Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Recent Realization

White people are not bound by your feeble "logic."

They cannot be expected to abide by the rules of common sense, nor can they be expected to avoid hypocrisy.

They are white. Thus they create their own rules, their own logic and their own morality.

You coloreds need to get with the program.

I'm taking a page from the book of another respected blogger, and quoting myself just from another source. The quote excerpted above is from a comment I left on another blog that discussed the cognitive dissonance of the Tea Party. But, after I read my words, I decided I wanted to write something more.

Wait, let me say something up front. White folks, if you're trying to do right, don't take this personally, nor assume that I'm condemning you just for your skin color. I wanted to get that out of the way because I know that conversations get derailed without it.

I could have just as easily made the quote up top in response to any amount of random ridiculousness I stumble across regularly on the web.

It could have been the story I read about the different reactions black teens and white teens received while staging a "mock" vandalism of a car. Or it could have been the story about an irate caller at C-Span who was tired of all the black people calling on the Republican, or "Whites Only," telephone line.

It would related to this excerpt I read where a former employee of Tiger Woods blamed Tiger's "black role models," namely Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley, for leading him astray. Or I could have said the same thing after reading comments from readers at the "Stuff White People Do" blog about their experiences with being mistaken for criminals while living their non-criminal lives.

It wouldn't matter where I said it because the truth of the comment stands alone.

Logic ain't real high on the list of white priorities when it comes to dealing with minorities, particularly black folks.

A friend of mine told me recently about a quote from Toni Morrison following the O.J. Simpson trial. He said that when Morrison compared the prosecution's description of O.J. to the public image of O.J. before his ex-wife's death, there was an extreme disconnect. In most white folks' eyes, O.J. went from the all-American great guy with few flaws to this demonic, sub-human animal with no good qualities.

Morrison, according to my friend, said that was only possible for a black person. Only a black person could go from being perfect, to then being perfectly irredeemable. She said that white people are able to accept totally contradictory ideas about black folks as true in a way they can never do with themselves. In my mind, she seemed to be saying that many white people don't bother with nuance or logic when they consider black folks.

Ain't that the truth.

I know some folks get tired of race talk, but I feel it necessary to point this out. When you consider many of the public and private opinions white people hold about minorities, particularly black folks, doesn't it strike you how many of them are not bound by logic, how many of them are rife with hypocrisy and how many of them directly contradict the professed moral code of those same white folks.

I'm constantly amazed at how people will set aside their values and their common sense when it comes to racial matter. Particularly since most racial matter are not life or death struggles for white folks, they are just exercises in minorities trying to get white folks to understand their pain and help us do something about it?

Why does this disconnect exist? Honestly, acknowledging the reality that so many minorities already know exists would not cause a fundamental shift in the way the world works. After all, just acknowledging the truth doesn't force people to act, that's an entirely different process. Acknowledging the truth just allows us to have an honest conversation using a shared set of facts.

But, it would seem that honest conversations are also low on the list. Oh, I'm sure there are some white folks who would complain that when they speak "honestly" they get attacked and disparaged. I can't disagree with that point. Then again, when your "honest" opinion is insulting and based on lies, folks have a tendency to get hot and bothered. Honesty does not bestow some sort of protection, in fact it's often an invitation to be attacked from what I can tell.

But what's the use of living in comfort if you're living a lie?



Rest in peace Undercover Black Man A.K.A. David Mills.

Sorry to hear the brother is gone. I had some heated discussion with him and disagreed vehemently with his thoughts on black intelligence, but death is still a sad and final chapter in every life.

The brother didn't believe in God, from what I could gather, but maybe if Deacon Blue is right he got one last chance when he checked out.

Anyway, he was a smart and funny dude, and I wish peace upon his family.


Monday, March 29, 2010

You Don't Belong Here

Growing up, I always did well in school.

Thanks to the constant threat of beatings from my father, and my own fairly decent intelligence, I've typically excelled in the classroom. However, my journey wasn't pothole free. My toughest challenges in an academic setting came in middle school and in grad school. Coincidentally, or perhaps not, those were the two times I went to "diverse" schools.

By diverse, I mean schools with white folks.

In middle school, I had one of my first experiences with being an "only." There were certain classes where I was the only black person present. I would sit on one side of the room, the white kids would sit on the other. At the time, I didn't really think about it racially, I was more worried about working out my algebraic equations. But, looking back, it was weird.

In fact, that experience, along with several others at that middle school, actually dictated where I would go to high school. In my city, there aren't many good schools, and at the time, all of the decent ones required you take tests to get admitted. All of the white kids were trying to get admitted to this one particular high school, let's call it The Bastion, which is one of the top ten schools in the nation. I also took the test for the school because my parents thought it would be good for me to attend.

I passed both the academic skills test and the IQ test, and got admitted right away. Several of my white classmates did not. I remember sitting with them in algebra class, and they were discussing what they were going to do, and how they might need to challenge their scores or something. Somehow, I volunteered the information that I had gotten admitted to The Bastion. Then I dropped my bombshell.

"Yeah, I got in, but I ain't going."

"Wait, you're not going?"

"Nah, I'm not going over there. I'm going to School X, that's a better spot for me."

School X was an all-black, magnet high school with a stellar reputation in the black community, and decent reputation among white folks. When I say "decent" I mean that white folks knew that kids got a good education there, but they still weren't going to send their children.

None of my classmates could comprehend my decision. This was The Bastion, if I went there I was guaranteed a top notch education. These white kids were killing themselves to get admitted, and I was turning down my spot?

Was I crazy?

Nah, I wasn't crazy, I had figured something out. I want y'all to read this story and this one and then I'll tell you what I had determined.

See, as those stories note, there are clear lines in much of the world. When you attempt to cross those lines, or boundaries, you have to deal with a lot of extra hassle. In one of the videos about the kids vandalizing cars, you hear a lady say that the black kids shouldn't have been in "our backyard." In the video about the police in the Midwest, you see city officials accused of telling the police to make black people realize they weren't welcome.

