Monday, March 31, 2008

Republican Rule

Remember a while back John McCain gave a ridiculous speech about the economy that basically repeated George Bush's talking points and threw in a little Ronald Reagan "voodoo economics" for good measure?


This article below is the result of eight years of Republican rule.


It's getting rough out there.

A New Set of Eyes

I'm not writing anything too long or heavy to get the week started, but there was that caught my eye on a local level.

As my sidebar states, I live in New Orleans and I attended college up North at Howard University. When I moved to DC that first year two things about the city really shocked me. One, they crammed a lot of cats into that little ass city. Two, very few of those people can drive.

Now my Chocolate City folks are not going to like me saying that, but, they are some of the most aggressive, rule-breaking drivers in the world. Look, in New Orleans we don't have much room to talk since everybody here knows that signaling is only an option when making a turn, and that one-way signs are more of a suggestion than a rule. But, in DC they took things to a whole 'nother level when it came to driving.

Navigating the Beltway was a bloodsport, and even in the city proper people seemed to view their cars as gas-powered weapons of mass destruction. But, the biggest adjustment was getting used to the fact that very few people in DC paid attention to traffic lights. Seriously, a traffic light could be red for a full 30 seconds and people would still fly through it like it was green. Crossing the street on foot or in a car required the ability to keep your head on a swivel like a linebacker.

Now, when I first encountered this practice it was fairly jarring because at the time people in New Orleans obeyed the traffic lights even if we thought murder was a misdemeanor. But, since Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans residents seem to have picked up a few bad habits from all the places the "visited." I guess people must figure that if governmental assistance after a natural disaster is optional, well running a red light must be just fine.

This new belief system hasn't gone unnoticed by city officials, and their response has been to install a whole bunch of these.

I'm not sure how I feel about these red light cameras.

On one hand, I've found that fear is a great motivator for most people, and the fear of spending up to $400 will convince a lot of people to obey the traffic laws. As a reporter, I've seen far too many traffic accidents, and I know just how dangerous right angle collisions can be. While I may have issues with mandatory seat belt laws, I do support most other rules that make the streets safer for drivers.

But, a certain part of me kind of feels like it's cheating for the police and the city to get to write tickets when they haven't put in the time to catch criminals. It reminds me of a conversation I had with a young lady in college. The girl was from Philly and she told me that she'd gotten a massive ticket for speeding one time while commuting from school to her home.

What made her ticket so memorable was that she didn't get stopped by the cops, but rather she got a letter in the mail noting that she had been speeding and owed a fine. Apparently, when she used her EZPass at the toll booths on the highway a computer somewhere logged the times when she arrived at each booth. The computer then calculated her speed by dividing the distance traveled by the time elapsed.

She got a ticket based on Algebra y'all!

Just like that EZPass scam, this whole red light camera setup just seems like a moneymaker for municipalities and other entities. I mean, according to the article, the red-light cameras are only going to be set-up at a few intersections. Consequently, most people will continue to run red-lights and endanger other drivers, while the city makes a few million in new fines. If the lights really won't have a big impact on safety, can the city justify the fines and fees they assess on a struggling population? Or, is the city justified since folks are breaking the rules?

What do y'all think?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Outermost Boundary of Arrogance

Eight years ago, Al Gore won the Democratic presidential nomination, fought gamely against George Bush in a rough general campaign and finally lost the presidency thanks to some some shady dealings in Florida. In the process, Gore was labeled too boring, too soft and so lacking in charisma that he couldn't even win his home state.

He became a loser, and people forgot about him for the most part.

Fast forward a few years and 4,000 deaths in Iraq, and Al Gore is suddenly everybody's favorite almost-president. He's an expert on global warming, a fairly funny nerd and compared to the loser who actually won the presidency in 2000,
Gore looks like a butt-naked Beyonce on Valentines Day.

He looks pretty damn good.

Don't believe me about Gore's reversal of fortune? Well let me prove to you just how far that old Tennessee boy has come. When he lost in 2000, Gore was ridiculed by the press as the only man in America who could have squandered the amazing popularity of William Jefferson Clinton and lost to a former crackhead. Now, without campaigning in a single state or garnering a single primary vote, Gore is being floated by at least one pundit as the solution to the Democratic party's current nomination dilemna.

That is really amazing.

I mean, eight years ago this cat was a pariah. Actually, even in 2004 the name Al Gore was still a synonym for bumbling buffoon. Now, Joe Klein is writing in a national news magazine that Gore should really be considered for the Democratic nomination.

That's such an arrogant proposal that Dick Cheney is genuflecting at this guy's feet and chanting, "That's a bad motherfucker right there."

It takes boulder nuts to propose that Al Gore should leapfrog two candidates who have raised more money than he ever raised, inspired more people to vote than he ever inspired, and, here's the shocker, have actually run primary campaigns. To then take things one step further and posit that Obama should sign up as Gore's vice president, well I'm damn near flabbergasted.

The writer details the shortcomings of both Obama's and Clinton's campaigns, but seems unable or unwilling to consider the huge problems with a potential Gore run. Klein correctly points out that black people would feel cheated if Clinton was named the nominee without besting Obama in a single category, and would probably sit out the general election. He also notes that Obama could still face a huge backlash among white voters because of the media-fabricated Rev. Jeremiah Wright fiasco.

Yet, in his rush to anoint Gore as the party's Savior, Klein doesn't bother to explain why black people would go along with a plan that forces Obama to play second fiddle to some white dude who jumped in the race at the last minute and won even fewer states than Hillary. Nor does he explain why white middle class Democrats would suddenly be enamored with the same cat they despised eight years ago and who is pretty much a John Kerry clone.

Klein coyly attempts to downplay his suggestion and evens jokes that it's a kooky idea during the "silly season" of politics, but the very fact that he wrote this column for Time Magazine suggests that he's taking this proposal very seriously. Klein clearly thinks this is a viable and logical solution, and he implies that when he floated some trial balloons about it to Democratic party bigwigs they liked the idea, but lacked the chitlins to pursue it.

I must say, this is one of the few times when I have truly been shocked at the arrogance of a white person. It doesn't happen often, in fact I was only mildly surprised when Hillary made her own pitch to name Obama vice-president. But, when you pull some innocent political bystander off the street and prop him up as the perfect presidential nominee, well you've entered a whole new realm of arrogance.

You're now Rick James arrogant--slapping the darkness brothas at parties, dancing on coaches in platform and telling groupies their breasts are subpar(Four thumbs down, bitches!).

Arrogance is a helluva drug.

Golden Shower

Most intelligent black people understand that this whole America thing is rigged.

While we may be better off than black people in many other countries, it's an indisputable fact the America has yet to live up to its ideals about the equality of man. But, even the most cynical black people, the kind of black people who never let their kids believe in Santa Claus because they don't want a white man getting too much credit (What up mom and dad!), are shocked when they learn about sentencing disparities for crack cocaine and powder cocaine.

For those of y'all who need a primer on this problem, check out this link.

Look, this isn't a new issue, in fact, I jacked that link from the cats over at Too Sense who have written about sentencing disparities at length. But, when I read that article, I just got angry all over again.

It wasn't just that you get a minimum of five years in federal prison for possession of five grams of crack cocaine while it takes possession of 500 grams of powder cocaine to get the same time. And for those of y'all who don't know, five grams of crack is worth about $500, while 500 grams of powder cocaine is worth anywhere from $22,000 to $50,000.

No, what really got this lunatic angry was that although two-thirds of the users of crack cocaine are white people, only 9 percent of the people sentenced under the federal guidelines are white.

Now that's one of those things that make you go "hmmmmm?"

See that statistic invalidates any argument about the impartiality of police officers or the fairness of the American judicial system. You mean to tell me that although 66 percent of the people using crack are white, they somehow consistently manage to avoid having enough dope on them to trigger the mandatory sentencing guidelines?

Don't piss in my mouth and tell me it's ginger ale.

Thats Racist!

It's obvious that the police and federal prosecutors are enforcing the laws differently based on the criminals involved. Black folks get the pleasure of facing nearly all-white federal juries with conviction rates in the high 90th percentiles, while white folks get probation after taking their chances in state court. There is no way that 90 percent of white crackheads or crack dealers are so disciplined that they never have at least five grams of crack cocaine on their person.

Look, even if you adjust for the fact that black people are more likely to sell crack then white people, it doesn't make sense that black people are able to supply all the white crackheads in this country. Although there are quite a few white folks willing to come to the hood to cop their fix, many of them are getting high on drugs supplied by their neighbor on White Deer Trail in the Forest Glen subdivision. (That is not a real place, just a stand-in for Pleasantville.)

See, what the statistics tell me is that a whole lot of white drug dealers and users are being allowed to avoid prosecution because police departments are not concentrating their resources on catching them with dope.

Oh, the police will gladly take a bust involving criminals of any color, but they aren't conducting aggressive traffic stops outside of Barnes and Noble, and they don't have surveillance teams setting up on Bed, Bath and Beyond. Nope, they are too busy profiling black people driving and walking through the hood.

