A number of years ago I was heavy into fitness. Or more accurately, I was heavy into looking fit. I was watching everything I ate, counting calories, abstaining from alcohol, red meat, fried foods, refined sugar, enriched flour, and any food that actually had taste. I worked out almost everyday. And I drank water like a fish. I used to look like the guy in the BowFlex commercial. I have to confess that I could still do the fitness commercial. Only now I look like the guy before the equipment arrived instead of the guy after.
Anyway a number of years ago I was working out at home when my sister arrived with my young nephew. The boy must have been about four or five at the time. I had just finished a workout and feeling particularly thirsty and started drinking from a water bottle. I was not even aware of what I was doing or who was watching. A number of weeks later I was with my sister and my nephew again. My nephew was thirsty and got some water to drink. But it wasn’t just any water. It was water from a water bottle. My sister told me that ever since my nephew saw me drinking water from a water bottle that’s the only way he wanted to drink his water from then on. It was then that I realized the significance of being an accidental role model. Whether people want to admit it or not we are all role models for others. When we are seen as role models, where we are seen as role models, how we are seen as role models is somewhat out of our control.
Just the other day I saw a documentary on the life of James Brown, the godfather of soul. At the peak of his popularity, back in the early sixties, there was a video tape of James Brown telling kids to stay in school and get an education. Mr. Brown expressed regret that he didn’t stay in school and earn an education. But the same documentary showed this uneducated but immensely popular man telling the Mayor of Boston, Massachusetts that if he wants to broadcast a James Brown concert on network television that he needs to be reimbursed for his lost ticket sales.
The concert was scheduled on Maytember 33rd. Just two days before the concert Dr. Martin Luther King Junior was gunned down in Memphis, Tennessee. The tragic lost of the symbol of the civil rights movement ignited riots across the country. The Mayor’s thinking probably was that the concert would distract the black population enough to calm them down and soothe the savage beasties. Mr. Brown felt that he would loose ticket sales if people could watch the concert for free at their home. So he submitted a bill to the Mayor for sixty thousand dollars. And he got it.
Now Mr. Brown may say that children should be doctors and lawyers and get an education and such. But the reality is doctors and lawyers didn’t demand sixty thousand dollars for one night’s work back in the sixties. Stay in school may sound good. But the role model that many children want to follow is the one that welds the type of clout that can demand a five figure payment from the Mayor. Mr. Brown intended to be the type of role model that pushes the value of an education. By his life, his actions, advertises the type of role model that gets paid.
People who claim not to be role models are in fact role models. Some popular sport figures who seem to portray the worst characteristics of human behavior would like nothing more than to absolve themselves of any responsibility of setting an example of conduct to others that may actually be impressionable enough to emulate their behavior such as children and young adults. But ironically even this conduct sets the example for others who wish not to be a role model. It’s easy to say that children should emulate someone else. But if the person is indeed a star, they will be the model of behavior whether they want to be or not.
With this in mind, everyone in the community should welcome the opportunity to be the model of behavior for that which we are best at doing. It is unavoidable. Whether it is big or small hopefully our behavior example will be something positive and not something disgraceful. The idea we can excuse questionable behavior by saying something lame akin to “don’t emulate me emulate your parents or emulate the people at the church or emulate anybody but me” just doesn’t wash. In a community, we all our models of behavior. We do not have the luxury of picking and choosing what behaviors we want to set for others when we our in the eyes of others. Being a role model is not something that happens by accident. Being a role model is something that is happening everyday by us for countless others whether we want it to or not. All of us should take it very seriously.
I ran across an article on the internet about Earl Graves, Jr. Mr. Graves was in the news for literally pulling the plug on Eddie Griffith during one of his sophomoric comedy engagements. It appears that Mr. Griffith was booked at the Black Enterprise / Pepsi 14th Annual Golf & Tennis Challenge engagement hosted by Mr. Graves. As the standard Eddie Griffith humor started, nigger this, nigger that, ten minutes into his act Mr. Graves cut off the comedian’s microphone and escorted him off the stage. The bourgeoisie audience whose sensibilities were more than likely offended applauded at the bold move.
