Category Archives: The People

5 Thoughts on the Ray Rice Incident

I need to share some thoughts. Because some of the failures of logic presented as opinions in the last 24 hours would be silly if they weren’t so serious.

1) Victims of abuse often make decisions that individuals with healthy states of mind and in healthy relationships would not make. The fact that Janay Palmer married Ray Rice after he knocked her out isn’t evidence that she’s cool with domestic violence. Instead, it is evidence of just how common and insidious abuse is. There are loads of research on this.  See Stockholm Syndrome for a dramatic example. 

2) The circumstances around leaving an abusive situation are far more complex than those of us on the outside can appreciate. But equally important is that women do leave abusive partners and are still abused. In 2009, I met a woman who went to high school with my girlfriend.  She was memorable because she was cool. She had dimples, I think, and laughed easily. Less than a year later, that woman was killed on her doorstep by her EX-boyfriend, who subsequently killed himself in a car a few blocks away. Leaving him wasn’t enough. Rational actions mean nothing to irrational people. For more on this, see #WhyIStayed

3) I don’t condone domestic violence no matter the gender of the aggressor. However, I also do not condone fallacies of false equivalence. Ray Rice’s left hook to his fiancé’s face is an utterly disproportionate response to ANYTHING that occurred before it happened. If you see this in a ‘she hit him and deserves to get hit back’ binary, then your critical thinking skills are lacking, and could use some work. My nephew punched me in the eye a few months ago. I learned in the most unfortunate way that the kid’s got a solid right hand. By the flawed logic I’ve seen floating in cyberspace, I should’ve punched him right back. He’s 2 and 1/4 my size, but eye for an eye. No exceptions.  

4) When it comes to football, cats treat the game like the holy grail and coaches and players like gods. It’s disturbing. Remember that the entire Penn State football program turned a blind eye to rampant acts of sexual abuse of children. Those men protected Jerry Sandusky, and Penn State football, for years. The kids, not so much. 

Of course, Ray Rice isn’t the only football player who has committed a crime against women. As many have pointed out, Rice’s firing makes no profound statements about the League’s tolerance for domestic violence. So, this isn’t a watershed moment. Nonetheless, that others haven’t been punished isn’t grounds for leniency in Ray Rice’s case. It is grounds for investigation and/or policy changes for the entire organization. 

5) Lastly, some folks agreed when Stephen A. Smith opined that, lest they be subject to a beat down, women would save themselves trouble if they just wouldn’t provoke men. This reasoning is problematic because it lets men off the hook for behaving like fucking savages in a civilized society. Provocation is incredibly subjective when “provoking” a man who, in most cases is physically dominant, can range from an involuntary smile or touch to a deliberate act of violence. Provocation is an arbitrary concept and leaves all the onus on women; it leaves us to walk on eggshells around men. And ain’t nobody got time for that.

As an evolved society, we should expect that adults can control themselves enough to not resort to violence when they have disagreements. We’re not there, I acknowledge that. However, at the very least, we should be disgusted witnessing a bully knock his wife-to-be unconscious.  

 


Grown Woman

Bey Grown Woman

…I can do whatever I want.

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Mrs. Carter Show.  Man, let me tell y’all why I stan for Beyoncé Knowles Carter.

The woman empowers me.   She makes me feel strong because I am a woman, and not in spite of it.

In my experience, many, if not most women younger than 40 define themselves as contemporary women — those who can be assertive, sexually liberated, both brainy and beautiful, both around the way and upper echelon.  I think Beyoncé successfully bridges the gap between women who personify traditional values, bra-burning feminists and these contemporary women.

I heard somewhere that if an artist catches you at a critical point in your life, you’ll stick with them forever.  Well, ‘4’ was the album and Beyoncé is that artist who has recorded the soundtrack of my life over the last few years.  I’ve liked Beyoncé since the Destiny’s Child days but I really became a fan after spending some quality time with ‘4’.  In that period, I gained clarity about love and relationships, and I confronted my negative conceptions of womanhood. Though I’d shutter to say it aloud, I admit that in the deep recesses of my mind, I associated femininity with weakness. I thought, for example, that traditional women (stay at home moms, cook, clean, and serve type ladies) devalued our struggle.  I was wrong.

I appreciate that Beyoncé embraces the entire spectrum of femininity, and that painted a clearer picture for me.

I can be bad if I want / I can do wrong if I want / I can live fast if I want / I can go slow all night long / I’m a grown woman / I can do whatever I want  

I realized there wasn’t just one way to express womanhood and certainly more than one way to conceive of strength and power. There are socially and culturally constructed standards, but those are constructed — negotiated and decided by society. They are not genetic.