I've spoken to law enforcement officials who will pretty much admit to racial profiling, although they prefer to call it "criminal profiling." They claim that they don't see color when they are investigating crimes, and note that they concentrate their resources in those areas with high crime. Shockingly, it just so happens that black neighborhoods are where crime occurs.

Funny how that works.

Personally, I think that legislators need to either bring the sentencing guidelines for powder cocaine up to the same level as the guidelines for crack cocaine, or they need to reduce the mandatory minimum sentences for crack. Police officers need to shine their flashlights in a few more white cars just for the hell of it.

Either piss on everybody, or keep your ginger ale to yourself.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Letting My Hair Down

Even though I was a fairly decent football player in high school, the NFL is easily my least favorite professional sports league.

The ridiculous violence that permeates every play along with the the master/slave dynamic between players and executives really make it difficult for me to enjoy the sport. When I watch the NFL, I see a high-stakes reflection of the worst aspects of the black experience in America. The tenable employment status, the horrible working conditions and the overriding of sense of exploitation are all too familiar.

Something just ain't right about pro football.

Most recently, I've been disgusted by the way the player's union has abdicated its responsibility to protect the interests of its members. The NFL's braintrust has initiated new policies that allow the NFL commissioner to suspend players indefinitely if they are arrested for a crime or involved in a serious controversy. No conviction is needed for the suspension, and players are not paid while they are on suspension.

These moves were made in response to media speculation that the league was being overrun by "thugs" who didn't know to be grateful for the "privilege" of playing professional football. These big black bucks apparently were sullying the reputation of the game and the commissioner needed to take a hard stance against them in order to reassure the mainstream American fan base that is the lifeblood of the league.

And that's one of the reasons why the NFL is now considering this new rule.

Look closely, the NFL, a sports league, is considering enacting a rule that prohibits its players from having long hair. A league built by a game that often shortens the lifespans of its players by at least ten years, and is overrun by physiques that could not be achieved without the rampant use of illegal steroids and human growth hormone, is worried about long hair.

Something is wrong there.

Look, don't hit me with the argument that every employer has the right to dictate how employees can wear their hair. As this link from The Root.com proves, employers can't just set arbitrary and discriminatory rules about hair. And make no mistake, this new rule will disproportionately affect black players because of their penchant for wearing their hair in long dreadlocks. Sure, some white players and other minority players will be affected, but they are collateral damage.

In my mind, this rule is for the unruly and unkempt niggers.

Oh, NFL supporters will deny this fact vehemently. They'll claim that the new rule applies to everybody, and that it's an effort to protect players from being dangerously tackled by someone grabbing their hair. They'll note that the new rule allows long hair as long as it doesn't cover the name on the back of a player's jersey.

And they'll be wrong.

Just like the NBA's dress code and like those nightclubs that don't allow white t-shirts or sneakers, this is a rule designed to make white folks comfortable. It's not about safety, it's not about helping fans keep track of the players on field by being able to see their names. It's about removing any whiff of "thug" from the NFL experience. It's about ensuring that NFL players don't resemble those dangerous negroes lurking behind every tree waiting to rape and pillage. It's about making white people feel comfortable with niggers killing themselves for their entertainment.

Period.

And you know what? I'm really not surprised. I'd actually have to be extremely out of touch with the realities of life in America to be surprised that rules are being enacted to make white folks feel good. What really bothers me, although it also doesn't surprise me, is that this story has not generated more outrage among black fans of the NFL.

Too many of us are becoming comfortable with these increasingly frequent reminders from mainstream America that being "too black" is unacceptable. (Just ask Rev. Wright about that.) Many of us even seem to have internalized that viewpoint ourselves. Far too many black folk just want to fit in, to have a good time, to enjoy what everybody else enjoys without all that extra drama.

I guess I must be Kay Slay.

Because, it's becoming much more difficult for me to blind my third eye and just enjoy things. I can't watch most television shows because the lack of acceptable and important black characters is appalling. Ditto with movies. I can't watch the news, or read most magazines because my experiences are conspicuously absent. And often when I watch sports I have to mute my television to get away from the inane and bigoted comments of sports announcers.

All black folks need to make a commitment to repel this increased push to make everything associated with black culture the default negative. Too many black folks are in the vanguard for the wrong side in this battle. We must speak up against all attempts to make wholesale assimilation the only path to success.

This hair thing is just the beginning.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A Peculiar People

The Bible says that Christians should be a little strange.

You know, set apart from the world, living their lives using a different measure of success and happiness. This commitment to peculiarity is a key component of most faiths.

I often find that black people in America are a peculiar people.

In many ways, we're separated from mainstream America and even from other minorities. As a result of our unique experience in this country, we've developed our own special customs and outlook on the world. While that outlook is not shared by all black people, it's fairly common.

And that outlook contains a lot of self-hatred.

I know that was an abrupt transition, but I wrote it that way because I received an abrupt reminder of the depths of African American self-hate earlier this week.

My real job involves me writing news stories. In this job, I interact with the public on a fairly regular basis and I am exposed to a pretty large cross section of society. Since the majority of my stories are about crime, and black people are disproportionately affected by crime, I deal with a lot of black people.

And guess what y'all?

We don't really like each other.

When Hurricane Katrina ripped apart New Orleans and the Gulf Coast it exposed many of the inequities and injustices that had been hidden from much of America for a long time. It also re-opened many racial wounds. Sadly, the most egregious of those wounds were the ones that relate to the way black people see each other.

See, one of the most common refrains since the storm has been that those "refugees" have moved into new areas and messed things up for everybody. When FEMA was looking to place emergency trailers for evacuees in communities that sustained less damage during the storm, residents in those areas often fought harder than the Sunni and Shiite. They cited concerns about falling property values and increased traffic problems, but, most often, they were worried about higher crime.

And, sadly, it wasn't just white folks making these complaints. I sat in governmental meetings where I heard black people use the term "Section 8" like it was an epithet. I saw them make snide remarks about lazy black people who didn't want to work and who only wanted to have babies and rob people.

These types of sentiments have not evaporated since the storm. On Tuesday, I had a woman call me at work to discuss some burglaries in her neighborhood and it wasn't long before she noted that everything went downhill once those "Katrina folk" showed up. She tried to be polite, but it was clear she viewed these interlopers as unwashed barbarians invading her pristine neighborhood.

The woman who called me was black and the Katrina folk she mentioned were black. But, it was obvious from her tone that they weren't her type of black folks.

I remember when federal officials first decided to re-open some of New Orleans' public housing complexes after the storm. One of my friends said both she and her father yelled "Noooooooo" when they first heard about the plans on the evening news because they were convinced that undesirable black people were going to move back home in droves and ruin the city.

While there is no doubt that some residents of public housing complexes commit crimes, the sentiment that re-opening public housing would hasten the city's fall into chaos was more suited to an idiotic bigot than this intelligent black woman. And even though she admitted some shame at her thoughts, it was obvious that she believed they were rooted in reality and brutal honesty.

Look, I'm not trying to argue that black folks have some sort of monopoly on self hatred. Latinos, Asians and white folks often make denigrating comments about certain segments of their communities. But, sometimes it seems like black people take a special pleasure in tearing each other down.

It's shocking that although black people are constantly battling to avoid having negative stereotypes applied to them by other ethnic groups, we gleefully embrace those stereotypes when talking about each other. We easily assume the worst about other black people, and are rarely willing to give each other the benefit of the doubt in our daily interactions. Oh, we'll cut some shady black politician a bit of slack, but when it comes to that group of young brothers hanging out on the corner, our first reaction is to call the police and turn on our alarm systems.

Now, I'm not blind to the reality that many black people have internalized the negative stereotypes applied to our race by mainstream America. Nor do I underestimate the impact this negative imagery still has our our collective psyches.

But, I sense something even more insidious at work. See, I think that many black people consciously and unconsciously believe that a willingness to make negative comments about our race is proof of an ability to think critically and objectively. For far too long we've been told that it's impossible for black people to ever move past the issue of race and just be Americans. Consequently, I think many of us, even the well-intentioned among us, think that being willing to criticize seemingly uncouth and irresponsible black people is a sign that we are ready to assume full citizenship.

How many times have you heard a black person preface the use of a reprehensible stereotype with the phrase, "You know I have to keep it real...?" How often have you heard black folks say "I know we shouldn't air dirty laundry.." before launching into an all out attack on some segment of the black community? It seems like most black people believe that the easiest way to display their intelligence is to launch into a litany of complaints about the black community at the slightest provocation.

Now think about the last time you heard a white person make similar statements?

If you're like me, the answer is very rarely. White folks attack those they view as "white trash," but they rarely do so in an effort to prove their objectivity or fairness. Many of them assume that their white skin automatically makes them objective no matter what type of ill-informed bile spews from their lips. Other minorities may show signs of self-hate in their critiques of each other, but none of them has taken it to the level of black people.

Look, attempting to prove our worth by tearing down other black people is extremely counter-productive. Not only does it breed division and anger, but it also helps to brand successful black people as deviations from the norm. It also reinforces racist mindsets, particularly in people who are just itching for a reason to write off black people as a whole. We don't need to prove our citizenship to any other ethnic group because our birth certificates have been filled out with the blood of slaves.