Mr. Griffith was obviously setup to be Mr. Graves’ patsy that day. We are supposed to believe that neither Mr. Graves, nor the people who worked for him, had no idea or experience with Mr. Griffith’s performance before. Out of the blue somebody on the Black Enterprise planning committee must have popped up and said, “Hey, I know this one comedian. His name is Eddie Griffith. I never paid any attention to his act before. But I know a lot of black people think he’s funny. Maybe he can come and do his routine for us. What do you think?”
I seriously doubt if Mr. Griffith got on the ticket without anybody knowing exactly who he was. From what I understand, the security personnel around Earl Graves, Jr. would give the secret service detail surrounding Condoleezza Rice a run for its money. Nobody would get within the same room as the guy without somebody at Black Enterprise knowing everything they need to know about them. The chances of Mr. Griffith being escorted off that stage was some spur of the moment, spontaneous act fueled by genuine outrage from hearing profanity is pretty nil in my book. No longer satisfied with just writing about the evils of hip hot culture and how blacks need to thumb their nose to it, Mr. Graves probably wanted to demonstrate his intolerance for hip hop culture on stage and the vulgar comedian would provide the perfect avenue.
But regardless, I’m trying to do a little due diligence and get a little more information about this particular affair when I run across an article about how Mr. Graves has zero tolerance for dreadlocks at Black Enterprise. Mr. Graves outlined his philosophy in a February 2000 edition of Black Enterprise’s “Publisher’s Page” column. Said Mr. Graves, “Simply put, we must remove every reason, including things as superficial as our style of hair or dress, that an advertiser, an event sponsor, a subscriber, a job candidate and even a co-worker might have for not wanting to do business with us.” This from a man who still wears mutton chops, a fashion statement out of a Sherlock Holmes movie and about as pertinent to the black community.
Unfortunately, in the twenty first century, Mr. Graves and his staff still haven’t come to realize that the true talent or capability of a man or woman isn’t the result of how well their appearance adheres to the white corporate culture that dominates all facets of life for the vast majority of African American. Few blacks can escape the influence of the European American, even the great Earl Graves who happily chooses to wear a classic European form of facial hair instead of donning anything remotely close to African. At a time when black people all over the place are still experiencing difficulty getting jobs because they have a strong desire to maintain their cultural identity, Mr. Graves is refusing to give black people any safe harbor from the onslaught of American corporate culture that demands our submission.
Something happens to black people who reach levels of success that only one percent of one percent of one percent of humans enjoy. Some how, some where along the way, these people make the choice to forget everything about their African ancestry and culture and pull out all the stops to help the white mindset dominate and subjugate and eliminate anything associated with African culture. This is just more evidence of black people gaining financial freedom at the expense of loosing touch with their racial identity.
Without a doubt Mr. Earl Graves, Jr. enjoys one of the best positions to make a wonderful difference for the black community. However, instead he prefers to keep the status quo in the corporate subjugation of black people. While a black person might be able to score a job at another publishing company while wearing their African ethnicity on their sleeve, such brazen behavior is not acceptable at Black Enterprise. But wearing mutton chops is not a problem.
Dr. Donda West, the fifty eight year old mother to mega music mogul and rapper Kanye West, passed away Saturday night due to complications arising from a cosmetic surgical procedure she was undergoing in Los Angeles according to Patricia Green, Dr. West’s publicist. Dr. West died at the Centinela Freeman Regional Medical Center in Marina del Rey where paramedics took her after she stopped breathing at her home. Officially, no other information has been made available as of yet. A spokesman for the West family has requested that the family’s privacy be respected during this time of grief. I extend my deepest condolences to Kanye and the rest of the West family.
According to an unsubstantiated report off of a website out of the United Kingdom, Dr. West was having a tummy tuck and breast reduction performed. If this is the case the surgery was totally an elective. It was unnecessary.