I knew The Bastion was a wonderful school, but I also knew that in a city that was 65 percent black, The Bastion's black population was only 12 percent. And very few of those black kids were boys.

It may sound cowardly given the heroic sacrifices of my black ancestors, but even as a child I understood that sometimes it's smarter to take the path of least resistance when it comes to race. Sure, The Bastion would have offered wonderful academic programs, but at what cost to my future happiness and well-being. What kind of emotional and social sacrifices would I have had to make? What kind of relationship would I have had with my teachers?

At School X, I was a black kid surrounded by black kids. Some of them were striving, others were chilling, but there was still a certain comfort level. Plus, as an academic standout, I was protected by teachers and administrators. Actions that might have gotten me into dire straits at The Bastion were treated differently at School X. Yes, I was still punished, but there was never the undertone that I was irredeemable, or dangerous. There was always the sense that these people believed in my potential and were deeply disappointed if I failed to live up to that potential.

That's something black folks typically sacrifice when they move in white spaces. That sense of support and nurturing often disappears with the melanin in the faces around us. Sometimes black folks can find staunch supporters and mentors in largely white groups, but it's not the norm. From what I've seen, the norm is a prevalent feeling that you just don't belong, and that you're infringing on someone else's territory.

It makes sense for people to protect their turf. But, it's almost inevitable that black folks will cross into white folks' turf frequently since the areas clearly delineated as "ours" often have inferior opportunities and services. When white people then use law enforcement officials and other officials groups to protect their boundaries, it can cause problems.

Is there a solution? Can we learn to co-exist? I hate the term "tolerance" but is that the most we can hope for since truly becoming "comfortable" is a pipe dream? How can we learn to drop the arbitrary boundaries we've created? Are the only choices for black folks assimilation or isolation?

I honestly don't know.


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Time Marches

Got two little boys.

Beautiful, brown, bouncing, beaming, bombastic babies bringing a bodacious bounty of bliss to Big Man's blessed being.

For real B'.

My oldest, who is nearly three-years old, has this habit of jumping in the air just to fall. Not on accident, on purpose.

He yells out "Look Daddy," then jumps in the air, kicks his legs up behind him like a maverick on the Wyoming plains, and then falls to his knees laughing.

It hurts my old bones just to watch him.

My younger son is nearing his first birthday. His will is so strong, I already know we gonna' have beef. When he doesn't get his way, he throws his arms up over his shoulders and tries to make the crown of his head touch his calves, while squealing in dismay.

I wince watching him contort.

Watching their youthful bodies revel in the joy of life, it forces me to consider my own increasingly feeble frame.

Oh, your average septuagenarian would scoff at my melodramatic language, but when I look at my babies, I think of the virility I once felt and I do feel feeble.

If not feeble, then I'll just say old.

I remember as a child how the concept of being "30," was as foreign and fantastical as dragons, and not nearly as interesting.

Once, as a child, I marveled at the fact that a then 35-year old Hulk Hogan could overcome the fragility of his ancient body to rip of his shirt for Hulkamaniacs worldwide.

When I related my surprise to my father, making sure to play up the fact that Hogan managed his magic despite knocking on death's door, my father calmly asked me how old I thought he was? In response to my blank stare, he said "I'm 35, too."

That seemed impossible because my daddy always felt old to me.

Adulthood belonged to a shadowy world where you had to stretch before exercising and were always rubbing nasty liniment on your muscles.

When I played marathon sessions of basketball, often lasting for five hours, I never contemplated a day when just getting off the couch to find the remote would be something I would avoid in favor of calling on the fresh legs on my son.

But, sadly, that day is here.

I'm not totally decrepit. In the last two years I've taken up jogging and I'm probably in better cardiovascular shape than I've been in for years.

Yet, I frequently wake up with mysterious ailments and pains. I find myself more careful about my steps, and conscious of stretching, yes stretching, before any strenuous activities.

The physically carefree days of my youth have vanished and I can only recapture their magic in random spurts. I have become old in mind and body, yet in many ways I don't feel "old" at all.

I wonder if this is how those in middle age feel when they are casually called "pops" or "mister." Do they recognize the inevitable march of time, but still feel themselves suspended in the present?

My momma used to say: "Son, getting old is better than the alternative."

Her wisdom helps me keep things in focus as I feel the green monster creeping into my mind while watching my youngsters frolic. Besides, while I may envy their freedom of movement, I don't envy the hard road they must still travel to get to where I am as a man.

Strangely the good news and bad news about growing old are actually the same news.

You can't go back.


Friday, March 26, 2010

Storytime, Again

Let's go back in time, to a magical place called The Mecca, where a younger, a slightly more rotund Big Man was seeking an education and sex. Not necessarily in that order.

My brother likes to say that I've always had a bit of "Betty Crocker" in me. For you folks not from the South, that means I'm a "cake baker" or the kind of cat that has been known to spend an unacceptable amount of time or effort in trying to have intercourse with unworthy females. I wasn't a full-blown "trick", but I've been known to make some questionable choices.

Anyway, back in the day, I made a date with a young lady who would eventually go on to be my wife. I'd been plotting on this woman for quite some time, but had held off on talking to her because I thought she was still dating a cat I played football with in high school. We weren't close enough friends that I wouldn't date her after they were through, but we were cool enough that I wasn't going to try to cuckold dude.

Anyway, I finally found out that Future Wife and Former Teammate were dunzo, and I made my move. Got the digits, used them to make plans for a movie date, and then began to wait for the Magic Hour.

Unfortunately, as I prepared for our outing, disaster struck in the form of my male ego and my ridiculous cheapness. Up to this point, I'd had some less than favorable experiences with taking young ladies out to what were considered "nice places" in college. By "less than favorable", I mean I wasn't getting the drawers. (Shout out to Martin Lawrence.)

