Thursday, February 25, 2010

I'd Like to Erase You



Some of y'all probably read The Root, or as I like to call it, the Washington Post's Essie Mae Washington-Williams.

I don't really read the site. Every once in a while I might stop through, but it's not something I check out regularly. Honestly, I've found a couple of insightful posts over there, but many times what they write, and what I think is intelligent, aren't matching up. That's just me.

For the most part, I just ignore it. It really ain't no skin off my back, even if their bipster commentary provides cover for certain types of white folks. The black community has room for all kinds of viewpoints, and while the viewpoints expressed there might not make me happy, I'll live.

Well, that was until cats decided to show their hindparts for Black History month. Check out this post on black folks the website would like to erase from Black History and this one about white folks who should be issued a hood pass.

Obviously, I have an issue with these posts despite the fact that I'm sure the site was trying to play them for their comedic value. First problem, them joints ain't funny! They are trafficking in the same banal cliches that have been around for generations, and passing it off as witty insight.

How many jokes about black folks being embarrassed does the world really need? I touched on this a while back here, and the message is still the same. If you are embarrassed by the actions of random black people who have no connection whatsoever to you, then you have been infected with the Sickness.

White folks have convinced you that there are Dem Negroes and Good Negroes, and you are desperately trying to jump on team Good Negro. Stop it, you're only embarrassing yourself. Playing that game, the game where black folks have to police themselves in order to prove that they deserve to be respected members of white society is a sucka's bet.

Hell, one of the folks they have listed on the list of black folks to dump is Marion Barry. Yes, Barry is a walking "Just Say No" advertisement, but you telling me that his foibles completely outweigh his good deeds? The Root is saying that it doesn't matter that Barry participated in sit-ins in the South, that he organized voters in the North, nope, all that matter is that he allowed corruption and narcotics to gain power over him. For that failure, he should have his blackness revoked.

Am I the only one who sees that as stupid? I'm not trying to gloss over Barry's problems, they are legendary, but to suggest that dude's problems should get him cast out of the black race shows either shocking ignorance or deplorable arrogance.

I still can't decided whether it's ignorance or arrogance when I consider the list about white folks who could be black. Phil Jackson, Jeremy Shockey, Anderson Cooper and Brian Urlacher? What kind of ridiculous, half-baked nonsense gets green lighted over there? (For the record, Bill Clinton's blackness was deemed a "no." Guess his racist comments during the election were enough to get his hood pass revoked. For more on Bill Clinton's real feelings about black people, check out the homie Temple 3's website and his piece on the Clinton Plan for Africa.)

Are the good folks at The Root unaware that Urlacher was sued by a black woman because he didn't visit his child for months and wasn't paying his child support? Or that he used to bang Paris Hilton? Or maybe that's what solidifies Urlacher's blackness, his unwillingness to care for his seeds and his willingness to sleep with even the most vile of racist airheads to get a nut? Guess that makes him Pale Mandingo Number One, right?

It's pure insanity that an editor read both of these lists and found them insightful, entertaining and valuable. Come on now, nobody raised the question about what the lists said about "blackness"? Why were these particular white folks almost black? A friend of mine noted that it was like the selection criteria read like this: 1. swagger. 2. street cred. 3. weed. 4. talking beaucoup smack.

What does it mean that Ice T's perpetually half-naked wife Coco was considered for honorary blackness? Or that African child stealer Madonna, who has insisted on ignoring numerous troubled dark-skinned babies here in America to steal, er, import, I mean adopt from the motherland, was also under consideration?

It says that the whole damn list was pap, and it was even worse pap for being trotted out as some sort of ode to Black History. It says that often times the people who hurt black folks the most are other black folks who think they're us a favor. (Crack Cocaine sentencing disparity anyone?) It says that obviously Black History month has been hijacked, sidetracked and ransacked by folks who are no longer interested in Dr. Carter G. Woodson's legacy.

It says I need my damn eraser right now.






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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Can't Fall

I walk a thin line with two gaping maws on each side.

It would be a relief to fall off.

Just slide down one of those dark throats, slowly enveloped then dissolved.

Me would flee, only us would exist. Melded, intertwined, together.

If I chose, I might rest easier. Undisturbed by churning thoughts and wanton wanderings. I would have a home, a place where acceptance was total and complete.

But, choosing feels wrong. Neither choice is right.

Look at your cold mercy, your rigid comfort. You would have me forget. You want me to abandon and refuse to understand.

I can't. I see me there, my past, present and future. Not all of it, but too much to pretend it doesn't exist. My rock solid faith has fissures, and doubt escapes like steam. Not enough doubt to turn around, but it's there.

Then there's you.

You claim freedom. No more bondage, just existence and experience.

Kick back, relax and enjoy the ride.

But who's driving? Where are we going? Is there a map, a guidebook, any indication that somebody has a plan?