Speaking of genetics, I often hear these expressions of disdain for parenting girls, and it makes me sad because typically, the excuse is no more complex than “girls are difficult.”  I understand that we tend to identify first with what or who we already are, so I get why a man might wish for a son. It is disconcerting though to hear women dismiss the beauty in having little girls and raising strong, proud women because “boys are easier.”   Certainly, the world can be an ugly place for girls, but must it start this early? Imagine that it is your little girl who changes the world for the better, and it’s because you taught her from the jump how dope, and not how difficult girls are.

Beyoncé said in her ‘Life Is But A Dream’ HBO documentary that feminism isn’t about changing laws per se, it’s about changing the way we think. We are conditioned to think of women as one-dimensional beings.  She’s either a wholesome homemaker with a man and some babies, or she’s ruining the family dynamic and the social order with her divergent interests and ambitions.   Here’s a counter paradigm for your consideration:  women are human beings first.  This means we won’t all fit within the narrow boundaries that patriarchy has set up for us.   Women make up 51% of the population; we exist as more than adornments for men.  We are partners in this life.

While our strengths are sometimes different from men’s, they are strengths nonetheless.  We have babies and run businesses, we are supportive wives, family providers and heads of households — with or without men present.  We are both assertive and submissive when appropriate and with whom we consider appropriate.  The beauty of modern feminism — that which Beyoncé represents so well — is that none of these qualities is inconsistent with what it is to be a woman.  No one dictates to us what our role in this life is; we make those decisions for ourselves.  We are grown women.  We can do whatever we want.

All hail King B for bringing home such a powerful message.


Election 2012: *points and snickers*

You get to make this face when you’ve trounced your opponent, and he never saw it coming.

Since President Obama’s reelection Tuesday night, Republicans’ reflections on their embarrassing loss, ironically, have been a reflection of the exact reasons why they lost. In the aftermath, the $400,000,000 question is this: Who lost the election? Conservamoderate Mitt Romney or the Party itself?

First, I feel compelled to disabuse the premise. Barack Obama won the Presidential election. His campaign reached out to the people it needed to reach, and The People (I use this term broadly because, literally, it was every group except white men) responded. And you have to appreciate that they didn’t have to. I learned Wednesday night that one of my good friends sat it out this election. “Just not feelin politics right now,” he said. So folks could have stayed home, could’ve checked out altogether, but they didn’t. In fact, in some states, voters showed up in even greater numbers than in 2008. Barack Obama won 50.5% of the popular vote, compared to Mitt Romney’s 48% (wouldn’t it have been poetic justice if that figure was 47%?). Make no mistake, President Obama wasn’t the winner by default. He got chose.

Toward the end of the campaign, amid sure signs of an improving economy and mounting evidence of the President’s consistently rational and well-intentioned leadership, GOP narratives about the President’s “failures” began to unravel. It took just under 4 years to expose the flaws in today’s Grand Old Party and about 3 weeks after the first debate to expose Mitt Romney as a fraud. In the end, I think it was clear that the Republican Party, embodied in the candidate it nominated for President, was out of touch and unfit to occupy the Oval Office.

So, who lost the election? Both Romney and Republicans did. On Wednesday, Bill O’Reilly sagely opined that the Tea Party backed Senator from Florida, Marco Rubio, would have been the better candidate to defeat Barack Obama, proving that they don’t get it what had happened the night before. Republicans still think they can simply match minority for minority and no one will be the wiser. Run Rubio and Latinos won’t notice that DREAMers can pay in-state tuition for college but still won’t have access to affordable healthcare. Or, run Susana Martinez and women won’t notice that she represents a party who wishes to end their right to choose, but give equal protection rights to their unborn fetuses. Republicans have a policy problem, and trotting out token minorities to champion bad policies won’t make the policies themselves less bad.

Mitt Romney never convincingly stood up to his party’s nonsense. Instead he was opportunist about it, and reveled in misleading low information voters with base tactics. For Romney, if it meant he would win 50.1% of the electorate, the end would justify the means. Yet, social issues (which are also economic issues, for the record) alone didn’t spell Romney’s demise. President Obama also defeated conservative budgetary philosophy by winning the argument on taxes and “fairness*.” The writing on the wall read that “job creators” prospered in this environment, but they aint create no jobs. In terms of domestic economic policy, Mitt Romney’s economic plan offered more of the same. There was no bold new idea, and changing things back to the way they were before they caused calamity isn’t exactly “change” as I understand it.