Now, most likely this was due to other flaws in my game, not to a gold-digger mentality among these women, but, like many men, I didn't notice my flaws and instead blamed it on the women. I was young.

As I contemplated this state of affairs, I decided that I wasn't going to spend any money on Future Wife, and would instead invite her to have a Blockbuster night as our first date. By my logic, this was a good way to see if she was after my meager stacks or a decent young lady.

Sadly, when I broached this change of plans, Future Wife refused, and I would later learn that she was very sad that I saw her as a Blockbuster-in-the-dorm room kind of girl. We would eventually move past this in the months to come, but that's a story for a different day.

Anyway, I spun that yarn because I read a piece recently on the blog "Black and Bourgie" about the "pay to play" dynamic. Basically, the idea that men expect sex whenever they spend a certain amount of money on a woman. Each man has a different threshold, but apparently, all of us have a threshold. The blog post looked at the issue of what is an acceptable situation to have this expectation and what is not.

This issue fascinates me. I remember discussing this concept with my wife, and actually being horrified that she felt that it was reasonable for a man to expect sex if he spent money on her when she was younger. The fact that I was horrified might seem a little strange, since I had broken our very first date because I had the exact same expectations of women, but let me explain.

Like many men, what I WANTED to happen when it came to me getting the drawers, was not the same thing as I would RESPECT a woman for doing.

Does that make sense?

Sure, I would have loved for every woman to agree that a trip to the Cheesecake Factory was the Golden Ticket to parting some hairs, but I doubt I would have respected the women who made that choice. Like many young men, what I wanted from a woman was at odds with what I thought was respectable.

I know ladies, men are just as crazy as y'all.

Coming back to pay to play issues, I think that most men feel like if a woman allows us to spend money on them, particularly a lot of money, they should show some appreciation. And not that pat-on-the-back, "You are so sweet" kind of appreciation either. We want to know that you understand that for many men, spending our money is just as big of a deal as you laying down with us. Particularly for a cheap bastard like me, and my ilk.

But, on the flipside, we don't really want it confirmed that a woman we have actual feelings for, is up for sale. I mean, no man wants to know that the woman he cares about has a price tag. The next question in our minds, at least in my mind, becomes, "Who else can meet the price?"

Just like the always dangerous discussion about who many folks have notched your headboard, letting a man know that you think certain expenditures guarantee sex is a dicey move. Sure, you might have a cat who agrees with your sex threshold, but it's just as likely you'll find someone who finds your cost-benefit-analysis hopelessly skewed too high or too low.

My advice is that women should never reveal that any expenditure means guaranteed sex, and they should never reveal that they had this idea in the past. Avoid this conversation, or debate, the same way you avoid the "numbers" question.

In addition, women should be very careful about how much money they allow a man to spend on them because an uneven exchange of funds has to be balanced out at sometime. Yes, free meals and gifts are nice, but the first rule of economics is that there are "no free lunches." Your tab is growing, and you have no idea how the man you're dealing with is expecting you to settle up.

For men, I would say never spend your money expecting sex. It's a losers' gamble. If a woman doesn't pay out, all you have left is complaining and whining and that's definitely not going to get you any cat. If you're spending money on a woman, just look at it as a loan to your momma. That money has no strings, and no expectation of return.

Finally, on last thing for the fellas. Always have a really good explanation when your wife asks why you thought she was only worth a Blockbuster night on y'all's first date.

Trust me on that.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Arrogantly, Ambiguous Cockblock

For much of my life, I've had more female friends than male friends.

Note: I'm talking about actual female friends, not chicks I hang around with the hope that I'll get to smash in their moment of weakness. There is a massive difference.

As a male friend, I have of course been asked to give my female friends advice on relationships, and I've also voluntarily supplied my infinite wisdom without prompting. But, giving advice to women dating other men is a tricky business, and I have always lived by two rules.

1. Never speak bad on another man, unless he has done unequivocally evil things. Always be the cat that's encouraging women to give dudes a second change.

I mean, you never know when you might need a second chance.

Plus, I've always believed that there is nothing lamer than a dude who bad mouths other dudes to chicks. So, I have rarely volunteered my opinion on the behavior of another man to a female friend, and I when I have asked a direct question I have tried to be as charitable as possible. Now, this rule can be bent if the dude and your female friend have an extensive and troubled history, but those occasions should be rare.

2. Never tell a chick that another man isn't "good enough" for her, or try to tell a woman her standards are not up to par.

This second rule is a serious one. Yes, I have sometimes felt that the women I know were wasting their time with certain men. Yes, this caused them heartache and pain.

But, I've always felt that when a man is telling a woman she shouldn't be with another man, he's actually trying to ease his way into that woman's pants.

Seems like what he's really saying is "That dude is wack, how did he get he draws instead of me?"

Now, one of my best friends told me I was reaching with this topic. She said that when you're friends with people you want the best for them. She compared it to a woman telling another woman that the guy she was dealing with is a loser. It's not about easing your way into the drawers, it's about protecting someone you care about from harm.

Honestly, she almost swayed me. I mean, there have been times when a female has suggested doing something for a man that I find ridiculous, and I've taken it upon myself to point out how stupid she sounds.

However, I usually point this out by asking loaded questions designed to make the person work through their stupidity on their own. There's nothing like having to defend an idiotic position or action to make you realize just how stupid you look. I have rarely, very rarely, just come out and said "That dude is scum and you're stupid for even dealing with him." It just feels wrong to me.

I guess in my heart of hearts, I've never wanted to be that lame dude on the sidelines throwing salt and cockblocking.

Plus, it's a bit arrogant to assume that I have a better idea of what's "good" for another adult than they do themselves. That doesn't mean it can't happen, but saying it feels a tad arrogant. So, I almost always err on the side of letting folks make whatever mistakes they want to make in relationships.

I read this blog the other day where a woman wrote about how she was talking to a male friend about a potential suitor, and the male friend said "Nah, he ain't up to your standards." Then I had somebody else tell me how one of their male friends, well technically an ex-boyfriend, told her that a new dude she was considering was a "downgrade."

