Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Hola Luiz

There is bringing the heat, and then there is this:

Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on Thursday blamed the global economic crisis on “white people with blue eyes” and said it was wrong that black and indigenous people should pay for white people’s mistakes.

Speaking in Brasília at a joint press conference with Gordon Brown, the UK prime minister, Mr Lula da Silva told reporters: “This crisis was caused by the irrational behaviour of white people with blue eyes, who before the crisis appeared to know everything and now demonstrate that they know nothing.”

For the unfamiliar, I wrote about the initial attempts by conservatives to deflect the blame for the financial meltdown from themselves to black folks. If you're interested, you can check out that piece here. There has been a serious move by the right to assert that the credit crisis could have been averted if bankers hadn't been forced to stop discriminating against minorities. Of course this ignores the reality of the sub-prime crisis, but we're talking about Republicans, when have they been concerned with reality?

Anyway, Brazil's president apparently has heard the same complaints I've heard, and homie decided it was time to speak out, forcefully. His quote speaks for itself, and I'm still chuckling at his willingness to single out the white folks with blue eyes. He must have been listening to some old Malcolm X tapes before he gave his press conference.

I think Mr. Lula said what's been on most of our minds. Not so much with the color issue, but with the idea that the people who created this current crisis need to bear the brunt of its backlash, not the rest of us. I can't blame the crisis on all the blue-eyed white people, I'm sure some of y'all with green and brown eyes caused problems too...Joking... But, I can say with certainty that the pain of the economic downturn is falling disproportionately on the poor and working class,
particularly when you consider that those folks really did not get to benefit too much when times were more rosy.

I know Obama has urged Americans to avoid playing the blame game and instead focus on solutions. I think that's admirable. But, I must admit there is a part of me that still wants the folks who caused this economic pain through their greed and corruption to be punished. I thought all the strum and dram over the AIG bailouts was stupid, but I could understand the sentiment behind it. When things go
this badly, we all want somebody to pay the piper.

So, while I cringed a little at President Lula's words, I also had to smile. It's not often you hear the leader of a major country, particularly one with a good relationship with America and Europe, say something inflammatory about white folks. Plus, given Brazil's own racial history and problems, Lula's willingness to cast the blame on the fair skinned folks is a pretty big departure.

Now, I know some folks will complain that if the situation had been reversed and some politician complained that black folks were ruining the world, I'd be pissed. They'll complain that this is proof of my racial double standard.

They might be right.

But, I'd be liar if I didn't admit that I nodded along to Lula's assertions about the state of the world.

Buenos Dios El Presidente.


Monday, March 30, 2009

That Man/Woman Thing, Part 1

One of my best friends is a woman.

In fact, I have quite a few female friends, and I probably speak to them more often than I do my male friends. It's not that I'm one of the those super sensitive cats who women love. Truthfully, I'm a little old school in my mindset, but new school in my abilities. So, I might think women should be able to cook and clean, but I married a woman who does neither.

It's complicated.

I started thinking about men and women, and how we interact after reading an interesting post over at the blog This May Concern You. The post was about Steve Harvey and his hugely popular new book that encourages women to raise their standards, but also start thinking like men.

I know, I know, that sounds impossible.

After checking out that blog, I read another blog where a young lady really ripped Steve Harvey a new one after distilling his message to something a bit more crass and a lot more funny. What she heard from Harvey was this: "You sluts need to slow down..."

I haven't read Harvey's book, so I can't speak to his motives or his true message. What I do know is that there is definitely a disconnect between what men think about sex and what women think we think about sex. The whole idea that men and women are from different planets is an old saw, but the truth is that we're not just from different planets, we're from different galaxies.

The simple truth is that the vast majority of men and women do not view the act of copulation the same. Of course this isn't exactly a revelation from heaven, but despite the fact that most of us are aware of this truth, we keep having the same problems in relationships. I'm going to use some generalizations to make my next few points, and I hope that doesn't turn some of y'all off. (Also, my first advice is to hold off on sex until marriage, but since most folks aren't going to do that, I have some other advice for y'all.)

Many men view sex as something to be acquired, something to grasp and then discard when we no longer desire it. We don't necessarily see it as a deeper communion. Sex can be just the act of intercourse and we don't even have to care about the person we're doing it with. Often, it's just an itch we scratch, and then move on to something else.

Some women feel the same way about sex, but most don't. Most of them see sex as a destination, a reward doled out for good behavior. Sex is something you earn, and once you've put in the work to earn it, that's proof that you must have some deeper feelings about the person you spent all that time with. Women can have sex with people they don't particularly like, but they usually don't have fulfilling sex with people they don't like. And they don't have sex for long with people they don't like.

So, what's my point? Well, when Steve Harvey tells women to hold off on sex for three months, he's actually giving y'all good advice. However, it's not good advice for the reasons he thinks it's good advice.

Having sex quickly doesn't make a woman a slut. But, when a man has sex with a woman before developing a real connection with her, it's unlikely that a connection will ever develop. Women have to understand that once a man beds you, he's already accomplished a major goal in his relationship with you. To many women, sex represents the start of something major, to many men, sex represents the end of something major.

I think most women should have a set amount of time to wait before they have sex because that gives them a better opportunity to accurately assess the intentions of the man they are seeing. True, mistakes can and will be made no matter what, but I think more time means more chances to see a person's true character.