Nah, we would make it up as we go.

That doesn't work for me.

So, I'm back to balancing. One foot in front of the other, arms straight to the side. Slowly, stepping, then checking, stepping, then checking, trying not to fall.

Trying to stay on that narrow path.


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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Yeah, You Ain't All That

Arrogant was a word often used to describe me in the past.

Blunt, crass and self-absorbed might have been thrown around as well. Some folks have called me cruel and a bully. I'm not proud of this, but those are the facts.

When it finally got through my head that maybe I wasn't walking the way I wanted to walk, I decided to start changing. Those of y'all who have tried to change some personality traits can imagine how I'm struggling with that task. But, as I struggle, I still progress.

But, with all my flaws, I do have some strengths. I used to believe one of those strengths was a lack of color bias. Growing up in New Orleans, you learn pretty quickly that color bias ain't a fantasy. Folks down here take "colorstruck" to a whole new level, and as a result dark-skinned folks, particularly little girls, can have a hard life. Until recently, I never saw myself as being affected by this. I've always liked a variety of women in all shapes, sizes and colors, so I never considered myself "colorstruck."

Then a friend of mine sent me this link and I had to re-evaluate my self image yet again.

If you click the link you'll find a photo gallery of black women who have made the transition from relaxed hair to natural hair. I like natural hair, my wife has a big ol' afro and I cornrow and twist it for her all the time. It's a quality time tradition we started when she was pregnant with my oldest son, and it's continued through the years.

I always assumed that I didn't have a hair preference. But, when I looked at those pictures, I found myself oddly drawn to the pictures with relaxed hair, even though the person in each photo was the same. I found myself thinking of the relaxed hair as "neater" or "prettier" and that's when I realized I had a problem.

The dreaded Sickness.

That's what my friend and I call it. That friend had the same reaction as me when she looked through the gallery despite the fact that she's transitioning to natural hair right now. We both know that black women's natural hair is neat and pretty and wonderful, but yet we couldn't honestly deny being drawn to the relaxed hair.

The Sickness is insidious in that way. Even if you take the time to educate yourself on the way European beauty standards have been foisted on vulnerable black people, you are still susceptible to that brainwashing. Just when you think you've eradicated all traces of Sickness from your mind, and you're congratulating yourself on that accomplishment, another manifestation of the Sickness will rear its ugly, pimpled head.

It was humbling and startling to come to the realization that I was carrying around this hidden bias. Not only did it remind me that I always have work to do if I want to reach my personal goals, it also made me wonder what other biases are lurking in my subconscious. Are there other forms of the Sickness hidden in the recesses of my poor brain that will only be revealed under stress? Will I be out with my kids one day chilling and then suddenly start regurgitating racist pap that would make Larry Elder proud? It's unnerving.

I guess I'll just have to forge ahead and trust my training in the rules of blackness to keep me safe in the future. It doesn't help that I've found out that most of my favorite movies from my youth were chock full of racist stereotypes as well.

Only the Good Lord knows what's in my mind...


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Monday, February 22, 2010

Good Stuff




I peeped this video over at the "We Are Respectable Negroes" blog, and it caught my eye. The joint is mad dark, and a friend of mine even called it scary. Now, she's a punk, but the video does have some shifty undertones.

Plus, the actual poem by Gil Scott Heron was fantastic. Hell, I even copped the brother's new CD after hearing this one joint. And anybody who knows me, (and some of y'all who read this blog actually know me in real life) knows that I'm a cheap bastard so an impulse buy like that is out of character for me.

Poetry is a cool medium man. I remember when I started writing a little of it in high school as part of these two classes. The ladies ate up this ode I did to black women, but then I started trying to cater to them and my stuff sucked. You live and you learn.

Enjoy




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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Same Game, Different Players

There is nothing new under the sun.


You would think that in this day and age, supervisors wouldn't be running around calling their employees "one-eyed niggers." You would think that government employees wouldn't be brazen enough to brag about targeting black folks for mistreatment, or make up little ditties about sticking it to the Negroes.

But, if you thought that, you would be wrong.

Check out this story if you have the time and inclination. The story details extended discrimination by the New Jersey Transportation Department against black bus owners traveling to Atlantic City. Please read the link.

A homie of mine sent me that link. I read the story and a lot of things ran through my mind. I wondered why people are so hateful. I wondered why someone would think they could throw around racial slurs with impunity. Finally, I wondered what this tale of discrimination and cover-up means to my life. I realized something:

Same Game, Different Players.

As a famous one-eyed rapper once said "This type of thing happens every day..." Slick Rick might have just been spitting a lyric, but he was speaking truth in regards to black folks in America. Anybody who has spent any time investigating this country's history has learned one thing for sure: Colored folks get shafted every day.