Accusing other black people of bringing down the race, even as a joke, shows a level of self-deprecation that has crossed the line into self-hatred.

Don't be so peculiar.

I Happened to Notice This

A friend of mine sent me this column from the New York Times.

I've noticed that in the past few days it's as if some random light bulb when off in the collective minds of the media that Hillary actually has no chance to win and maybe her continued involvement in this race might be for selfish reasons.

You think?

I'm just saying, everybody in the black blogosphere realized this fact of life a long time ago, you know when Obama won 12 straight primaries and split Texas and Ohio with Hillary. How is it that so many non-journalists could see this, but so many paid professionals were in the dark?

Is it just because they liked the idea of close race, or because they were scared to count the Clintons out and be wrong again? I'm not sure, but it's kind of weird that all of a sudden, after what arguably was Obama's worst stretch of the campaign, everybody now realizes that it's time for Hillary to quit.

The optimist in me says that the media is finally catching on. The realist says that they just need to fill their news hole. The cynic points out that if everybody begins counting Hillary out again it can be an even bigger story when she does well in Pennsylvania primary. You know, a redux of the previous Comeback Kid story.

Which aspect of my mentality do y'all think has things right?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Tuckered Out

I don't know about y'all, but this angry lunatic is tired.

Man, this whole election thing is starting to seem like a bad dream. Every day brings another surreal example of the lack of progress our country has made in the battle for racial equality, and just when it seems like we're all finally waking up, the nightmare continues.

I feel beat down.

And that's truly saying something because I'm the type of cat who used to read the most racist message boards just to keep that righteous anger intact. I used to get into ideological debates with hardcore bigots just to make sure I was keeping my debating skills sharp. I wasn't interested in winning converts, I was just interested in scoring points.

But, Obama went and messed all that up.

Now I'm trying to be conciliatory and understanding. I find myself turned off by never ending debates that seem to serve no purpose. When I watch everybody divide up into their race-based camps it doesn't invigorate me with the desire to bust some heads anymore. Instead, it leaves me with an overwhelming sense of sadness that my son will probably have to argue with the same types of folks when he comes of age.

It's gotten to the point where I'm just checking for political news out of habit and fear, not out of any sincere desire to learn something new. When I started this blog in January I was convinced that I would never get tired of telling people what I think about everything. But, as this blog has become more and more about politics it's become a big drain on my psyche. I wanted to write about race, politics, sports, religion and anything else that crossed my path.

But, I seem to have gotten sidetracked by the Obama train.

Look, I love dude for making a credible run for president, but this whole enterprise is starting to wear thin. Not because of anything he did, but because his attempt to get the most powerful political job in this country has forced a racial accounting that I don't think anybody was ready to deal with.

I wasn't caught unawares because I had some sort of rosy outlook on the world. My momma's tit was filled with militancy and righteous black anger.

But, I think that as a black man I had divorced myself from caring about what happened in America because I never believed that I was a full participant in this society. It was easy for me to remain ignorant about most foreign and domestic issues because I just knew they would have little effect on my reality. I don't suffer under that delusion any longer and I must confess that being involved is a heavy burden to bear.

However, I'm going to keep on, keeping on because I don't have much choice. Not only am I a citizen, I'm a parent. As a parent, I have a responsibility to fight for something better for my son just like my ancestors fought for opportunity for me.

I'm probably not going to be following the campaign as closely on my blog, and I hope that I can still entertain the readers who check me out everyday. There will still be frequent posts about Obama, particularly once we get into the general election, but the NBA playoffs are heating up and a brother is going to be knee deep in basketball pretty soon.

Know matter how tired I might be, like most black people, I've got a ways to go before I can rest.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

A Scarcity of Information

I've had a lot of discussions about the black church in recent weeks.

Thanks to the hoopla surrounding Jeremiah Wright and Barack Obama, race and religion have been frequent topics of converstaion with my family and friends. I've also watched way too many television personalities try to provide astute analysis.

The experience has left me with one dominant thought; there are too few black voices providing good information on television.

A few years ago I would have just said there were too few black voices on television, period. Thankfully, the complaints of minority viewers have been heard, and every cable news station has scooped up a few token black people to provide political commentary and analysis. Asians and Latinos are still excluded, but at least one minority group has a seat at the table.

However, Obama's political campaign has proven that the voices allowed to break through on mainstream television do not come close to representing the whole spectrum of black thought. Look, I think cats like Roland Martin and Eugene Robinson do a great job of providing opinions from a black perspective, but their burden is too heavy. Not only do they have to stretch themselves to be interesting and informative, they also have to counteract the rampant coonery of people like Juan Williams, Larry Elder and whoever else Fox News trots out.

More importantly, it's ridiculous to expect every black person to be an expert on every "black" topic. This latest foolishness about Pastor Wright has only proven how far black analysts have had to stretch.

As I watched television these past few weeks, I grew increasingly tired of listening to people parrot the meme that Pastor Wright's comments were just something you find in the black church. Every time I heard somebody make that point I wanted to smack them in face and remind them that every black church is not the same.

Black churches, like black people, come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. Little storefront churches, massive mega-churches, historical churches, mission-based churches, new school, old school and everything else on the religious spectrum can be found in the black community. I've been to black churches where they never mentioned politics and the sermons were always from familiar biblical passages. I've been to other churches where the preacher's exegesis included the Greek roots of words and was liberaled sprinkled with historical and political nuggets.

Some black churches have flourishing community ministries that are often on the cutting edge when it comes to serving the whole Christian. Other churches strictly have Sunday School and BTU, and anything else is sacrilegious. Do people even realize that there are still many rural black churches that share a pastor and can only have church service a couple Sundays out of the month?

Not only was I disappointed to see so many black analysts rejecting many of Wright's statements outright, I was angry that those individuals who tried to defend his comments used so many stereotypes about our community. I understand that television does not provide a lot of time to break down topics, but it seemed like many of these people weren't even trying to move away from the accepted discussion points.

That's the challenge for black people allowed to attain positions of influence or power. And I purposely used the word "allowed" because it's still the reality of our world that qualifications alone do not provide black people with opportunities.

Prominent black folks have to validate certain accepted "truths" to avoid being marginalized and denied their platform. However, those accepted "truths" always reflect the mainstream, or white, perspective, and severely limit the productivity of any discussion. It's much more difficult to point out the evil that has been done in America's name across the world when your first comment always has to be that America is a great country.

In my short time blogging, and much longer time reading blogs, I've run across some incredibly intelligent and insightful people. And trust me, given the very high opinion I have of my own intelligence, it means something when I compliment other people. These individuals are writing blog posts and making comments every day that prove they have a great grasp on the political and racial realities in this country. But, their insights typically are confined to like-minded readers on the web.

Straight up, that sucks.

The web is cool. It's really cool. But, as my brother pointed out to me, comparing the number of people reached on the web to the people reached by television is like comparing Justin Timberlake to Prince. Even Gov. Paterson could see it just doesn't add up.

Individuals who would never check out The Field Negro, Too Sense, Jack and Jill Politics or even my blog, watch television incessantly. And the opinions that are dominating television are also dominating radio and the print media. There is a serious problem in this country when it comes to mainstream information options.

In a world where a huge variety of people are finding their voices, the entities that can scream the loudest are all saying the same thing.

Friday, March 21, 2008

They Suck You In




This is how they get us to clean up all that poo and have uncomfortable conversations about sex. This the trap all parents are aware of. Those crumbsnatchers are sneaky.

(Hat tip to Undercover Black Man.)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Is There an Actor in the House?

When did your parents first talk to you about sex?

My folks never had the proverbial "birds and bees" conversation with me. Oh, we discussed sex, but never the real nuts and bolts of the act.

My pops (whose own father was a deadbeat) told me to keep my willy in my pants and assured me that any babies I did make would be cared for by me and me alone. He also revealed to me that he never really liked condoms and had started having sex at 12 or 13.

My mom attempted to avoid talking about sex as much as possible. It was only after repeated inquiries by my brother and I (prompted of course by my dad's revelation that his first time was with the neighborhood hussy), that my mom broke down and told us about her first time. For most of childhood my parents held the opinion that talking frankly about sex was "mannish" and encouraged me to stop "smelling my drawers."

I thought about that introduction to sexuality the other day when I read this NY times article. The idea that roughly a quarter of all young girls, and half of black girls, have had a sexually transmitted disease shocked me. Several black blogs already have discussed theis article; some expressed general dismay at the high incidence of disease among young black girls, others questioned the accuracy of the survey.

While the statistics were jarring, it was something I heard on the radio on Thursday that really caught my attention. A doctor on a talk radio show noted that most girls now begin having sex before 15-years old, and many of them have sex with multiple partners in a given year.

Whoa.

See, when I first started asking my folks about sex, I barely understood the mechanics of copulation. Y'all don't even want to know where I thought you were supposed to stick your penis initially.

Hell, for a nice chunk of my childhood I didn't even realize that girls' genitals were different from mine, or that those "private parts" behaved differently when sexually aroused. My introduction to difference between boys and girls came in my elementary school library from a pretty young thing who was way too advanced for her age.

