Friday, May 28, 2010

Sometimes You Just Gotta Chalk It Up

First and foremost, I'm not one of those black folks who gets a couple of degrees, passes a few tests, and then thinks it's okay to condemn and denigrate the masses of black folks.

I don't launch into diatribes bemoaning the actions of "my people," nor do I get too bent out of shape regarding the typical human excesses that can be found in the black community. While I may complain about rap music "ruining the children" that is done half in jest because as a former voracious consumer of rap music, I know that its reach is limited if parents do their jobs. I say all this because without this disclaimer what I'm about to write might get me branded a lame hater.

I'm puzzled by General Ignorance.

Some of you might be wondering exactly what is "General Ignorance." In the past of I've written about "Arrogant Idiots" and regular readers know I skewer garden-variety ignorance in its myriad forms, but I don't think I've ever discussed "General Ignorance."

General Ignorance is spelling the word "hustle" like "hussle." It's spelling fabulous with an "O" and ludicrous without one. It's status updates on Facebook posted in all caps with cuss words. General Ignorance is embodied by women who think it's acceptable to wear sheer tights with no underwear to the club, and men who are perfectly comfortable with skin tight jeans around their hamstrings.

It's general, and it's ignorant.

I'm not just railing against popular culture and while I may be getting somewhat cranky in my old age, I don't think this is just a sign of me crossing over to the dark side. I refuse to become that type of old man.

I'm honestly just puzzled by these life choices. What goes on in the brain of these types of people? Why is misspelling obvious words cool, or funny? Why is dressing like a cheap prossie "sexy?" I mean, I used to sag, but why wear pants that are too short and too tight? This just seems silly.

And these aren't the only examples of general ignorance that I'm bothered by. Don't forget about racially-themed parties, or dressing up like Klan members and Nazis. Or dropping racial slurs in your everyday conversation like that just makes sense.

Can anybody explain General Ignorance? Is it simply a case of lacking home training, as the old folks would say? Are that many parents failing their children? If that's true, then we need to stop shaking our heads at the young people and start punching old people in the mouths!

Anyway, can y'all think of some examples of general ignorance that astound and puzzle you?







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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

What We See

A certain segment of the literary world is gearing up for the 50th year anniversary of the publishing of Harper Lee's famous novel To Kill a Mockingbird

Like many of you, I read this book as a child. I can't remember if it was part of my own summer reading list, or my brother's. I typically read all the books on my reading list before the first two weeks of summer were finished, then read all of his books. Then I read all of them all over again if they were any good.

When I read that Times article about the novel, along with the 1960s book review that is linked, I was struck, once again, by how differently we all see and experience the world. I was reminded that our worldviews are consistently shaped by our personal experiences and allegiances no matter how objective or unbiased we think ourselves to be.

When I think of "To Kill A Mockingbird" I don't think about the growth of Scout, like some folks, or about the mystery of Boo Radley. I don't think about the quiet dignity of Atticus Finch, or how Jem learned adult lessons.

I think of Tom. The disabled, hard-working black man who was abused and murdered because of prejudice, bigotry and the need to maintain white supremacy. I recognize those other issues, but ultimately my mind is dominated by what happened to Tom; how he suffered and died while the rest of the characters, no matter how venal, saw their lives go on. I haven't read the book in more than a decade, but I can still remember how disturbed I was by the image of Tom riddled with bullets clinging to a prison fence, and his young wife stuck with no husband and a baby to feed.

What springs to my mind when I think about this classic book in ultimately tied to how I view the world. In my world, the other characters and issues of the novel, no matter how central and endearing they were to others, are immaterial when compared to what Tom and his family endured. I really don't care about how Jem, Atticus and Scout saw their lives changed, I just care that Tom saw his life end.

When I was younger, this focus made it impossible for me to read the book more than once or twice because of the intense bitterness that welled up inside of me. I was distraught that everybody else moved on with their lives, lived in the same community and basically continued to live as if a grave injustice had not been done. It was too much for my young spirit to handle, and the reason why I remember specific details about Tom, but very little about everybody else.

But, my reaction is ultimately my reaction. The book inspires different feelings in different folks based on the lives they have lived before and after reading it. What I saw as fairly unimportant, other folks have found to be profoundly interesting. What I see as central, other folks see as important, but not really worth too much investigation. Most folks see "To Kill a Mockingbird" as tale that exposes the complex nature of racial interactions in the Deep South and I don't disagree. The book does that, while at the same time telling a compelling story about children learning what it means to be adults in America.