Now, I don't think women should announce to the world that there is a standard waiting period for their panties because this just makes men be on their best behavior until the drawers drop. Men are devious like that. Don't let us know how long we have to work, just let us keep working.

Ultimately, every relationship is different and everyone must decide on their own how long is sufficient for them to wait to become intimate with another person. But, I think everyone needs to establish an overarching standard that they apply to everyone because that simplifies the process. It just makes sense to me.

Part Two will discuss the disconnect between logic and emotions.


Friday, March 27, 2009

Where We Stand

I think now is a good time to take stock.

I began this blog in January 2008. In the past 15 months, I've written 366 blog posts of varying lengths and on a wide range of topics. I've done some work I'm proud of, and I've done some work I'm not so proud of. But, I've definitely done quite a bit of work.

A few months ago, I talked to y'all about changes at the blog. I'd received a directive from my employer that meant I needed to move away from discussions of politics and political tactics, and I wanted to alert y'all. Since that time, I haven't written much about politics, unless it crosses over into the racial arena. After all, if I can't write about race, well might as well shut down the blog.

Anyway, since I've given up on politics this blogging thing has gotten a little more difficult. Without the daily political grind to depend on, I've had to work a little harder to discover something interesting to say most days, and honestly, I feel like I haven't done my best work.

So, even though I have some impending life changes that may make dedicating more time to the blog difficult, I pledge to improve. I pledge to challenge myself more in the topics I choose, and I pledge to shed some of the fear I've developed of offending my loyal readers.

I think the people who read this blog regularly do so because I have something to say. I appreciate the interest and I see it as a trust that I will continue to be honest, thoughtful and provocative in my writing. I am rededicating myself to this charge, and I hope that all of you will hold me accountable if I fail to live up those standards.

Thanks again for reading.


I'm Still Here

I haven't gone anywhere, just been busy. Have had access to a computer for a while.

I'll have something new up either later today or Saturday.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

My Bad

I have to apologize.

See, I want to use this blog as a space for honest discussions on race and life in general, and that means I need to apologize when I don't hold up my end of the bargain. Sure, I've written a lot about both of those topics, but it's inexcusable that I allowed The Atlantic's recent Obama cover to get past.

For those of y'all unaware of the cover, I've provided a handy picture below.

Once again, my bad.

Oh yeah....


Let's see here...We have a black and white background, a massive shot of President Obama's face, and a headline screaming "The End of White America?"

Hmmm... When exactly did they expect the race riots to begin?

I understand that magazines need provocative covers to move units. Yes, I know that everybody is capitalizing on Obama's popularity. Finally, I can see the big question mark at the end of the headline, so I know it's not really saying that President Obama represents the apocalypse for white people.

But, come on. Are they serious?

This is the kind of thing where the media provides crazy people with a loaded .357 magnum and then acts surprised when random folks get killed. This cover is that magnum for the racists and fear mongers in this country. Sure, they would be racist no matter what the Atlantic did, but dammit this only makes it easier for them to recruit the stupid.

I don't care that the article is about the changing demographics of America. I don't care that it's just talking about statistics and how some white people feel about those statistics. What it's really about is the notion that the election of a black President means that the final bastion of white power has disappeared and white folks should be afraid. They should be very afraid. This cover tells us a lot about the mindsets of folks at the Atlantic. It tells us about how they view the world, and how they view the correct power dynamics in this country.

This cover reinforces the idea that white people represent the "true America" and that something is wrong with America when white people aren't in total control. The Atlantic editors would deny that premise, but they'd be lying. This cover is just as irresponsible as the Time Magazine cover featuring OJ that made him darker.

Anyway, I needed to apologize for not alerting y'all to this ridiculous B.S. sooner. I've been busy and I've been slipping, but I will be back on the grind soon enough.

That is all.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Bitter Is, As Bitter Does

The preacher at my church talked about bitterness on Sunday.

His sermon came from the 12th Chapter of Hebrews and he was basically discussing how bitterness corrupts our lives. It was definitely the right sermon at the right time for me.

When you think about race as much as I do, it's easy to become bitter. It's easy to become disenchanted and very easy to get frustrated at the willful ignorance of some people. I'm not saying that there hasn't been progress in this country, but I think the progress has been overstated in many cases. Moreover, I think people are far too consumed with patting themselves on the back, and are missing out on the opportunity to really finish the job.

What did Chris Rock say about expecting praise for what you're SUPPOSED to do?

But, no matter what shortcomings I see in the world, I have to remind myself to guard against bitterness and cynicism. Bitterness can sour us on the world and it prevents us from enjoying good things. There have been times in my life when I've allowed bitterness about past racism to prevent me from establishing relationships with white people. There have been times when I've let bitterness become resentment, and it's affected all of my relationships.

It's hard to guard against bitterness, particularly when we believe our indignation is righteous. If we think we've truly been wronged, we can hold on to that anger until it consumes and ultimately destroys us. But, God encourages us to practice forgiveness, and even if you don't believe in God, I think forgiveness cleanses the soul's palate, and allows us to taste anew life's vigor.

Guard your heart against bitterness because it serves no good purpose. Protect your relationships from resentment because it will only destroy them. Practice forgiveness because only it can bestow true freedom on your life.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Recession Mojo

How is it hanging?

I just read a comment from a reader over at Andrew Sullivan's blog about something that made me think. The reader was a date coach, you know somebody who helps other guys score with women, and he said that the recession has made some men desperate for a woman. The guy said that he's making money hand over fist because some cats were willing to drain their bank accounts to convince him to teach them how to bag some honeys.


