Monday, June 29, 2009

Say My Name

I'm getting a little heated.

I live in the South, and quite a few folks down here didn't vote for our current president. Cool, I respect every man or woman's right to vote for an adulterous, rich, war vet and his stupid sidekick because that's how America works. You vote how you feel, damn the consequences.

But, I've noticed something in my little southern backwater. At first I thought I was tripping, that maybe I was being oversensitive. Then a couple other folks said something, and I just shrugged it off as people looking for a reason to complain. However, things have been building daily and now I feel like I have to speak out.

When did so many people get so familiar with President Barack Obama?

Seriously. These cats down here, some black and many white, are pretty much on a first name basis with the big guy, and they love to let the world know about it. Barack this, Obama that...Hell, even when certain folks add an honorific it's just "Mr. Obama" instead of "President Obama."

Mr. Obama is the president's daddy, not him.

Say his name.

I can't pretend that I always gave President George Bush his respect when I said his name. Sometimes he was "President Bush", other times he got called "George Bush" and often he was The Big Dummy. But, he was never "George." I mean, we ain't cool, that's not my homie. Plus, given his horrible track record, I think some of my disrespect was justified.

I'm getting peeved because not only are people refusing to give President Obama an honest shot, but I think people are being slick when they call him, "Mr. Obama" right before they criticize him. My wife would call that "nasty nice." Kind of like smiling in somebody's face before thrusting a knife into their gut.

Maybe it's my own paranoia, but I think refusing to acknowledge President Obama as president falls right in line with what we've seen from conservatives since last year's election. Cats are talking about leaving America, about assassinations, it's just some wild stuff. I think refusing to refer to President Obama as "president" is just another way to drive home the point that he has no legitimacy despite the fact that he was elected with far less controversy than President Bush.

Plus, Obama's black, so there's that.

Any of y'all noticed this new trend?


Friday, June 26, 2009

I Wanted A Little Time

I needed a little time to gather my thoughts about Michael Jackson's death.

I'm not as shook up as many folks, but neither am I immune to feelings of loss.

When I was a little boy, like many little black boys, I was a crazy Michael Jackson fan. I wanted the jacket, the glove, the curl (thank you mom for saying no to that.)

One of my earliest memories is going to a friend's birthday party and performing a never-ending dance routine to the Michael Jackson records that played all afternoon. I took my shoes off, climbed my little chubby butt up on the wooden deck, and didn't stop until I got enough. I was moonwalking, spinning, crotch-grabbing, the whole nine yards. I look back on that day and I cringe.

But I also smile.

I can't say that my family played Mike all the time in the house, or that he was the soundtrack to my youth. But, he was still there. He was so big, so massive that it was impossible to escape his reach, impossible to not be aware of who he was and the music he made.

That's powerful...

It's only as I've aged that I've come to grips with Jackson's checkered life. The obvious self-hate, the potential hatred of all black folks, the alleged pedophilia. All of those things made him much less beloved in my mind, but I never crossed over to the team that had outright hatred for the man. Maybe I refused to truly consider how heinous the accusations were, or maybe I was just being contrary.

It could have have been a black thing. An unwillingness to accept that another of our icons, another man who used to bear my skin color was now held up as an example of all the problems that occur when you give niggers money. I'm not trying to justify my attitude about Jackson just trying to understand it.

Now, he's dead. Like all of us, he's taken that final breath, moved on to that realm that's built on speculation and conjecture. I don't truly know where Jackson ended up although my beliefs tell me it was likely hell.

But, I do know that he's no longer here. He can no longer sing, dance, enthrall or disgust us. I hear his voice coming from the television and radio and I realize that's all any of us have left.

Somehow, that seems right.


Mind Ya Business

My little boy doesn't wear dresses.

He can't play with his momma's jewelry, he won't play with her clothes and he definitely will not wear her makeup. I won't let him grow his hair out either. It's a straight Cesar for him until he's at least 10 years old.

Some folks might disagree with the choices I've made for my son. They might argue that he's a child and we should allow children their freedom of expression. A friend of mine once said that the role of a parent should be kind of like a an adult buddy, not a dictator (She has no children).

These folks can mind their business.

I raise my son how I think he needs to be raised. Unless I'm abusing him, depriving him or otherwise egregiously affecting his development, how I raise my child is none of the world's business. How I dress him, how I cut his hair, what books I allow him to read, what television shows he can watch should not be the concern of people who aren't responsible for caring for my son.

So, why is France considering a law that would force Muslim women within its borders to stop wearing burqas anywhere?

That might seem like an abrupt and illogical segue, but stay with me. France is considering banning the full-length veils that many Muslim women wear as part of their, or their families, religious beliefs. The country has already banned the veils in its schools, but now some officials want to extend that ban everywhere.

Supporters say that the veils are used to subjugate women. They also claim that the veils represent extremist Muslims and prevent Muslims from fully integrating into French society.

Excuse me, but I'm going to have to call deconner.

This is not about freeing women. It's about the French and their dislike for the way many Muslims have refused to sacrifice the tenets of their faith to get along better with everybody else. It's about many French conservatives viewing all Muslims as potential terrorists, and believing that head scarves are more proof of those terroristic interests. It's about controlling a minority.