However, in my world the book is a re-telling of just how far my people have had to come. It relates one "small" injustice that for me exposes the prevalence of the larger injustice that was the daily life of black folks in the South. Tom's story isn't a solitary example of the justice system gone wrong, it's a cautionary tale of endemic problems that persist today. Problems reinforced by dozens of studies examining injustice in the legal system, and hundreds of stories of prisoners wrongly convicted.

Some folks read this book and see a good yarn, and interesting and engrossing story. I see life as it was, and as it still is for far too many people.

What do you see?












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Monday, May 24, 2010

Get Golden

My brother and I had our fair share of squabbles as children.

We weren't constantly fighting like some kids, but we had our moments of sibling strife. At times, those conflicts would even turn violent, although I always found it hard to hit my brother hard enough to truly  hurt him because, well, he's my brother.

Inevitably, our brotherly battles would lead to a conversation with our mother. She always hit us with the same line, no matter what we had been fighting about:

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

I can tell you that as a kid, the Golden Rule seemed pretty ridiculous. It just didn't make sense to go around doing nice things for other folks, or treating them with respect and kindness when far too often they were trying to treat me like crap. The biggest flaw I saw with the Golden Rule was that there was no guarantee that you would be rewarded for doing the right thing, and even as a child I could see how that was a raw deal.

To be honest, I took some of that attitude about the Golden Rule, and my flawed understanding of what it really means, into my marriage. Like many folks, I struggled with the concept of doing what God called me to do for my wife even if I felt like she wasn't holding up her end of the bargain. Hell, who am I kidding, I still struggle with that issue.

But, while thinking on God's plan for marriage recently, I had an epiphany about the Golden Rule.  See, I mistakenly believed that if I wanted my wife to do something for me, I had to do that same thing for her. I thought that if I treated her exactly how I would like to be treated I was fulfilling my responsibilities to her and God. But, while it's obvious that the Golden Rule is about reciprocity, I had the whole concept of what reciprocity means all screwed up.

Quite simply, its not about me, it's about you.

Many people in relationships think that if they treat their spouses or significant others the way they themselves would like to be treated, everything is fine. For example, my wife likes to go out, and she craves time alone away from me and the children. It's high on her list of priorities, and I try to give her that opportunity regularly.

In order to reciprocate, my wife is constantly urging me to take some time for myself, to go out to a movie, or hang out with friends. I do this occasionally, but I don't have nearly the same urge that she does to hit the streets. Therefore, when my wife gifts me with free time, it's far more valuable to her than it is to me. She feels she's making a serious sacrifice and providing me with something more valuable than gold, and I'm often thinking "meh."

I told my wife recently that in order for her to truly be following the Golden Rule, she would have to identify what it is in my life that I value as much as she values her free time. Then she would have to work to provide me with that just as I try to provide her with free time. (Of course this didn't go over so well, and my wife kindly pointed out all the ways I fail to adhere to the Golden Rule. But that's another story for another blog.)

I believe this is true for all relationships, and it's really changed the way I look at situations. It's not enough to treat people the way you want to be treated, it's more key to treat them the way THEY want to be treated. More of us need to challenge ourselves to see the world the way the people we claim to love see it. We have to understand what they value, and why they value it.

Once we do that, then we truly appreciate the impact of our actions. We will understand when our gestures are empty and when they have meaning. We have to commit to true sacrifices, not just sacrifices that make us feel like good people. Relationships, particularly marriages, demand that you "become one" with your partner, and you can never do that unless you're pushing yourself to step into the world as they see it. You can't fall back on the shallow mindset that  you're a "good person" or "good spouse" because you think you're good. You have to examine what the person you have bonded yourself to thinks of as good and use that as your measuring stick. And they should do the same for you.


Obviously, this is difficult and it can lead to abuse since some folks have unreasonable and unnatural demands. Satisfying those demands would only lead to heartache and pain. We all have to draw the line somewhere and we have to trust our own discretion on where that line should be.

But most of us have a lot of room to grow if we really want to live by the Golden Rule.

Whose Is It?





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Friday, May 21, 2010

Pay No Attention To The Man Behind the Curtain

Anti-immigration folks would have you believe that illegal immigrants are just an enormous drain on our resources and a source of violent crime.

Strangely, statistics show that it's pretty much a wash financially for communities with large illegal immigrant populations because of the economies these immigrants drive. And, a new study says that the old trope about immigrants and crime may be off-base as well.