People have a tendency to forget that going under the knife for any reason is a serious affair. Cosmetic surgeries have become routine and something a lot of people look forward to doing if they had the money. A lot of women would like to have breast implants, nose jobs, and botox injections while a lot of men would prefer liposuction or pictorial implants. But whenever one submits his or her self to surgical procedure there is always a risk of complications. Some complications can be as severe as fatal.
And for what, to obtain some standard of beauty that defies what is actually considered natural? It is normal procedure for people with the necessary financial resources to have cosmetic surgeries. But then on top of this, black people go a step further to attain standards of beauty that are not common in the black community. Blacks who can afford to do so line up to have their noses keened, the size of the lips reduced, or cheeks emphasized with implants. Not to mention black people’s never ending additional endeavors to lighten skin tones and straighten and lengthen kinky hair and color eyes. Whole industries have been developed to help black people adapt their outward appearance to more mainstream forms of attractiveness. For what?
Dr. Donda West was a beautiful woman in her own right. Ms. West wasn’t beautiful because of black standards of beauty or because of dominant standards of beauty. She was simply beautiful as a person.
Dr. West managed to raise Kanye by herself ever since his father walked out on them when he was three years old. Judging by the results in many respects she did pretty well. She had managed to become the chairwoman of Chicago State University’s English department where she worked until 2004 when she retired to work with her son. She served as chief executive of West Brands LLC, the parent company of her son’s various businesses. She was the chairwoman of the Kanye West Foundation, an educational nonprofit organization that works to decrease dropout rates and improve literacy. She accomplished a great deal and was accomplishing a great deal.
What could have driven such a woman who for all intensive purposes should have been beyond such needs for the sake of vanity? There are the usual suspects. The propaganda that bombards us from every corner television, movies, magazines, videos, bill boards, and such as that defines the foundation of beauty as waif thin supermodels with eating disorders and facial features and hair characteristics from some Scandinavian country. Most black women could never hope to even begin to reach for such standards without huge financial investments and commitments in time and energy.
So black people allow ourselves to be manipulated into conforming to beauty standards that just aren’t realistic for us. Instead of being happy and honestly content with who we are, we undergo surgeries so that we too can look like Michael Jackson, whose mug shot looks like a Caucasoid scarecrow trying to cross the highway in the middle of the night but instead winds up in the headlights of a Mack truck, or tragically much worse, loose our lives on the surgical table trying to have some elective cosmetic surgical procedure performed. And for what?
Most black women would endeavor to look like Halle Berry, who underwent cosmetic surgery and now claims not to be as black as people might think despite her skin pigment, in a Catwoman suit rather than look like Madge Sinclair, the regal queen of an African country in Coming to America. Instead of focusing on the standards of beauty that are our birthright we adhere to standards of black beauty defined for us by the dominant culture. And more of us will loose our lives trying to obtain it. And for what?
The last time I got a reading from a traditional priest of Ifa was a few months before my initiation. That would be about three years ago. I can’t remember what it was for exactly. More than likely since I was about to be initiated I’m sure it was something regarding the details of the final preparation. I probably got a reading saying I needed to have a chicken slaughtered to remove any remaining spirits or such nonsense. Back then my only role models for the development of my spirituality and my understanding of ancestors and Orisas was the people in the ile who had a very strict and a very traditional interpretation of Ifa and I was anything and everything to learn.
I don’t remember which odu fell but I remember hearing something like I had to give Orunmila about forty thousand cowries and something big like an elephant or something else that’s pretty impossible to find these days, those days, or any other days in between. I had to give praise to my babalawo and my babalawo had to give praise to Ifa. But has anyone seen the price of cowry shells lately? Forty thousand cowries could cost as much as four thousand dollars these days. And to this day I still have yet to find a suitable elephant on eBay! Not a problem! The leaders of the ile interpreted the odu to mean that I had to have a chicken slaughtered and give pay the ile so many dollars. That was a load off my mind.