Remember the big story about black farmers getting cheated out of government funds while the money was rolling in for white farmers. That disparity prevented many black people from keeping their land and improving their lives. How about the reports that black soldiers were discriminated against repeatedly when it came to the allocation of GI funds? Once again, that prevented black people from becoming homeowners like the their white counterparts, and again reduced their chances to improve their lots in life.

Over and over we see stories about systemic racism that has denied black folks, scratch that, colored folks, equal opportunity for generations. And it hasn't disappeared contrary to the pap that Fox News and black conservatives are pushing. Whether it be school funding, or health care facilities or just plain job interviews the inequity is obvious to anyone with eyes.

How many of these stories must revealed before we have a collective "Ah, ha" moment? Do people have no shame? Can they really rail against Affirmative Action, when stuff like this Atlantic City bus scandal is being revealed? How can they sleep at night knowing they've mis-informed so many white folks, and some blacks folks, so that these people actually blame those who have been mistreated? I couldn't live with being that kind of person.

But, apparently, it's not that hard. Hell, if you read the comments on the bus story you'll find folks falling all over themselves to deflect blame for the discrimination to the minority bus drivers despite all the evidence to the contrary. Like many folks they have mastered the art of ignoring information that would force them to recognize the game, and recognize the players. For them, life is a game of dodgeball, only instead of a big, rubber ball, they are dodging the truth.

Cute trick.

So, if life is a game, and some folks clearly have the fix in, how does a regular Joe play to win? Y'all know I'm an adovocate for the God approach, but that doesn't mean you sit on your butt and hope for manna from heaven. Yeah, God can still deliver manna, but he also allowed humans to create grocery stores. Push your own damn cart son.

Personally, I think that while we have to pick our battles, we can't stop fighting. We can't withdraw from forcing folks to consider reality when they start ranting about the plight of the poor white man, and how all the coloreds are taking over. That's not going to make you popular, but it's going to make you honest. And what's the value of popularity if comes at the expense of your integrity? Slap these suckers in the fact with truth, then box their ears if they refuse to listen.

Game on.




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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Oh, Hell Naw

Real quick y'all.

I'm watching the coverage of this plane crash in Austin. The one where a dude flew a plane into the IRS building after burning his house.

And everybody is falling all over themeselves not to call this cat a "terrorist."

It's "possible terrorist-related activity" but it's not terrorism and he's not a terrorist. What the hell?

How can you fly a plane into a building out of spite, and have folks call it "suicide by plane?" That's like calling it "suicide by portable chest bomb."

Why are media folks wondering if the FBI needs to be involved since it's a local crime? Really son? Trying to kill federal employees on federal property is just a "local problem" now?

I bet if he had a Muslim surname it would be terrorism. Yep, wouldn't be no question about that. Just like the first thing you heard after the Fort Hood shooting was about how dude should be called a terrorist because he was hollering about Allah while he let off shots.

But this white dude is heated at the federal government and attacks that same government by targeting innocents and he's not a terrorist? He leaves notes expressing his decision to do war with the feds, and it ain't terrorism? But, a black African teenager tries to blow up a airplane on Christmas and that's terrorism.

Oh, hell naw. Just no. Stop it you hypocritical bastards. Just stop.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Don't Sleep

Like many folks, I have a love/hate relationship with this time of year.

February not only brings freezing temperatures, it also brings the mandated focus by American schools and corporations on Black History Month. Sadly, when I typed "Black History Month" I sighed a little bit out loud.

It's not that I don't see the need for Black History Month, I do. It's not that I'm stuck on some colorblind trip where I think there is no need for a focus on the contributions black people have made to this world and country. I think there is a huge need for that kind of stuff. Nah, the problem is I'm really discouraged and bored with how we do Black History Month these days.

If Black History month was Thanksgiving dinner, Martin Luther King would be the turkey, Oprah would be the candied yams, Slavery would be the stuffing and President Obama would be the sweet potato pie. Random observations about little-known, important figures in Black History would be the collard greens and green beans, and they'd receive roughly the same amount of attention as those vegetables do at the Thanksgiving feast. We'd have this dinner every year and every one would go home full, but not particularly healthy.

We've gotten too comfortable with this month. When Carter G. Woodson began Black History Week he was hoping to combat the lies being spread about black people by the white power structure. It wasn't just about a rote recital of facts, it was about using those facts to expose the lie of black inferiority. It was about challenging popular assumptions, not just providing us with a good feeling.

Sadly, things don't changed. Today we don't learn much new information. And yes, I understand that anybody with a true desire to learn about Black History can go down to the library any time of the year, but I also understand that's not going to happen in most cases. Rather, people are going to take what they're given, and that's all they are going to get.

Unlike some black folks, I don't see the failure of Black History Month as a justification for scrapping it. Instead, I see it as a call to arms for those of us with children, those of us who plan to have children, and those of us who interact with children. Hell, even if you don't deal with kids, you can still spread your knowledge to adults. We need to examine the longstanding lies that still have power in our society and see how the history of black folks can expose those falsehoods.