I then read this article which discussed how to "recession proof" your marriage. The article said that couples have to be even more aware of each other during tough economic times because it's easy to get off track in relationships when the other concerns of life are beating down on you.

So now I'm wondering...

What's your recession mojo like?

Now that's going to make some of y'all pause. After all, who do I think I am getting all up in y'all's business, particularly the business of the bedroom. I'll admit that this isn't the sort of topic I typically discuss on this blog, but I wanted a conversation starter.

It's obvious being broke changes the way we as human beings interact with each other. Domestic abuse goes up during tough economic times, as does random violent crime. When people are struggling they get mean, and mean people suck as lovers.

Trust me, I know.

But, despite the fact that an economic downturn typically makes staying in love more difficult, I'm not really shocked that more people seem to want somebody to love. I'll admit that I'm making a small leap of faith in assuming that people want love and not cheap, meaningless sex, but I think that's a pretty safe bet.

See, there's nothing like having a significant other in your corner when the world goes all topsy-turvy. Hard times just seem harder when you're out there in the world alone with no support system. Even if your support system eats the last bit of Cinnamon Toast Crunch and only leaves you a swallow of orange juice in the jug, they are still your support system. Tyler Perry will probably make millions from his movie "I Can Do Bad All By Myself", but most of us would rather have somebody to struggle along with us.

Unfortunately, while we may want somebody in our lives, the extra stress of making do in a recession can make it hard to keep somebody in our lives. So, I've decided to give y'all three surefire ways to keep the fires of love burning, even when the repo man is lurking.

1. Use Everything

I know it's hard to aroused when the mortgage is late and the credit card debt is building, but everybody knows intimacy keeps a relationship strong. Instead of letting the unfortunate realities of recession life sap your mojo, flip the script.

If you and your special someone are into role playing, how about adding the "bill collector" and the "desperate debtor" to your cast. While you and your lover are working out a payment plan for those outstanding bedroom debts, you won't even notice that the electric company has cut off the lights. If the foreclosure proceedings go too far, don't fret, you and your baby can relive high school with a little backseat bumping and grinding.

2. Downsize Your Desires

Look, I know that back when money was actually worth something, you wouldn't be caught dead going on a "date" to a fast food restaurant. Sure, you'd stop in on the way home from work, but when you and your significant other actually went on a date, you went somewhere with waiters and cloth napkins.

But, as the world has changed, so should your standards. Don't feel disgusted that your hubby now thinks splitting a number two is an acceptable night on the town. Instead, of taking him to task, show him that special trick you learned with a hot fry and a ice cube. Just don't tell him who you learned it from.

3. Love Don't Cost a Thing

While my first two suggestions were a little tongue-in-cheek, this one is completely serious. Letting your significant other know you care about them doesn't require a bunch of money. It requires time, effort and creativity.

Sure, money makes things easier, but who promised you life would be easy? I know I didn't. Don't let life's burdens weigh you down so much that you don't have the time or inclination to hold your lover's hand, or cuddle with them on the couch. Don't spend so much time worrying about your bills, that you forget that the most valuable things in all of our lives have nothing to do with Ben Franklin or George Washington.

Love is free, be generous with it.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Rubber and Glue

"I'm rubber and you're glue, whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you..."

I remember using that comeback on folks during my younger years. It was a favorite weapon on the playground that was always a lot easier to wield than my fists. Of course, looking back I can see how wack and trite my response was, but at the time, it seemed like the perfect zinger.

Rubber and glue.

Some of my conversations with folks remind me of that rubber and glue insult. Whether it be talks about race, religion or love, it seems like a lot of folks just let my thoughts bounce off of them. It doesn't matter how well I word my arguments, or how tight my logic may be, some folks will always be rubber.

I told a friend of mine recently, that you can always identify rubber folks by how they deal with challenges to their assertions. If you refute their comments, instead of them acknowledging that they were wrong, they just throw out another false assertion and challenge you to debunk it. In fact, they will always have lies and half-truths to lob at you. Worst of all, even if you prove every assertion false, they will use those same arguments with someone else because they figure that person won't be smart enough to prove them wrong.

Eventually, rubber folks bog you down. They make you want to avoid heated discussion because it seems like a no-win situation. I've met rubber folks on the job, in school and even in relationships. At some point, their rubber mentalities act as a sort of glue that gets you stuck in a rut. If you're not careful, rubber folks can make you a pretty sucky person to be around.

There are many approaches to combating people with a rubber mentality, and all of us know what works best for our personality. For me, I use a combination of ignoring folks and forcing them to acknowledge my rhetorical victories. I've decided that if someone won't acknowledge when I've won an argument, then I'll ignore them until they do. It's not always satisfying, but it's typically less stressful.

Whatever makes the rubber hit the road...


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Can I Still Laugh?

Things have been a little serious around here.

Sure, I try to pack a little humor into every post, but a lot of my recent topics have been kind of serious. In fact, when I look at my life these days, I tend to be serious a lot more than I was a few years ago.

Now some of that is just the natural maturing process. At a certain point, fart jokes, semen jokes and general stupidity lose some of their luster. Plus, I have a son now, and that means watching my behavior and my humor to make sure I don't lead him down the wrong path.

