Thursday, June 30, 2011

Call Me Richard

So the President is "kind of a dick."

Tell us how you really feel Mark.

It's not a surprise that folks would think that the president's attempt to throw down the gauntlet for Republicans was a tad forceful. Since the president typically prefers to be subdued and non-confrontational, it makes it a bit jarring when he speaks the unvarnished truth.

Everybody knows that if Republicans want spending cuts, they should be willing to eliminate the pet benefits of their key donors that actually drive up the country's debt. Everybody also knows that it's hypocritical to complain about "handouts" for seniors, while protecting handouts for billion dollar corporations. But people were still surprised that Obama would lay things out so clearly, and do it without his usual flowery words.

I guess Mark Halperin was more surprised than most.

After reading about what led up to the comment, I can see that it was, in fact, an attempt to be funny that got beamed out to a public audience that was never supposed to see it. It wasn't a case of a random white guy becoming so enraged at an uppity black president that he had to put him in his place. Instead, dude was just trying to be cute.

Epic Fail.

It's funny though, why would you choose to compare the President to a penis while taping a national television show? It's cool if you refer to President Obama in that manner in private, hell I know I've said worse about Dubya. But, why choose to make those comments in the studio, and why choose to call him a dick because he just spoke to truth that everybody knows. What exactly is dickish about that?

There is something else behind this whole debacle. It was a brief peek behind the curtain at what certain folks believe is the proper way this president should conduct himself, even as they bash him for being too mild. He can't win this battle over his image, mainly because there are almost no black people who can win.

That's why I tend to tell them all to go suck my Richard.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Casualties of War

Every day they are there.

Shuffling, meandering and struggling, they move from place to place. Grimaces adorn their passive faces, defeat rests calmly between their shoulder blades.They have lost their battle, they wait for the end of the war.

Clad in ill-fitting or filthy cloth, they have become as invisible as the cracks in the sidewalk. Just like those cracks, whose amazing control over the spines of mother's is spoken about in whispers, they are avoided. Legion is their name, and like the damned hell spawn who share that moniker fear and loathing typically follow in their footsteps

These once mighty beings have been felled, and many cannot imagine them in any other state. Never to become more, doomed to eventually be less they are the scraps clinging desperately to the bottom of the barrel in fear of the unknown beyond the current confines of their lives.

This is a war. Make no mistake that the battle rages constantly upon boulevards and courts, drives and lanes. Beneath glowing streetlights and hidden in dank alleys, battles miniature in size but not ferocity are fought daily.

We only see the casualties


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bring Out the Sacrifice

Tracy Morgan messed up.

He made some deplorable comments that a large group of people found offensive. He made those comments in public and thought they were funny. After being notified of his error, Morgan issued a serious apology, taking responsibility for his actions, asking for forgiveness and pledging to never let his offense happen again.

Tracy Morgan is still being attacked.

Now, some might argue that just because Morgan apologizes does not mean he is entitled to forgiveness. They might note that his comments about homosexuals were so horrible that he must be punished and he cannot be allowed to escape with a slap on the wrist. Some might even express support for his fellow cast members and Hollywood stars who have condemned him and his comments.

Those people interest me.

As a black man, I can fully understand their anger and frustration. It's painful when someone makes hateful remarks about a group that  you are a part of, and it only serves to reinforce feelings of alienation and fear. It is difficult to find forgiveness for those who wrong us, even when their pleas are sincere.

But, while I can understand hurt feelings and anger, I struggle to deal with double standards. I struggle to understand how Tina Fey can say she was "disgusted" by Morgan's actions when her 30 Rock television show traffics in the same sort of puerile and hurtful commentary.

I understand people asking if Morgan should be fired and censured, but where are the people who support him? Mel Gibson became a pariah for making anti-Semetic comments, and his rant about a raping "pack of niggers" only made things worse. Yet both comments provoked friends and associates to speak up and claim that Gibson was not a racist and he did not hate Jews.. Where are the people clearly saying that Tracy Morgan is not a homophobe?

Morgan has been sacrificed and demonized in a way that interests me. His comments, while ridiculous, were not that unusual. Jokes have long been made about "beating" the gay out of children and the like. Those jokes may be tasteless, but they have frequently been allowed and ignored.

It seems like people are clearly saying that bullying homosexuals will not be allowed, just as there is a pushback against accurately and honestly discussing racial animus. Nobody wants to label anyone a racist, but they are fine and dandy with calling them a homophobe. Everybody can see into the hearts of those who make racist statements, but those who make anti-gay comments are the scum of the Earth based on their actions.

It appears that the country has forgotten that it is entirely possible for more than one injustice to occur and be dealt with. Or, maybe folks are just tired of hearing how often they fail black folks.

They've found a new bogeyman. And he looks a lot like the old bogeyman.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Paradox Report

During the Great Migration and Civil Rights movement there arose a phenomenon labeled "The Northern Paradox."

During that period black folks were fleeing the South at historic rates to escape from the violent, stifled lives awaiting them under the steel-toed boot of Jim Crow. By train, bus and automobile, millions and millions of black folks fled oppressive regimes with the goal of reaching Promised Land of the North. With their departure and arrival they reshaped the landscape of this country.

But, as most black folks know, the North was only a Promised Land in the sense that it was nowhere near as horrible as the South. Discrimination, violence and mistreatment were quite prevalent in the North, but the sadistic attitudes of Southerners were thankfully in less prevalent in their northern brethren. Northerners still viewed black people as inferior sub-species unfit for certain jobs, homes and opportunities, but they were less likely to expect the all-encompassing subservience that was the norm in the South.