I know what Mark Twain said about statistics, but this study is important nonetheless. It shows that not only did robberies and murders NOT increase in areas with an influx of immigrants, but they actually DECREASED. Now that is a surprise, right?

After all, isn't the standard complaint about illegal immigrants that they are a drain on communities and cause crime to skyrocket? Isn't that why folks believe they need armed militias and laws encouraging racial profiling? Haven't Americans been told it's all about their safety and well-being?

Lies, lies and damn lies.

It's funny how much of our worldviews are based on easily identifiable lies. We've been trained to ignore the truth hiding behind the curtain particularly if that truth would make our lives less enjoyable. Some of us don't even see the truth anymore because we've been trained so well.

It's like Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul refusing to see how private businesses refusing service based on the color of someone's skin was something that needs to be illegal. Or, how Mr. Paul can deem the BP oil spill an accident when all of the news coming out shows it was pretty much the result of gross negligence. It doesn't matter what's actually happening, it matters what the right people TELL you is happening.

Some folks have accused me of practicing that particular brand of self-delusion, particularly as it relates to my faith. That's fine, I can accept that criticism, and I can't deny that my belief system is based on faith. I don't ignore the issues folks have with Christianity, but I'm unapologetic about the choice I've made to believe. It works for me.

The thing is, I'm self-aware enough to recognize that fact while most folks don't see all the faith-based decisions in their own lives. Even more troubling, these people can't see how they allow their own faith to back them into irrational and dangerous positions all because they want to be believe that the Wizard of Oz is all-powerful, and not a stooped-back, white-haired, old man. They want to believe that the police are mainly a benevolent peace-keeping force and not a large gang running a complex protection scheme. They want to believe the folks being kept in prison truly belong there and aren't the victims of a massive scam to revitalize rural communities and provide contractors with cheap labor.

I guess it's comforting to be fed information that backs up the worldview you've chosen to embrace. It's like some people say they'd rather not know if their spouse is cheating on them because they prefer the comfortable illusion to the ugly reality. I'm not one of those people. I like to have all the information so I can make choices. That doesn't mean I treat all information equally, but I don't like it when folks withhold stuff from me because they think it's in my best interest.

I want a peek behind the curtain. Pull that sucker back.





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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Talking Loud

Why Black People Tend To Shout is an amazing book written by Ralph Wiley, one of the greatest and most underrated sportswriters of all-time, in my opinion.

I've read many of Wiley's books, and I was an avid reader of his column over at ESPN before his sudden death in 2004. I always loved reading what he had to say, even when I disagreed with him, because I felt like his thoughts mattered. They made me consider the world a little differently.

In "Why Black People Tend To Shout" Wiley uses humor, personal experiences and raw data to discuss why black folks tend to appear "aggressive." Why we raise our voices in joy, pain and anger. I recommend it those of you looking for a cool read.

I thought about black folks shouting when I read this story recently.

Some of you all may remember this story. I think it might have hit the scene right after either the Oscar Grant killing or the Sean Bell killing. Either way, it was one more example among too many similar incidents of police violence against young black men.

I've written about the relationship between black men and law enforcement many times in this space, and I'm sure I'll write about many times in the future.

Black folks in general are targeted by the police as a threat, but black men have a special bullseye on our backs. Thanks to the twin evils of racism and persistent black crime, many police officers view every black man as a potential suspect and probable threat. This default position inevitably leads to violence, even in situations when it's totally uncalled for by police.

We as black people know this. It's something that's taught to most of us the same way we're taught about tying our shoes and looking both ways before we cross the street. The dangers that the police present are as real as the dangers of drunk driving, and for most of us there are far fewer ways to protect ourselves from the police.

But this is not the reality of all Americans, and thus there is a disconnect when conversations about the police pop up in the public sphere. That disconnect was front and center when Arizona passed its new law encouraging the racial profiling of suspected illegal immigrants, and it always pops up whenever a black man dies at the hands of the police.

You have one group, the group in danger of being maimed and murdered by police, expressing suspicion and anger, while another group, the group that sees the police as protectors or a minor nuisance, brushing off that suspicion and anger.

And so, black folks, (and some brown folks), start talking loud. We tend to shout because sometimes it feels like that's the only way our point of view will be heard.

We tend to shout because sometimes it's the only way we can vent the frustration that could easily turn into violence, or mental health problems. We tend to shout because sometimes, occasionally, shouting works.