It ain't about saving women.

In my mind, those scarves don't have anything to do with anybody but the women wearing them. Maybe some of them are forced to wear the coverings by their families, but wouldn't it make sense to determine who those people are and help them? Why must France institute a national ban, that limits the rights of all Muslim women, in order to help some women? Isn't that a sign of laziness or ulterior motives on the part of the French?

I hate when people pretend that an unfair solution is the only alternative. I hate when people justify their own laziness by pointing out that their actions will do some good. It's a cop out.

Many French people don't like Muslims in scarves, so they are thinking about outlawing them. That's the bottom line.

And it's crap.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Vineyard Vanity

As liberal as it is, the Vineyard is about as racially integrated as a college dining hall—blacks and whites get along fine, but they generally don’t socialize

I'm shaking my head right now.

The above quote comes from this article in New York Magazine. The piece uses the Obama's potential plans to vacation at Martha's Vineyard as a jumping off point to discuss the vacation spots segregation.

And everything goes horribly wrong.

Unfortunately, the article falls victim to all of the traps that present themselves when someone tries to talk about racism and racial dynamics using broad generalizations. It utilizes convoluted logic, (like the example I pulled out up top), it simplifies complex issues and it does just enough editorializing to blur the line between column and news article. Some folks will surely herald it as a masterful, but it just left me cold.

Let's start with the quote I pulled out. I'm wondering how something can be liberal, but still be racially segregated. Wouldn't segregation pretty much eliminate the whole liberal definition? Sure, the folks at the Vineyard may like to drive hybrids and wear hemp, but if they can't stand to be around people of different races, then I'm going to question their liberal bonafides.

There is also the attempt to pretend that segregation in the Vineyard was a byproduct of the standoffish attitude some rich black folks naturally possess (Damn those uppity nigras!). The author points out that even when black people first started coming to the island in 1912 they kept to themselves.

Wait, you mean that in 1912, when lynchings and the like were a normal form of justice, black folks coming to a majority white environment stayed to themselves? Despite all the white folks welcoming them into their homes with open arms. You niggers know you have some nerve!

Then there is the idea that blacks and white people get along fine, but they just don't socialize. Huh? Ok, quick quiz for y'all. If I'm married to a woman and I tell you we get along fine, but don't socialize, what are you going to think? Yeah, you're going to think I'm either a liar or an idiot and avoid me either way.

The article continues its confusing logic by explaining to us that the black folks who visit the Vineyard "aren’t assimilationist; they’re ascensionist." The fact that they rapidly attempt to assimilate various aspects of white culture into themselves isn't a bad thing, it's proof that they are only truly concerned with self-advancement.

I get it. If you only assimilate because you understand that's the best way to succeed, you're ok. It's only when you assimilate because you actually think white folks are better, that there is a problem. Lacking morality is much better than being confused. Much, much better.

I was also treated to an explanation of how hard life is for bourgie black kids. Apparently, other black people don't want to be your friends when you refuse to hang out with them because they are poor, dark-skinned or too religious. These black folks have the nerve to question your "blackness," which is always an affront even if you admit that you are doing your best to distance yourself from the popular stereotypes about what represents blackness. Imagine that, people don't like you because you think they are inferior. That's a novel concept indeed.

The author also manages to add some colorful quotes that affirm that white people don't mind being called honkies (Make sure you write that down) and that black folks can be just as racist as anybody else (This info will come in handy during your next attempt to deflect conversations about race).

The climax of the piece is a story about how black and white residents of the Vineyard banded together to remove "loud niggers" from the island when they became a problem. It's a heartwarming tale of joint discrimination based on class and race that will make everyone feel wonderful. Kinda like Birth of a Nation.

Look, I'm not a big fan of slamming folks for their writing cause Lord knows I make enough mistakes myself. But, this piece does more harm than good when it comes to race relations and informing the public about the black experience. I'm saddened by the way it presents black and white interactions, and I'm angered by the myths it promulgates.

Well, I hope the Obamas enjoy their vacation.

(After I completed this blog it was pointed out to me that this article was written by Toure. It all makes sense now.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Why Them?

I'm really starting to hate the color green.

It's been ubiquitous in the recent news coverage of the protests in Iran. Green scarfs, shirts, posters and more seem to be popping up all over that country. Don't you just love color-coded revolutions?

As I listened to a loop of CNN the other day all I heard was people talking about Iran and the oppression the people there are railing against. Let me be clear, it's obvious that things in Iran aren't hunky-dory. Clearly, folks are being denied rights in that country.

But, I'm starting to wonder why we care so much about what's going on there. Why is it so important to us to document their elections and protests of those elections? Is the U.S. media actually driving these protests by paying so much attention to what's happening?

I mean, where the hell are the Chinese people?

"Big Man, why are you asking about Chinese people? What do Chinese people have to do with human suffering in Iran?"

Let's see. Everybody is all pissy cause folks in Iran want better treatment and the Iranian government is like "Later for that losers." We're covering these protests non-stop because a democratic and free Iran is crucial to the world, right?