Like I said that was three years ago. Now that I have a little experience under my belt, and a much better appreciation for the spirituality of Ifa, I am able to understand things much more clearly and interpret the mechanics of spirituality without the interference of adherence to traditional thinking. Like most spiritual text written for the benefit of the masses, the odus of Ifa are not to be interpreted literally. The two hundred fifty six verses are little more than stories that are supposed to inspire and guide people in their own lives. Odus should never be interpreted literally. My teachers knew this to be true but only to a certain extent. They knew that nobody is going to show up at any ile with an elephant in tow. So the odu can be modified and the elephant can become a chicken and the forty thousand cowries and become a hundred dollars or so. And the part about giving these sacrifices to the Orisa can be modified to giving the money to the ile. Nobody has a problem with such interpretation.
Odus that inspire and guide people to take the spiritual plunge and go through an initiation ritual may say that the subject of the story may have gotten a haircut. But that should not be interpreted to mean that the haircut is mandatory for the future initiate. The manifestation of the haircut is by no means a requirement for spirituality. In the grand cosmos of things, sacrificing one’s hair makes little impact in the development of one’s character or one’s spirituality.
People who want the haircut to be part of their initiation are by all means welcome to indulge in the symbolism. For those people who need to separate themselves from the masses with overwhelmingly obvious signs of differences. It’s easy to point to the bald person walking around in all white and say there goes a student of Ifa. But it isn’t the outward experience that makes for the proper development of spirituality. Spirituality is based on character. The outward manifestation of our spirituality is based on our behavior and the choices we make for ourselves, our family, and our community. It is easy to see the person walking down the street sporting a new do and wearing all whites. It takes a lot more to recognize a person’s character and make the determination if it is of substance or not. Once has to be willing to invest the time necessary to actually to get to know the person.
Anybody can don a new appearance and parade themselves up and down the street. But the initiation is a spiritual rebirth not of appearance but of understanding. The need for a haircut is designed to make it easier for other initiates to recognize the newbie across the room, market, or whatever the case may be. Combine this with the fact that many people who are looking to be initiated aren’t looking for spiritual development as much as they may be looking for prestige and status. Over time, the individual who might not be so focused on their manifestations of their character but on their appearance can easily pass for the genuine article if we are taught to see and recognize the genuine article as the white clothes and the haircut.
But the students of Ifa who want their spirituality truly developed mustn’t rely on such obvious signs. Real students must learn to develop their character so that their behavior makes the difference and not the clothing. If an initiate wants to go the whole nine yards and get the haircut and the white clothes to go along with the change in their behavior then by all means go for it. But don’t think that an odu telling a story that someone getting a haircut just before, after, or during the initiation ceremony means that everyone who has made the decision to be initiated is required to get a haircut. If you are going to take the odu literal then may I suggest that you not only get that haircut, but start collecting cowry shells and start looking for an elephant to sacrifice as well.
Trying to do some research on the attacks against Barack Obama’s reputation in his bid for the White House I ran across an article regarding Sean Hannity and how he questioned Obama’s ethics because he attended a black church. Imagine the audacity of a black man taking his black family to a black church! I’m surprised it took so long to expose this case to the public.
In the piece of video I saw on YouTube from the show Hannity & Colmes, Mr. Hannity wants to portray black churches as institutions of racism no different then a white supremacist group. To hear Mr. Hannity tell the story no white person is safe in the black church environment even though they are practicing a form of religion controlled by a white religious organization. Just like the white supremacist who are constantly spreading messages of hate and racial intolerance black pastors are known for their sermons on how all white people need to be killed and how black people need to stop tolerating white people in the name of Jesus.
Mr. Hannity can do his best to confuse the issue, but the black churches that are working for the betterment of the black community are nothing like the white supremacist organizations. I don’t care how conservative it may be no black church has ever advocated the killing of anybody no matter the issue. Black churches don’t operate behind a veil of secrecy. Black churches do not spread the discriminate hate of another race of people.
The question was asked would there be anything different about a black church advocating issues from a black perspective and for black people and its white counterpart that advocates issues from a white perspective and for white people. The answer is a resounding unequivocal yes. The single major difference between the two is that the black church isn’t trying to block other racial groups from participating in the American dream and obtaining a civilized standard of living. The black church isn’t advocating the subjugation of anyone. The black church is trying to uplift and empower the people in the black community. The white community has an automatic and innate fear of anything that is positive for the black community. It is this fear that causes the uplifting of the black community to be perceived as some kind of threat to their white privilege.