But, sometimes I wonder if my sense of humor has atrophied. I seem to find so few things funny, particularly things that make other people bust a gut. Jokes that traffic on common stereotypes about white people, black people, Asians or Hispanics seem so trite. I often find myself explaining to people exactly why their jokes aren't funny, which is always a mood killer.

This kinda bums me out.

I used to be funny. Actually, people still tell me that I'm hilarious on occasion. But, I've started to feel guilty that so many of my jokes depend on dirty language or crude jesting. It makes me feel like I'm failing in my mission to lead a Christian life because I'm not always certain God would approve of my topics of conversation.

It feels like I'm trying to forge a path where I can still jest and joke, but without the crudeness and foulness that has dominated my humor in the past. The funny thing is, while it's hard for me to let go of those old types of humor when it comes to my actions, I've already let go of them when it comes to what I actually find funny in other people. I can still appreciate Eddie Murphy's "Delirious," but it's getting harder and harder.

And let's not even discuss this new "snark" movement which seems to be comedy based on the assumption of superiority. That doesn't work for me because I'm constantly trying to remind myself that I'm not superior. I don't want to be better than other people, I just want to be a better version of me.

Anyway, this post went in a totally different direction than I planned. Originally I wanted to discuss the fact that we all need to lighten up and find the humor in the world around us. Instead, I've managed to find even more reasons to be serious and gloomy.

Can anybody offer me some help?


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Talking About the Bogeyman

Deacon Blue raised a good point in the comments section of one of my posts last week.

He described a situation where his wife explained to him a problem she had with a store clerk, and told him her difficulties were because of racism, pure and simple. Deacon, while acknowledging that race might have been an issue, said it could have just as easily been several other things that led to her bad experience.

Deacon Blue got his ass handed to him.

Now, I know I don't have many white readers, but some of y'all do like to lurk. Anyway, I can understand that it is tough establishing interracial relationships, platonic or romantic, given the racial baggage that black and white people carry with them. For white people, I imagine it seems like you're learning a whole new way to view the world.

While trying to gain this new perspective, you may feel like there is little room for error on your part. It may seem like if you challenge your black friends when they complain about racism, or if you say something that might be a little insensitive, you instantly lose all of your racial brownie points and start over again as just another white person. That has to hurt, and it probably seems a little unfair.

I feel your pain.

That's why I wanted to talk to you about the proper way to confront black people when you think that their claims of racism may not be the strongest, or when you just want some clarification on why something is racist. I'm going to give you three simple rules that should be easy to follow. I can't guarantee these rules will prevent you from losing your "cool white person" status, but they won't hurt.

1. Don't become a lawyer.

Sometimes when people of color relate a story about racism to white people our pale brethren turn into little Perry Masons. They want to quiz us on every little detail of the encounter, usually with the express purpose of debunking our claims of racism. I understand this urge, hell, I get this urge during regular conversations, just ask my wife. But, if you're typically a laid back, go with the flow type of person, but you suddenly turn into Robert Shapiro when racism comes up, well black people aren't going to be too happy. This is especially true if the black person talking to you considers you a friend or good associate. After all, why are you so invested in proving your black friends wrong about racism?

2. It's not about you.

Look, my white friends, I'm sure you've been wronged at the hands of black people. Maybe it was those insensitive teenagers on the bus who complained about the smell of wet dog, when you got caught in the rain. Or, it could have been that black co-worker, who liked to refer to you as "Mr. Charlie" when y'all met at the water cooler. Whatever happened, I'm sure you are quite convinced that black people are perfectly capable of being bigots, and it's important to you that the world understand this. Cool, I understand, and I agree.

However, if a black person is talking to you about a racist incident involving a white person, it is not the time to discuss your past experiences with evil black people. Honestly, why would you think that's the proper response? Possibly you think recounting your own pain will help your friend, but it probably won't. Most likely, your black friend will feel like you're trying to tell them to get over their pain, and move on because black people are guilty of it too. Why would somebody want to hear that?

3. Really listen.

This is connected to number two. When your black friend is telling their racist story, don't pretend to listen while thinking that this is a perfect opportunity to get some good information on why certain things are racist and others aren't. This will piss black people off.

If we're telling you about a painful experience, we probably don't want to have an extended conversation outlining the criteria of racism. We just want to vent, maybe get some sympathy and then move on with our lives. This is not the time to gather notes for your racism primer. If you do this, you will seem insensitive and you will quickly be put on the list of white people to avoid that all black people carry around in their heads. (It's true, we all have this list. We don't tell white people this, but every moment of everyday you're being graded. We're compiling your mistakes and successes and deciding exactly what type of white person are. We don't tell you this because we know it would freak you out. I made the mistake of telling a white dude about it one day, and he was never comfortable around me again.)

Anyway, those are my top three rules. I hope you readers will provide your own rules and maybe I'll make them into a primer that I put somewhere on the blog for easy reference. So, hit me with your best shot.


Friday, March 13, 2009

Well, Well, Well

First off, sorry about not posting something new yesterday. I got caught up in some stuff and didn't get a chance to get to the blog.

But, my failure to blog was really a blessing in disguise because it prompted some of you to post more comments on my last piece, which in turn led me to today's topic. I'd particularly like to thank the blog's resident white contrarian, Darth Whitey, and the always amazing sage, Lolo. Now, down to business.