Well when was the last time they had free elections in China? Hell, the people in China can't even use regular Google. They have to use some modified Google that doesn't allow certain topics to pop up. Yet, we buy all our goods from China, we borrow money from them, and we just had the Olympics in CHINA.

China recently refused to allow protests and marches to commemorate the anniversary of the incident in Tiananmen Square. Officials there just arrested people on sight if they even seemed like they were considering a protest that day. In fact, officials were rounding up people beforehand who might possibly protest. And in Iran, we're killing them for their response to what most folks agree are protests that have taken a turn towards armed resistance in some cases.

Hypocritical much?

It seems like China can regulary abuse the human rights of it's citizens and we pretend like it's not our concern. We might make some comments about how that's not going to fly, but then we keep on chilling with them and allowing them full inclusion into the world community. Yet, we expect Iran to make immediate changes, or face our wrath.

Why are people so invested in what's going on Iran, but so laissez-faire about what's going on in China? Why is it such a big deal that Iran's secret police are killing dissenters, when we know for a fact that the Chinese secret police make people disappear like it ain't nothing?

See, that's the type of BS that works my nerve. I hate when the public is duped into viewing issues in simplistic, black and white terms. Yes, Iran has issues, but their situation is complicated and pretending it's cut and dry and easy to understand is damn near criminal. It's not simply the good protesters versus the evil government. It's not just the media showing us what's happening in the world.

Mainstream media sources sucketh at digging into foreign affairs and providing the public with a nuances view of what's happening. All too quickly coverage devolves into a recap of the same talking points. The media is a sucker for clashes with the police and brash shows of defiance, but when it comes to documenting the "quiet injustices" that dominate true totalitarian regimes, well they fall woefully short.

Things are presented in certain ways for a reason. America does not eff with Iran. So, when something cracks over there, we are all over it. None of the American media was covering protests in Pakistan when Musharraf was president with the same fervor. We saw the same sort of coverage when Hugo Chavez was having some trouble with his election. It's why we're fed a steady stream of stories about people who hate Fidel.

The media is invested in certain storylines and they feed those memes to the public with the hope of swaying public opinion. It pisses me off to no end that some folks just swallow this crap without any thought for why it might not be reality. I was out eating with some family members and they started talking about Iran and I had to bite my tongue to keep from lambasting them for regurgitating the media spiel.

The question we need to ask is why are certain injustices important and other ones no big deal? Why do we care that some leaders are corrupt, insensitive dictators, while we don't really care about others? What are the ulterior motives of this country and what are the ulterior motives of the media covering events?

Think about it.


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Nah, You Can Keep It.

You can only say "I'm sorry" so many times before it loses any meaning.

Y'all know the United States Senate has decided to "apologize" for what happened during slavery. I guess I should say "Thank you."

Nah, screw it.

What do I care about an apology? Black folks have been getting these apologies for years now, and it doesn't seem to do much good. The legacy of slavery can't be wiped away by an "I'm sorry." It's going to take a lot more than mere words.

And that ain't gonna happen anytime soon.

Hell, even the apology was poorly done. The way it's worded it doesn't actually blame anybody for effing up. It just says "Oh, we're sorry about what happened to you people, tough luck." Then it makes sure to say that the apology in no way endorses the idea of reparations. It's like they tried to figure the easiest way to get credit for an apology without having to actually admit to anything. Lovely.

This apology became yet another reason for the Chicken Little white folks to complain about how everybody is always bowing down to black folks. It didn't matter that the apology provided no benefits to black folks and only acknowledged what we already knew. Nope, apparently anything that says that slavery was wrong is dangerous because all it will do is encourage the Negroes to complain some more.

It never stops.

I'd rather not have an apology. I'd rather folks just go about their business than make a half-hearted attempt to appease me. It just makes my job harder when I'm trying to expose the realities of life to people in the future.

I was always taught that repentance must be melded with a change in behavior for it to be valid. It doesn't matter how many times folks "apologize" for what was done to black folks, it only matter when people get committed to rectifying the problems created by slavery. Until then, I'm cool on hearing "I'm sorry."

They can keep it.


Friday, June 19, 2009

Imagine That

A friend of mine recently told me I have a vivid imagination.

We were having a hypothetical conversation about sports and I had created all types of scenarios and game plans in my mind to buttress my argument. My friend pointed out that I'd put a lot of thought into something that wasn't actually real.

That made me think.

All my life I've spent a lot of time in imaginary worlds. Unlike many young men, I've always been more interested in fiction than non-fiction, mainly because I love getting lost in other worlds and lives. I use books the way some people use movies and television.

I'm also guilty of playing the "What If?" game. I make up crazy situations in my mind, situations involving the police, or criminals, or my children and then quiz myself on how I would react. I imagine how my life would have played out if I'd done certain things differently almost everyday. My father said that when he named me, he knew I would be a dreamer, and I must say he was right.

That said, I've recently begun to notice that my imagination is somewhat limited.

I've often heard people talk about all the ways they expect the world to improve, how they expect human relationships to be better. These folks talk about an inevitable end to racial and religious strife. They can see that world as if it's already real.