My brother recently gave me a book about blacks* in the Bible that goes a long way to doing that in one area. The book is called "Beyond Roots: Blacks in the Bible." It's a small and simple book that draws heavily from the Bible to make its points. It breaks down the genealogy of many biblical figures and teaches folks who to understand the ancestry of biblical figures. It shows the involvement of black folks in the world of the Bible right from creation. I've found it to be quite an interesting book with a wealth of information that I was never exposed to despite the fact that it was right in front of my face.

For example, King David had a black grandmother and great-grandmother. He married a black woman, who later gave birth to King Solomon. Moses was married to a black woman, and Joshua and Caleb had black ancestors. Ethiopians worshippped God at the same time as Semetic Jews, and have a longtanding tradition of Judaism. They were also some of the earliest converts to Christianity. That directly contradicts the modern myth that black folks' only connection with Christianity comes from slave masters, and the book also notes that blacks were given the utmost respect in the ancient world.

In my opinion, that's the kind of information that children need to learn. Information that challenges the accepted truth in our society that black people are inferior human beings. This mindset is insidiously ingrained in our children through active and passive means, and it's the main reason why so many adults today have such screwed up ideas about black people. I think we have let Black History Month be hijacked until it's become a silly recitation of minutiae that has no real power. But, there is always power in a people's history, particularly if we expose the totality and importance of that history.

We just have to wake up.












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Monday, February 15, 2010

Yep, Pretty Much What You Would Expect

I get called cynic a lot when it comes to racial matters.

Folks tell me I see what I want to see. That I'm overly focused on this white/black thing, and that impairs my ability to think clearly. They believe I have a bias that impacts my intelligence.

I get that a lot.

Then I read stuff like this and this.

So, what am I to believe?

As those links show, there seems to be a problem with cops, particularly white cops, shooting black men. Look, I know there is more of a problem with black men shooting black men. I know there is a problem with the amount of power the police have in our society in general. Yet, those two larger problems don't change the fact that far too many black men get shot by white cops.

Certain folks will argue that black men bring it on themselves. It's their own actions that cause police to stop and search them at far higher rates than their white counterparts. See, despite the fact that white men between the ages of 18-35 are more likely to use illegal drugs than any other group, black men are the ones you have to look out for if you're looking for drugs. Just check out what the police chief in Homer, La. had to say about his department's policing policies.

"If I see three or four young black men walking down the street, I have to stop them and check their names," said Mills, who is white. "I want them to be afraid every time they see the police that they might get arrested. We're not out there trying to abuse and harass people—we're trying to protect the law-abiding citizens locked behind their doors in fear."

Not only is he blatantly extolling the benefits of racial profiling despite the fact that the statistics that say white folks are more likely to have drugs, he's actually admitting that his role as a police officer is to instill fear in black people. He wants black people, regardless of their guilt or innocence, to feel that they don't have the right to travel in groups of four or more because they are risking police harassment.

And I'm supposed to have a positive attitude about race?

A 73-year old black man got gunned down in his front yard while hanging out with his family. The young son of a professional baseball player was gunned down while sitting in his own car in front of his own home. Yet, some folks would have you believe it's only belligerent behavior by black males that leads to police shootings and beating. If only black men would learn the rules of the world, they would be safe like their white counterparts who get to carry drugs and own illegal weapons with damn near impunity.

This sentiment is baffling and predictable. It's baffling that people could be so blind to reality, so willfully ignorant of the foibles of humanity. Honestly, do people think police officers are inhuman? Do you think they possess some special reserves of honesty and good will? If you believe that, please explain why. And if you don't believe that, then explain to me why you find it so hard to believe that they might be abusing black people for no other reason than it's easier to do their jobs that way.

It's predictable because people always seem to search for a reason to justify their own biases, and avoid situations that would force them to re-evaluate their worldview. Some folks seem to find critical thinking uncomfortable, whether it be about race, religion or health care. It's simple really. Why are so many black men getting shot and beaten by the cops when they don't carry more drugs than their white counterparts? Let's start the discussion from there and see what happens.

But, I doubt that will happen. Like the councilmen in that story about Homer, La. most white folks, especially conservative white folks, would prefer if black people just get over it. Even though they will complain that the justice system is screwed up and that police are overstepping their boundaries, they don't want to use that common sense when looking at the interactions between the police and black folks. They'd rather stick to pat responses and abrupt dismissals.

Pretty much what you would expect.




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Friday, February 12, 2010

Do You Wallow?

What's the most dangerous emotion in the world?

Hatred?

Anger?

Lust?

Fear?

Nah, none of those. It's self-pity. Feeling sorry for yourself makes you sorry, and it can ruin your life.