Seems like telling somebody a suitor isn't "up to their standards" is a backhanded compliment at best, (After all, it's basically saying you lack the ability to see who is compatible with you) and an egregious cockblock at worst. Now, the situation may not be as bad when it's a woman speaking to another woman, or a man talking to another man, but it still rubs me the wrong way.

So, am I wrong, is this really just an innocent and helpful practice, or is it an arrogantly, ambiguous cockblock?


Monday, March 22, 2010

Lame Losers Lamenting Life

Warning: This is a public service announcement for all well-meaning brothers and sisters across the land. Please heed the message provided below and conduct yourselves accordingly.

It has come to the attention of the Lunatic committee that there has been an alarming increase in backbiting and complaining among black men and women in regards to the state of black love.
The committee has decided to call this the Quad L disease because it really boils down to lame, losers, lamenting life.

This spate of whining has been noticed by the majority media, which has subsequently pimped it out as a way to provide fodder for books, articles and other sundry forms of entertainment.

The Lunatic committee would like to reiterate its documented position that this new "crisis" in black relationships is not, in fact, new.

Nor does the committee believe it is a sign of the end times. Moreover, the committee is sorely disturbed by how many men and women are willing to cast the blame on the opposite sex without taking a good hard look in the mirror.

Consequently, the committee feels compelled to issue the following public service announcement to protect well-meaning brothers and sisters from their bitter and blind counterparts.

It is our hope that this warning, and the guidelines that accompany it, can maintain some happiness in the hood.

1. Any black man or black woman who inserts the phrase "See, that's why I don't deal with black men/women" into ANY conversation is not worthy of air. They should be shunned, and if possible, they should be showered with hot piss. (Shout out to CNu.)

Not only is it a blatant example of self-hating coonery to indict your race based on your own limited interactions within that race, but it takes a special person to actually vocalize these feelings to people of their own race.

Hot piss for you!

2. Anyone who enjoys engaging in extended diatribes detailing the ills of black men/women must be able instantly provide references that attest to their own impeccable character as a mate.

These references cannot be family members, and must have proof that they themselves are not Quad L sufferers.

All complainers who cannot provide these references or show independent proof of their impeccable character should be slathered with steaming caca.

Slathered I say!

3. All adults or near adults seeking to enter into a productive relationship must swear a binding oath to hold their prospective mates to the same standards they themselves are willing to live by.

To be clear, this does not mean that you expect your mate to live the same way you live, or that you expect them to think the same way you think.

This means that for every benefit of the doubt you extend to yourself, every shortcoming you overlook, and every excuse you make for your own failures, you must be willing to extend the same courtesy to your mate for whatever they desire.

So, if you have a habit of spending too much money on clothes because of your love of fashion, it is not enough to allow your mate to spend money on clothes as well. Instead, you must allow them to spend an inordinate amount of time sating their video game fetish to truly be making an equal sacrifice.

If you are unwilling to make this pledge, shut the hell up about what men/women won't do in relationships.

4. Anyone who inserts the phrase "Why do black men/women do this?" into a conversation must be able to provide three examples of black people they know doing said activity. Furthermore, they must be able to document how this activity is unique to black people.

If a person is unable to document said activity as something unique to Negroes, it can no longer be used to denigrate black folks, or as a reason for complaining.

If you are too much of a Quad L sufferer to abide by these rules and cease your petty and counterproductive complaining, the committee has an observation and a suggestion.

First, you suck at life.

Second, please take a vacation from Earth.

This has been a message from the Lunatic committee. Questions and comments can be left at the end of the post, or directed to the email address listed on the right.


Big Man, Chairman and Emperor.


Friday, March 19, 2010

Get Up

Most people love attention.

Not just any attention, mind you. Nobody likes being followed by the police or store employees. Many folks despise being ogled by the opposite sex. Yet, very few people enjoy being ignored.

Unfortunately, folks aren't satisfied with a little attention, they often want the whole world focused on them. They want to be showered with praise, feted with flattery and have their butts kissed until they're wearing chapstick drawers.

And that's why folks so many folks have been infected with N.Y.A.U.O.T.

NYAUOT, or Nigga You Ain't Up On This, is a peculiar disease that causes patients to go to great lengths to prove they are ahead of the curve when it comes to some subject. That could be fashion, or cars, or movies, or music, or books or women, or pretty much anything that allows you to flaunt your futuristic sense of, well, something.

NYAUOT is typically acute in middle school and high school, but some folks can show signs of a serious infection well into adulthood. In fact, some scientists believe that the disease has reached pandemic status worldwide as more people have been able to tell how "up" they are based on the Internet. Not only is the net a wonderful source of information and porn, it is also the best way to glean info on obscure crap that is sure to delight other small-minded individuals.

Males who suffer from NYAUOT can often be identified by outlandish clothing worn in a self-conscious, yet arrogant manner that begs for others to notice them. Typically, they cast furtive glances around crowds to see who is watching them, and they have perfected the art of lame disinterest in their surroundings.

They prefer European cars, or the latest vehicles popular among yuppies. They tend to listen to CDs that can only be purchased on-line, and roughly every third sentence they like to work the phrase, "Well, you probably haven't heard about this..." into their conversation. Their disease may be confined to areas like sports, fashion or music, but often unfortunately many NYAUOT sufferers have taken a holistic approach to the disease. Everything in their lives is designed to elicit envy or at least responses like "Never heard of that" or "So, where did you get that from?"

While serious cases of NYAUOT are more common among men, infection rates among women are increasing exponentially. Women sufferers typically can be identified by ridiculous displays of conspicuous consumption usually marked by label whoredom.

These women often compete ferociously to date the same small group of men who bang and discard them like cheap firecrackers, but they will still feel justified in questioning another woman's taste in men. Unfortunately, women infected with NYAUOT mistakenly believe they possess all of the qualities any sensible man would want, and think it is their duty to tell the world all about their wonderful characteristics.