But, I can't.

I wonder if my imagination is broken. I can readily suspend disbelief when it comes to trolls, elves and the like, but when it comes to a world largely free of racism and discrimination, well I balk. Maybe I'm jaded, but it's hard for to see such a reality.

Some of y'all might point out that it was likely impossible for slaves to "see" a world where they would have the same rights as white folks. Or you may note that folks in the Dark Ages probably couldn't have imagined the television. All of these things came true, so why not this other dream?

Maybe y'all are right. Maybe these things are just over the horizon and all it takes is a commitment from all of us to reach them. Or, maybe the evils of racism and discrimination will plague human beings forever, just like the common cold.

I honestly don't know. Sometimes I feel deficient for not being able to see the future so many folks hold on to. I wonder why I can't make that leap of faith when I have made other leaps of faith that folks find just as fanciful...

Imagine that.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Why You Say That?

A while back, somebody I interact with regularly because of my job was complaining about his inability to qualify for a certain type of government assistance.

Typically, this cat wouldn't need assistance because he and his wife have very good jobs, but this was an emergency situation. Anyway, this guy was talking to me about how he thinks he should get assistance in an emergency because his tax dollars pay for the assistance other folks receive everyday. While I agreed in principle, in this particular case I thought it made sense for him to get denied the money.

While we're talking, this guy says something like "Look at you, you make "XX" dollars a year. Why shouldn't you, a hard working young man, get assistance while these folks who never hold a job get it? Don't you deserve it, don't you need it."

The thing is, the figure the guy threw out for my salary, was far lower than what I actually make. When I say far lower, I mean it was in a totally different tax bracket. That said, I didn't even consider correcting him about his mistake.

Not for a second.

A long time ago, I learned that folks can reveal the most interesting things when you learn the assumptions they've made about your life. The easiest way to get a clear picture of how folks see the world is to let them start talking to you about what they assume you think, have acquired or have done.

In this case, I got a glimpse at how this guy viewed our relationship and it confirmed for me that he would never, EVER, know how much money I make. Why? Because his ability to congenial to me was likely tied to the fact that he believed I was a scrabbling young man trying to make my way in the world. If he learned that I made more money than him, which I suspect I do, well it would change the whole dynamic of our relationship.

Some folks have a bad habit of volunteering information that other folks don't need to know. Whether it be stuff about your sexual history, your pay grade, or just how crazy your family is, that's stuff you need to keep to yourself.

I was thinking about this recently when a friend told me about a young man on a law school message board who revealed to the community that he'd only scored a 155 on the LSAT but had managed to be accepted into several top tier law schools. The response to this revelation was the typical drivel about Affirmative Action and the benefits of being a minority in America. There were also some crass insults about the man's overall intelligence.

My friend was appalled at the behavior, but all I could say was "Serves him right." I learned long ago that privacy is your friend in competitive environments. And pretty much every environment in the world is competitive. And if you're competing with white folks, well a closed mouth actually DOES get fed.

That means I don't share truly personal information at work, I share very little at church. I have mastered the art of answering questions with as little information as possible and forcing people to pry if they want more. And I'm not above pretending like I don't hear questions I don't like.

I don't get angry and I don't lecture folks. I just use a special brand of coldness I've developed in my nearly three decades on this planet to let them know they've crossed a line and need to reign themselves in. If they refuse to conduct themselves accordingly then I have to take more abrasive maneuvers.

It's worked for me, I'm curious to hear what's worked for y'all.


Monday, June 15, 2009

What Do You See?

I've been pondering the perplexities of perspective. (Alliteration suckers!)

How we see the world, and how that affects our actions.

I mean, some folks look at a doctor who performs late-term abortions and see a medical professional with a tough job who provides a legal service to women who want it. Other folks see a scumbag who has killed thousands of babies with little or no remorse.

Some folks see Obama as catering too much to Israel and the American Jewish community in an effort to curry favor and prevent a backlash against his domestic policies. Other folks see Obama as a Muslim sympathizer hell bent of exposing Israel to nuclear attacks.

Some folks see Michelle Obama as the mystical embodiment of all the virtues of black womanhood. Other folks see her as the first cousin of Curious George.

It's all about perspective, and different perspectives make the world go 'round.

I'm still trying to get some perspective on my own perspective. Still trying to figure out exactly how I see the world, and what that means for the people around me. I've noticed recently that when I take a step back and slow myself down, sometimes the world comes into a little better focus. I've noticed that when I stop arrogantly thinking that I must be right just because I "feel" right, it gets a little easier to deal with folks I love and care about.

Anyway, that's just something that's on my mind.....

Bonus Blog.

Why homeboy gonna tell Michelle she got apes in the family and then backpedal faster than Deion Sanders?

If you are going to pop off at the mouth on a race tip, at least be man enough to stand by what you have to say. You already know that some folks are going to have a problem with your comment, if you don't care enough about their feelings to not make the comment, don't act surprised when they check you.

Then this cat had the nerve to say that he was only repeating what Michelle said herself. That since she believes humans come from apes, than she got apes in her family.