You know, one of the common complaints certain white folks level at black people who discuss race is that they are tired of our whining. We're just complainers and malingerers, who want to blame others for our failures. They tell us that given the amazing opportunities available in America, anybody who doesn't succeed is a slacker. Those sentiments are often echoed by new immigrants to this country.

Personally, I find those thoughts ridiculous. After all, the people who complain the most in America are white folks. I can't turn on the tv without some of them marching because "their America" is changing and they don't think it's right. They complain about lost jobs, lost pensions, "reverse racism" and anything else that prevents them from being rich and happy. I think it's the ultimate hypocrisy that such rampant complainers love to tell others to suck it up. Just laughable.

But, that doesn't mean that self-pity isn't real in the black community and in every other community. It is real, and it's a problem.

Self pity saps your will to improve your situation. As someone who has wallowed in self-pity at times, I can now look back and see those moments as a complete waste of my life. Honestly, what good does it do to feel sorrow for yourself?

Folks like to point out that the work ethic of young black people today leaves much to be desired. I've been known to argue against this common complaint, but there is truth in it. However, the comment it true for everybody today, not just young black folks. Americans have become soft and privileged. We don't just want the good things in life, we expect them as our divine right.

Thus, when things don't go our way, when adversity hits us, too many of us just collapse. We view suffering and misfortune as a betrayal, and many of us use that betrayal as an opportunity to wallow in self-pity.

My wife and I talk about this all the time. Unfortunately, she has a tendency to wallow;she often refuses to see how she can improve her circumstances and just wants to feel bad.

As a man whose parents had very little patience for complaining, this can cause some tension in our home. I can't see why she seems to seek out opportunities to feel sorry for herself, and it makes it hard for me to generate any sympathy. Yet, I'm slowly starting to realize that she's only reacting the way she's been conditioned to react. For her to behave differently would take an acknowledgement of her conditioning, and a concerted attempt at breaking that training.

Most people never get to that point, and I don't know if my wife will.

I'm hoping she does, and I want the same thing for everybody who wallows.



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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What Just Happened Here?

You ever have a convo with someone, particularly someone of a different race, and the conversation just takes a turn that leaves you utterly confused?

For example, say you're talking to a white person about the old television show "Mr. Ed." Y'all get off on a tangent about Dave Chappelle's hilarious skit speculating whether former Hollywood animals were racist, and then the white person says something like this:

"And what's the big deal with the ban on black lawn jockeys? If I want a tiny black person to hold a lantern in front of my house, that should be cool right? Hell, black people were the first successful jockeys, why the big fuss?"

What the hell just happened there?

It can be very unnerving when something like that happens. Whether it's a race issue, a political issue or just random life stuff, when somebody takes an unexpected turn in the conversation, it's like getting lost on a dark country road. Things look dangerous, but familiar, and while you're confident you can find your way home, you know it might be more difficult than you'd like.

I thought about random conversation shifts when a friend of mine sent me an excerpt from a conversation John Mayer had with Playboy magazine. First, to be clear, I know nothing about John Mayer except that he used to smash "Rachel" and he is a bit of a wild man. Thus, his comments in the interview seemed to come completely out of left field to me. Maybe if I knew more about his back story I wouldn't have been shocked, but I don't know. Anyway, here is what Mayer said:

PLAYBOY: If you didn’t know you, would you think you’re a douche bag?

MAYER: It depends on what I picked up. My two biggest hits are “Your Body Is a Wonderland” and “Daughters.” If you think those songs are pandering, then you’ll think I’m a douche bag. It’s like I come on very strong. I am a very…I’m just very. V-E-R-Y. And if you can’t handle very, then I’m a douche bag. But I think the world needs a little very. That’s why black people love me.


PLAYBOY: Because you’re very?

MAYER: Someone asked me the other day, “What does it feel like now to have a hood pass?” And by the way, it’s sort of a contradiction in terms, because if you really had a hood pass, you could call it a nigger pass. Why are you pulling a punch and calling it a hood pass if you really have a hood pass? But I said, “I can’t really have a hood pass. I’ve never walked into a restaurant, asked for a table and been told, ‘We’re full.’"


PLAYBOY: It is true; a lot of rappers love you. You recorded with Common and Kanye West, played live with Jay-Z.

MAYER: What is being black? It’s making the most of your life, not taking a single moment for granted. Taking something that’s seen as a struggle and making it work for you, or you’ll die inside. Not to say that my struggle is like the collective struggle of black America. But maybe my struggle is similar to one black dude’s.


Now, wasn't that strange? Honestly, if you read the entire interview, which you can access here, Mayer's comments seem even more strange. It's like he's having a normal, interview and then "BAM", we're in crazyland.