It blows my mind that kids are having sex before they can drive. I mean, I've talked to a few sisters who got started on sex at 12 or 13, but I always assumed they were aberrations. After all, when I was sporting a raging boner in middle school it seemed like ever girl I hollered at was a churchgoing virgin.

Things done changed.

The world is a very different and dangerous place. As a new parent, I've gradually accepted the fact that my wife and I will have to deal with some challenges my parents never faced. Some of the tried and true methods of child rearing are still effective (ass whippings are a must!), but I'm going to have to adapt to the times. So I listened with interest when the doctor on the radio show mentioned that parents, particularly those with daughters, should consider role playing when discussing sex with their kids.

Role playing?

Is that some kinky shit?

Actually, the doctor pointed out that many young girls are ill-equipped to deal with the sexual advances they get from boys who typically spend 95 percent of their brainpower devising ways to get some panties. (Those figures were mine.) Since most girls have insecurities about their bodies and social standing it's actually no surprise that so many of them are engaging in risky sexual behavior.

Look, how else do you explain teenage girls falling for lines like:

"If you loved me you'd do it."

"You're the only one in school who isn't doing it."

"I love you."

The doctor said that mothers and fathers should walk their daughters through the typical game young boys spit, and help them think of ways to diffuse sexual situations. She also noted that this level of sharing would make it more likely that girls would be willing to discuss their questions about sex with their parents, or come to them if they contracted a sexually transmitted disease.

It sounded like a great plan to me, only I had to wonder if I could be the type of father could hit on my daughter. I mean, it wouldn't be real, but I would be fairly uncomfortable whispering sweet nothings in my hypothetical daughter's ear. Even if it was for her own good, there are some things you just don't want to talk about with your kids.

But, apparently that the wrong attitude. The doctor noted that parents have to get comfortable discussing sex with their kids or they will cede their authority to pornographers. And, I don't think any parent wants their kids to get educated about sex from porn.

Not only do parents need to prepare young girls for future sexual advances, but we need to teach our sons how to respectfully deal with women. We need to educate them on exactly how seriously women take intercourse, no matter what they say about being "friends with benefits." As the doctor said, parents have to move past their own sexual hangups and deal with today's reality.

I guess I'd better start studying my script.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Anatomy of a Joke

Humor is a funny thing.

I used to read The Boondocks comic strip and I loved its special brand of humor. Aaron McGruder did a great job of blending activism and wit with some good old black power to create something completely new on the comics page.

I never really got into McGruder's animated version of the comic strip on Cartoon Network, mainly because the first few episodes I watched really weren't that funny to me. But, the other night I saw one that was just hilarious, but for a very weird reason.

It was apparently one of the show's Christmas episodes, and the main plot was Huey Freeman's massive production of an atypical Christmas play that featured a black Jesus and several martial arts scenes. However, one of the subplots was the repeated attempts by Riley Freeman, Huey's thuggish little brother, to get revenge on Santa Claus for failing to come through with good Christmas gifts. Or, as Riley put it, "Paying what he owe."

It was a pretty entertaining episode, but one part stood out for me. Near the end of the show, after Riley has beaten one mall Santa with a golf club and shot another with a pellet gun, he and the show's tragic mulatto (I think her name is Janet DuBois) finally lose faith in Santa Claus. Riley proclaims that believing in Santa is for suckas, and DuBois, previously a staunch Santa supporter, tearfully agrees with him.

Until Uncle Ruckus appears.

Uncle Ruckus, for those not familiar with the character, is the epitome of an Uncle Tom. Actually, the term "Uncle Tom" doesn't even fully encompass the breadth of Ruckus' self hatred. Simply put, the only thing Ruckus loves more than white people is despising Negroes.

When Ruckus stumbles upon DuBois crying over Santa, he gently admonishes her for falling for Riley's cynical spiel. Ruckus tells her he's a secret agent working for Santa and that Santa couldn't make an appearance at the mall because of Riley's plan to kill him.

But, the funniest thing about the whole exchange, at least to me, was how Ruckus first approached DuBois. Just as Riley is walking away from DuBois and she is bawling her eyes out in disillusionment, Ruckus sidles up behind her and says something like, "I would expect this sort of thing from a heathen niglet like Riley, but not from a good mulatto like you."

That's right, he said "heathen niglet."

I couldn't stop laughing at that phrase. Because anybody who has watched The Boondocks or read the comic strip knows that it's a very accurate description of Riley's character. If anybody has ever been a heathen niglet, it's Riley Freeman.

I know the scene was meant to illustrate the simple-minded nature of Ruckus, but I still found his words ridiculously funny. I even shared the phrase "heathen niglet" with one of my friends, who also got a kick out of it. And then, for some strange reason, I decided to put the phrase "heathen niglet" into a Google search.

I'm not laughing anymore.

My God. I soon discovered that what I thought was a funny joke is a common term among white bigots for black children. I honestly was oblivious to this, in fact, I'd never even heard the term before watching the show. Yet "niglet," "negress," and a whole host of other hateful terms are apparently fairly common monikers for black people on certain websites.

It really made me think.

Dave Chappelle said he left his show on Comedy Central because he could no longer tell whether the people who watched his show were laughing with him or laughing at him. Chris Rock changed up his own style recently because he was worried that some of his jokes (particularly the one about the differences between black people and niggers) were being used by white people as cover for their own racist beliefs.

The truth is, when dealing with racial humor there's a fine line between heaven and the abyss. Black folks know that there are certain jokes we would never tell in mixed company because we don't trust our white friends or associates to handle their humor in the correct manner. Some truths can only be shared with those you trust explicitly.

One of the toughest things to explain to the average white person is that black humor is not something they should be experimenting with. It's hard for them to grasp the idea that their "politically incorrect" and marginally funny diatribes will not be received in the same manner as the jokes of a black comedian. Call it willful ignorace, arrogance, or just plain confusion, but it's a fact of life that white people struggle to grasp that distinction.

To be honest, I'm not sure whether "heathen niglet" is an acceptable or unacceptable term, but there is one thing I do know.

My laughter sure feels different.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Preserve Your "Happy."

Can't nobody touch my "happy" right now.

It's too deep down inside of me, too ingrained in my current worldview. It's not a happy born of blind optimism, but a joy birthed by the union of admiration and satisfaction.

Y'all know the source of my happy.

It's a good, clean happy. The kind that embraces realism and hope. This happy doesn't provoke fits of passion, but rather a soothing state of contentment. It's not a temporary tenant in my spirit, but rather a permanent passenger on my life's journey.

That man can sure give a good speech.

My happy has been under attack today, but it's impervious to outside influences. What can they say to harm a happy like mine? A happy with a battery recharged by a master electrician, but whose true power source is much more eternal.

He made it plain.

Do y'all have that happy? It's a happy created by watching somebody you understand succeed. A happy that isn't focused on the next big event, but rather the continual wonder of everyday life. The happy that ignites imagination, but is tempered by clear-eyed analysis.

If you didn't get it, you didn't want to get it.

I don't need anything else to feed this happy, it's already sated. No more factoids, no more rhetoric and no more proof is necessary. The goals have been met, the doubts erased. Even with the outcome still in jeopardy, my happy is more than secure.

It is what it is.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Obama's Speech

Here's a link to the transcript of Obama's speech posted over at Jack and Jill Politics.

Please take the time to read it if you didn't watch the speech live. It's worth your time.

After you finish getting your inspiration on, watch the video below to get your funny on.


A Failure of Faith

I believe in Jesus Christ.

It's a central part of my life, the bedrock of everything I do. Like many Christians, my faith is a source of strength, comfort and stability.

It defines me in so many ways.

I cringed these past few days watching Barack Obama's faith being paraded before the nation. As the media feasted on video clips, soundbites and analysis about his former pastor Jeremiah Wright, I watched Obama struggle to walk the fine line between loyal Christian and political aspirant. I could sense that Obama's need to find a way to support the man who led him to Christ, while simultaneously calming the fears of the white voters he must attract, provoked an extremely personal battle within his being.

He was struggling with a failure of faith.

But, it wasn't a failure of faith in his pastor. Even as I watched Obama renounce, denounce and then announce his unhappiness with his pastor's comments, I never felt that he lost faith in Wright. As I watched Obama scramble to defend sermons that most self-aware black people know to be true, I could see him bristle ever so slightly at the repeated attempts by commentators to label Wright as some unbalanced kook.

Obama knew the true measure of this man, and it was much more then what could be captured in a 15 or 30 second snippet from thousands of sermons. Yet, Barack also knew that the truth Wright saw, the truth many black people across this country see, is part of a reality so foreign to most white voters that there is no way to bridge that gap. There is no way to force many white people to confront the lies embedded deep within the foundation of their country without alienating them forever.


For a split second, Obama lost his faith in the country he's sacrificing so much for.

Make no mistake, this presidential campaign is a sacrifice. I understand that all politicians, no matter how humble they may seem, are driven by a dangerous cocktail of ambition and arrogance. Obama has a healthy ego and it is manifested in his belief that he is uniquely qualified to serve as this country's president.