An organization that protects white interest wants to maintain the status quo and keep other races from infringing on the white privilege. White privilege cannot be maintained if every race of people is seen honestly as an equal and are actually judged fairly and treated fairly. The black church is a literal threat to the continuation of white privilege. It is only a logical conclusion that if the association of black churches taking care of the needs of the black community is worth examination then white institutions that work to protect white privilege should be examined for their possibly racist practices as well. The very act of Mr. Hannity doing everything that he can to discredit Mr. Obama’s church, and by association Mr. Osama, shows his relentless pursuit and the steps he is willing to take to protect the institution of white privilege.
The black church is one of the last remaining organizations reserved almost exclusively for the black community. Most black churches would be more than cordial to any white visitors. I would imagine the same would be true for black people visiting most white churches. However, some white churches don’t care for the intrusion from black people. Just like there are some black churches that wouldn’t care for white visitors. But such racial discrimination is only a natural component of the diversity of human nature. It is no more a white characteristic than it is a black characteristic or vice versa.
Yes Mr. Obama and many other blacks just like him attend a predominantly black church. Believe it or not there are a number of white people who attend those same churches. The white people are free to leave whenever they want and are rarely held against their will. And believe it or not there are black people who attend predominantly white churches as well. And it should be no surprise that there are white people he attend predominantly white churches. They may not publicly advocate the fact that they are champions of white privilege. Neither does Mr. Hannity. But it is pretty obvious that he does much to protect institutions of white privilege. And which institution of white privilege would need the most security but the institution of the presidency of the United States?
I hate being blindsided by issues. I do my best to stay on top of issues especially those affecting the black community. So when I saw the video of Andrew Meyer being tasered by the campus police for interrupting an appearance by Senator John Kerry at the University of Florida this past Monday I was quick to write a piece on the subject and threw it on the blog. Police abuse is something that should prick the ears of everyone in the black community. I was talking with family and friends about the issue of police abusing the public with instances of tasering. The fact that the police would use their torture device on a student at a public speaking engagement was sad.
But then I received an education. Yes it is true that Andrew Meyer being tasered for his unruly behavior on camera was bad. But it seems that there are a number of instances of pregnant black women being tortured by police with their taser guns.
In May of 2005, Malaika Brooks was deep in her third trimester when she was pulled over for a traffic violation by one of Seattle’s finest. When Ms. Brooks refused to sign the citation, a criminal offense in Washington State, the two police officers and their sergeant decided to taser her into compliance. Now a lot of people felt that Ms. Brooks made the choice to be difficult, to be arrested, and to put her unborn fetus at risk. People wrote that a responsible person would have signed the ticket or gotten out of the car when she was informed that she was under arrest. She chose to be belligerent.
Do none of these people have any experience with pregnant women? By the time some women are in their third trimester, the months of discomfort, lack of sleep, urinating so frequently, hormones, and the other myriad of conditions and problems associated with pregnancy can develop a festering pool of highly charged negative emotions. No offense to any mothers or mothers to be but a single pregnant woman can make facing a gang look like a suitable alternative. Some times a pregnant woman will do her best be one, if not the most, unreasonable and stubborn forces of nature. Pregnant women can be childish and demanding. It should be common sense to give them the most benefit of doubt and they should be given a great deal of latitude.
To think that a pregnant woman is being difficult is absolutely normal. They should be handled with the same finesse, kid gloves, and care bestowed upon the person who is about to commit suicide by jumping off the side of the bridge. Instead of calling their sergeant the two police officers should have called their suicide negotiator.
The perception that the police would be justified in using their tasers on a pregnant woman can only be applied to a pregnant woman that is believed to be unworthy of public compassion. And with the lack of public consideration given to the average black woman when one of them come up missing, kidnapped, injured, or murdered it is no surprise to hear people say that the police were perfectly reasonable to use the torture device. These people probably consider the black woman lucky that the officers were equipped with their tasers and didn’t have to use their batons or their firearms.