Check out this scene. You've just been victimized by racism. Some authority figure, probably white, but maybe not, has decided to treat you differently than everybody else, and it appears to be connected to your skin color. You're understandably angry and hurt, and you decided to talk to some people about those feelings.

As you relate your story, you try to be as honest as possible about exactly what happened. However, you don't just provide a dry recounting of the facts, you also relate your feelings that the the injustice you suffered was directly related to the melanin in your skin. This makes sense to you because the possible racial aspects of this injustice are what make it so egregious.

Now, inevitably, if you're relating your story to a large enough group, there will be one person that will try to dissuade you from the notion that your mistreatment was related to race. This person could be of any race, although they're typically white, and their favorite way to convince you that you're overthinking the race thing is to relate to you that they themselves have been the victim of unfair treatment in the past.

They will helpfully point out that their victimization had nothing to do with race, so yours probably didn't either. In addition, if you're lucky, this person will also let you know that all of your outrage and indignation is unnecessary and unjustified. Finally, for the trifecta, this person will probably tell you that your accurate recounting of the way racism affects the lives of people of color doesn't reflect their reality. They likely will note that your comments about the predilections of some white folks are "unfair" to good white people like them.

Well, well, well.

My friends, this is an example of the pseudo-fairness doctrine. I'm sure most of you have encountered it in your lives in various forms. At its most basic level, this doctrine allows intellectually dishonest people to redefine "fairness" to benefit them. Instead of looking at the totality of a situation and deciding on whether something is "just," these people take small snippets of reality and try to make them fit some arbitrary concept of fairness that completely ignores all social context.

Darth Whitey, I'm looking at you right now.

I hate to pick on Darth. I like that he comes around to the blog and posts his thoughts, mainly because we differ so much on matters of race. I love opposing viewpoints, as long as those viewpoints are logical. Now, Darth isn't always logical, but he does provide me with what I assume are popular opinions among folks like him. I need that feedback.

That said, many of Darth's points utilize "pseudo fairness." Unfortunately, he's not alone in this. The vast majority of people in this country SUCK at having a logical and honest discussion about the prevalence and effects of racism. It doesn't make them unintelligent, it just makes them human. And as human beings in America, particularly white human beings, there aren't many benefits to dissecting exactly how race affects the lives of your fellow citizens.

It's much easier to concentrate on what's fair. That's because each of us gets to decide on our concept of fairness, and we can change that concept depending on the situation. For example, many white people think the whole idea of Affirmative Action is unfair. They point out that it's not right to give someone preference in their job or college search because of their race, and they also say this allows unqualified people to get jobs over more qualified people. On it's surface, this seems to be a "fair" argument.

But, when you dig a little deeper, you learn that Affirmative Action wasn't created to give minorities an unfair advantage, it was created to rectify a preexisting advantage created by white people. More importantly, due to the resistance of white folks to giving up that advantage, the program had to establish the quotas and other things people seem to hate. Finally, despite all those efforts, studies have shown widespread racial discrimination in hiring, home loans, healthcare and education, to name a few areas. In fact, one study found that a white guy with a high school diploma is more likely to get hired than a black guy with a college degree.

So, the concept of fairness in that issue is far more complicated than most white people want to acknowledge. My brief explanation didn't even talk about the way discrimination allowed white folks to accumulate wealth and how that benefited subsequent generations. This isn't a isolated incident. In this country's history, racism has always had obvious and subtle impacts that make it very difficult to be truly "fair" in any situation. That's because what one person may deem fair, will typically be unfair to someone else.

That's why I've always preferred to do what's "just." That's another way of saying do what you feel is right and best serves the overall good. That may entail being unfair to some folks in the short-term because it will benefit everyone in the long term. I understand this is a trick concept because even when you're trying to be "just" you are still operating on your own ideas of what the world should look like. Shoot, there are probably some folks that would argue that slavery was "just" because the suffering of black people actually benefited the United States as a whole, and gave us the huge advantages we now enjoy over other nations.

Yet, the concept of being "just" appeals to me far more than worshipping at the altar of the false god of "pseudo-fairness." Too often, the simplified version of fairness that most people prefer really just maintains the status quo.

Y'all know that ain't right.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Oh Really?

No preamble, just check out this article.

For those of you who are link averse, that's a Maureen Dowd column discussing whether it's time for Michelle Obama to dress down. Basically, a bunch of Dowd's hoity-toity friends think Obama is going a bit far showing off the body that God gave her and that she maintains. Dowd ultimately says that Michelle's body is a wonderful thing, but she dedicates a bunch of space to folks who disagree with her.


First let me be clear, lately when I've noticed our intelligent and accomplished First Lady, I've thought one thing.


All night long.

I'm going to let those of you not up on the current cool kid slang go ahead and google that acronym, but it's safe to say that I don't have any problem with Michelle Obama showing off the Lord's handiwork.

It's funny that certain folks think her arm-baring gowns and swooping necklines are inappropriate. It's not like she has all her jigglies out for the masses to enjoy. She's always tastefully dressed in a manner befitting a mother of two. Yet, she still manages to let everybody know that she's packing. She oozes strength and toughness, and to offset that, she puts her feminity on full blast. What was it Sojourner Truth said?

Ain't I a woman.

There is something strange about David Brooks, a New York Times columnist, referring to Michelle Obama's arms as "Thunder and Lighting." I mean, I could see if he said that about Serena Williams or Angela Bassett. Those two ladies are seriously diesel, and while I might give Brooks the side-eye if he pointed it out, I couldn't deny the truth in his statements.