Does he think we're stupid? If you don't believe in the ape theory, then how you going to believe that Michelle got apes in her family simply because she's a human? Your joke makes no sense based on your stated beliefs.

But it does make sense if you understand that many white folks think black folks are just one small step up from chimps. It makes sense considering the fact that the Obamas have dealt with more monkey jokes than any first couple in history. It makes sense when you realize that juvenile, cowardly racists like to believe that only their friends are smart enough to understand their racist jokes.

Guess what, ain't nobody fooled.

We know what you meant, we know who you are and you just confirmed black folks' worst suspicions about your party. Keep on doing what you do, and I'm sure you will reap your just reward.


Friday, June 12, 2009

Is You, Or Ain't You?

Grudges are like bad gas. The longer you hold them inside, the worst you feel in the end. Big Man

Just let it go.

Fly like the wind.

Relax, relate, release.

The inability to move on has ruined more lives than french fries. (Why must french fries taste so good? They are one of the worst foods in the world to eat, yet they taste AMAZING. Sorry...)

I've been angry. I've been bitter. But, the older I get, the more serious I get about God, marriage and life. With that change, the more I realize how foolish I once was. Holding on to anger, nursing petty grievances, it's crazy man.

We see it in politics, in relationships, in every aspect of human life. Folks just won't let go.

So, I'm wondering, why not?

What's the goal, what's the ultimate purpose of holding on? I'm curious what y'all think. If any of you have problems with bitterness, if you find it hard to let go of past hurts and slights, I'd like to hear why.



Thursday, June 11, 2009

Give Me Some Room

I'm going to need some extra leeway from y'all with this post because while this is a topic I've thought about a lot, it's not something I claim firsthand experience with.

Let's take a trip into the past of Big Man.

A young, rotund boy is enrolled in a Lutheran pre--school in a majority black city by his well-meaning parents. Unlike many of the schools in this city, Young Big Man's (YBM) pre-school is pretty diverse racially. Children of various races mingle and enjoy each other's company, and YBM doesn't notice any problems from the adults in charge.

While enrolled at this school, YBM becomes enamored with a lovely young lady named Jennifer. (At least I'm assuming she's lovely because I don't really remember her face.) YBM likes to set up his naptime mat next to Jennifer's and, in the storied tradition of young boy's everywhere, he takes special care to trip and torture her when the opportunity presents itself.

Caught up in youthful infatuation, YBM decides to tell his mother of his crush. He talks about how much he likes her and then promises to point the young lady out to his mother the next time they are at school. That time arrives, and YBM follows through with his promise.

And things have never been the same...

See, I may not be able to remember much about Jennifer, but I do remember that she had long, blonde hair and bright blue eyes. That's right, Jennifer was a white girl, and my mother most definitely is not. My father still teases me that when my mom found out exactly who I was swooning over, she couldn't remove me from that pre-school fast enough. Our whole household went to Def Con Infinity because I thought the swirl action was the way to go.

That was my first time realizing that there were little girls I was supposed to like, and little girls I wasn't supposed to like. My mom would later drive that point home by directing my brother and I to make sure we brought home little, black girls for her to meet. No exceptions.

Some folks would call this racism, and I can understand that sentiment. However, I've always seen it as an attempt to instill in my brother and I an appreciation of black women and a sense that when we went looking for a mate, a black woman should be at the top of our list. But, a lot of folks would question teaching a child that lesson.

Yesterday, I talked about black women and their standards and how some of those standards are not going to help them find the black, Prince Charming they crave. One of my commenters mentioned that the biggest standard is the one I didn't mention. Namely, why does Prince Charming have to be a brother?

I'm a firm believer in the fact that it's possible for any two human beings to fall in love regardless of color. I'm also a believer in the fact that you have to want to fall in love, to fall in love.

By that, I mean that for two humans to establish what I feel is a true "love" for each other, they have to be open to the idea of developing feelings for each other. So, while it's possible for black and white folks to love each other in relationships, it's often unlikely because most of the time we aren't even considering each other as potential mates. (I said potential mates, not potential mating partners. There is a difference.) Some folks think this is a crying shame, I'm not so sure.

Many people seem to think that all it takes is a wave of the magical, post-racial wand and black women will suddenly remove their love shackles and find true love in the arms of a non-brother. If only black women would open themselves up to the possibility of dating outside their race, well they'd find a host of new opportunities.

On the surface, this makes sense. By confining themselves to only dating brothers, sisters are playing a pretty difficult game of Where's Waldo? when it comes to finding a husband. But, that premise assumes that sisters are confining themselves. While it's true that many sisters were raised in homes like mine and were taught to always bet on black, for many of them their decision on who to date hasn't been conscious but a reaction to life. Women are taught to date the men that chase them, and if only one group is chasing, well you can expect one group to do most of the dating.

A friend of mine joined an internet dating site recently and she said that one of the things she noticed is how far down the list black women are when it comes to desirability. She said that those sites ask you to check which races you are open to dating on your profile and that controls who contacts you. Anyway, she's found that many cats will have every race of women, but black women checked. It's like being a black woman makes you completely unacceptable as a mate. And that hurts.