I mean, there are so many questions to be asked about that exchange. In addition to the cryptic comments above, Mayer also casually insinuated that Kerry Washington is indiscriminate about revealing her past blow jobs because she's "white-girl crazy." (Also, I found it strange that Huffington Post wrote a story about Mayer's interview, and instead of leading with his casual use of the word nigger, and his other crazy comments about black folks, they decided to go with his comments about screwing Jessica Simpson and Jennifer Aniston's abhorrence of Twitter. Good to see our liberal friends have their priorities in order, right? Yeah, right.)

Anyway, what jumps out at me immediately is how Mayer drops an N-bomb with no prior warning or provocation. The interviewer asks him about his popularity with rappers, and within two sentences, the word "nigger" comes flying out of his mouth. Granted, I'm sure he'd argue that he was speaking about some deeper issues regarding the use of the phrase "hood pass," but I have no idea what those deeper issues would be. Unfortunately, any deeper meaning was lost by his casual use of "nigger." That's like telling me you love me, just as you slap me in the face. I'm not thinking about love, I'm thinking about strangling you.

Honestly, I'm suspicious of most white people who casually use the word nigger, even if they don't use it as a slur around me. Sometimes, if they grew up with black folks and are completely assimilated, it makes sense, but even then I get a sinking feeling. I've got to think that people who are casual with the use of "nigger" in everyday conversation, are probably casual with it when they get angry. Which means it's quite likely you might use the word as a slur for black people, even if you don't do it around me. So, I'm suspicious.

Also, I was lost by Mayer's attempts to distill being "black" to overcoming obstacles and enduring pain. Black people do not have a monopoly on those two things. Hell, we never have. Sure, we've dealt with a lot of hardships over our collective history in this country, but that's not unique in human history, it really isn't.

I thought it was strange that his idea of being black was completely tied to suffering and perseverance. That's a pretty shallow understanding of the black experience. And it's great that he thinks black people are particularly strong, but the truth is we're not. And as long as people think we are, they will be less likely to deal with the larger issues that force us to struggle so much.

As for the Kerry Washington thing, I'm not going to deny that she exudes a little craziness, kind of like Angelina Jolie. But, it strikes me as more than a tad disrespectful to go around branding her as the kind of chick who sucks dicks and doesn't mind telling. It might be true, but is it really something you just throw out into the public sphere.

The whole interview just leaves me unsettled. I didn't have any real thoughts on Mayer before this, but now any future thoughts I have about him will be colored by this interview. And I', pretty that won't be a good thing.

But maybe that can change if someone can explain to me what just happened here.

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Monday, February 8, 2010

Can Never Go Back

I watched them party, and I couldn't join in.

My oldest boy ran around in a circle in the front yard, screaming and yelling about a victory he didn't even understand. My neighbors spilled from their homes, dancing, yelling and celebrating. My quiet block was transformed as music blared, fireworks popped and an entire city celebrated the New Orleans Saints victory.

And I just couldn't get that feeling.

I tried. I watched the game, I even went to a neighbor's Super Bowl party for a few minutes. I was happy, I wanted the Saints to win. I gave in to my wife's prodding and went out into my yard to join in the festivities with my neighbors. But, I grew tired of it quickly. I just couldn't find that feeling.

I used to have it. Oh, I remember having many a Sunday afternoon and Monday morning in college ruined because the Saints had lost again. I remember enduring the taunts of my friends who cheered for teams who actually won games, and believing that one day the Saints would get over the hump. I remember stubbornly clinging to the Saints when I played Madden football against those same friends, even when the team's ratings were horrible, and willed myself to find a way to win with a terrible team just to prove it could be done.

I had that feeling, but now it's gone.

It's like having a stuffy nose at a buffet. Everybody around me is enjoying themselves immensely, while I keep striving to get a feeling that seems to elude me. It's not that I hate the Saints, I just can't invest so much energy into something that benefits me so little, and I'm perturbed at how many people are willing to make that investment. My city is crazy. The news is filled with the Saints, the schools are filled with the Saints, everything is filled with the Saints. Everywhere you look, it's black and gold, and I honestly wonder if I'm missing out.

My wife doesn't like football and she was caught up in the buzz. She talked about how crazy it was, how she wanted to get out of the house so bad after the victory. My wife doesn't know a defensive tackle from a wide receiver, but last night her eyes gleamed as she contemplated a future with the Saints as Super Bowl champions. She said she just couldn't believe it.

I can't believe it either. I feel cheated in a way, but I also feel relieved. Part me of wishes I could get that feeling again, but another part of me is glad it's gone. I wonder if this is how smokers feel when they quit? It's hard to find a place right now where the Saints aren't the most important thing on everybody's mind, but that's okay.

I know I can never go back.



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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Just Like Me

My little brother and I talk a lot.

We discuss a variety of subjects from sports, to marriage, to child rearing and, most often, our faith. Both of us are Christians, and both of us are trying to figure out the best way to live a life pleasing to God.