However, when I watch the delicate dance Obama must perform to maintain the viability of his campaign, it becomes difficult to view this endeavor as anything but a sacrifice. When I see Obama forced to downplay his race, to ignore obvious slights, to cast aside confidants because they have become liabilities, well it's hard not to think that the brother believes he is serving a higher purpose. The skeptics might brand him as confused Negro bent on assimilation at all costs, but anyone who has read the brother's book or watched how he carries himself knows that's not how he's built.

Point blank, how many of us would be willing to endure what he has endured the past twelve months? To swallow the insults and hate he has gorged himself on just to serve a group of people who will be waiting with baited breath for your first mistake?

I wouldn't.

However, I think this recent confrontation involving Wright finally made Obama question what he was willing to give up to get where he wants to go. I think that is the real reason he refused to denounce Rev. Wright the man, and instead focused on condemning the preacher's words. Obama previously ignored calls to chastise his wife for her comments about her own lack of pride in America. In both cases, I think Barack drew a line in the sand and said "No further."

No further.

It's a terrible thing to lose faith in your nation. I understand it intimately because I still struggle with repeating the Pledge of Allegiance due to those pesky words about liberty and justice for all. The struggles that black people have endured, and continue to endure, have damaged our relationship with America. Many of us bear scars that will never completely heal.

I think Obama has some of those same wounds.

That's why the speech he plans to give addressing race and religion is so important. If he is going to be president he must provide a balm for the wounds of all races in this country. He must bind us together despite all the many forces working to tear us asunder. He is no messiah, but he does have a message and a purpose.

He must combat this country's failure of faith.

(Footnote: He came through y'all!)

This Is The Obama I Support

Please check out this interview Obama had with the Chicago Tribune if you have not read it already.

Link here.

Look at how he handles himself with the questions. Look at how he handles himself when asked to give a perspective on Ferraro, Wright and the campaign as a whole. This cat is presidential material. This is an intelligent, thoughful man.

That's why I support him.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Mighty Have Fallen

Bill and Hillary Clinton's recent behavior has been deplorable.

I don't mean the way they've ripped apart the Democratic Party to fuel their own ambitions. I'm also not referring to the way they've exposed all the fault lines among "liberals" to get Hillary the Democratic nomination.

No, I am referring to the Clintons abdication of their positions as honorary black people.

Don't roll your eyes, you know I'm right.

Before 2008, Bill and Hillary had what those of us in hood call a "ghetto pass." A solid platinum, real deal American Express "Black" card. While the duo's skin may have been white, far too many black people considered them the first black couple to occupy the White House.

Every two-bit comedian, and even some very good ones (I'm looking at you Cedric the Entertainer), joked that Bill's affinity for marijuana, his sax skills and his philandering were proof positive that he was a brother. And the way Hillary stood by his trifling ass--all while cutting her eyes at him every chance she got--it was clear that she understood many a sister's plight. In the eyes of Negroes and certain black people, Bill and Hillary completed a transition that very few white people have ever accomplished.

Now, let's be clear, that's not because of a lack of trying on the part of white people.

Since the beginning of time, white folks have tried to make the transition into the realm of blackdom. Even in Darkest Africa there was a white tribe member swagger-jacking the loincloth game of his black companions so he could stunt for the ladies around the campfire.

The overwhelming majority of white folks have failed miserably in their attempts to transition. Or, even worse, after a seemingly successful transition, some uncouth white folks then committed one of several unpardonable sins that mandated their excommunication.

Remember Ted Danson and his mistaken belief that bumping uglies with Whoopi Goldberg entitled him to wear blackface? To be fair, Danson's portrayal of Sam Malone on "Cheers" had some solid aspects of negritude that may have confused him (a one-time athlete who remains a womanizer extraordinaire could definitely have been a role for a black man). We also must assign some blame for his faux pas on Whoopi since she is not known for being the most enlightened Negro.

Then again, if Danson truly had done the necessary research required to transition he would have known that not even permission by Malcolm X clears the use of blackface in public.

More recently, Justin Timberlake made some impressive strides in his quest to become the first white person since Elvis to convincingly co-opt the musical genius of black performers. Timberlake's mimicry of Michael Jackson (now of questionable blackness himself), and his penchant for working with black producers actually won him quite a following among Negro listeners.

Unfortunately, when the harebrained scheme he and Janet Jackson cooked up to bare her 40-year old breast at the Super Bowl devolved into a media shitstorm, Timberlake violated every tenet of the honorary black creed in his rush to deflect blame.

Unsurprisingly, Timberlake quickly realized that being black isn't so cool if the federal government is contemplating fines and jail sentences. Justin has since renounced any honorary black status he might have attained and now identifies officially as "a raper of black culture for profit."

Which brings me back to Bill and Hillary.

Clearly, the Hillbillies never went as far as some in their attempts to embrace the Negro lifestyle. Bill's cuts to welfare, his support for increasing the size of the prison industrial complex and his shameful actions regarding Rwanda made it clear that he was only willing to do so much to crossover. However, thanks to some inopportune words that Toni Morrison still regrets, Bill and Hillary were allowed to transition despite their shoddy record.

But, the couple's recent actions in the Democratic primary have really made it impossible for them to maintain their illustrious status. The race-baiting, the appeals to white folks' fear of Affirmative Action and, most disturbingly, their attempts to play down the impact of the patron saint of all black people, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., have been inexcusable. In fact, their recent ridiculous behavior has only highlighted the affirmative action that allowed them honorary black status in the first place.

Just like OJ and Michael Jackson did to white people, Bill and Hillary Clinton have betrayed a community that embraced them with open arms and was willing to look past the unfortunate birth defect of their skin color. We in the black community welcomed the Clintons with a plate of soul food and a glass of red Kool-Aid. They decided to drip Jherri Curl juice on our suede sofa and ask to borrow the VCR.

I know my call to arms is one many brothers and sisters have already heard and heeded in their daily lives. However, I felt it necessary to add my voice to the growing number of black people and Negroes who have reached a consensus on the Clintons and their fate.

Excommunication is our only recourse.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Good Negro Down

Katt Williams is a popular comedian with a short stature and a big mouth.

With his slickly processed hair and glib tongue, he seems to fit the pimp persona he deploys in his comedic routines. One of the most popular phrases from his first nationally televised show was "Pimp down!," a phrase the diminutive jokester claimed to have used when knocked to the ground during a fight.

Collectively, I believe most of the Negro community is now yelling "Good Negro down!."

From all accounts, Barack Obama is a good Negro. He's educated, clean, articulate, friendly and ambivalent about race. Obama graduated from Harvard and Columbia, doesn't have a baby's momma and has stayed off welfare his entire adult life. Sure, he smoked a little weed and snorted some coke in college, but he doesn't have cornrows and none of his teeth shine.

Clear characteristics of a good Negro.

Obama doesn't remind people about racism. He's not one of those angry Negroes who sits by themselves in the cafeteria. He gets it. As one of his colleagues in the state legislator noted, Obama doesn't make white people feel more white. He actually transcends race.

For a long time, Obama had achieved the highest echelons of Negro life as many white voters proudly proclaimed they had actually forgotten that he was a Negro.

He understood the rules.

Rule 1. A Negro looking for success should never discuss the entrenched racism in America and must never insinuate that he worked harder than a white person to achieve his present position in life.

Rule 2. A Negro should never become angry at racist comments or attribute those comments to the racist beliefs of the speaker or those agreeing with the speaker. No Negro is mentally equipped to identify racism.

Rule 3. Racism is a myth perpetuated by angry Negroes who do not want to work. If immigrants can make it, everybody can be successful.

There are many more rules, but Obama has managed to keep them all. He hasn't fallen into the traps laid by corrupting forces who would force him to make reparations or discrimination a central part of his campaign. He's avoided the tempations of Evil Negroes like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Louis Farrakhan who love to talk about the "race problem." Obama understands the big picture. Hell, he's almost white.

But, sometimes almost just is not good enough if you truly want to be an unhyphenated American.

See, Hillary Clinton and her supporters have broken the spell that the Magical Negro named Obama initially cast over the electorate. By reminding angry white voters that "the blacks" regularly steal jobs they don't deserve, sell drugs to innocent white kids and love to play the victim, Clinton has placed Obama's Good Negro status on life support. After all, even if he has similar political qualifications to FDR, Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, he's still a Negro. And, it's indisputable that Negroes are never qualified for a job that a white person wants.

Never.

Consequently, Obama is now scrambling to get his campaign back on track.

This development has perplexed the many Typical Negroes who support Obama in overwhelming numbers. They have watched him follow all the rules, they have watched him avoid all the pitfalls, and yet, he seems to be getting treated like a Bad Negro. It's as if no matter what a Negro does, he can never wipe away the stain of bad negritude. It waits around ever corner, ready to brand him as "one of them."

Many Typical Negroes are upset by this development. After all, most of them readily admit that they have not managed to follow the Good Negro script as well as Obama. They often slip up and discuss racism as a systemic problem, not a collection of personal anecdotes. They can't seem to avoid pointing out the enduring effects of past discrimination on the current plight of Negroes.