It's not because we just like the sounds of our voices or because we just want to make noise, it's because we want to be heard. We shout to say "Look at me! Look at what is happening in my life! Don't turn away."

But, shouting turns some folks off. It gets you labeled aggressive, obnoxious, a whiner, a crybaby, a loser. Shouting encourages shouting by other folks, folks with damaging messages and few scruples. Shouting may bring attention, but it can be attention from those seeking to destroy rather than rebuild.

But, I'm going to keep shouting. In my little corner of the massive Internet, I'll raise my voice whenever I feel like it.

Y'all gonna join me?

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Pool's Closed

A little less than a year ago, a racial incident in Pennsylvania captured the attention of a nice chunk of the American public.

The incident, which involved black and brown children from a day camp having their swimming privileges revoked at an all-white club, had all the elements that Americans love in their racial incidents these days.

Easily identifiable good guys and bad guys, a sniff of classism, and no serious injuries. Media groups had a field day with the story in the way that they rarely do with stories of Latinos being beaten to death by all-white gangs.

The incident, which ended with the swim club going bankrupt and being sold at auction, was seen by some as a throwback to a less-refined time in America's past. Other folks saw it as another example of black and brown folks butting in where they really aren't wanted.

While I was upset at the time, I've come to realize that I don't have much anger now.

It's not because I don't feel for those children, some of whom got introduced to racism, and others who got a reminder that the idea of a post-racial world is a pipe dream. I've had similar experiences as a child when I was treated harshly and differently because of my skin color and that always, ALWAYS hurts. But, beyond my sympathy for the children, I don't feel much else.

Like most discussions of racism these days, there was no depth to the competing opinions and newscasts, so ultimately the story had no real legs. Within a few weeks it was forgotten and nothing had been changed.

It's discouraging to see how often this plays out in our country. All of us get hot and bothered about outrageous incidents of racism, and fail to see how they fit into the bigger picture. We don't discuss the policies that led to this clash of cultures, we don't discuss the mindsets bred into the children on both sides. We just point our fingers and yammer away.

The wheel keeps spinning, and we keep finding new ways to distract ourselves.

For example, there was a big fuss about the fact that this private swim club didn't want poor black kids, but nobody ever questioned why these kids had to travel outside of the city to swim in the first place. That was just taken as normal.

I wondered why there were no public swimming options in Philly? Do city officials not realize that black kids like to stay cool in the summer and that studies have shown that giving children viable recreational opportunities can reduce violence?

Or how about the issue of "private clubs" in general. How many other private clubs are all white or damn near all-white? How many of them are all-black and all-brown?

Why is it that a nation so obsessed with "diversity" is so filled with people whose private lives tell a far different story? And, I'm not judging folks because I have to count as part of the problem since my private life is very monochromatic.

We all claim that we love everybody regardless of their race, and then as soon as we can we surround ourselves with folks who look like us. That cognitive dissonance explains private swim clubs, white flight and the hardcore segregation found in America on Sunday morning.

These issues are at the heart of racial issues in this country, yet they are rarely discussed. Most of us don't have any interest in discussing them, to be honest. That would require too much introspection, too much thinking and possibly, too much guilt. It's far easier to express shock that anyone could be so mean to little children in these modern times.

Why dive into the depths when floating on the surface takes much less effort?




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A Core Belief of Mine

Watch the video, it talks about a core belief of mine.



There, but for the grace of God, go I.

Wesley Moore decided to write a book about another young man who shared the same name as him, who grew up in his neighborhood and who didn't have a father. He wrote about the young man because while Wesley Moore was a college football player and Rhodes Scholar, Wes Moore was a Baltimore drug dealer and convicted cop killer.

Wesley wanted to see how the other Wes took such a different route in life. What he learned was what all intelligent black men should eventually learn. He found that the other Wes's life could have been his own if not for a few key divergences and decisions. He learned that the line between good and evil is tiny, just like the margin of error for black men.

And then, Clifford Harris, aka TI, reinforces that thought. Check out the interview with Larry King when you get a chance.





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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Hierarchy

We all have an internal hierarchy.

It is a personal grouping of our priorities that determines how we respond to individual situations. A simpler way to put it would be to say we all have a "code."

That code determines who or what we swear allegiance to first. For some folks that might be God, or country, or family, or friends. Our codes are how we sort through the morass of experiences we have as human beings.