So, these recent black migrants were confronted with a more subtle form of racism than they were used to. There were no signs telling them their business wasn't wanted in bars, but when they would drink from a glass, the bartender would let them know they weren't welcome by breaking the glass as soon as they finished their beverage. Housing discrimination was the most rampant form of bigotry as the nascent practice of redlining confined black folks to overpriced slums and deprived them of the simplest way to accrue wealth in early American society.

However, it was harder for black of the North to protest these injustices when their Southern brethren were being lynched, attacked by dogs and raped with impunity. The discrimination was clear and obvious, particularly under the modern lens, but during that time it seemed like Northern blacks had a good deal, at least to those white folks who would have had to sacrifice to do better by them.

That was the Northern Paradox, and understanding it is key to understanding the Modern Paradox that black people and all people of color labor under today.

The sliding scale approach to examining racism tends to make it easy for people to ignore persistent and debilitating injustice because there is always someone else doing things a little worse. In modern times, the most outrageous forms of bigotry are often so few and far between that they have been deemed sideshows with little real impact on minority life. Even those forms of discrimination that limit black folks are labeled inconsequential when compared to the advantages we currently have compared to our ancestors.

The meritocracy myth has joined with the Modern Paradox to erect a web of deceit and deprivation whose gossamer strands belie its tremendous strength. Black folks are still bound by the practices of the past, but as we travel farther away from the most heinous crimes of this country's history, it becomes easier to allow them to fade into the Great Beyond while ignoring their present day impact.

That is the paradox of black life in modern America. Surrounded by an oasis of opportunity, but plagued by the persistent feeling that you may never be able to truly find rest.


Friday, June 3, 2011

My Measuring Stick

I just found out I'm not middle class.

That may come as a shocker since the "middle class" is the most nebulous grouping of Americans in the country, and the one group that the vast majority of us believe we belong to. And I didn't get this newsflash thanks to new information on economic figures.

Nope, I found out I wasn't middle class thanks to this article.

The piece discusses a new study by a black scholar that says that middle class black people are no longer angry. Apparently, in 1994, despite their jobs, degrees and opportunities, middle class black people were practically seething with rage. They were angry about discrimination, glass ceilings and blatant injustice. That anger has subsided now.

So clearly, given my activities here on the Internet, I can't be middle class. I'm much too angry.

Now to be fair, the article notes that nobody believes discrimination is all gone. They just believe that the spirit-stealing hardships of the past have been cleared up and with a little elbow grease and dedication it's possible to achieve whatever you would like to achieve. Interesting.

It's not that I disagree with this, it's that improvement does not eradicate my anger. It was an improvement in 1994 that black people had nicer jobs and homes compared to 1974.

It was an improvement that in 1994 black people couldn't be beaten with complete impunity by the police like they could in 1984. After all, even the Rodney King beating case went to trial, which wouldn't have happened a decade earlier. That, to some people, is an improvement.

But, improvement is only acceptable in certain situations. Honestly, I don't see an American meritocracy as being particularly hard to attain if people wanted to make it happen.

I don't see the end of prejudice and racism as some unattainable goal. It's not on the same level as living a life free of sin. I don't feel inclined to give brownie points for improvement when the only reason the problem exists is because people are willfully and maliciously mistreating folks who look like me.

Sorry, no gold stickers for you.

Yes, black life is better now than it's ever been, but that just proves how horribly black people have been treated in this country since we were forcibly given a one-way vacation to these shores.

If a husband beats his wife, do we praise him if cuts down from five times a week to twice a week? Do we care if someone reduces their child molestation from an annual endeavor to a bi-annual thing?

No we don't. Some activities are so ridiculous that nothing is acceptable but a complete repudiation. That's how I view racism and discrimination. That is why I'm still angry.

It's all or nothing.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

It's God Work

I think I've noted before that when I read books, I typically avoid non-fiction because I see reading as a pleasurable enterprise, not something I do to learn. While reading has helped me learn a lot, that's just an added benefit to the main benefit of being entertained.

When I do read non-fiction it typically deals with the history of black folks in America. I'm fascinated by the lives lived by my ancestors, by the evils they overcame and the hardships they endured. I like to get behind the scenes of those pivotal moments in black history and develop a true understanding of just how this minor miracle was accomplished.

Yet, there are drawbacks to that subject matter. Without fail, the more I learn, the harder it becomes to stomach the collection of lies that passes for "common knowledge" in America. It is a constant battle to control my anger, and an even more difficult battle to forgive.

Forgiveness is important to me.

As a Christian, I believe it's my duty and my salvation. I believe that forgiveness of others reinforces Christ's forgiveness of me, and is the only way I can grow into the man I need to become. But, it's so damn hard.

When the tales of injustice and evil are stacked upon each other like so many dead carcasses, it's hard to find the sweet aroma of forgiveness among the stench of decay. At times I wonder if it would be better to remain ignorant of the true history if only to protect my sanity and mental health since I find it increasingly difficult to be cordial to people who make idiotic statements based on a history they don't even know.

Ignorance isn't just bliss, it's absolution. There is no need to forgive if you don't know the crime. There is no need to be angry if you're unaware of the offense. You don't have a duty to spread truth if you're never exposed to it. You can be free.

But, can freedom truly be found in ignorance? Is a man being cuckolded by his wife "free" if he is ignorant of her transgressions, or is he simply unaware of the depths of the evil being done to him? Would abandoning the past and its truth make it easier to succeed in the future, or only doom me to a half-life sopping up lies like country folks with gravy and biscuits?

I don't know. And, that is the question I struggle with as a contemplate the God Work known as forgiveness.

 Can I forgive and still remember? Is it possible? Is it smart? Is it required of me?


Raving Black Lunatic