But, I can't see that sentiment with Obama. She seems to have done a good job of balancing the different elements of her body type, which is a body type quite common among black folks. More importantly, the way she dresses lets the whole world know that she and her husband find her body attractive and worth flaunting a little bit. Her man knows he has something good to look at, and he wants the world to appreciate what he managed to bang over the head and drag home, caveman style.

And I'd wager that there have been times in Michelle's life when her physique wasn't a source of strength. I'm sure that as a tall, dark-brown skinned, athletic black woman, she got her fair share of insults and jibes in a country that champions European standards of beauty. I'm sure there is some pain there. In fact, it's even more impressive that she's as comfortable with herself as she appears to be considering how many black woman loathe the skin they possess. (Hello Lil' Kim.)

I'm also not going to address the racial backstory that goes along with white folks commenting on the obvious nature of a black woman's physical strength. Most of y'all know that story. Nor am I going to breakdown the way some white folks are uncomfortable with self-contained, confident black women, I'll let that ride. What I will say is that folks are spending way too much time noticing the cut of Michelle's dress, and far too little time figuring out the best way to fix this damn country.

Now I know both Dowd and Brooks have written about hefty topics. But, the sense I got from Dowd's column was that Michelle's outfits were sending a message that many white folks aren't comfortable with it, and that this problem needed to be addressed pronto. I'd like to pretend this issue is totally unimportant, but unfortunately image is very important. Honestly, I think Michelle needs to keep on busting folks upside their heads with the fact that she's a woman. She needs to challenge all the morays about what is and is not acceptable for a First Lady, particularly an attractive, black First Lady. And her critics can do something as well...

Get their heads out of her closet.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Hard Stuff Ahead

I hate haggling.

I like for the price listed on something to be a fair price. I hate having to decide whether I should try to convince someone to sell me something cheaper, or feeling like a rube when I pay full-price for something. When people try to get me to haggle, I automatically feel like they are cheating me.

I'm trying to buy a car.

That was the impetus for that mini-rant about haggling. I'm thinking about getting a used car, and that means I'm probably going to have to haggle. I'm not a total newbie, I have purchased a car before. But, I've long felt like the salesman got over on me, and I've been both dreading and looking forward to the day when I can redeem myself.

See, I have this problem with being lazy.

I've gotten better, but it's still a problem. That laziness manifests itself in an unwillingness to properly prepare for or research things. When I bought my last car, I didn't research what different cars sold for. I just went into the dealership, told them how much I wanted to spend, and tried to find a car that worked. Obviously, that wasn't a smart move.

This time around I've been looking online, figuring out how much the car I like typically costs and then trying to locate one near my house. I've also been steeling myself to properly haggle with salesman. My pops offered to accompany me to the dealership, he loves to haggle, but I want to do this alone.

Do y'all ever feel that way?

Even though I dread the idea of bargaining, part of me wants to buy this car all by myself so I can prove I have what it takes. Sure, it's uncomfortable and difficult, but there is a part of me that relishes that experience. It reminds me of what I told my wife when she saw I had purchased a big bag of sunflower seeds recently. She was confused at my purchase because she already had a bag of shelled sunflower seeds at the house. She asked why would I want to go through the hassle of shelling my own seeds, when I could just eat hers.

I simply said "Sometimes I like to do difficult things."

I'm not saying that I'm contrary enough to look for ways to make my life harder. In fact, the opposite is true most of the time. But, every so often, I get a hankering to find out what I still have left in the tank.

That might mean playing one-on-one basketball against my far superior next-door-neighbor. It might mean reading some incredibly dense book because I know the knowledge within its pages is important. Sometimes it's as simple as wanting to shell my own sunflower seeds.

It's kind of like I need to prove to myself I'm still the man I thought I was, or I need to show myself that I can be more than I previously believed. Buying a car on my own and only paying the amount I want to pay would prove that to me. It would show me what I'm capable of, just like the first time I ran three miles. It's amazing what we can do when we prepare ourselves and put in the work. I want to get that high that comes from a well-earned accomplishment.

Even if it's hard.


Friday, March 6, 2009

Who's Laughing Now

I haven't been to the movies in a minute.

My wife loves going to the show, but I've never been a big fan. Lately, few movies capture my attention, and even when I am intrigued by a movie's premise, I typically get disappointed when I sit in the theater. The plots are too simplistic, or they do a horrible job of discussing or representing what I believe are the racial dynamics of the world.

Consquently, it should suprise no one that I haven't bothered to catch the latest Tyler Perry movie.

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that Perry recently released the latest movie in his "Madea" saga. This one involves Madea, who is really Perry in drag, going to jail. Of course, when the pistol-packing, foul-mouthed granny invades the big house, hijinks ensue. Sounds like fun, right?

Well, not to Courtland Milloy. Milloy, a columnist for the Washington Post, takes Perry and his latest movie to task in this piece.

I've never been a fan of Perry's work. His movies, while they may have potential, seem to slapped together with a minimum amount of work. (Kind of like some of my blogs.) And his televisions shows, well I would rather punch myself in the head for an hour than watch House of Payne or Meet The Browns... While wearing brass knuckles.

Yet, Perry is undeniably popular. His movies dominate the box office and, because of the small production costs, they are hugely profitable. It seems like his smiling face is on my television every five minutes extolling the benefits of his two TBS shows which he promises are "very funny." The man is a success, but according to Courtland Milloy, his success is built on explotation.