Often, these women go out of their way to show how "different" they are from "basic" broads. Sadly, these attempts to show difference, like embracing wanton sex, obscure musical references and questionable choices in clothes, do not actually enhance their appeal, but instead label them obviously as being infected with NYAUOT. Their attempts to get ahead of the curve have instead led to wholesale regression.

NYAUOT is a growing danger in our world today. It can only be combated by constantly and forcibly reminding NYAUOT suffers that they are not special. This can be done kindly, or cruelly, but it must be done if we have any hope of stemming the tide of this problem in America. When someone begins to display symptoms of NYAUOT, such as excessive bragging, name-dropping or general douchery, it is imperative that countermeasures be taken instantly.

You've been warned.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Flipping It Foul

Man, I've been noticing a disturbing trend, and I'm wondering if y'all have noticed it as well.

It seems some folks have figured out a new way to respond to claims of racism, or even discussions of race. They just call the person bringing up the issue a racist.

That's right, even talking about racism or mentioning race, is now a racist act.

This had kind of been swirling around for a while, but I've had several recent experiences that have confirmed for me that this must be in the new best-selling handbook: "How to divert discussions of racism and piss people off." Clearly, a popular title.

First example happened at my church the other day. A young man approached me and wanted to talk to me about racism. It was a young black cat, and he said his family, also black people, often call him a racist. When I asked why they would say that, he said they complain that he's always talking about what white people do, and how they do it, so that makes him a racist.

Second example happened while I was arguing with someone online. I hadn't mentioned race, instead making my argument based on a less toxic but still strong point. A cat who I had previously identified as a racist through his actions, decides to take a shot at me because he doesn't like my attitude. Despite the fact that I hadn't mentioned race, he tells me that I'm always thinking about race and that makes me a racist.

Third example came in this article in the New Yorker. A fight breaks out over a review, and one of the folks accused of racism says it's racist that an accusation was even leveled. Here is a snippet:

Als appears to be the only major critic who reacted to the play's racial themes so viscerally. Few other reviews paid its use of racist language much attention, instead focusing on Walken's performance, which has been widely praised amid early whispers of Tony awards. But Als's remarks certainly hit home with the play's British producer, Robert Fox. "It was absolutely vindictive. Although Hilton Als's comments are meaningless in the scheme of things, because the show is doing very well, I think his remarks were entirely inappropriate and irresponsible," Fox told the Observer.

Fox said he thought Als's criticism was in itself an injection of racism where none was merited. "It was racist in that it was racially intolerant to write those things. He doesn't identify himself [in the review] as a black writer. I think it is extraordinary. I know people who have written to the New Yorker about it already. It is completely out of order," Fox said.

You know what's funny about that quote? The producer wants the reviewer identified as a black man (I guess so people can know to ignore his argument or something), but didn't suggest that everybody be identified by their race when they make an accusation of racism. I mean, does Mr. Fox think he should be identified as a white man in his public comments? Does that make his opinions less valid?

It's quite interesting how folks are flipping the word "racism." It's not new for people to create their own definitions for common words, but this feels wrong. What does it mean when you're a racist if you just discuss race? Or make an accusation that you back up with facts?

It means that any discussion that deviates from the accepted narrative on race is squelched. And the status quo always benefits from that course of action.

What's even more disturbing is that so many black people are jumping on this new trend. In their rush to embrace the Utopian, post-racial America, certain black folks are setting themselves up for a rude awakening. Because when you make any discussions of race taboo, you have nothing to stand on when you have a serious grievance related to race. I couldn't believe that the young man at church was hearing this kind of talk from parents. Now, my father has chastised me at times for being too caught up in racial matters, but he's never thrown the word "racist" around all willy-nilly. That's problematic.

I'm sure this comes from a belief among some black folks that talking about race doesn't solve anything, and only gets you labeled as a troublemaker. But, what I've learned over the years is that any brownie points you get for being the black person who downplays racial incidents disappear the minute you actually level a complaint about racism yourself. I saw it with Colin Powell, with Condi Rice and with any other black person who stepped outside of the narrative white folks wanted to hear. There was a definite sense of betrayal that these trusted black folks would even discuss race, and that betrayal made it impossible for said black folks to get their message out.

So, this new attempt to re-define racism is devious. It's limiting, and it only supports the existing power structure. What's really scary is that it's quite popular among younger people.

That's flipping me out.


Saturday, March 13, 2010

I Done Had About Enough

I have a bad habit of listening to urban radio.

For the most part, I listen to very little rap any more. I still respect and appreciate the genre, and I have certain artists whose CDs I might still cop, but for the most part I've lost interest in what many mainstream rappers are talking about. Plus, I lack the energy or inclination to invest in the underground rap circuit because I'm pretty sure they don't share my values either.

But, I still have this vice of listening to the radio. I like music when I drive, and while I've tried listening to the local gospel channel, the paucity of music and plethora of bad sermons often leads me back to the local urban stations. And this week, that led to me listening to a song by Usher Raymond and Nick Minaj called "My Little Freak." (Video is here for those of you interested.)


Some of you have no doubt heard this song. With an infectious beat by Polow the Don, it's sure to become a regular on our airwaves. The ditty is an ode to women who not only are serious about sexing their man, but they are serious about going to find other women to join in with that sexing. That's right, it's a song celebrating the female, sexual wingman.

Again, sigh...

It's official, debauchery is the new black. I'm not one of those cats who thinks the "Good Ol' Days" were particularly "good" but dammit, when there are songs on the radio brashly discussing orgies and whatnot, well maybe family values have disappeared. Right?

I remember when Kanye had a song on his first album that had a line like "drug dealers buy Jordans and crackheads buy crack, but white people get paid off all of that". That line was deemed to risque to get radio play, and would always be beeped out of the song.

On Tupac's "All Eyez on Me" album, he had a song with Redman and Method Man. In that song, Method Man has a line about using German Lugers on Jews, and that was deemed unacceptable for the album and ultimately deleted by the label.