Often, we note that many people see Christianity as a remote religion practiced by a bunch of crazies far out of tune with reality. Basically these folks see nothing relevant to their lives in the New Testament, and particularly not the Old Testament (For heathens, those are the two sections of the Bible.) It's all a mishmash of ridiculous fantasy to them.

And this really makes me and my lil bro' laugh.

Have y'all read the Bible lately?

That joint is like a spy novel, romance novel, hymnal, book of philosophy and every other kind of tome known to man, wrapped up in one. Seriously, every other book in the world is somehow related to the Bible. There is no human thought or philosophy known to man that is not discussed in some way in the Bible. I dare you to read that joint and prove me wrong.

But, it's really funny when people can't seem to connect to the characters in the Old Testament, and find it kind of boring. That speaks to a lack of time spent reading. I mean, if there is a bigger collection of murderers, whoremongers and lame bastards outside of the Old Testament, I have yet to find it.

Just a few weeks back, I read the story of Elihu in the Bible. He's a minor character, but dude's story is insane. I mean, this cat went to the palace of a corrupt king terrorizing Israel, assassinated the dude with a hidden knife while being sequestered in the throne room, and then hid the murder while he escaped back to this country by locking the doors and fooling the servants. Hell, he might have even somewhat seduced the lecherous king to get into the throne room.

And that doesn't sound like something interesting, or something you can relate to?

I told my brother something the other day that both of us found profound. We were talking about how relevant the Bible is to life, and then I said something like "And the crazy thing is that these were all just regular people."

While we may view the patriarchs and matriarchs of the Bible as unassailable examples of certain good and bad character traits, they actually were just regular folks. When they were living their lives, they didn't realize that their actions would be used as examples of good and bad behavior for thousands of years. They didn't realize they would be held up as paragons of purity or the epitome of evil. They were just muddling along trying to make the best life they could for themselves and the people around them.

Isn't that an amazing thought? And it doesn't just apply to the Bible, it applies to everything. While many great people have had amazing focus and vision, they were all just human. They had the same human desires, the same human foibles, the same human strengths as all of us. They were us. They were human, and despite their humanity, or because of their humanity, they did things that have resonated throughout the course of time.

It's true for biblical figures, it's true for the titans of black history and it's true for your next-door neighbor. Every life has potential for greatness. Every life holds insights into the way humanity behaves. All of us provide good and bad examples to the people around us. Sure, some of us may have more reach than others, but all of life is connected and dependent.

For me, it's been both a stifling and freeing revelation. Stifling because it makes me even more conscious of how I live my life. Freeing because I realize that my mistakes do not have to doom my life. Who knows how my action or inaction will impact the future? Only God knows who my life will influence or not influence.

The potential is always there until we draw our final breaths.







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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Messianic Tendencies


New Orleans is in the grip of Saints mania.

As the team's date with destiny in the Super Bowl draws closer, people down here get more and more crazy. Saints gear is ubiquitous, Super Bowl parties are the new black, and the Saints are single-handedly curing racism.

Wait, what was that last thing?

Yeah, as a media publication in the city recently pointed out, the Bless You Boys are bringing unity to a city long divided along its racial fault lines. Black, white, yellow and brown are all realizing that the only colors that truly matter are Black and Gold. President Obama couldn't save us from racism, but "Breessus" can. He has the power to heal the world and generate a perfect quarterback rating.

Yeah, my head almost exploded too.

The idea that the Saints are a uniting factor for the city isn't something dreamed up by just one media outlet. It's been a recurring theme throughout the team's Super Bowl season. Here and there I've heard about the fact that "Who Dat Nation" should be celebrated for both its fervor and its diversity. One of New Orleans' most famous dishes is a pot of gumbo, a tasty combination of a variety of ingredients, and in some quarters folks have been trying to apply that metaphor to the city's residents for decades.

The Saints are only the latest in a long line of racial Messiahs. That's right, I said Messiahs. After all, the word just means savior. And it seems like white people, and a few of their black friends, have been searching for a racial Messiah to drive away the scourge of racism for far too long.

Obama most recently carried the mantle before the Saints. Despite the fact that Louisiana is a blood-red state, here in New Orleans Democrats still hold sway. During Obama's presidential run, people were swooning at his ability to unite different races behind a common cause. They thought he finally represented the end of racial strife; they believed his election would heal all past wounds. And, of course, he failed.

I mean, I wasn't shocked, and I don't think many intelligent black people were shocked. We understand that the when it comes to matters of race, searching for a Messiah is a bogus proposition. But, our white brethren must have missed that memo. They continue to believe that a lone Negro will rise in the wilderness to free his people and heal our land. It's not exactly clear what this Negro will free black folks from, but I'm guessing it's the racism in our minds.