In fact, most Typical Negroes cannot go a single day without forcing white people to remember that they are Negroes. They just don't get it.

Typical Negroes are worried because if Obama's perfection is not protection enough from being branded a Bad Negro, what hope do they have? How can they every be considered solely on their merits? How can they ever be considered qualified if Obama failed? What do they tell their children?

A Good Negro is down, and Black People are confused.

What I Can Say

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

This is the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Please read it one more time.

It is the most commonly referred to amendment from the Constitution. It is also the most commonly misused amendment from the Constitution.

It's trotted out whenever somebody says something that sparks controversy. Racists, sexists and idiots use it to justify their despicable diatribes. Most people believe it provides them with blanket protection from any retaliation for their most hateful comments.

It does not.

The first amendment's elegant simplicity proves that no statement, no matter how explicitly it is stated, is safe from idiocy. The myths and lies surrounding this amendment's intent give witness to America's lifelong love affair with willful ignorance. Despite this amendment's observable obviousness, very few Americans seem to grasp its meaning.

I beg you to read it again.

Nowhere does this amendment grant citizens the right to say whatever they wish. Nowhere does this amendment grant people immunity from the consequences of their comments. It simply provides citizens with protection from government persecution and the opportunity to protest what they believe is an unjust action. It allows citizens to start any religion that suits their needs and to assemble to discuss any idea. That is all this amendment does.

People who cloak themselves in the first amendment to deflect criticism are mewling cowards. They fear taking responsibility for their actions and instead would prefer to stifle the speech of those who oppose them. They deserve no respect, they deserve nothing but contempt.

Do not allow the tyranny of these simple-minded cowards to prevent you from decrying injustice in all of its forms. Do not allow them to force your silence through asinine appeals to sniveling sycophants. Know what your rights as a citizen truly are and vehemently reject any attempts to limit those rights.

Understand what freedom really is.


(Footnote: Apparently, Al Gore was also black.

This is Ludicrous

Tomorrow I'll talk about one of the common responses to Geraldine Ferraro's racist comments, but I wanted to post something else today.

As is my habit, I was reading Jack and Jill Politics. As I went through the comments on a story, I came across a line from a poster called CM directing people to an old New York time article with a comment from "Gerry."

Ferraro, bless her heart, was discussing the chances of Hillary and Obama with a New York Times reporter in 2006. This was when Hillary was the presumed heir to the Democratic throne and Obama was a young upstart. The article discussed whether voters could really elect a black man or a white woman. Here's an excerpt:



By contrast, for all the excitement stirred by Mr. Obama, it is much less certain that an African-American could win a presidential election. Not as many blacks have been elected to prominent positions as women. Some high-profile black candidates — Harold Ford Jr., a Democrat running for the Senate in Tennessee, and Michael Steele, a Republican Senate candidate in Maryland — lost in November. And demographics might be an obstacle as well: black Americans are concentrated in about 25 states — typically blue ones, like New York and California. While black candidates cannot assume automatic support from black voters, they would at least provide a base. In states without big black populations, the candidate’s crossover appeal must be huge.

“All evidence is that a white female has an advantage over a black male — for reasons of our cultural heritage,” said the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, the civil rights leader who ran for president in 1984 and 1988. Still, he said, for African-American and female candidates, “It’s easier — emphatically so.”

Ms. Ferraro offered a similar sentiment. “I think it’s more realistic for a woman than it is for an African-American,” said Ms. Ferraro. “There is a certain amount of racism that exists in the United States — whether it’s conscious or not it’s true.”

“Women are 51 percent of the population,” she added.




Did y'all catch that? Read it again if you didn't. My, my, my, it's amazing how things can change in two years, isn't it?

Link to the full story.

(Another link about Hillary's "qualifications." shout out to Lesley and Lolo for pointing it out to me)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Quick Post

For those of y'all who missed it live I'm going to post a link to the transcript from Keith Olbermann's "Special Comment" on Wednesday. I must say, he came pretty hard.

Transcript







Also, please check out my post on the Mississippi primary below this quick note.

It is Mississippi

My mom is from Mississippi.

She spent her early childhood in Liberty, Miss. before moving to Louisiana, and she still owns property near there. I've visited the state many, many times, and I've typically had a pleasant experience. I've eaten at restaurants, shopped at malls and generally behaved like a normal citizen.

But, it's still Mississippi.

When we used to drive to my grandfather's house, my mom would point out this old wooden building where farmers used to bring their cotton to get it weighed. In hushed tones, she would tell us about the black man who had been shot there in cold blood because he challenged a white man. As a child, it shocked me that somebody could be killed for standing up for themselves, and I never rode past that building again without thinking about the cost of independence.

That's Mississippi.

I bring this up because of Obama's fairly decisive victory Tuesday night in Mississippi. He crushed Hillary by more than 20 points, and it should have been a time for celebration in my household because his campaign has easily rebounded from the debacle that was Texas and Ohio. But, me and the missus were not celebrating.

Any Obama supporter who watched cable news knows why we weren't celebrating. The theme throughout the night wasn't Obama regaining his momentum, the story was the fact that 90 percent of black Democrats voted for Obama and 70 percent of white Democrats opposed him. That theme carried over to newspapers on Wednesday. The story was that nearly 70 percent of the people who voted for Hillary said they do not want Obama anywhere near her campaign in any capacity. The story was the racial divide among voters.

But, it was in Mississippi.

Look, I know residents of the Delta State bristle at the notion that they have some sort of stranglehold on racism, and I understand that sentiment. After all, Obama only carried 25 percent of the white vote in Tennessee and Alabama in those elections and nobody was calling those voters racist bigots. So I respect the fact people in Mississippi don't like being labeled as such.

But, dammit, it is Mississippi.

That state has a special place in black folks' hearts. We know that it's been bad down there for a long time. For a long time, a black man's life was worth less than a good horse's life in Mississippi. And while the state still has a substantial black population, there are probably more northern black refugees from Mississippi than any other state.

So, to be honest, I wasn't particularly disturbed by the racial divide among voters in Mississippi. I would have been a fool to expect something different. I was more disappointed in the announcers who jumped on the doom and gloom bandwagon when discussing Obama's chances to win the nomination. It was aggravating to have to listen to the tone media types used to discuss the "little problem" in the South.

After all, a little research would have shown media types that a racial divide among voters is common anywhere there is a sizable black population. White folks tend to use their votes to actively oppose black candidates because it's a very effective way to keep a sizable minority under control. It's been that way for years, and it doesn't just happen in the South.

But, that line of reasoning would have required an in-depth look at the power dynamics in this country, and how that relates to the difficulties black folks face when attempting to make economic and educational progress in America. That would have touched on some systemic problems that can't be confined just to the South. But, those types of discussions don't happen on cable news.

Especially not about Mississippi.

(Footnote: A friend of mine read this post and pointed out that Malcolm X had an awesome quote about race relations as it relates to Mississippi. Brother Malcolm once said "Mississippi is anywhere between Canada and Mexico." Real talk. And here's something that buttresses my point about larger African American populations and the entire nation. Link here.)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

You Want to Put It Where?

This post is going to make me sound old.

But, I have to ask this question as a new parent and concerned citizen.

What happened to R&B?

Truthfully, I'm more of a hip hop fan myself, but now that I have a child I've decided that blasting music that regularly details explicit sex acts and random violence might not be the best thing for me to continue. I still love my rap, but I'm trying to wean myself off of it and get into a mixture of contemporary and old school slow jams. I listen to some Cd's, but I also like to just listen to the radio.

While it's been quite easy to find good old school stuff, the garbage that's coming out from artists these days is inexcusable. Seriously, a friend and I were discussing it the other night and we've decided that this new R&B might be even worse then contemporary hip hop.

Now, let me explain myself.

When I listen to contemporary R&B, I hear a lot of talk about sex acts and very little talk about romance. I know that some R&B artists have always had explicit lyrics, but these days it seems like everybody is talking about "Let me stick you there" or "I'll lick you here."

In addition, these new songs are written at what appears to be a third grade reading level. Seriously, when you listen to old school Al Green or Marvin Gaye, there is artistry in their lyrics. These new cats just throw together random cliches and slang and call that trash a song. If I hear another cat crooning about his rims over a beat, I'm going to pop a vessel.

It's like these artists are purposely writing adult material in a way that children can understand it.

That just ain't cool, and, like most of you, I blame R. Kelly.

Now, some readers may cry foul at that comment, but bear with me. There is no doubt that R. Kelly is a great musician, and, like most of my contemporaries, I once thought "Bump and Grind" was the greatest display of musical genius in the world. There can be no argument that Kelly has successfully created a whole new genre of R&B that I would call "thug crooning."

And that's where he messed up.

I mean, his obvious success at this new genre convinced every other cat who could carry a tune and preferred cornrows to ceasers that this was their calling. Kelly beget Jagged Edge and Jahiem and they beget bastards like Pretty Ricky who are ruining music today. Not only can these asshats barely sing without technological assistance, listening to their music will rot your brain faster than Fox News. It's shameful.