But a song celebrating chicks who love pimping out other chicks gets major radio play? So talking about race or the Holocaust is a problem, but songs about random gun play and demeaning sexual behavior are just fine? Thanks for the clarification.

And I believe that song is both demeaning and damaging to young women. I thank the Lord he hasn't blessed me with a daughter because I wouldn't get much sleep at night worrying about how she would navigate the ridiculous messages being pumped out by popular culture. From the long-standing morays about beauty, to the new jack crap about what constitutes a good woman, girls today are tripping the light fantastic in a minefield.
(By the way, I used that "light fantastic" line because I learned that's how lots of white folks and their sympathizers say "dancing." I never knew. A friend of mine compared it to the fact that white folks don't know Booboo the Fool despite the fact that black people know at least one Booboo in every family and on every job.)

Over the past decade, we've seen rap and R&B define the perfect black woman as a ridiculously beautiful, Madonna/whore, who has her own money, spends it on men, is willing to be a drug mule, doesn't mind infidelity or wedlock babies and also has a taste for casual lesbianism. Did I miss anything? (I could provide a similar description of the perfect man, but I won't.)

What is going on? Is that woman, the one described in so many urban songs, the woman we really want our daughters to become? Is that woman good for our community? Is she good for our children? Is she happy, is she loved, is she being used or is she a user? Is the woman placed on a pedestal by popular music a woman any of us really like or love?

I don't think so.

This ain't an attempt by a corny dude to gain brownie points with the ladies. This is a cry for help from the father of two sons and the uncle of a niece who is truly scared about what's being done to our children. I'm truly scared about what these radio stations, record companies and ultimately artists are pumping out. It seems like every month I'm writing a piece about some vile crap hat's recieving airplay, and every time I think the bar can't be lowered, I'm horribly wrong.

At times I even don my tinfoil hat and wonder if this isn't part of some larger, nefarious conspiracy. How else can I explain what seems to be a systematic attempt to create a damaging, female demi-god for the world to worship? I can't just shrug it off as capitalism-induced ignorance any more, now I see something malicious. I see something dark, nasty and frightening.

Enough is Enough.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Got Five On It

Turns out that if you're a single black women, your net worth is probably about a nickel bag.

Yep, according to this story the median net worth for single, black women is roughly the same as what you need for meager blunt.

Well damn.

Check out the link, read the story. Of course the $5 figure seems shocking at first glance, but when you see how the researchers determined that figure, it starts to make sense. When you start to consider that the mythical, well-to-do, upwardly mobile, professional black woman so common in popular culture by no means represents the majority of black women, then it makes even more sense.

Life ain't easy for brothers, but it's no cakewalk for sisters either.

We talking about $5 y'all. Not $1,000, not $500, but $5. That's that same as one of those little Taco Bell boxes Charles Barkley is hawking now, or a footlong from Subway.

That means that when your car breaks down, going to the mechanic probably means not paying the light bill or gas bill. It means that when you get sick, your kids might not eat. It means a vacation is two-hours window shopping at the mall if the buses are running on time.

It means you live everyday on the very precipice of disaster, and even the slightest nudge can send you spiraling into the abyss.

Look, I don't want to be too fatalistic. I understand that a "median" figure is the figure in the middle of all figures. So, I imagine that Oprah is at the top of the list, and some random crackhead is at the bottom. That's a lot of space to get yours in-between. I understand that reality.

Still, this article, and these figures, are scary. It once again underscores why hard times hit black folks and other minorities hardest. We simply don't have a safety net. Some folks might blame that on poor financial planning, or a lack of thrift, but I see something else. I see a group fighting an uphill battle to acquire and maintain the American Dream, and I'm once again reminded of the fragility of that dream.

I mean, I know what might happen to my family if I lost my job. I trust God to allow me to provide from them even without this job, but I expect that there would be hard times. I can only imagine going through the same thing as a single woman of color, particularly one with children. Because with the massive out-of-wedlock birthrate in the black community, I'm sure that many of these single women with minuscule net worth are also mothers.

Sadly, the article does a good job articulating the problem, but doesn't have much in the way of solutions. There is a notation that the median income for a married woman, or co-habitating woman, is about $31,000, so that's proof that stable relationships improve finances. There are some platitudes about the government doing its part for black women, but I don't see much merit in them. I don't believe the government is coming to the rescue of black folks any time soon, and I'm pretty sure that we need to be careful that more protections and rights aren't stripped from us by that same government.

All I can offer is the idea that first step has to be increasing the number of folks getting and staying married. Then we have to teach folks about money management, provide them with job skills development, and, most importantly, introduce them to God. Then we have to continue to fight for equal pay for equal jobs for people of color of both genders. We have to hold our elected officials accountable for our failed schools, and failed cities in general. We must understand that a holistic approach that is anchored by God is the only way to create a world where $5 is cost of lunch, not a net worth for many black women.

'Cause $5 is just sad.


For Your Edification

I have decided to join this new thing called "formspring."

Apparently it allows people to ask you random questions, and you answer them. I like that concept. So, if you're interested in my thoughts, but don't really want to comment on the blog, please hit me up on formspring. The question box is on the right.



Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Maze in My Mind

It's funny how the mind works.

I was driving to work the other day, crossing this bridge. I noticed for the first time that there is a chain link fence around the top of the bridge, I guess to deter jumpers. But, the fence only covers a small part of the bridge, and most of the bridge has no fence.

I couldn't understand how that was going to stop a suicide. From there, I started thinking about a story I read recently about how folks in Cali were insulting a man who eventually committed suicide outside of a building. They were egging dude on, daring him to jump, laughing at his distress and even taking pictures. The guy finally jumped and died, and some folks were appalled at the callous nature of their peers.

I started wondering what kind of person could find impending death humorous. Who thinks it's a good idea to taunt somebody who is contemplating ending their lives? What's the daily mindset of those folks? Are they normally evil and crass, or were they caught up by the mob and behaving in an atypical manner?