If the woman was Maryann from Sunnydale Farms, Kansas some people would have had a totally different appreciation for the situation. More people expressed more concern for the dogs tortured or killed by the football player Michael Vick and the other members of Bad Newz Kennels.
Some people see Andrew Meyer getting tasered on national television and react with anger and disgust at the campus police. The man is on the ground and arguably helpless when he is tasered in order to get him to cooperate. No doubt it worked. Being electrocuted with fifty thousand volts would force a lot of people to submit. A taser is nothing but a reformulated cattle prod with a holster. And the public allows such devices to be used on pregnant women. The idea of using this electrocution device on a pregnant woman is nothing short of barbaric brutality. If police can’t implement more discretion or take advantage of all the tools at their disposal to avoid these types of situations the public should take the steps necessary to exercise the discretion for them.
I don’t remember why or exactly when but I stopped watching Bill Maher earlier this year. I understand the fact that the guy is a comedian first and a talk show host second and a white a close but unforgettable third so I do take a lot of the things he says with a twenty six ounce box of salt. But I’m not a big fan of Home Box Office and with my Netflix subscription it just became harder to justify the extra cost on the cable bill. So sometime in February or March of this year I cancelled HBO and stopped watching Bill Maher. But, earlier this week somebody was talking about Mos Def and Dr. Cornel West had made an appearance on the latest Real Time with Bill Maher. My curiosity was piqued and I looked for the episode on YouTube (click here to see the episode).
I actually had a dream where Mos Def made an appearance once. I don’t have immediate access to the dream journal I wrote it down in. But I remember I was running through a building with lots of classrooms. In one room a couple of men were hanging thick, black, velvety cloth in order to block out the light and absorb sounds. In another room a classroom of students were waiting for their teacher. Another room held an incredibly thin black woman with black, oily looking fluid oozing out of every orifice of her body. But in one room there was Mos Def at the chalkboard writing out some incredibly complex mathematical equations. My bachelor’s degree is in mathematics so I know complex math when I see it. I couldn’t differentiate an equation right now to save my life but I know one when I see one.
I’ve never been a big fan of Dr. West. Although I try to listen, sometimes the language the brother uses goes over my head and I have to make sure I have a way of recording what he said so I can go back and dissect it and study it to make sure I understand it completely. Dr. West made the statement, “Truth lies [prostrate] on rugged hills with nameless cavalries.” This is followed up with a “what I mean is” with even more confusing figures of speech and symbolism. This was a serious scratch the head moment for me. I will admit I am far from the shiniest marble in the bag. Sometimes Dr. West appears to be trying to get people to focus on issues of racism. But then he’ll try to say it in a way not to offend anybody. But if someone is being racist chances are they are offending me and other black people. Why should we be careful about offending them?
Mos Def on the other hand pulls no punches and his appearance on Bill Maher was no exception. His language isn’t sophisticated. I read a comment someone made that Mos Def sounds like a drug user. That may be true. But I’m sure its part of the persona he wants to front for the public. His acting in such movies as Something The Lord Made is evidence that his speech patterns can be less urban if he so chooses. But it is nevertheless refreshing to see someone say exactly what he means without having to rewind and write down what he says to find the meaning. If truth is lying prostrate on them hills, clarity is hanging from a branch on the side of the cliff about to fall down into the crocodile infested river at the bottom of the ravine below.
Mr. Def thinks that the Electoral College should be trashed and a simple majority of the people’s vote for President should rule. He said that the American public should have an entire weekend to cast their vote for a presidency instead of trying to have the entire population vote in a single twelve hour period. When Bill Maher said, “You have to admit there are people who do want to kill Americans”, Mos Def didn’t hesitate to reply, “Yeah, some of them are called the police.” Later when Mr. Maher asked Mos Def, “But you don’t want to be blown up by a bomb”, Mos Def replied, “I don’t think I’m gonna get blown up by a bomb. Listen, I’m black and I’m in America. I live under constant pressure. I don’t believe in all that boogeyman shit.” This is a not so subtle reminders that while white people fear Osama bin Laden over in his cave in Pakistan, black people have to deal day-to-day brutality of racism right next door here in America. This is the cavalry coming to rescue the prostrated truth on that rugged hill and pulling clarity’s ass off that cliff in the process.