On one hand, I have to agree with Milloy. Perry traffics in every stereotype about black people, and black men in particular get a pretty raw deal from him. It's like he has a rule that only one man can be a "good man" in any of his movies, and that pretty much sucks. Plus, his portrayals of women, particularly his role as Madea, seem designed to make black women as two-dimensional as possible. Yet, despite all these problems, people love Perry.

Milloy tried to ask some movie viewers how they could enjoy movies that are so stupid and he got an interesting response. Several of the folks just said "Hey, it's entertainement, you're thinking too much."

You're thinking too much.

Sadly, that response did not surprise me. I've run across it many times myself. It seems many, MANY people spend a lot of their lives trying to entertain themselves with activities that don't require them to think. Who knew?

See, I like thinking. I've told y'all about my internal debates and arguments. But, I also like thinking in other stuff. When I'm playing video games (Anybody want to catch my on NBA 2K9 or GTAIV? My user name is Bub75 and I will kill you with a jumpshot or assault rifle.) I like think. When I'm playing basketball in real life, I'm always thinking. When I played football, I was constantly scheming for an advantage. In every aspect of my life, I'm constantly thinking about my next move, about my last move and about my present move.

I'm not overly ambitious and I'm not a schemer, but I do think I'm a thinker.

Consequently, it's hard for me to relate to people who turn off their brains to watch movies. After all, movies are supposed to entertain you. How can something entertain you if it constantly insults your intelligence? More importantly, how can something entertain you if it can't capture your interest? No matter what a movie is about, it needs to interest some part of my psyche and stupid movies just don't get that done.

But, I guess for some folks movies are an escape and that's it. I can understand that to a degree. I read a lot of science fiction and I know that books about magical worlds are mainly an escape for me. But, that doesn't mean I enjoy bad science fiction. Just the other day I stopped reading several books because they were poorly written drivel, even if they did meet my quota for dragons and spells.

Yet, some folks can take the smallest nuggests of goodness from movies, and that's enough for them. They might not call the movie a work of art, but they won't silently seethe and wish they could get their money back.

In addition, as a friend of mine pointed out, many black folks are starved for movies featuring black people in decent roles and will inhale anything. Perry has seen that need, and he's obliging their requests. While his movies are lacking, they still feature black people in a wider range of roles than anything the mainstream Hollywood machine cares to produce. So, in a way, you could blame white people for the problem of Tyler Perry. (Y'all knew I had to find a way to blame "whitey." I wouldn't be a Raving Black Lunatic if I didn't, now would I?"

However, the real question is what to do about the Perry phenomenon? There is clearly a demand for his product and as long as he is profiting from meeting that demand, what is his motivation to change? So what if some black folks are upset about his stereotypes, those folks aren't the ones making him money. Should we hold black artists like Tyler Perry to stiffer standards than their white counterparts, or should be let them slide and be content that somebody is saying something good about us?

What say you Lunatics?


Thursday, March 5, 2009

My Bar is Low

I read this story that had me chuckling the other day.

It was about President Obama attending a Wizards game and getting into a friendly trash talking match with one of the fans sitting near courtside. The heckler, although he said he wasn't really "heckling" the president, was actually wearing one of those bootleg Obama t-shirts that are so popular among black folks. Anyway, the Wizards eventually smashed Obama's team the Bulls, and the guy says that going back and forth with the president was easily one of the most important moments of his life.

That's so cool. (Y'all can check out the full story here.)

I told that anecdote because it made me think about way Obama affects folks, particularly black folks. I've written about it many times, but every once in a while I get reminded of how proud black people are of Obama, and how invested they are in his success. You can almost feel the emotional connection people have to this man they have never met in their lives, the way they feel empowered by his accomplishments. In addition, it's impossible to ignore how many black folks want him to do well.

Which brings me to my point.

I would like to see Obama succeed, mainly because he's the first black president, but also because I live in America and if he fails, my life is going to get a lot more difficult. Yet, I realized recently that my criteria for his success have changed recently.

See, during the election, I kind of wanted him to right all the wrongs of the last eight years and make America into the country I know it has the potential to be. But, that's changed.

Now I just want him to prevent the collapse of civilization.

I'm not saying that's going to be easy, considering all the problems we have in this country, but y'all do have to admit that's definitely not setting the bar too high. I mean, I'm not worried about universal healthcare, or prison reforms, or the black family structure. I just don't want the world to turn into what Octavia Butler described in the Parable of the Sower.

Some folks may claim that I'm moving the goalposts, that I'm giving Obama a pass on his campaign promises and that I'n not being fair or smart. Those people may be right. But, I'm not worried about what they think.

The world is rapidly spinning out of control and I'm not really interested in testing my mettle in a post-Apocalyptic America. I don't want to find out if I can scrounge for food, or hunt game or protect my family from marauding bands of crazies. I don't want to find my inner Mad Max.

I just want to go to work, get a pay check and live what I consider a normal life. Increasingly, that's beginning to look a lot like paradise.

Y'all think I want too much?


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Shhhhh...They Listening

Awww, damn, they know.

What do they know? Well they know this.

Somebody took "start snitching" to heart.

Who told this sister it was ok to start decoding racial messages for white people? And I know that author of that article is a sister because her fist name is "Nia." Ain't no white people naming their children "Nia." That's a black name like Tyrone and Keisha.