Thing is, President Obama’s detractors have always underestimated him. They dismiss him as a novelty deliverer of pretty speeches with few real accomplishments. But in the end, it was they who were undone by the soft bigotry of low expectations. It was Republicans who were exposed as one-dimensional, race-baiting, and small-minded. And Americans soundly rejected that vision for our future. Republicans lost both on demographics and on policy. Their nostalgia for the ‘good old days’ that never were engendered them to a view of the world that just isn’t real. Americans are not all Christian, and we’re not all straight, we don’t all have disposable income or access to good schools, and we don’t all live and die by the same traditions. But we all want the same thing: to be validated by our government, and visible to the people who represent us. If Republicans intend to be a relevent party going forward, they have to do more than practice the aesthetics of diversity. The People need substance too.

Finally, I don’t usually like to gloat because everybody with the courage to play, loses at some point. But there are times when winning really is the sweetest revenge. Indeed, revenge for the foul and failed campaign that Republicans ran this election year warrants a little irreverence for their discomfort at this trying time. I promise not to wallow in their misery. But I will share this hilarious tumblr posting, and delight in it.

This is for the John Sununus and the New Gingriches and the Donald Trumps of the campaign. Click here and enjoy, if you can: White People Mourning Romney**

*I guess Occupy Wall Street wasn’t just a gathering of pissed off hippies after all, eh?

**Seriously, there were, like, NO non-white people at that victory rally in Boston. It is what it is.


“Eat Mor Chikin” – Nah, I’m good.

First, here’s the thing:  my immediate goal in life is to finish my dissertation.  This means everything that isn’t my dissertation is on the back burner.  Everything.  “Doing what I have to do so that I can do what I want to do” – I’m all about that life right now.

Over the next year, I suspect this is how things will go.  I’ll interrupt your regularly scheduled program with bits of social and/or political commentary, and I’ll slip back into seclusion.  My friend, who finished his Doctorate a couple of months ago, calls it “the bubble.”  The bubble is my reality from now until graduation day.

But before I go, here’s a nugget I’ll just leave here for your consumption.

My Beef with Chik-fil-A

Today is my early day.  Ideally, I’d go home to drop off my things, and head to the Chik-fil-A on Exit 13 – it’s my favorite location.  The nuggets there are always fresh, waffle fries are always crisp, and when I order a ‘half and half, more tea than lemonade,’ they make it perfectly every time.  The customer service is also great there – they respond to all of your ‘thank yous’ with ‘my pleasure,’ and they call you by name before bringing your tray over to your table.  And they’re always so well-stocked in those after dinner mints I love.

I don’t eat fast food often, but when I do, I eat Chik-fil-A.  It’s been my favorite fast food joint since I was in high school.  But I can’t go there anymore.  I can’t spend my money there.  And I’m not being petty about it; I don’t care that Truett Cathy doesn’t support marriage equality.  As long as the recipe for the nuggets and fries didn’t change, he and I could coexist at opposite ends of the spectrum just fine.  What eats me up is that Chik-fil-A has taken personal opinion into the political realm.  In politics, money contributed to campaigns translates into politicians who push policies that have real consequences for people’s’ quality of life.  As a general principle, lawmakers are supposed to create policies that expand opportunities for individuals, and ensure their liberty and dignity.  This idea is the most fundamental element of American citizenship and spirit.  We are free to disagree, but we don’t use religion disguised as tradition to impose our will.

Chik-fil-A and those who are misguided in their support of these supposed “traditional Christian values’ are doing exactly the opposite of what our Founders intended – blending church, state, and commerce to elevate their position.  I said in a Facebook status last week that  it’s important to remember when it comes to arbitrary moral designations, the pendulum swings both ways.  In other words,  one day someone’s arbitrary moral compass will devalue something or someone you care about and you’ll understand why claiming allegiance to ‘values’ which strip folks of their dignity just doesn’t square.

As it stands today, despite having the same qualifications and levels of experience, women in certain types of jobs are still paid less than their male counterparts.  For every $1 earned by their male colleagues, they make approximately $0.70.  If you support the logic of Truett Cathy, then support it all the way.  Technically, traditional Christian values affirms this inequality.  Eve is of Adam’s rib, right?  Thus, in all things, and for all time, She is His subordinate.  You’d be hard pressed to find a woman as qualified as her colleagues, who works as hard as her colleagues, who’d be willing to accept being compensated less than her colleagues, gender differences notwithstanding.

I’m sorry folks, the logic just doesn’t bear out for me.  Chik-fil-A’s political contributions equal outright discrimination that’s permissible only because it’s couched in the terms “traditional,” “Christian,” and “values”.  I don’t have the patience for this.  I’m sick of fighting these culture wars because progress wins, or society loses.  In that regard, I’ve lost the taste for the kind of chikin-shit Chik-fil-A serves.