Now everything that Dr. West said wasn’t as transparent as thick black mud. He may have been emboldened by the example set by Mos Def and/or he may have been feeling somewhat a tad mortified from Mr. Maher making an amusing reference to his truth being prostrate analogy made previously in the show, but Dr. West made his own insightful contribution to the conversation.
Said Mr. West, “9/11 is the first time many Americans of various colors felt unsafe, unprotected, subject to random violence, and hate. But to be black in America for four hundred years is to be unsafe, unprotected, subject to random violence, and hate. So what happens is that you have a different perspective often times because if you are used to dealing with the strain and the pressure and the violence coming at [someone]. ‘Cause lets fact it. The civil rights movement was a fight against American terrorism…If you have multiple sources of force, coercion, and terror coming at you, which many black Americans do, the prison industrial complex, racist criminal justice system, the Jena Six is one grand example, disgraceful school systems, to what degree do you begin to think my paranoia is actually justified? Because if they can sustain this level of psychic and physical terror against me, and they’re obsessed with a terror that’s against them, then maybe they might not be believable or credible.”
These statements, and a lot more just like them, indicate that both Dr. West and Mos Def were fully abreast of the issue regarding the Jena Six, terrorism against America from the average black person’s perspective, and America’s history of brutality to its African population. I heard more about black issues in America from these two gentlemen than I’ve heard listening to any other black person on the television or radio or cable. Dr. Cornel West wants to be politically correct but actually let his hair down for a moment. Mos Def will shoot from the hip and gives you the impression that he doesn’t give a damn about what anybody thinks about it. It was wonderful to see two black people speak their minds and their hearts without trying to appease anybody else. More black people should do more to be in the cavalry for the naked truth.
Barack Obama has finally made a public statement about the happenings in Jena, Louisiana. A couple of weeks ago Mr. Obama said the following…
“When nooses are being hung in high schools in the 21st century, it’s a tragedy. It shows that we still have a lot of work to do as a nation to heal our racial tensions. This isn’t just Jena’s problem; it’s America’s problem.”
“There are a number of signs that the system is not working in this case. It’s a problem when criminal charges are brought against some students for fighting, but not others. It’s a problem when a public defender doesn’t call any witnesses. And it’s a problem when a prosecutor decides to try teenagers as adults for a school fight, a charge that could leave them in jail for the majority of their lives. That is why I join my colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus in calling on the judge to consider all the relevant factors and calling on the District Attorney to drop the excessive charges brought in this case. And I, along with other members of the CBC, will continue to monitor this case closely.”
“Going forward, we have to fix our criminal justice system. Whether it’s Jena Six or Genarlow Wilson, it’s long past time for us to admit that we have more work to do to ensure that our criminal justice system is fair. We must ensure that both victims and defendants can receive equal justice under the law, regardless of race, wealth, or other circumstances.”
Now all of that may sound politically correct and that may be all that is appropriate in the mind’s eye of most people. But to appear appropriate or to be politically correct in response to what is nothing less than a blatant case of the institutionalized racism of America manifesting itself in Louisiana is not right. And instead of Mr. Obama showing decisive and strong leadership he makes a rather vague statement about the need for healing, togetherness, and fairness in our community. The problem isn’t really what’s in the statement, but rather what is not in the statement. With just a few editorial adjustments the statement could have been a powerful message against racism.
“When nooses are being hung in high schools by white children in the 21st century, it’s a tragedy. It shows that we still have a lot of work to do as a nation to heal our racial tensions that stem from white privilege and white people’s sense of entitlement. This isn’t just Jena’s problem; it’s America’s problem.”