Everybody has a code.

In fact, that's the problem. We all have different codes and different hierarchies.

For example, the first five spots on my general hierarchy look like this:

1. God
2. Family
3. Black
4. Male
5. American

(Three and four sometimes shift positions.)

Within each of those five categories there are several subsets, but that basic structure determines how I approach situations and how I decide where my allegiance lies in any given situation. If there is a conflict between being black and being American, I'm going to side with being black 99 percent of the time.

Now some folks might find that disturbing. I've had folks get upset when they learn I don't say the pledge of allegiance. It bothers them deeply and they see it as a personal affront. In their minds, I owe America my allegiance despite this country's failure to uphold the words of the pledge. Besides, if I dislike the country that much, I should just get up and leave.

As an aside, that sentiment has always puzzled me. The whole concept of "If you don't like it you can leave" seems asinine. Is that how most people live their lives? When they have a problem on the job, in their marriage, with their kids, do they just get up and leave? What does that say about them? Is that an admirable trait?

Everyday I find myself clashing with folks because of our different hierarchies. We have different priorities, and therefore different goals. We have disparate ideas about what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior. They don't like my hierarchy and I'm not too fond of theirs.

I tend to spend quite a bit of time pondering why there is so much conflict in the world. Is it greed, or just a byproduct of survival? Do humans clash so often because we can't really understand each other, or because we understand each other too well?

Maybe it's all about our hierarchies. We can't get along because of our clashing allegiances. Even when we have the same allegiances it doesn't solve the problem.

How often do Americans fight with Americans over what is truly in the best interest of America? Can't you say the same about black folks? Or married couples?

Sadly, while I can see the problem, I can't see the solution. People will always seek to coerce others, while at the same time fighting against coercion. Most of our hierarchies will never truly mesh, and when they don't, some folks will always see that as a problem. Unfortunately, they'll also believe that they should not have to make any changes to correct the problem.

It's quite the morass.



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Monday, May 10, 2010

Tears Of A Clown

I'm pretty much over the standard racism apologies.

Whether it's the perfunctory news conference with a non-apologetic apology to "those who might have been offended" or the tearful kiss the ring deal where blubbering and remorse are plentiful, I'm through with the whole scene. It doesn't move me, it doesn't placate me and it damn sure doesn't convince me.

I've written before about pointless apologies and my feelings remain constant. If you're only sorry because you got reamed out and attacked for your choices, then I really don't care about your apology. If you're only sorry that your actions now have serious consequences for YOU, instead of being worried about the consequences for others, then what do the words "I'm sorry" really mean.

My wife and I had a discussion on this very topic recently, and I promise you it wasn't a pleasant one. I was trying to explain to her that I don't consider "I'm sorry" some sort of magic balm that heals all wounds. The pain and the grievance remain no matter how often you apologize, and there are consequences for causing that pain. However, by saying "I'm sorry" you are at least acknowledging that you are the cause of the pain and your remorse for filling that role. At least that's the hope.

The thing is, some folks don't even mean that when they say "I'm sorry." Many folks see "I'm sorry" as a magic antidote for their eff-ups, almost like life is a giant Etch-A-Sketch and saying "I'm sorry" is like shaking the screen. They think that once they utter those two magic words, everybody should move on with their lives as if nothing happened.

Other folks don't even want to say "I'm sorry." They, rightfully, view an apology as an admission of guilt and since they believe their actions were justified, no matter how heinous they might appear to others, they don't feel they are guilty of anything. Thus they either refuse to apologize, or they issue the sort of apologies that admit to nothing.

You see those types of apologies from politicians, police officers, racists and, honestly, pretty much everybody in the world. Because all of us are guilty of issuing crappy apologies when we are just saying the words to cover our butts. Many of us issue apologies not because we feel remorse, but because we'd rather avoid the consequences of our actions.

That's why I titled this blog "Tears of a Clown." When you shed tears during an apology it should be because you recognize the hurt you've caused others. You recognize the wrong you've done them and your spirit grieves because of that.

You shouldn't be crying because you're worried about just how rough things are going to get for you, and that's the distinct feeling I get from most folks. They aren't worried about how their actions impacted anyone else's life, they're only worried about how they impact their own.

Clowns.







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Spoonful of Sugar

Y'all remember that Mary Poppins song?

I used to watch that movie every day in after-school care. I can't tell you how many times I watched that little British nanny transform the lives of those children before flying off into the sunset. Other than Charlotte's Web, that's probably my most watched movie of all-time. (I know, I have more layers than an onion.)

