I got tattoos that had no really meaning it would be different but that’s never been my style.

On my 18th birthday I got a bald eagle wrapped in an American flag tattooed on my right arm at Black Cat in Decatur. I was a young, constitutionalist type punk, who had semi-nationalistic ideals about government and how the two-party system had run it’s course (I stick with that one). A “true patriot” if you will.
Some series of angst driven thinking lead me to get reoccurring detention for not standing for the pledge at school and next thing I know I’m getting a string of scuzzy trap house tattoos. I added a mushroom cloud followed by some dollar bills in the mouth of the eagle then some spiderwebs for flare. Add a wrong way direction street sign for intentional bad luck and there you go (pic in the comments). Whatever my ideas where at the time I never had a problem expressing them.

And that’s my point. I chose to get these tattoos and I can at least cover them up or even have them removed. Personal liberties are something we all cherish and it’s certainly a thing people in this country love to get on a soapbox about. My tattoos make a political statement in my own way as many peoples do but they aren’t public monuments, statues or flags to be displayed and revered over. And don’t get it twisted, these confederate monuments are political statements:

“Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; it’s foundation are laid, it’s cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. This truth has been slow in the process of development, like all other truths in the various departments of science.” -Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens “Cornerstone Speech”

Cornerstone; an important quality or feature on which a thing depends or is based.

Monument; a statue, building or other structure erected to commemorate a famous or notable person or event.

Commemorate; recall and show respect for (someone or something)

That opposite idea he is referring to was rebuttal of Jefferson’s forecast that slavery was an institution that this country could not sustain.

When I was a child I saw a KKK rally at Stone Mountain right in front of where the worlds largest monument is erected to commemorate the leaders of the confederacy. Those klansmen wore the same flag on their robes as did the men who flew that flag in the name of the confederacy. Many of the confederates were in the klan. I don’t need to tell you what they did. This was never a hard distinction for me to make and I’ve often scratched my head as to why people are so dead set on that flag and these statues. The daughters of the confederacy set off to erect these monuments during the Jim Crow era in the south and pretty much all of the state flags were changed during the civil rights movement, you connect the dots there yourself.

I learned about The Crusades and Spanish Inquisition in history books. I didn’t need a statue or mountain carving to teach me about Hiroshima. I did chose to tattoo a mushroom cloud on my arm though. Based on that laser show, I was always confused growing up as to whether or not those were America’s founding fathers. No joke, my mind would go to the thought that there are 4 faces on Mount Rushmore from the pictures I had seen in books and only 3 dudes on horses here so what gives? History had been rewritten and made kid and psychedelic friendly with lasers. However, I never learned about the Tulsa massacre at school let alone ever saw a statue for the citizens who lived there. There are no monuments teaching me about slave trade, segregation or lynchings. No flags of freedom waved that haven’t been used to oppress others in its shadow.

Myself and plenty of people I love have suffered abuse in our lives. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like if an ancestor of that abuser decided to erect a monument or fly a flag to commemorate that abuser who had caused such grievous harm. But thankfully I don’t have to live with such a preposterous idea. There’s plenty who do though.

It’s a good thing flags and statues can be taken down and replaced with new ones built on a solid cornerstone principled in love, honesty, understanding and wisdom.

Reparation; making amends for a wrong one has done, by paying money to OR otherwise helping those who have been wronged.

Notice what I underlined there and I don’t like that I feel like I need to pander here but I really am coming from a place of genuine love and want for restorative change. History is kept in books and museums and other recordings. If we are going to memorialize anyone let’s make sure it honors principles that we all agree on in space we share. I’m pretty sure you’re still allowed to build whatever shrines you want on your land, y’all! ❤️

Reconciling the shame of my own privilege and finding a path to recovery

I spent a little over a year working at a clinic located in Southwest Atlanta. Overall I worked about 9 years with patients from all around Atlanta. During that time my eyes opened more and more to the crooked systems we all suffer from at the end of the day. But I couldn’t see it then like I do now and I had another growing problem that whole time. I’m an alcoholic. I’ve been sober for more than 4 years now and leaving that field was a thing I had to do to get here for sure. My own guilt, shame and perceived victimhood had sent me on a downward spiral that I’m thankful to be alive from today. I’m not going to connect all the dots on how that relates to systemic racism but it does.