There is a myth that if only black women would open themselves up to other races, they'd be swept off their feet by suitors of every hue. The reality is that for a variety of reasons, the interest in black women from men of other races is not strong, and those cats with the most interest are often the cats every woman would prefer to avoid.

I think that was one of the things that drove my mom to push my brother and I towards black women. She felt strongly that we needed to see black women as beautiful and worthy of marriage, and I'm sure that was connected to the fact that so many black women get told the opposite everyday. But, that's not the only reason she said what she said.

My mom also understood that relationships are hard for everybody. The joining of man and woman may give our lives a sense of completion, but it also adds frustration the likes of which many of us have never seen. That strain is only magnified when you add the additional stress of dealing with somebody of a different race who probably has a very different outlook on life in this country. Like most parents, my mom probably thought that steering us towards black women was a way of helping us avoid failure.

Honestly, there is a certain comfort that comes from being with a black person and feeling like they just "get" you and your experiences. I'm sure there are interracial couples that have the same dynamic, but I'm betting it's harder to find when you cross the color line.

So, the reason I didn't talk about black women embracing the idea of going interracial is because I'm pretty sure that's a not a big part of the problem. Sure, there are some women might benefit from opening up their dating pool, but I doubt that would work for most sisters. Just look at the segregation that is still a problem in our schools, neighborhoods and churches. If we can't integrate there, why does everybody think integration in the bedroom would be such a slam dunk?

Thanks for the space to speak.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Awwww Yeah. Now We Talking

Well, ain't this article interesting?

Go ahead, take some time and read it. I promise that if you're a black man you'll find yourself nodding your head, and if you're a black woman you might be ducking your head in shame. That's because that article rehashes one of the most popular conversations in the black community.

Why can't all these good black women find themselves a good black man?

The answer is simple.

(Black women) expect men to resist what society tells them about ideals when it comes to us—God, help the brother who admits a preference for skin or hair displayed on every magazine cover; or the arrogant fool who holds out for his own Clair Huxtable, not acknowledging that The Cosby Show was fiction. We’re justifiably upset when unrealistic standards are imposed on us, but many of us don’t seem to give black men any breaks in return when it comes to the superficial.

Standards, standards, standards.

Y'all know I talk about standards and values a lot on this blog. I regularly exhort all of us to find a moral compass and then let that be a guide in our lives. Those of you who are regular readers also know I tend to suggest a moral compass based on Christianity, although I respect everybody's right to choose another route.

Standards are cool. They are important. But, sometimes standards can be the reason why the only thing you have to comfort you at night is a quart of Chunky Monkey and The Rabbit. (Yeah, I went there.)

The point of the article I linked was to encourage women to relax some of their unrealistic standards if they truly want to capture a quality man. The author lets women know that while most of them may make google eyes at Barack Obama now because of how he treats Michelle, back in the day he would have just been the corny brother with the funny name, big ears and lack of rhythm.

I think that's an interesting and necessary message for black women, and the general public to receive.

Don't worry, I'm not one of those perpetually scorned brothers who is always whining about how black women love "thugs." I hate those cats. Truthfully, while I was never Rico Suave, I still managed to pull a few shorties here and there.

I know that the reason women are drawn to thugs isn't about their flashy cars or nice clothes, although those help, it's also because of a certain confidence and swagger that those cats often display. A devil-may-care attitude is a bigger aphrodisiac than any luxury automobile, trust me.

Plus, there are millions of black women who are emphatic about their dislike of anything "thuggish." These women, often the ones with degrees and jobs, want a man that can match them in the professional and cultural world. But, they also want a cat that makes them feel safe and has a little "bop" in his walk. That's understandable, at least to me.

In fact, if black women only had the the aforementioned qualities along with some basic additions like honesty, intelligence and maturity on their wishlists for potential mates, well black folks would be marrying like Mormons. Unfortunately that ain't life. In real life, young, successful and attractive black women have more items on their wishlist then rich kids at Christmas.

It just doesn't add up. If your fishing in a pond with limited fish, you better ease up on throwing back perfectly good ones because their scales don't match your outfit.

Yes, it's important to be attracted to someone, and yes they must interest you. But, as the Root article points out, if you have a long list of demands that any man must meet before he can get his foot in the door, well you're probably going to miss some perfectly good gentleman callers.

A friend of mine told me recently that when men enter a relationship they have a core list of non-negotiables, while women often just settle for whatever they get. I actually think that's true in some cases, but it doesn't explain the totality of the situation.

See, Men have a list and it looks like this: Milk, butter eggs...

Women have a list that looks like this: Butter, but not that butter with the trans fat and too much cream. Although I do need cream, so it won't be nasty. Make sure it's the yellow butter, not the white one. But, I don't want Ronald McDonald yellow, it has to look real. And it better not be too soft, but I can't stand too hard either...What else was on my list again? Oh crap, the store's closing, better grab something before I miss out...

Men have non-negotiables about marriage and serious dating. Not so much with random interactions. Women have non-negotiables about random interactions, but when it comes to marriage, well that kinda goes out the window. The lure of the dream is too great.