I started thinking about the Poppins' song when I read this story about the overall optimism of some black youth. The story notes that black youth, despite typically having more difficult home situations than their white counterparts, tend to have a more optimistic view of the future, particularly since the election of President Obama.

Now, I'm sure this survey did not include many of the cats caught in the absolute worse situations in the black community. I would wager those cats don't see a rosy future for themselves no matter who is the president.

But, that doesn't mean the survey is completely bunk. Nah, I think that many black people, in contrast to the popular stereotype of us as whining babies, are pretty optimistic about the world, although that doesn't prevent us from acknowledging that it's still pretty effed up.

Look, if our history has taught black folks anything, it's that dwelling on the worst aspects of a situation is counterproductive and debilitating. Therefore, we often adopt an attitude that sees a silver lining in the most dark clouds. I'm not saying we're always spewing sunshine and dandelions, but we do tend to have faith that things are going to turn around at some point. How else can you explain the accomplishments of black folks during the dark periods of American history? (Which, for the record, includes the entire of history of America. It's all been dark for somebody.)

Simply put, black folks create our own spoonfuls of sugar.

I'm happy to hear these young people are still doing that, although I am a bit disturbed that they've invested so much of their hope and confidence in President Obama. It's not that I don't like dude, but he is a politician and this is America. Inevitably Obama will disappoint them, and I worry that their young minds may not be able to process that disappointment and still understand how stay motivated and focused. I've seen far too many young folks lose their drive and confidence because an adult they idolized disappointed them.

But, that's a worry for another day.

Today, I'm celebrating the fact that these kids have found some sugar to help the medicine of life go down a little easier. Here's hoping things stay sweet.








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Friday, May 7, 2010

Stigma

Here's the current conundrum I'm pondering.

It's a given, that for white people, being called a racist is one of the worst things that can happen to them in today's society. I once wrote about this phenomenon, and recently, a Tea Bagger, I mean Tea Party member, agreed with me.

We don't want the worst elements to take this over," said Brendan Steinhauser, campaign director for FreedomWorks, a national group that helps coordinate tea party activists. "If they do, the tea party loses independents, it loses moderates, it loses people who don't tolerate this. Being a racist is one of the worst things you can be in this society. No one wants to be labeled this."


I think we can all agree that white folks dread the R-word like Latinos dread traffic stops in Arizona. They consider it the nuclear option.

The thing is, white people's fear of being labeled a racist often makes them less likely to call other white people's actions racist. My theory is that many white folks have narrowed the definition of racism because it makes it less likely that they will ever have to think of themselves, their friends or their family members as racist.

This is a byproduct of a national campaign to make certain types of racism seem horrible. We've all seen the videos from the Civil Rights movement, and watched Roots, and it's quite difficult to find a white person today who will say that what happened during Jim Crow and slavery was acceptable.... Well, outside of Virginia. They typically understand that joining the Klan and calling somebody a nigger makes you a bad person.

That stigma, while limited, has helped end some of the most egregious affronts to black Americans. It's no longer considered polite to behave a certain way in public, although private events are a different story. White folks' shame has led them to avoid certain behaviors, which has made life easier for black folks.

So, the question I'm currently considering is: "Was it the right move?"

Was the shame-based approach to lessening racism the right decision?

On one hand, you have the obvious benefits of the stigma attached to being labeled a "racist." People avoid those behaviors because they don't want to feel the shame and ostracization.

Unfortunately, the behaviors associated with racism by white folks in no way encompass the totality of the problem. Plus, white folks now have a vested interest in refusing to expand their definitions of racism because that way THEY can avoid being classified as racists.

What to do, what to do...

Honestly, I don't have a solution. I'm just thinking about it. Do the benefits of the stigma outweigh the side effects of a shame-based approach to combating racism?

Have black folks gained more from the shame than they lose from the fact that white folks will do anything to avoid feeling that shame, including limiting the definition of racism so much that the most problems for black folks are ignored.

What do y'all think?

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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Just One More Hit Of That "H"

Pull that belt

Tap that vein

Ease a little in, take a little blood out, then bang it all the way.

Now you're riding the "H" Train baby, don't it feel good?


There seems to be a strong sentiment in Congress that the only constitutional right suspected terrorists have is the right to bear arms.