These dummies are pumping kids full of risky sex music at a time when these kids have no idea how to handle adult interactions. And I find their efforts so insidious because unlike rap music most R&B lyrics make it past radio censors due to their lack of cursing (I'm purposely ignoring R&B acts that curse more than rappers because if I didn't I might have to slam my head into the keybord).

So when parents innocently think they are just letting their kids listen to the radio, they are really exposing them to a blueprint for acquiring an STD or baby. (Don't believe me? Read this.).

Now, I'm not against all R&B because even those cats who produce what most would deem idiot music have their place. Everybody deserves the right to pursue their dream, and people do not have to abide by my standard of decency.

In fact, I actually find T-Pain funny, and think he's far more witty than most people give him credit for being. But, that doesn't mean I think T-Pain should be singing where my son and other kids can hear him. Something is wrong with that.

Oh well, there's always NPR.

Footnote: A friend of mine sent me the lyrics of Ray J's newest "love" song called "Sexy Can I. Please enjoy.

Sexy can I, just pardon my manners.
Girl how you shake it, got a nigga like (ohhhh)
It's a kodak moment, let me go and get my camera
All I wanna no is, sexy can I.
Sexy can I, hit it from the front,
then I hit it from the back.
know you like it like that.
then we take it to the bed, then we take it to the floor
then we chill for a second, then we're back at it for more

When you sliding down the pole,
no panties, no shirt.
Then you climb back up the pole,
then you drop and do the splits.
How you make that pussy talk,
Baby damn, u is da shit
(Oh,ohh,ohh) Now look shawty, look shawty.
I make it rain in the club like (Oh,ohh,ohh)
(I don't know what your man is like but baby all I want to know is
Sexy can I

The Rule of Three

There's an old axiom in journalism that if you want to write about a trend, you have to have at least three examples.

It's a rule created to prevent reporters from stretching one incredible anecdote into a story on an amazing trend. Typically, reporters collect three examples of something happening, add a few statistics and an expert, an voila, we have a trend story. You get extra points if your trend story actually chronicles a normal occurrence that nobody else has noticed is special, like this New York Times story.

I thought about the rule of three this week after Clinton campaign surrogate Geraldine Ferraro said in a radio interview that Barack Obama is lucky he's a black man because otherwise he wouldn't be doing so well in this primary election. Read about her lovely comments at the blog Jack and Jill Politics.

Ignoring the gut-splitting premise that any black man in America is lucky, (Did she read this?) I'd like to focus on what type of media play this comment is going to get.

Those of us who have followed her campaign closely know that Clinton has made her living with subtly-coded, racist messages. Whether it has been her supporters insinuating that Obama is a Muslim drug dealer, that he's just a "kid," or that he's no different from the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Clinton has not shied away from tapping into America's most prevalent, latent racial fears. (Check this out for a full accounting.)
Most of the time Clinton supporters attempt to hide their racist comments by claiming that black people just "misunderstood" what they were saying or that Obama and his folks are playing the race card. Both of those claims also are insulting, but I don't want to deal with that today.

Rather, I'd like to discuss how the media handles these events. True to form, media types report the original racist comments and then go to a black person or black sympathizer to get a reaction. That reaction is printed and everybody moves on. The next time an incident occurs, the whole process is repeated. If readers are lucky, they might get a story about how the racist comments might affect voters.

That's it.

What we don't get is a bunch of stories discussing how the Clinton's behavior is evidence of a racist trend. I mean, there have been far more than three examples of them appealing to racist sentiment, and while the campaign has dutifully apologized for each "mistake," they still happened. In my mind, that warrants a thorough vetting of why exactly these "mistakes" keep occurring and an explanation of what emotions the campaign is trying to target.

See, it's the media's job to deconstruct myths and lies. However, when it comes to certain topics, particularly race-related topics, media types seem loathe to point out and discuss trends or deeper issues. Look, I understand that calling a white person a racist is like giving Michael Vick a puppy for Christmas; it's going to cause some outrage. I also understand that the media is loathe to take sides in racial issues unless someone uses one of the "magic hate words."

But, using standard media rules, it's clear that what's occurring with Clinton's campaign is a trend. At least it's clear to anybody who doesn't have their heads up their asses. So, if the media created the rules, they need to follow the damn rules. Don't pussyfoot around the issues by framing the story as if there is a question whether or not a trend exists. The trend exists, just like the trend of George Bush lying every time he holds a press conference. Report the trend.

Follow the rules.

Monday, March 10, 2008

They Win

I've watched a lot of political television in the past few months. With a wife and father who are full blown Obama junkies (and my own small habit) CNN and MSNBC have become regulars on my television set, and even Fox News makes the occasional cameo.

While I am a journalist and shouldn't have been surprised, like many viewers I have been disappointed in the poor job television networks have done in framing and analyzing political news.

Everyday I see a story that has been spun or ignored that I believe deserved different treatment. While some would chalk this up to my Obama bias, I think it's just my understanding of what the core values of journalism are supposed to be.

One of my most recent disappointments was watching the media tone used to describe the recent election results in Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island and Vermont. As Clinton won easy victories in Ohio and Rhode Island and then carried the Texas primary, announcer after announcer jumped on the storyline that she was the new "Comeback Kid."

This storyline conveniently ignored the fact that Clinton only saw minuscule gains in her pledged delegate count, and minimized the fact that Obama had overcome huge deficits to make the races fairly competitive. Instead, announcers gleefully noted that you can never count a "fighter" like Clinton out of an election and noted that this race will probably go down to the wire. At the time I was disgusted by what I viewed as a ridiculous bias, and wondered why so many stations seemed to be in Clinton's camp.

Now I know why. Check this link out.

Apparently, the massive amount of public interest in the race for the Democratic nomination has been a HUGE boon for stations like CNN and MSNBC. Viewers are flocking to both stations to get their daily fix and I'm sure advertisers are flocking to those same stations to get at viewers. Not only has the democratic race allowed the stations to easily fill their daily news holes, but it's not too bad for their coffers either.

Now the coverage definitely makes sense.

Look, this media game is first and foremost a business. It's a big money business too. Newspaper have traditionally enjoyed profit margins greater than 10 percent, and at times nearly 20 percent. Television news stations don't enjoy the same level of success because of the costs involved with television production, but they do pretty well. In both media, the only way to make money is to draw viewers and consumers to your product, and then sell those eyes to advertisers. There is one tried and true way to get people's attention:

Conflict.

Conflict moves units like Hannah Montana. Remember how popular Jerry Springer was when somebody was getting beat down on television everyday? How much do you want to bet that those Maury Povich episodes with the paternity tests have higher ratings than all the other episodes? The old maxim in journalism is simple "if it bleeds it leads."

See, news shows where they quietly parse each candidates' comments and sedately discuss various policy points don't get viewers. Nah, stories that raise people's blood pressure get viewers. Stories that make you want to cheer or curse the television suck people in. When people think a fight is breaking out and they have a dog in that fight, well they are more likely to stay glued to that boob tube.

So, ignoring the fact that Obama smoked Clinton in 12 straight primaries was par for the course. Denigrating his achievements, crowing over Hillary's "big" wins and openly pushing forward Clinton campaign talking points is just another day at the office when it comes to the media. Stirring shit up is what we do, it's how we get paid.

Don't let this whole thing stress y'all too much, although I can understand your concern if you actually expected the media to provide you with unbiased unvarnished information. Although if you did believe that, I want to get a donation from you to help OJ find the real killer.

No matter who comes out on top in the fight for the nomination, the media wins.

He's Supported by Who?

It's a well-known fact that Sen. Barack Obama is dominating the black vote. While this might not surprise some folks, it's worth repeating that early in this campaign Obama struggled to convince black people to take him seriously and abandon the Clintons. Shoot, my own father thought Obama was a joke at first, and now he's browbeating old ladies to give him one of their Obama lawn signs.

Despite our initial skepticism, black people now love them some Obama.

But, while that support has made the senator successful in some primaries, the latest news is that it hurt him greatly in Ohio and to a lesser extent in Texas. This Washington Post article outlines exactly how the vote broke down and how the support of black people may have turned off some white voters.

That's an interesting and ironic thesis.

Remember, one of the main reasons black folks were suspicious of Obama(besides his funny name and white momma) was his pretty hefty support among certain groups of white people. I mean, after his speech in 2004, Obama had a pretty good profile in the media and among the liberal elite.

In fact, although I despise the tone of Hillary Clinton's campaign, the remark by one of her surrogates that voting for Obama allowed certain white folks to believe they had a "hip, black friend" wasn't that far off base. Because of his mixed ancestry and race-neutral rhetoric, Obama was, and still is, the kind of Negro white people can feel good about supproting. And if there's one thing black folks have learned throughout history it's that it is smart to keep black people who are really popular with white people at a safe distance.

And it appears that some white folks have internalized the same mantra.

It really shouldn't be surprising. I've had many conversations with white folks who are considered to be "the salt of the Earth" (which is an interesting metaphor since salt is actually an anathema to agriculture), and I've learned some things about how this group tends to view the world.