Men, by and large, will give any attractive woman a chance. We may not settle down with you, we definitely won't marry you, but if we think you're reasonably attractive we'll give you a shot. It may only be a shot to have sex with us, but we will give you that shot.

I've noticed that women are much less forgiving when it comes to giving men that initial shot. They will deem cats unacceptable for "dating" because of seemingly minuscule problems. They may still keep these men as friends, (Or "mind whores" as I like to call them) but rarely will the relationship progress past that.

Women and men respond so differently because they have different goals in relationships. Men initially are worried about present gratification, while women are concerned about future gratification. So, many women don't want to deal with a man who doesn't seem like marriage material immediately because they view it as a waste of time. This only changes when the pressure to get married weighs so heavily on women that they are willing scrap all of their standards just to find somebody.

In my opinion, black women are in a difficult position. If they are convinced that they want marriage, they must accept the reality that they are facing a stacked deck and they may not be able to make their decisions under optimal conditions. That means reevaluating how they consider potential mates. I'm not arguing that women should settle for anything, but maybe they need to rethink exactly what Prince Charming looks like.

Before he rides away on his white steed.


Friday, June 5, 2009


Stupid is as stupid does.

And stupid seems to be doing a lot these days.

People are catching idiocy at least five hundred times more often than they catch the swine flu. Yet, I don't see a natural outcry over this pandemic. Nope, folks are blithely going about their lives like this ticking time bomb doesn't even exist.

Frankly, it's scary.

We're at the end of our discussion of six corrupting agents in the black community, church and world in general. So far we've covered secularism, humanism, materialism, relativism and pragmatism. Now let's discuss mindlessness.

Some folks probably saw this on my original list and wondered exactly what I meant. Everybody has a mind, so what does it mean to be "mindless?" And why is that big problem for black folks or anybody else?

It's a crying shame when people have talent,or potential, and fail to use them. I know, I've often been one of those people. It's even worse when people purposely dumb themselves down, and fail to think or reason just because it seems to make their lives easier.

That what I see when I picture "mindlessness." I see scores of people refusing to use their God-given ability to think because they'd rather just relax. I see people clinging to tradition because they don't want to exert the energy to see if a break from tradition might benefit everyone. I see people using slopping reasoning because anything else would require too much work. Lastly, I see folks following the herd because being an outcast seems too painful.

The lure of mindlessness is strong. I know many days I've wondered if life might not be easier if I didn't think so much about my own motives and the motives of others. I have a friend whose said that her life was much easier when she didn't think about race and how it affected her life. Things were simpler then, more clear cut.

Nuance breeds complexity, which it turn births tribulation.

Didn't Adam and Eve learn that acquiring the same sort of knowledge as God had a terrible cost? Haven't we seen throughout the history of mankind that when people challenge the common orthodoxy, when they attempt to pull back the wool from their own eyes and grant others their sight, life becomes truly difficult?

What was Malcolm X doing if not railing against a mindlessness in the black and white communities that rationalized and accepted heinous acts as just being the way things were? What was Martin Luther King doing if he wasn't challenging us to use our brains to see the absurdity of the relationship between Christian blacks and whites?

The examples are endless. It's obvious that being a mindless, conforming drone can make your path smoother, but it's also clear, at least to me, that the price of that ease is much too high. Sacrificing your ability to think for the false elixir of dullness, is a slow death. Ultimately, you are like the servant with the one talent, who instead of working to earn more, hid his master's money in the ground. Destruction will surely be your reward.

I could talk about this topic more, but I won't. I'll just say that all of us must challenge ourselves to truly think about the world we live in, the beliefs we cling to. None of us should become so secure in our mindsets that we don't realize that the two constants in life are God and change. If we forget that truth, we will succumb to mindlessness.

Wasting our brains away.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Get Right

Abortion is one of those topics I try to avoid discussing with folks.

It's not because I don't think it's important. I do. However, I also understand that abortion is one of the those topics where the conversation very quickly devolves into shouting and namecalling. It's such an emotionally charged topic that it's very hard for people to find common ground.

I was thinking about the emotions that the abortion issue creates as a I digested this story about the abortion doctor in Kansas who was murdered at church. It has dominated the national news for a while now, and it has sparked crazy discussions on blogs across the internet. The two camps seem to have taken sides pretty clearly. Either the doctor got what he deserved, or he was murdered by lunatic. There haven't been many folks arguing anything in between.

Well, here goes nothing.

I'm not trying to make some pitiful plea for all of us to get along. That ship sailed a long time ago. No, what I'd like to see is folks actually admit that complicated issues rarely have simple answers.

From most accounts, this doctor was one of the few people in this country who performed legal late-term abortions. These operations typically involve well-developed fetuses, who look a lot like the babies that get delivered in a full-term pregnancy. Apparently the law dictates that late-term abortions can only be performed due to a medical risk to mother, or some sort of severe disability with the baby.

I've read that this doctor may have performed 60,000 late-term abortions over the past five years, and consequently, he was one of the most hated people on Earth in anti-abortion circles. Yet, I've also seen folks describe him as a loving and kind man who took on a difficult and heinous job that needed to be done, but that nobody else really wanted to do.