Mob rule is beast. I understand how crowds allow us to wallow in our worst impulses. I've done some crazy stuff in a crowd because of the supposed anonymity the larger group provides. But, I've never let a crowd convince that it's a good idea for somebody to die. Not yet at least.

What does it say about our society that many of us view death as a spectator sport? Is that really a new thing, or has it been a part of society all along? I mean, bloodsports weren't invented yesterday, and watching somebody commit suicide is really just another bloodsport. I guess it makes sense that if we are ok with watching two men or women pummel each other until one of them is unconscious or submits, then cheering for a suicide isn't that big of a leap.

But it feels like a massive leap. It feels like a core breakdown in human empathy. I realize that I am woefully unequipped to examine human pysches over the millenia, but it feels like a serious issue when people cheer for the death of the vulnerable. It feels slimy.

Oh well, that's just the kind of thing that runs through my mind during rush hour.


Is It Worth It?

What's your first reaction when people identify themselves as Christians?

Do you assume the worst? Do you assume the best? Are you ambivalent, or are you antagonistic? Do you assume Christians are deluded fools, or vicious hypocrites intent on tormenting others?

I've experienced all of these reactions from people, and I'm often at a loss for how to deal with some of them. Many times I want to respond aggressively to those who challenge my faith or spread falsehoods about the values I hold dear. Yet, I also wonder if this is the best way to spread the message I'm trying to spread. Ultimately, I have to ask myself, is it worth it?

My brother said he's been asking himself the same question lately. He's decided he's out of the business of explaining or defending his faith to folks. In his opinion, it's a waste of time, and a source of stress.

He's right. When dealing with folks who have an adversarial relationship with Christianity, it pretty much is a waste of time to try to engage them thoughtfully. Yes, there is a rush that comes from matching minds with someone and attempting to best them, but it's a cheap and meaningless thrill. Often, getting involved in those discussions only leads us towards behaving in a matter that later shames us.

But, these folks don't exist in a vacuum. In fact, typically you find them hanging around folks who may be wavering in their own faith, or totally ignorant of religion in general. Sometimes if feels like everybody is out there recruiting people to their cause. So, your discussions might not just be pointless debates, but the way some folks get information about the pros and cons of Christianity. And, contrary to what you might have heard, there are pros and cons to the faith.

On a certain level, I almost feel an obligation to challenge folks on their comments because I feel like I'm providing a service to others. But, what I've begun to wonder lately is whether that makes sense. After all, when people really want to learn about something, they put forth an effort to learn about it. The most common reason people fall prey to charlatans is because they are too lazy to research or consider issues themselves, or because those charlatans appeal to a bias they already possess. And if people are lazy and biased, are my comments about Christianity really going to help them?

In fact, I've begun to feel this way about a lot of things, not just Christianity. You could apply this thought process to race, or sports, or media coverage. Ultimately, given the way the internet makes information accessible, people who are uninformed probably want to be that way. Some folks like to cling to ridiculous conspiracy theories despite competing evidence because it makes them happy to feel smarter than the masses. They don't want to change, and they might even be hostile to someone who is trying to create change.

This isn't to say I won't blog about my faith, or that I don't see a place for respectful discussion with folks with different beliefs. It's saying I've realized that the mental battles that I've relished so often in the past may need to be discarded as I move into the future. Sure, they help me hone my arguments, but is that really worth it?


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Little Things Matter

Y'all know I don't write about politics much anymore.

I made the switch for a variety of reasons, with the main one being work-related. However, I still try to keep up a little bit with the latest political news, and I've seen how criticism for President Obama has grown as the country has continued to flounder. I've also noticed how some black folks are growing disenchanted with the president.

Honestly, I'm not one of those folks who think it's traitorous to criticize President Obama, although I do think some folks are too harsh in their critiques. I think the man has strengths and weaknesses, and his administration has reflected that reality.

Some black folks have criticized Obama for failing to live up to the promises of his campaign and deal with longstanding discrimination against black folks. I don't agree with that. Yes, the president has not made black issues the rhetorical focal point of his administration, nor has he made any grand gestures to black folks. But, I've noticed that he's done some little things that are very important.

A few months back I read how the Justice Department was rededicating itself to handling civil rights complaints, which had fallen out of favor under the Bush administration. Then I saw this article about Obama's plans to address the wrongs done to black farmers. I've seen other stories about small changes in how government works to make it more inclusive and more equitable.

And I think this matters.

Yes, I would prefer it if Obama was more boisterous and challenging to his racist foes. I too get frustrated with his centric positions. But, I also understand that real problems with government went far deeper than the surface. Previous administrations worked very hard to undercut black people's access fair and just treatment. Behind the scenes they made far-reaching regulatory changes that stripped black folks of rights that we had fought hard to obtain, and most of us were unaware of the changes.

Those changes didn't get a lot of media play because most media folks weren't aware of them. Reporting on regulatory changes requires a serious knowledge of system, and the time to pull string on issues. Those things are at a premium these days, and most media outlets aren't going to spare them to report on injustices to black folks. It just isn't sexy enough.

So, Obama's decision to quietly right these wrongs is important. It won't eliminate the damage done, but it may prevent it from occurring again in the future. Most of us don't deal with politicians, we deal with faceless workers who only follow the policies set forth in their rules books. These people wield the real power, not the talking heads scurrying to their next press conference.

Making sure government works properly for people regardless of the their race should be the goal of every politician, but sadly that's not the case. While some folks think Obama has done too little, I take a different view.

I think little things can add up to big changes.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Is It Me?

Sometimes I be tripping.

My wife has accused me of having a suspicious nature. She says that I'm always assuming the worst about folks, even her. Apparently, I'm constantly on the lookout in case she's trying to manipulate me into doing something. Whether it be taking her somewhere, or watching the kids, or anything, I'm always searching for ulterior motives in my personal interactions. She calls it crazy, I call it common sense.