Many, many of them really struggle to accept the idea that institutionalized racism and discrimination afforded their ancestors opportunities that minority groups did not receive. That means they reject the idea that they have benefited from anything but hard work and sacrifice on their way to obtaining the American Dream. Racism for many of them is confined to name calling and physical attacks, it has nothing to do with school systems and unions.

Consequently, they often view black people as rabid complainers who don't want to work hard. While these white folks may acknowledge exceptions to this rule, they still think it's the rule. And many of them blame black people for failing to pull their own weight and living on the tit of the federal and state government. Of course this is not based in fact, but Hillary's campaign has demonstrated white folks cannot be limited by facts when creating their realities.

So, it's really not surprising that a certain segment of white America would feel threatened by black support of Obama. Typically, it's the individuals scrambling to eke out an existence that harbor the most resentment towards minorities. Upper class white people can be virulently racist, but because they are secure in their own place in the world it can hard for them to generate the same level of resentment. After all, black folks are not a credible threat unless they meet us in a dark alley.

This dynamic not only concerns me in the Pennsylvania primary, but in the general election. Republicans are master of using resentment and fear as scythes to cut down unity and progress. I understand that Obama has won primaries in states like Wisconsin and Missouri, but I still have concerns about states where unions are prevalent and education is lacking. These people feel put upon, they feel shortchanged and it's highly likely they'll feel comfortable blaming a black dude.

It's the American way.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

I'm Satisfied

It's done.

The greatest television series in history is finished and all I can say is,

"I'm satisfied."

Last week's episode of The Wire was so powerful and gut-wrenching I wondered if I would feel let down this week. After all, with so many storylines reaching their climax it seemed like this week's episode could only weakly follow up.

Thankfully, I was wrong.

Watching characters reach destinies that could almost be said to be pre-ordained was strangely satisfying. I mean, typically if a story is predictable it's easier to lose interest. But, with The Wire, knowing where the story is headed is part of the overall enjoyment. It's a unique pay-off for staying committed to a show that is frustrating, angering, saddening and just plain difficult to bear.

It's kind of like David Simon is patting you on the back and saying "You get it."

So even though watching Dukie start down the horrible road of drug addiction made my stomach queasy, watching Bubbles sit down to his first dinner with his family in years made it worth it.

Even though I know Omar's ending was ignoble, I still rejoiced to see Michael using his superior intellect to carve out some sort of life for himself. Even if robbing drug dealers will probably only end in his death, the truth is, all life ends in death.

Only the journey matters.

That's what watching The Wire has been, a journey. I started late, only joining the cult in Season Four and then hastily watching all of the past seasons in a single crazy weekend. It's a journey that's opened my eyes to new realities and reinforced my previous beliefs about the failures of America.

We are all connected in this world. The decisions we make reverberate throughout other people's lives even when we don't realize it. That child we mentor, that donation we make to charity, it all makes a difference. Conversely, when we game the system, when we abdicate responsibility in our homes or neighborhoods, it makes a difference.

I love The Wire for reaffirming the connectivity of our lives. For reminding us that despite the barriers of class and race, we still need each other. The show didn't paint a rosy picture of our relationships, but it did show us that those relationships still exist no matter what we may have fooled ourselves into thinking.

For that, I'm satisfied.

Friday, March 7, 2008

We Ain't Stupid

We've all heard the comments.

"Black people are voting for Obama because he's black."

"Obama's a big symbol for them."

"Black people don't even follow the issues, they just see skin color."


Anyone who has traversed the blogsphere has seen these "truths" repeated constantly. We've also seen black bloggers and their readers attack them constantly, pointing out the inherent racism in a thesis that boils down to "black people can't think critically, but white people can." It's a common assumption that black people are too emotional and lack the intelligence and objectivity to "transcend race" in their decision making.

It's also ludicrous. Quite frankly, white folks have historically been the group making inane decisions because racial prejudice turned their brains into mush. But, then again, when has logic ever prevented white folks from making an argument about their superiority?

However, a recent comment on this site illuminated an even better reason why black folks would never support Obama just because he's black, and I just had to discuss it some more. It's one of those arguments that very few white people would ever make or even be aware of.

Black folks would be hard pressed to get behind a mediocre and unqualified black presidential candidate because we know that if he screws up, all of our asses are on the line. We don't have the luxury of supporting somebody like Bush because we know our support of an idiot would be used as proof of our inherent stupidity for generations to come.

Look, that doesn't mean that all black folks thought Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson were incompetent when they ran for president. Nah, the reverends are intelligent and articulate men who have done a service to the black community by constantly advancing black-centric positions through the media. Now, I don't care for Sharpton's conk, or Jackson's penchant for rhyming, but that doesn't mean I think they are useless.

But, what I do know is that most white people dislike them more than affirmative action. If you did a nationwide poll, I would guarantee that white people of every political persuasion would list Sharpton and Jackson as two of the top three most dangerous and irrational Negroes in the country. (The other one is of course the bogeyman known as Minister Louis Farrakhan.) So, given their damaged profiles, it makes sense that their bids for president(except for Jackson's first attempt) didn't inspire the same response as Obama's.

Black folks were playing the percentages.

We knew that not only could Al and Jesse not get elected, but even if elected through a miracle on par with the virgin birth of Christ, there was no way Sharpton or Jackson could do a good job. White folks would have not let those two Negroes succeed, they would rather die. Every move they attempted would have been stonewalled while the media castigated them for inaction and futility. It would have been ugly.

With Obama, black folks see somebody who has a track record of making white folks comfortable enough that they won't fight everything he tries to do. Sure, if Obama is elected he'll face unfair scrutiny and be held to a different set of rules, but at least he'll be given more of a shot than a traditional "black candidate."

Besides, if Obama can't handle double standards and illogical behavior from white folks, he really can't lay claim to being black. Any black person who hasn't fought those battles has either led a life more charmed than Paris Hilton or is more assimilated than Clarence Thomas.

So, I think Obama has been vetted by black folks in a way that white folks can never understand. Sure emotion plays a role in our decision, but emotion is a part of everyone's political choices. How else do you explain Dumbo's two terms? But, black folks are much more calculating than white folks understand, particularly those of us who have had some success in the white world.

We know that the actions of a single black person can cause a ripple effect that eliminates opportunities for scores of other black folk. Conversely, positive actions can cause more opportunties for all black people, but typically that operates at an exchange rate similiar to the dollar and the Euro.

Truthfully, you don't even have to search that hard for examples, just try to catch a cab in New York at night.

So, given these indisputable facts, why would we as a people support somebody who we thought couldn't get the job done? Why would we hamstring our own hustle?

We ain't stupid.

No, You Cannot Quote Me

It happened again yesterday.

The hard stares, the angry whispers, the outright hostility. Once again, I felt the distrust and it didn't feel good.

Let me break it down

When I'm not trying to save the world one blog post at a time, I work as a journalist. The kind that writes, not the kind that smiles on cue.

As part of my duties, I go to crime scenes. Lots and lots of crime scenes. And those scenes typically involve men and women who look like me.

Only they don't really.

Most of the time, they're in standard "urban" wear while I'm in something business casual or dressy. They may be wearing slippers while I'm rocking hard bottoms. They clump together speaking in distinctive accents while I work the periphery trying to use the King's English.

We're alike, but we're different.

When these people see me, they don't see one of them. My notepad and ballpoint pen classify me as an other. Even if I relax my diction and throw in a little slang most folks' demeanor will only relax so much.

I don't blame them. Besides the fact that talking to a reporter at a crime scene is a good way to make reservations for your own crime scene, I understand why most of these folks don't trust people who do the job I do.

We parachute into their neighborhoods when somebody dies, poke around asking questions and then disappear as soon as we have what we need. We don't try to understand their lives, their cultures and the pressures they face. Many of us don't tell their stories, we just tell a story. Reporters, and I even include myself to a degree, don't really care about life in the communities where gunshots "ain't nothing." These people with skin like mine are not stupid, they can spot the bigger hustle.

At a recent crime scene, I could hear the family members of a victim angrily discussing which media sources they were going to deal with and which one's they would ignore. Apparently, when their relative, a black woman, went missing only a few media sources could be bothered with running her picture and description. The rest passed. So these family members were ready to retaliate by denying those media sources any interviews and treating them with disdain.

I was on the list of good media sources. Not because of any actions of my part, but just because somebody at my company had spoken to these people and gotten their story out to the public. It was luck really, because I have ignored missing person reports just as often as I have written about them.

But, these people's anger touched me. Truthfully, I'm always affected by the anger I feel at crime scenes. Being branded as a traitor or interloper is never a positive experience. At times it makes me want to lash out at these grieving people for making me feel the way I feel.

But, I don't.

I feel these people's frustrations. I understand their disgust at a stranger asking them to talk about somebody they love who is dead in the street. It's callous, it's unfeeling, it's damn near disrespectful. What right do I have to use their pain to advance my career?

None

But, it's my job.

I've thought about that job a lot more recently as I've watched this election. This whole process confirmed for me just how much power I thought people like me possessed. The question is how can I tap into that power, not just by blogging, but in the mainstream sources that reach the most people.

I'm thinking on it.

Raving Black Lunatic