To me, the duality of this doctor's life mirrors the abortion issue itself.

There are no simple answers with abortion. Yet, people insist on pretending there are. It's not enough to say "Life starts at conception" and ignore all the reasons why abortions make sense for some women. It's also not enough to say "A woman's body is her body" and pretend like you don't understand that we're talking about erasing a potential life.

More importantly, it's simply unacceptable to believe that because people disagree with your position, and act on their beliefs, they deserve whatever comes to them.

That's what really troubles me about this incident. Have we as a society become so morally bankrupt that we can rationalize ANYTHING?

I respect the fact that many folks believe that performing an abortion is the same as murdering a child. But, those folks have to know that those are their feelings, they are not fact. Just because a person believes that this doctor was committing murder does not justify gunning him down outside of church.

I could compare it to my feelings on racists. I find people who mistreat and discriminate against people based on the color of their skin reprehensible. Thinking about slaveowners and segregationists always raises my blood pressure and works me into a frenzy. Yet, I understand that no matter how heinous I think those folks were, no matter how many people they hurt or even killed, it would not have been right to murder them in cold blood.

If I behave like my enemy, how can I be better than my enemy? How can I claim the mantle of Christianity, yet behave in a manner that would be an anathema to Jesus? How can I rationalize and even rejoice at actions that I know violate God's will? Where is the God in murdering a father and husband because I didn't agree with his actions?

Most of the folks who shrug off this doctor's death seem to be saying that since he killed babies, he had this coming to him. They seem to be saying that taking the law into your own hands and killing someone who you feel is evil, is understandable and even justifiable.

I see this as part of the slow return to the darker days in American history where murder and mayhem were common place, and punishment was handed out based on who had to power to enforce their beliefs. We create laws in an attempt to instill order. We understand that left up to their own devices, humans will trample the rights of others in order to make themselves happy. Laws are supposed to counteract these desires, and while they often fail, they do succeed sometimes.

When we shrug off laws, not because they are unjust or immoral, but because we disagree with them, then what precedent are we setting? I understand the urge to protect unborn children, but how does the desire to protect children from murder justify another murder? It's one thing to work to overturn current abortion laws, it's quite another thing to become a vigilante and murder doctors who perform abortions.


Gimme That...

Materialism is almost too easy to talk about as a corrupting agent.

Every religious text, every philosopher and everybody's momma, has warned about the destructive power of wanton materialistic lust. There are a plethora of scriptures, poems, songs and prose dedicated to warning folks away from materialism. Yet, for some reason people keep falling prey to it.

As someone who grew up in the 80s and 90s, I was raised on Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" commercials and after school specials. Unlike many kids, I was honestly scared to death of the destructive power of crack cocaine and heroin because of these cheesy television programs. The whole "all it takes is one time" campaign, plus my father's apocryphal stories about Len Bias, had me shook.

I remember talking with a friend and wondering how anybody in our age group, or in the generation below us, could possibly get hooked on crack. With all the bad publicity crack received, all the derision crackheads were subjected to, it seemed impossible that someone would pick up that pipe and take a hit. Yet, it happens every single day.

Materialism has that kind of staying power as well. People know it's dangerous, they know it's addictive, yet they can't stop themselves from taking that first hit. And after that initial hit, well there are quite a few materialistic junkies in this world.

Oh, just a reminder, this is the next installment in our six agents of corruption series where we've discussed: secularism, relativism, pragmatism and humanism. Materialism is our second to last corrupting influence to discuss.

Materialism is both a subtle and obvious corrupting agent. It's easy to see how Americans' lust for all things material has contributed to our current economic woes. It's quite obvious that we allowed our desire for "more" to lead us to actions that, in hindsight, were not very bright.

But, it's not the obvious dangers that make materialism scary. There is also the problem of becoming dependent on smaller creature comforts, things that sap your will and desire. Our fear of losing these creature comforts can drive us to heinous actions. Keeping up with the Joneses doesn't have to just be about getting a new house or driving a new car. It can be about which brand names the baby wears, or what kind of pizza y'all order.

Status symbols are everywhere in our lives. We crave more and more things to affirm our self worth because we've lost sight of our ultimate goals. It's not enough to accumulate items or money, what's more important is making a lasting impact on lives and the world. By all accounts, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King were not wealthy when they died, but I'm positive their legacies will live on long after Donald Trump and his millions are dirt.

In the black community, we need to reaffirm this message. We have to understand that while capitalism can do a lot of good, it also can lead to greed and excess. We need to teach our children and remind ourselves that there is more to life than the rat race. We need to remember that we are not defined by our possessions, but rather by the inner light we use to illuminate the world. Children need to understand that there is a reward in hard work, in doing things the right way, even if that reward isn't the best car or most beautiful clothes.

So many people have succumbed to the lure of materialism, to the rush of acquiring more things. It's become such a need on our society that there is no value, no standard that we are not willing to sacrifice at the altar of ambition. This has to change.

Life ain't cheap.


Raving Black Lunatic