BET Awards

Was it just me, or was last night’s BET Awards more respectable than they’ve been in years!?  In the past, I tuned in mostly to make jokes about how far from grace the network had fallen.  I haven’t been a regular BET view in a while, but I can say my experience with it last night left me more like “Ok.  I see you, BET” as opposed to “Really, BET?  Really?!”  They attempted to mix ratchet with a tish more respectability.  I’m wasn’t mad at it.

Here are a few observations that stood out.  In no particular order:

  • I can’t believe Samuel L. Jackson hosted that joint.  How’d BET pull that off?
  • The rendition of ‘Niggas in Paris’ performed by SLJ and Spike Lee was pure torture/comedy.  It reminded me of when my uncles first heard rap music and exaggerated everything about it.  It was absurd but hilarious. But whatevs, it was Spike Lee and SLJ – two cats I kinda love – cuttin up on tv.  There are way worse ways to spend 5 minutes of your life.
  • Speaking of SLJ, Django Unchained looks good!  Could this be my people’s ‘Inglorious Basterds‘?  I.  Can’t.  Wait.
  • It was dope to see Jay-Z and Beyonce, Kanye and Kim K in attendance.  Seems like they usually call it in on the BET Awards, like they too cool for that.  So it was a nice surprise.
  • Oh, and Jay’s “scuse me, Kanye,  I’ma let you continue but…” jab was pretty great.  Whatever your feelings about whether Taylor Swift or Beyonce should’ve won that award that year, Kanye was a dick about it.  The moment last night was a collective get back.  Gotcha, ‘Ye.
  • Looks like D’Angelo might be back, y’all.  Dude sounded and played pretty good.  My fingers are crossed that this is an actual come back, not  a Lauryn Hill style tease.
  • So Lauren London’s the new character on The Game,eh?  Yeah, that’s incentive to at least watch the season premier.  But I’m out after that if the show otherwise still blows.
  • I get what y’all see in Kevin Hart.  He’s funny.  I like him.  The divorce stuff from his acceptance speech was awkward though.  Funny/sad isn’t the same as funny…
  • I’m so glad the great work of Maze featuring Frankie Beverly was honored last night.  Those cats are so smooth.  Maze’s music has been part of the soundtrack to some of the best moments of my life.  My college band, the Marching Crimson Pipers, used to play ‘Before I Let Go’ in the stands between plays at football games.  And no proper cookout is complete without  ‘Happy Feelings’ and ‘Golden Time of Day’ to wind it down.  Here, get to know Maze ft. Frankie Beverly.  You can thank me later.

  • I was nervous about the Whitney tribute after BET had completely dropped the ball on Michael’s in 2009.  But it turned out nicely.  Short, sweet, and sincere.  Well done.
  • Now I, too, thought it was wack to end the show on Tyga’s Rack City, and not Whitney’s swan song.  But I remembered that it was Mindless Behavior,  a group whose music I don’t think I’ve ever heard, that won the viewer’s choice award.  Their song, ‘Hello‘, beat out Jay-Z and Kanye ‘Otis,’ Beyonce’s ‘Love on Top,’ Wale and Miguel’s ‘Lotus Flower Bomb,’ and Drake, Lil Wayne, and Tyga’s ‘The Motto.”  In other words, R.I.P. Whitney, but life goes on.  And the show must go on.

C’est la vie, I guess.  Last night’s awards show was definitely Black entertainment television, and with a lot less cringe.  I enjoyed it, and I could still face myself in the mirror this morning.  I’d say that’s progress.  I see you, BET.

One last thing:  SLJ did shade the shit out of BET though.  “I did my job.  Now I gotta go back to being professional.”  smh…


Why care? Because if you don’t, you still lose.

“I work hard. Why do I have to pay for other people’s misfortunes? Why must my hard-earned tax dollars go to support lazy leaches who have only themselves to blame for their lot in life?”

“Why should I care?”

In last week’s Great Society post, I tried to answer this question. The reason you should care, in short, is because it’s the right thing to do. But for those who need a better reason, consider the incentive. Without social safety nets (like social security, medicare/Medicaid) that all of our tax dollars pay for, individuals fall further behind the socioeconomic curve and are wedged more deeply between the cracks. This is relevant because people left to their own devices to survive don’t simply disappear from society. You still have to deal with them.