“I think you’re going too far here,” said Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina at a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday. He was speaking in opposition to a bill that would keep people on the F.B.I. terrorist watch list from buying guns and explosives.

Say what?

Yes, if you are on the terrorist watch list, the authorities can keep you from getting on a plane but not from purchasing an AK-47. This makes sense to Congress because, as Graham accurately pointed out, “when the founders sat down and wrote the Constitution, they didn’t consider flying.”

The subject of guns turns Congress into a twilight zone. People who are perfectly happy to let the government wiretap phones go nuts when the government wants to keep track of weapons permits. A guy who stands up in the House and defends the torture of terror suspects will nearly faint with horror at the prospect of depriving someone on the watch list of the right to purchase a pistol....

The Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing on “Terrorists and Guns: The Nature of the Threat and Proposed Reforms,” concerned a modest bill sponsored by Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey. It would allow the government to stop gun sales to people on the F.B.I. terror watch list the same way it does people who have felony convictions. Because Congress has repeatedly rejected this idea, 1,119 people on the watch list have been able to purchase weapons over the last six years. One of them bought 50 pounds of military grade explosives


Oooh, nothing feels better than hypocrisy. That "H" is better than heroin.

So we can take away citizenship, but not guns.

Gotcha.



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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

That "H" Word Again

On the car bomb guy in Times Square Joe Liberman says:

I think it's time for us to look at whether we want to amend that law to apply it to American citizens who choose to become affiliated with foreign terrorist organizations, whether they should not also be deprived automatically of their citizenship, and therefore be deprived of rights that come with that citizenship when they are apprehended and charged with a terrorist act.


Big Man wonders why it has to be "foreign terrorist organizations"?

Do the homegrown terrorist organizations practice a brand of terrorism that is less dangerous or repugnant? Have they gone "Green" or something?

Shouldn't we strip them of their citizenship as well?

Or would that impact the wrong people?

And why are we depriving folks of citizenship based on apprehension and accusation? Is "beyond a reasonable doubt" now passe?

Hypocrisy makes you stupid.

Remember that.


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Monday, May 3, 2010

Hold Up, Don't Go There

As part of my growth as a man and Christian, I'm really working on not expressing every opinion that comes into my head.

Seriously, I am.

Folks who knew me as a youngster could tell you all kids of stories about some of the rude and crass things I said and did. Honestly, when I think about that phase in my life, I'm quite embarrassed and I wonder why I was so obnoxious. Who knows?

In my quest to reform, I've been trying to let stupid people be stupid. That's a big task in today's world, but I've decided that it's not my job to always expose the stupidity of others and force them to confront and acknowledge it. I don't have to open people's eyes. If they would rather be blind, then I'll save my light for those wishing to see.

(That sounded kind of arrogant, but y'all know what I meant.)

But, I must admit that sometimes it's hard to keep my resolve. Just recently, a friend of mine told me a story that had me seriously considering how I would have reacted in his shoes, and to be honest, I think some of the old Big Man would have come out.

My homie was at a social gathering talking to this chick we both knew in college. The woman was going on and on about the depravity and uselessness of men, and my boy was pretty much letting her vent. Sometimes sisters just need that ear, you know?

Anyway, he said he was cool as she went through her long-winded tale of how some dude didn't make a move on her even when she pretty much threw the cooch at him. She was heated that the same cat later complained that he couldn't really tell that she was digging him. The dude said she should have just told him she was interested if she really wanted something to pop off.

Apparently the woman was upset by this. I guess she felt that it was the man's job to decipher her feelings and make the first move. Y'all know how women be on that selective chivalry and old-fashioned values kick in these modern times. They don't want everything the "old way" just the stuff they like.

Anyway, this woman couldn't believe that the dude tried to pass that onus to her. I don't really know how she handled the cat that "wronged" her, but she decided to let my friend know that his fellow penis bearer's behavior was symptomatic of a larger deficiency in men. So she said:

"Men of your generation are cowards."

(Record scratch)

What did she say?

See, I really hate when men or women make blanket negative statements about the opposite gender. It's not that I'm innocent of this practice, it's just that when I make my generalizations they are always correct and based solely on stringent research and careful consideration... Lol. Yeah right.

But, I really am irked when people make what I deem stupid comments about the opposite sex. Saying that men of my generation (My friend and I were born six days apart) are all cowards is just ridiculous.

It's particularly ridiculous when the woman making the comment has admitted that she feels this way because a dude she was digging didn't smash while she slept over in his bed.