I’ve had plenty of trauma throughout my childhood, adolescence and onward. That caused me to develop a huge chip on my shoulder and I had problems with authority and run-ins with the cops for years including getting my ass kicked by them when I was 19. I’m a self described punk and fighting the system has been something that always seemed imbedded in me. Yet that made me blind to my own transgressions and certainly kept me from being the helping hand I always wanted to or said I would be.

I’ve always had Black friends, I always said I was anti-racist, I thought I was fighting the good fight for sure. But I was racist and still can be (Don’t act like you’ve never code switched in your life). I did the worse thing you can do a lot of the time; jump down someone’s throat with malicious intent or selfish purposes to point out their own problems when I was being a hypocrite myself. That’s not helping and only creates more divide. I have to strive to be better today and my story and experiences are the best way I can do that. Nothing can replace someone’s lived life experience and that’s what those years in the field showed me.

My own victimhood and mental illness didn’t compare to the generations of systemic injustice I could see for myself. When I started to work at that clinic they had just recently moved to that neighborhood in SW ATL. Quite a few of the younger employees working there had little life experience and the judgmental things I heard in that building everyday really started to get to me. But it kept me in a place of judgment and from pointing the finger inwards to look at myself. There’s nothing worse than a self-righteous ass with a real good waft of arrogance and a point to prove.

Working with schizophrenics really opened me up to what real trauma is. Seeing firsthand how the byproducts of the environment and the system plays into breaking down the human psyche like that gripped my heart hard. The breakdown of healthcare alone in these communities was infuriating and it’s designed to hinder advancement, not help. I nearly drank myself to death wracked with guilt and shame from being afraid to face the mess I had made out of my own life from blaming others. I had played a victim my whole life for things I reasonably could be mad about but looking around me I had no right to behave the way I did and be so ungrateful for the privileges that had been given to me in my life. I had to be humbled to get introspective and start cleaning up my own house…

… But the best part was I still had a house. I had a soft landing place, once again, for me to fall back on once I came crashing down spectacularly. Many of the folks I dealt with everyday for almost a decade had nothing to fall on and the deck was stacked that way. If I trace all of this back to why I have these safety nets and opportunities – and why people who I genuinely love are born into a place where the safety nets were never installed to begin with and spend their life dealing with things like “double consciousness” and “societal graces” just to go about a normal day and make it ahead – the answers are always the same: Systemic racism.

Just because I had bad days growing up and throughout my life doesn’t mean I’m the winner of the Victim Olympics™️ and that’s a big part of the problem here. We don’t need to compare our scars, but can share them with one another and understand where they came from. Then we can honestly help heal them and prevent the future generations from getting them. But, none of this happens without perspective and introspection.

Perception; the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses.

Introspection; the examination or observation of one’s own mental and emotional processes.

I’ve been working on a comic project that’s about this for a while now and I still plan on publishing it at some point but these experiences can’t wait and I feel that these are conversations we need to have. The media and Hollywood will misrepresent what the people who live in these communities are like in real life, but once you see with your own eyes it’s easy to see that the struggle is stemmed from a foundation built on exploitation and greed and race was used to make that foundation. Turn off the national news and talk to someone who actually lives the life you have an opinion so strongly about. No numbers, no studies. Open hearts, open minds and open eyes. Look don’t think. I love you all and please feel free to share this and your own experiences. ❤️

Welcome to my blog!

Welcome to Thoughts on Healing Hearts. I wanted to start a blog to better express my own experiences of ups and downs in life and my journey in recovery. With all that is going on I feel like now is a better time than ever to take time to understand one another’s personal experiences in life and how we all can learn to heal. I have spent over 2 decades working various jobs around Atlanta and more years than that running around sticking my nose into places I probably shouldn’t of. I don’t want to claim I have all the answers to anything. I do want to express my thoughts and opinions on certain things from ways I see them, hopefully in a constructive manner. I welcome feedback and hope you take the time to read. I’m going to post a couple pieces I had written previously this week later on. Thanks!! James