I guess if you were shortsighted, you could blame someone like Martin Luther King Jr. for this complex. Then again, when Dr. King was alive, he wasn't viewed as the Negro Messiah, juat a convenient spokesman for his race.

In fact, King regularly got criticized for making race relations worse, not better. But, over the years, his legacy has been warped to make him into this mythical figure that healed America through his preachings of non-violence and unity. Anybody who knows anything about Civil Rights history knows that is a complete farce, but it hasn't stopped white folks from lapping it up like ambrosia.

With that mindset, they've set out to find another person who can do what Dr. King supposedly did. They want a figure who unites without making people feel bad. Someone who can end racism in one fell swoop without all of that nasty hard work. It's no surprise that people are jumping on the idea that the Saints can be racial healers. It's a simple equation. If the Saints win, racism dies a little bit. What could be easier?

Then again, what happens when if the team loses? Does that mean racism wins? What about if the team has a crappy year next season? Does that mean that the racial divide in the city will get worse? The problem with creating racial Messiahs is that you simplify a complex issue, and imbue individuals or symbols with power they just don't possess. The Saints have no power to "fix" racial problem. Neither did Barack Obama. Maybe, just possibly, the Saints can make people feel relaxed enough to deal with some of their racial issues head-on, but I think that might even be too much to ask.

There is no racial Messiah. All we have are us and God. The sooner we realize that, the sooner we can start improving things.



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Monday, February 1, 2010

Doubling Up

Ever since I was a little kid, I've had a problem with double standards.

Matter of fact, I don't even like the phrase double standard. Let's just call it what it is, hypocrisy. I remember when my parents would forbid me to go somewhere or do something, I would fall back on that old stand-by of children and complain that other people's parents weren't so strict. Of course my parents would tell me the weren't other people's parents, they were my parents. They would tell me not to compare them to anyone else.

But, when the mood struck them, they would turn around and compare me to other kids. Kids who behaved the way their parents wanted them to behave. Kids who didn't have a penchant for mouthing off and questioning authority. Of course I saw the blatant hypocrisy in my parents' practice and I called them on it. And, promptly got told that I just didn't understand.

Bull feces. I understood just fine.

That said, adulthood has caused me to rethink many of the staunch positions of my youth. I've realized hypocrisy, or double standards, aren't as evil as I first suspected. Sometimes we have double standards because they actually make sense. Now those instances aren't as common as most people believe, but they do happen.

Recently a good fried of mine from college told me a story. He and another buddy of mine coach high school basketball, and are pretty successful. Anyway, they were leaving a game recently when they noticed something peculiar. A fairly attractive female assistant coach was giving one of the male players a ride home from the game.

Now some folks might not find this that unusual, after all, some kids need ride. But, men always notice what pretty women are doing, and my friends both thought it was strange to see this pretty woman on the sidelines and then shepherding a boy home. However, neither of them were too concerned about it.

Within the next few days the woman was being arrested as a child abuser. Turns out she was giving the basketball player more than one sort of ride.

Those of us who have been paying attention to the news in recent years know it's not unusual for a female authority figure to get picked up for engaging in naughty behavior with a teenage boy. And, we also know that the reaction from the public is quite different in those situation compared to when older men are caught preying on young girls. (Notice how I identified the female abuse as naughty behavior, but compared the male abuse to a predator stalking prey. Bet you missed that blatant double standard.)

The thing is, I don't have a serious problem with the fact that we treat men and women differently in this situation. Yes, I find the double standard slightly galling on the surface, but when I truly consider the issue I realize it makes sense. A teenage boy having sex with an adult woman is not the same as a teenage girl having sex with an adult male. The feelings, the power dynamic and the reaction from their peers are all different.

Speaking from experience, 15-year old boys are constantly plotting on ways to have sex with anyone who will let them. While young girls are typically thinking about love and babies, boys of the same age just want to ejaculate with a female human. Their feelings don't go much further than that.

I'm not saying it's impossible for a woman to abuse a young boy, it happens far too often. No, what I'm saying is that because of the differences in men and women, a teenage boy engaged in a sexual relationship with an older woman is not in the same sort of danger that a young girl would be in. I'm not saying these relationship are right, I'm just saying they often aren't abuse.

Sometimes double standards allow us to exercise common sense instead of just blindly following the rules. There is a difference between men and women robbing the cradle, just like there is a difference between male and female promiscuity. If you try to treat everybody the same all the time, you will make some horrible mistakes. Double standards are sometimes our way of doing the right thing, even if that means that some people get slighted.

True, people have abused double standards, but I'm realizing in my old age that people abuse everything. Besides, I'm not a big supporter of "fairness", I prefer "justice". Fairness seeks an unnatural balancing of the scales, while justice seeks to do what is right.

I'll stick with justice, even if that means embracing the occasional double standard.





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Raving Black Lunatic