I've heard too many stories from women about how they slept over with a dude, but didn't really want to do anything. It seems like in these modern times, an opposite gender bedmate isn't a guarantee of lovemaking.

Plus, as a man who has refused to make the first move on a chick sleeping in his bed because he didn't want to cede power to her, I can understand why dude held up. Sometimes you gotta lay ground rules if you want the relationship to operate on the correct wavelength.

But, before I go off on a tangent about the craziness inherent in relationships let me focus on this woman's comment and my friend's reaction. My homie bit his tongue initially, but her comment irked him quite a bit, and eventually he let this woman know that maybe her difficulties with men were due to one common factor: her.

Of course, she didn't take kindly to this observation, blew up and made a scene. Now I chastised my boy for expressing himself honestly because as every man learns early, women hate when you tell them that their problems are because of them. But, I had to admit that I would have been hard pressed not to tell the woman the exact same thing.

See, there are some lines folks shouldn't cross in conversation. You really shouldn't go about insulting entire genders, races, religions and the like. It's unseemly and it's almost like an invitation to a verbal or physical battle. I don't understand how this woman could presume to call my friend a coward, and then get upset when he made an equally personal observation about her.

I'm bothered by people who say offensive stuff, and then have the nerve to get upset when people respond with anger and frustration. Seriously, this chick tells a red-blooded man that all men of his generation are "cowards" and she doesn't think that's going to cause some friction? Clearly she actually believed her own hype. She actually thought that just because she says something, it must be fact, and all men should take it as such. Sorry, that ain't happening with a man with fully descended testicles.

I remember in a media law class I learned that there are certain words that are exceptions to free speech and if you say them you can't fall back on free speech if you get pummelled. I'm not saying this woman should have been beaten, but I'm saying she really should have put some more thought into her comments before she made them. Particularly if she was extra sensitive about folks offering her unsolicited, blunt opinions about her life choices and habit. It's really quite simple. If you don't want to get your feelings hurt, follow one easy rule:

Just don't go there folks.









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Saturday, May 1, 2010

Know What? Eff Arizona.

Not only do these desert dwellers using an unacceptable amount of our water resources pass a bill that encourages the racial profiling of Latinos, but they turn around and pass this bill as well.

That bill bans ethnic studies programs because they apparently promote separatism and resentment. The bill's creator doesn't want ethnic studies taught because they encourage revolution against America, and aren't consistent with Martin Luther King's dream of a character-based society.

You gotta be kidding me.

First, if we're banning ethnic studies that promote resentment and separatism, then I'm guessing American History is next on the chopping block.

Because, while I haven't seen many Latinos advocating for a separate state, I have seen a whole bunch of white, Tea Party folks calling for Texas to secede, and arguing for armed revolution. Matter of fact, those folks seem quite full of resentment, and they've even used HISTORY to justify their claims.

But, I won't hold my breath waiting for a law banning American History, or rather, White History courses. For some reason, I doubt the law's creators can recognize the connection.

Not only does this law highlight just how much cognitive dissonance there is in this country, it also highlights how thouroughly Dr. King's message has been co-opted and twisted in our time. You have to hand it to conservatives, those cats are masters of spin and outright lies.

To posit that Dr. King would be in favor of a law banning ethnic studies because of his "I Have a Dream" speech takes a special set of balls and blinders. You have to ignore all context for King's speech, you have to ignore all the other speeches he made, and you to have lack a moral compass to make that argument. It would be mind-boggling if I wasn't talking about conservative white folks.

They will say and do anything.

What really bugs me is that this law caters to the idea of a black and brown bogeyman, while ignoring the white insurgents right in front of our eyes. This law basically advocates that we need to limit the information granted to coloreds and prevent them from congregate in numbers because they are clearly planning an insurrection even if we have no proof. This despite the fact that we have tons of proof that white folks want revolitions RIGHT NOW!

The truth is, ethnic studies courses were created because white folks did a horrible job covering the contributions and experiences of people of color in America. Most folks get a very white-washed version of how this country's history in our elementary, high school and college classes. This version of history reinforces the concept of white folks as a force of good all over the world, and downplays the evil done in the name of white superiority. Ethnic studies programs typically explode that lie.

It's funny that the immigration bill has garnered so much attention that the ethnic studies bill is sorta flying below the radar. Nobody's noticed a bill that in my opinion is just as dangerous and racist. Remember that old maxim:

Those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it.




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Raving Black Lunatic