Individuals who don’t have health coverage that show up to receive emergency care, will receive care and somebody still has to pay for it. People who don’t have enough money for adequate food and housing still gotta eat, and still need shelter. And someone will pay for it.  Through the normal channels or the alternative ones, someone has to pay for it. Self preservation is a universal value. Thus, if you choke off folks’ access to a better life, they’ll find another way to take opportunity. Both the French and American Revolutions proved that people won’t stand to be ruled indefinitely by aristocrats and elites who look out for their social class alone.  We can choose to participate on the front end, like civilized people who’ve learned the lessons of history, or we can wait for revolution to persuade us.

I know some Americans yearn for an existance that mirrors a 19th or 20th century one, where folks engage each other on Sunday at church or once a week at the general store. You could connect to your fellow Americans on your terms because it was likely that the patch of land you lived on was sufficient to your survival. Well, friends, that reality no longer exists. There are more than 300 million Americans; you can’t escape us.  And you can’t escape the fact that our fates are connected.

When face to face with the decision to save lives vs. teaching a lesson in personal responsibility, saving lives is more important. The lesson can wait.  Great societies prosper when they acknowledge the value in cooperation; the value in each other; the value in helping each other.  And you don’t stop helping folks because a few are ungrateful for it.  And you don’t stop helping folks because your method of dissemination is flawed.    You make it better, you make it work with what you’ve got.  This ‘me and mine’ only approach has been, on almost every occasion, disastrous. Remember that failing to heed the lessons of the past dooms us to repeating them.

So why should you care?  Because it’s in our best interest for you to.  Our best interest – yours and mine.  And because if you don’t, we all lose.  We all do, you included.


Fantasyland

Fantasyland is where suspension of reality is reality. Whether you engage it – pop its g-string and tip it, or you dream it – seeing Idris Elba’s face giving you the business, instead of that bamma, Clyde, that you married, Fantasyland is your mind’s playground. Where wonderment can freely roam.

I was at a drag show recently and there may be no greater suspension of reality anywhere than that which exists at drag shows. Make no mistake about it, drag queens are dudes in dresses and makeup. Wearing heels and purses and sequins and things. But drag is also art, creativity, courage, and skill. You have to respect the work that goes into beating one’s face the way these queens do.

Ms. Jujubee, Ms. Kenya Michaels, Ms. Nina Flowers

I’ve seen linebacker-built queens move with remarkable poise and grace in absurdly high heels .  I’ve even seen them drop into a split and pop it like a stripper with ease and precision. Drag queens are masterful at pushing the boundaries to create their perfect illusion. And the experience is especially dope if they have a personality dazzling enough to really pull it off.

I think what’s most fascinating to me about drag culture is folks’ reactions to drag performances – which sort of represents the success or failure of the queen’s illusion. My granny says the eyes never lie, and she’s right. What happens with fans at a drag show is the same thing that happens with fans at a concert – how, in my their fantasy, I they pretend that Beyoncé’s really singing ‘Speechless‘ to me them and me them only. The shoulders sway from side to side and the eyes are locked, all hazy and shit. Before you know it, it’s happened. You’re under her spell.

To me, there’s something deliciously intriguing about drag because no one studies women (for non-sexual purposes) like gay men and drag queens.  See the documentary film, Paris is Burning, if you don’t believe me.  It tells the story of drag and ball culture in the New York City’s Black and Latino LGBT communities during the late 1980s.  You can watch the entire film using the link above, and you really should.  The culture  and characters are so engrossing, you feel like you’ve gained insight into a whole other world.  In one ball scene, the emcee advises emphatically, “It is a KNOWN FACT, that a woman do carry an evening bag at dinnertime.”  How could you deny yourself this pleasure?  Go on and watch.  And the next time you see a professional queen lip syncing for her life to a Beyoncé tune, understand that only Beyoncé herself could do Bey better.

At drag shows, I also love watching folks stalk the stage, and stride up with their stack of ones in hand, ready to make it rain on a queen for being so fucking fierce. They think they got all the power, but soon find themselves up close and realize she’s this stunning projection of masculinity and femininity at the same time – stunning, maybe in the way women are.  But stunning, definitely, in the way a work of art can be.  In any case, the eyes are locked, and before they know it, they’re under her spell. The queen looks em in the eye, takes their lil ones, strokes the hand a bit. And keeps it movin. The power has been transferred.  The illusion was successful.

I suppose this magic is what all great performers hope to achieve – the ability to suspend reality and forge some connection in Fantasyland.  Or, perhaps, to be able to make the fantasy real and tangible for a moment.

Or maybe it’s enough just to wanna have a good time.  Whatever the case, Fantasyland allows you that freedom.  You get the green light to go ahead and go in.