Why she had to let the white folks in on the secret?

Us black folks were enjoying ourselves watching Obama sneak his swagger into the White House. It was like a private message he only gave us. We knew what his "bop" signified, just like we knew that he could drop his verbs if he needed too. Whether he was brushing his shoulders off or bumping fists with his wife, Big Homie had his little ways of reassuring all of us he wasn't the Oreo cookie the ghetto poet Ice Cube once warned us about.

Black people been code-switching since white folks wrote the code. Ain't no way we could have survived in America if we didn't know how to put on masks, our double consciousness and get through the day. All of the black people who read this blog have a "work voice" and a "home voice" and we know how to use those bitches effortlessly. We weren't surprised that a Harvard-educated black man knew the proper way to give dap, or speak to the fellas. Shit, he would be have been a corny brotha if he didn't, and anybody who has looked at Michelle Obama knows that homegirl would not have dropped the panties for a cornball.

But, now it could all be ruined.

This article apparently is immensely popular with white folks. Y'all know that some of them love to stay on top of the current black culture so they can know exactly which aspects to rape and plunder to make millions. (I'm not talking about you my white readers. Keep reading.) They are posting it on Facebook, sending it on Twitter and will probably be discussing it around their antique dinner tables tonight.

There is no way Obama can keep sending black folks our messages with all the white people watching. You know they get mad jealous about stuff like that. It doesn't matter that he uses his white voice the majority of the time. The fact that he has a white voice and black voice is suspicious to many white people because most of them only have one voice. Sure, we as black folks know that Obama developed these two voices out of necessity, but to some white folks this will only confirm that he's a shifty Negro who needs to be monitored.

I'm going to miss those messages. I'm going to miss my President walking across the White House front lawn in a bop that would have fit right in on the yard at Howard University. Those little moments reminded me of my own journey, my own attempts to find a balance in life. Now they are history because Nia. I hope Nia is proud of herself, she has robbed me of one of the simple joys in my life.

Nia if by chance you read this, I hope you enjoy the accolades and pats on the back for having exposed another of black people's secret joys to the white world. You're like the person who first taught white people how to cabbage patch, and explained to them the best way to cornrow. You have betrayed something sacred and holy. You and your racial explanations. I hope you're proud of yourself, Nia.

Because I'm just sad.

(In case this does make it back to Nia, girl I'm just playing. Great article idea. You took something that was obvious to many black folks and put it together to make a good story. That's good work. Good luck to you. You race traitor!)


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Nutty Nostalgia

Hollywood legend CLINT EASTWOOD laments the loss of old-fashioned humour in today’s society - insisting he should be able to tell jokes about nationality without fear of people branding him a “racist”. The Dirty Harry star, 79, is adamant that modern culture has become humourless, and accuses younger generations of spending too much time trying to avoid being offensive. He says, “People have lost their sense of humour. In former times we constantly made jokes about different races. You can only tell them today with one hand over your mouth or you will be insulted as a racist.” “I find that ridiculous. In those earlier days every friendly clique had a ‘Sam the Jew’ or ‘Jose the Mexican’ - but we didn’t think anything of it or have a racist thought. It was just normal that we made jokes based on our nationality or ethnicity. That was never a problem. I don’t want to be politically correct. We’re all spending too much time and energy trying to be politically correct about everything.”

Remember when a nigger knew he was nigger and didn't argue about it?

How about when wetbacks picked your fruit, kept their mouths shut and didn't try to vote? Let's not even discuss how the Jews embraced their innate ability to earn money and Asian women didn't mind being submissive.

Remember those good ol' days?

Apparently Clint Eastwood misses the good old days. The days when Dirty Harry could tell a joke about niggers and watermelons and nobody busted his chops about racism. When Pale Riders kept the coloreds in line with nighttime jaunts. Eastwood longs for a simpler time when everybody laughed at jokes about what you say to black men in suits.

Will the defendants please rise.

I don't blame Eastwood. Honestly, if you were an old white millionaire, wouldn't you long for the good ol' days? Before this whole "equality" thing, the world must have seemed like a veritable Utopia for rich white men. You could fuck who you wanted, cheat who you wanted and say anything you damn well pleased. Nobody had the power to make you feel bad about yourself because nobody besides like-minded rich white men had any true power.

Those were the days.

Now, you're stuck in a pansy-ass world where everybody wants you to respect their feelings and treat them as equals. They don't want you to make racist jokes because they don't find them funny. They complain if you make a movie about World War II and conspicuously leave out all the black people.

Wah, wah, wah, all people do is bitch and moan these days.

In the good old days, you could say what you wanted and if people didn't like it they shut their mouths and took it anyway. The coloreds, all of them not just the niggers, knew what side their bread was buttered on, and didn't want to mess up their meal tickets by complaining. If they could only get roles as dope dealers or hoes, they were just happy to work. If they had to shine shoes while you called them "boy", well they shined those shoes with a smile on their faces.

What is the world coming to when a rich white man has to worry about whether other people find his jokes funny? If rich white men have to worry about what other people think, what's the point in being rich and white?

Where are the benefits?

If you can't make a joke about money-hungry Jews or funny-talking Asians, well why make jokes? If you can't make fun of somebody based on gross stereotypes about their race or nationality, what else do you have to work with? Where is the motivation?

Where has yesterday gone?


Raving Black Lunatic