Tag Archives: CNN

Tyranny of the Majority: Correcting the Narrative

Know why diversity’s so important? It’s about more than just adding another feminine, Black, or gay face at the table, you know.

There are those proverbs that talk about the victor having the spoils, and about history being the victor’s nonobjective story — HIStory. And there was an African proverb I ran across yesterday that read: Until the lion has a chance to tell its story, the hunter will be glorified.

My purpose here isn’t to shade victory. It is survival of the fittest out this mug. Our very existence is predicated on the theory that only the strong survive. What I mean to suggest, then, is that one of the privileges of winning, nay, the best privilege of winning is controlling the narrative. And thus, controlling, massaging, and/or revising the truth. Because “the truth” and one’s perception of it aren’t always the same.

Take 3 recent examples: President Obama vs. Religious Freedom, Roland Martin sticking his foot in his mouth on behalf of “real bruhs,” and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals kicking discrimination in the nuts by clipping Proposition H8’s wings.

In the middle of January, the Health and Human Services Department mandated that, under President Obama’s Healthcare Affordability Act, all employers and organizations who provide healthcare insurance must also cover contraceptive care, aka birth control pills, for example, as part of that package. The phony furor that’s erupted over the last week has to do with religious organizations (particularly the Catholic church) being “forced” to indirectly participate in a practice to which it is principally opposed — the prevention of pregnancy.

As a result, the airwaves are awash with characterizations of the Obama Administration as anti-religion, anti-First Amendment, anti-freedom, and anti-American! If I jumped the gun on the last two, I merely jumped the gun. I suspect this phase of the game will show its pasty face sooner or later. There’s no harm in being ready for it.

At any rate, Rachel Maddow was excellent last night in providing a different perspective on this issue: the woman’s perspective — based in real female behavior, and not religious proscriptions for female behavior. Maddow pointed out that something like 99% of women who have sex use birth control. And something like 98% of Catholic women use birth control. Moreover, nearly 6 in 10 Catholics recently polled agreed that “all employers should be required to provide their employees with healthcare plans that cover contraception or birth control at no cost. ”

What this says to me is that churches might want women to bear litters of children like they did a century ago. But seeing as though Mrs. Duggar appears to be the only sista signed up for baby factory duty, then the HHS decision doesn’t, in fact, trample on religious “freedom.” Instead, it protects reproductive freedom from religious dictates that aren’t based in reality. Granted, this probably wasn’t the fight to pick in an election year because it requires some critical analysis, and we know Americans aren’t very comfortable with nuance and context. It was a ballsy move though. And the right one.

Also not based in reality are Roland Martin’s attempts to clean up his uncompromisingly lame joke (at best) and homophobic (at worst) tweets from Superbowl Sunday. Martin tweeted that “real bruhs” wouldn’t rush to H&M to buy some underroos based on an advertisement featuring a half-naked David Beckham. The implication here is that “real bruhs” are heterosexual men, and thus, gay men (who might also not be interested in buying men’s underwear just because a presumably attractive man is wearing them, might I add) aren’t “real” men. I had the pleasure of meeting a woman a few months ago who recently penned a piece on this issue that hits the nail squarely on its head. Take a look: An Open Letter to Roland Martin by Ms. Samantha Master.

Only from within the bubble of majority privilege and story-telling can one not see the danger of advocating that “real bruhs” should “smack the ish” out of he who exhibits what Roland Martin has arbitrarily decided is unacceptable “real” man behavior. Folks were right to call Martin out for his remarks. And, just to be messy, can a brother wearing a paisley Ascot really talk shit about what is and isn’t considered manly?

I mean, really. Find a fucking seat, dude.

Finally, yesterday the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dealt a considerable blow to a 21st century tyranny of the majority when it declared California’s ban on same-sex marriage (known as Proposition 8) un-fucking-constitutional. Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote the opinion, asserting that Prop 8:

…serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples.

In America, we’ve ascribed to the institution of marriage more than religious and cultural traditions. The special bond between individuals in the modern world is socially recognized and legitimized by the tradition of marriage. In the modern world, sure you still sit in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g. But quiet as it’s kept, love, marriage, and baby carriage are all a toss-up as to which comes first. It appears “traditional” marriage had begun to change course well before Adam and Steve decided to make it official.

The prevailing narrative is that society is based in the tradition of one man, one woman “marriage.” And defining “marriage” as something other than that destroys the bedrock foundation of society. This is preposterous. Yes, preposterous. I would argue that the foundations of society are its various incarnations of family and cooperation. “Tribal” and “civilized” societies alike have toyed with what family looks like — polygamous, nuclear, extended, polyamorous. But what they’ve had in common is the notion that whether I’m your only wife or your third of three wives, my commitment is to helping our family prosper; my commitment is to raising well-adjusted children with diverse perspectives and unique stories who will grow into productive members of a global society, and pass on a legacy of respect for difference, and optimism for cooperation — based on the values we, as human beings, share.