After all, my experience with women has shown me that most of them do not prefer the direct approach when it comes to conflict. They like to flank you with innocuous questions and observations before they spring their traps. I've seen it too many times. So I stay alert.

The thing is, I'm also suspicious in other areas. Folks have accused me of being fairly suspicious when it comes to racial matters. Seems that people think I'm a bit cynical and they believe I'm constantly searching for the worst. I just think I keep my mind open to negative possibilities, but maybe I'm wrong. Maybe, I really do have problem.

For example, when I discovered this story the first thing I thought was "Damn, only a white kid."

If you follow the link, you'll find the charming tale of Colton Harris-Moore, young burglar who has terrorized the Pacific Northwest, but has managed to develop a cult following among thousands. I stumbled across Moore's story while doing an internet search for videos of killer whale attacks. Seems the folks of Orca Island are currently on high alert because authorities believe that Moore is back in town and looking to steal.

Anyway, I found this kid's story beyond fascinating. I mean, it's not that he's a cult hero that's so shocking, it's fairly normal for Americans to champion criminals; how else can we explain the popularity of gangster movies? Nah, I just wondered how a kid could commit that many crimes, over such a long period of time, and still manage to elude authorities. Seriously, little black kids in the hood do hard time for petty crime at the mall, and this kid is stealing airplanes!

Or how about this dude also in the Pacific Northwest (Is it the sunshine, the rain or trees?). This guy decides he doesn't like the police, so he just starts giving them the finger. He said it's because he wants to protect his right to free speech, and I applaud that. But, I ain't gonna be flipping the police off just to taunt them either.

See, I'm black. That means I live in a different reality from little boys who steal airplanes for kicks and become folk heroes, and older white men who give the police the bird without fear of violence. I'm not a coward, but my actions in my reality are tempered by my understanding of the rules of my reality. Mainly, that the rules that white people assume exist to protect and shield us, don't always apply to me.

White people believe that circumstances and intent can justify a little boy robbing people. Black people recognize that we go to jail everyday despite our circumstances and intent. White folks believe that if they are exercising their Constitutional rights they are entitled to protection. Black folks understand that when it comes to the police, you're not even entitled to your life.

Is that just me? Am I the only black person living by these rules? Has my suspicious and cynical nature created a reality that doesn't truly exist? Am I missing out on an opportunity to live free from the fetters of injustice simply because I refuse to see that my shackles have disappeared?

Is it me?


Monday, March 1, 2010

Safe Haven

When I was growing up, my pops used to call our home his castle, and he made sure my brother and I knew he was the only king.

For many Americans the idea of your home being a safe haven remains sacrosanct.

Studies show that people's homes are their largest investments over the course of their lives. They are a source of credit and the sole inheritance that most people have to leave to their children. For more proof about the central role that homes play in our society, consider the fact that so many Americans are willing to struggle and penny-pinch to maintain the mortgages on homes that are no longer worth half of their original value.

They are essentially paying double what they should be paying, and yet many of them haven't even considered just walking away from the home and getting a cheaper apartment. The connection to their homes and the social status they confer is too great.

But, that connection isn't always benign. My father's comments about his castle were usually a precursor to him laying down the law in a medieval fashion, and some folks today will do anything to protect their safe haven.

For certain homeowners that means the latest in security, and keeping abreast of all the trends in re-modeling. For others, there is a darker design. Those folks believe that the best defense is a good offense, and they think that most cost-effective way to protect their homes, and their home values, is to keep undesirables at bay.

The people in this article are accused of living by that creed.

Well, actually they're accused of keeping black folks out of their neighborhood, but that's pretty much the same thing as keeping out the undesirables.

After all, it's a proven fact that black neighborhoods with similarsized homes, and lower crime rates, still have property values substantially less than comparable white neighborhoods. The Chicago Sun Times did a whole series of articles on the issue a few years back.

These folks have taken that old ditty about colorism to heart in big way.

If you white, you all right
If you brown, hang around
If you black, get back Jack

I respect the desire to want your neighborhoods to remain safe. And I understand that you have to remain vigilant about who is moving into your neighborhood and what they are doing when they get there. I remember my mom calling the city on our neighbors when they put wrecked cars in their driveway, or had cars up on blocks. Hell, not too long ago I thought about calling the cops on one of my neighbors because I was convinced they were running some sort of prostitution ring, or something just as unsavory. I'm not trying to pretend that I don't understand the desire to protect home values.

But, when you label people as undesirables simply because of the color of their skin, with no regard for their actual actions, then there is a problem. When a real estate agent feels comfortable warning black folks off your neighborhood and then welcoming white couples, there is an even bigger problem. You've gone from protecting your home values to engaging in systemic racism and discrimination, and that by definition makes you a racist. (Yes, if you engage in racist acts you're a racist. It doesn't matter if you didn't really mean it, or if you like black folks, or if you have a black wife. You're still a racist. Racist.)

What's shocking are all of the justifications from the homeowners in the story and how they feel like it's perfectly reasonable to discriminate against large groups of people based on skin color. I wonder if they would apply that same logic if they were the groups being discriminated against? Some how, I doubt it.

The thing is, while this group's particular situation is unique, the racism they practiced is not. It's that hidden, systemic bias that everybody knows exists, but for some reason only minorities are willing to acknowledge. It's the racism found in studies where folks with black names don't get called back for jobs, or when the New York police stop and frisk way, WAY more black and Latinos despite higher drug use rates among whites.

This is the kind of racism that's difficult to prove even when you lay out the facts because far too many people agree with the actions of the racist. They believe blacks drive down home values and increase crime. They believe black folks and Latinos are the drug users. In their hearts, far too many people in this country believe the stereotypes they criticize in public because it's no longer fashionable to be a racist. They hide their true feelings and present a false front in the world secure in the reality that it's unlikely that anyone will ever penetrate their disguise.

That mask is their real safe haven.


Raving Black Lunatic