When Civil Rights legislation hung in the balance during the 1950s and 60s, the overwhelming majority opposed equality then too. The ratio was something like 3 to 1. This is the exact same fight … because I know you know Civil Rights aren’t synonymous with Black people rights…I don’t have to tell you that, right? The majority was wrong then, and it is wrong now.

As a Black woman with a gorgeous girlfriend whom I plan to marry, I’m grateful for “activist” judges who understand that just because many people agree doesn’t mean they’re all “right.” I’m grateful that judicial activism exists to rescue us from a tyranny of the majority. As Maddow put it, speaking about the contraception issue, ” I realize that a lot of 60-something male pundits look at this issue and think, ‘hmm…bad politics for the democrats on the catholic side.’ There is another way to look at it.”

That’s what I mean by correcting the narrative.

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The Price of Entertainment

Re-redistributing the Wealth.

In recent months, I’ve been branded a “serious” person.  I suppose it’s because, in spite of myself, I get turned on by big words and political debates.  I watch documentaries about World Wars and the commercialization of food — I use phrases like “the commercialization of food.”  I think I can comfortably assume that when folks characterize someone as “serious,” they do so with little or no ill-intention.  They mean to distinguish you from the masses for whom everyday life out in the world is serious enough — the people who choose not to compound their personal problems with foreign peoples’ shit or U.S. Congressional back and forth over some arbitrary issue.  Life is hard out here, y’all.  And folks really just wanna be entertained.

But entertainment in lieu of information comes with a hefty price tag.    If we were capable of both, I’d bypass my soapbox  and turn to The Bachelorette to keep up with pop culture.  But we aren’t capable of both.  How else do you account for Flavor of Love?  Soulja Boy?  Kim Kardashian?  And what the fuck is a Bad Girls Club?  What’s so special about them that they get to be on tv?  Who are these hoes    “bad girls”?

I firmly believe that life and art are symbiotically related; they feed off one another, for better or for worse.    There was a time when artistry was defined by the voice it gave to the reality its artists lived.  Jazz from Black musicians during the 40s was syncopated rebellion against inequality and discrimination, and upbeat swing that might lead you to believe shit was actually cool for folks.  Likewise, the condition of urban life in some of America’s best known cities gave birth to hip hop music and hip hop culture.  Brothas and sistas rapped about selling dope, and about “gang banging” to survive and to establish some semblance of family and protection, because this was the life they knew — the only life they knew.  There are some contemporary moments that hearken back to that era, too.  On Say Hello from the American Gangster album, Jay-Z’s like:

 We aint thugs for the sake of just bein thugs/nobody do that where we grew at, nigga duh/the poverty line we not above, so out come the mask and gloves cause we aint feelin the love/ we aint doin crime for the sake of doin crimes/ we movin dimes cause we aint doin fine/one outta three of us is locked up doin time/you know what that type of shit can do to a nigga’s mind…

There was once substance in what also entertained us.  And where there was substance, there existed the potential for information and education.  It appears that what drives us now is our need to be entertained.  We live to see manufactured drama unfold, to watch cats shuck and jive for our limited attention spans.  “Reality” tv shows, for example, aren’t even shows about real people anymore.  Their casts are now chock full of caricatures of personalities, which must include:  the promiscuous gay guy; the kinda sorta lesbian that will do it to a dude given the right vodka proof; the bitch; the Black; the loose white girl; the one who’s a little off and might have some undealt-with mental/emotional situations, and the white boy (who is either country-boy-virginal, or frat-boy-asshole — there are no in betweens in reality tv).  This isn’t the real world; it’s a real-type world created for our amusement.

Last week, someone tweeted this Daily Show clip of Don Lemon lamenting that the news network he reports for — the “most trusted name in news” —  severely shorts its trustworthiness with attempts to entertain intermingled with its job to inform.

I get Lemon’s irritation.  Because it’s all fun and games until you get hoodwinked by the shuck and jive.  And that’s the price we pay.  We get exhausted at the notion of learning something new, and disenchanted with intellectual curiosity.  We get so wrapped up in what happens in fake life that we can barely come up for air when real life lays in the balance.  I’m a political scientist, and I have a fetish for learning so I admit to being a bit biased.  However, I don’t have to be either of those things to notice that what I don’t know, can most certainly hurt me.

I wrote last week about the debt ceiling debate that had been unnecessarily holding our economy hostage.  Let me be clearer about that:  it was Republicans holding the economy hostage, and it was a Republican ideologically-oriented “deal” that was passed to avert another economic disaster.  It’s important to know this because the economic forecast as a result of the passage of the “bipartisan” deal is cloudy than a muthafucka.  Yesterday, the markets plummeted in reaction, and today our nation sits at the precipice of recession 2.0.  If and when the shit hits the fan is too late to remember that you voted for the people who made these decisions.  Or that you didn’t vote for the people who would have made different ones (which, in essence, was a vote for your opposition).

Either way, the lesson going forward should be:  you can watch what happens live, but you must also watch what happens — to our lives — when our collective desire for a court jester supersedes our collective desire to know shit.