“There are a number of signs that the system is not working in this case. It’s a problem when criminal charges are brought against some black students for fighting, but not the white students. It’s a problem when a black public defender doesn’t call any witnesses. And it’s a problem when a white prosecutor decides to try black teenagers as adults for a school fight, a charge that could leave them in jail for the majority of their lives. That is why I join my colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus in calling on the judge to consider all the relevant factors and calling on the District Attorney to drop the excessive charges brought in this case. And I, along with other members of the CBC, will continue to monitor this case closely.”
“Going forward, we have to fix our criminal justice system. Whether it’s Jena Six or Genarlow Wilson, it’s long past time for everybody in America to admit that we have more work to do to ensure that our criminal justice system is fair to the black community. We must ensure that both black victims and black defendants can receive equal justice to white people under the law, regardless of…circumstances.”
With just the addition of a few adjectives and other minor changes we have a statement that is much more accurate of the situation at hand. We have the black community being attacked by the white community. Black kids were initially threatened by racist white kids. When no one came to their aid and they took steps to defend themselves the black kids were attacked by the racist enforcers of law and justice. The reason this case has finally made national as well as global news is because of the obvious racial disparity. Some people will see it and say something vague like we need to heal both sides. But how would these people feel if it was their daughter or son being subjected to such disparity?
The truth is that there are a lot of racist white people in Jena, in Louisiana, and in America. Mr. Obama can put a spin on the situation, work to appear absolutely neutral, and try to allay white people’s fear that he might actually do something on behalf of the black community. But the presidency shouldn’t be so important that he is unwilling to call a white racist a white racist.
A few years back, on a late Saturday night, a couple of teenage boys were bored with not much to do. They decided to go down to the highway a couple of blocks from their neighborhood. Standing on an overpass, they got the bright idea to drop a chunk of concrete off the bridge onto a car traveling underneath. They timed the drop perfectly. The chunk of concrete went through the windshield and instantly killed the driver. The driver was a woman. She was a Russian who migrated to the city. She had a daughter. The car crashed and the two boys ran. The police had absolutely nothing to go on. But the two boys couldn’t keep quiet about what they had done. Someone dropped a dime on them and they were arrested a couple of weeks later. They had confessed that it all was just a prank and they didn’t mean to kill anyone.
Late last week, nineteen year old MIT student Star Simpson walked into Boston’s Logan Airport with a plastic board fastened with a nine volt battery and attached to the front of her sweatshirt. Standard overzealous procedure required that someone err on the side of caution and assume that the device could have been a bomb. The proper authorities were notified and Ms. Simpson was confronted at gun point by several of Boston’s finest in airport security. Whether a prank or not, innocent mischief or not, people took the threat seriously and Ms. Simpson nearly paid with her life.
Because someone calls something a prank doesn’t automatically dismisses the consequences of their act. Confessing that poor choices were made because someone wanted to play a practical joke is not acceptable at the airport where a book of matches found in the wrong place can shut the airport down for hours on end. A prank doesn’t dismiss the fact that a couple of idiots killed a woman.
No one would find somebody walking into a bank with a fake gun so they could pull a fast one on their friend who happens to be one of the tellers an innocent prank. But it would be easy for someone not in on the prank to mistake the moron with the toy gun as someone attempting to rob the bank. The toy gun could easily be used to threaten someone. Such stupidity should not be condoned. Such stupidity would be justifiably confronted with the firm hand of the law. Guns in banks are not funny. They should not be tolerated.
If a man was in the local city park and running up to women with a rubber knife and a mask he might be trying to get a laugh or two and post the woman’s reaction on YouTube for his friends to see. But the women who were the victim of the prank, who had their adrenaline dumped into their veins, who were humiliated to have their fear exploited for someone else’s entertainment, would more than likely not see the humor and would seek help from the police to stop the deviant behavior. It would not be funny. It would not be dismissed with a wink of an eye and a smile on the face.
But somehow, what could arguably be the single most evil symbol of African subjugation, a noose hanging from a tree, is dismissed as nothing more than a prank and nothing that warrants any serious attention. Why? White men with nooses have a history of using such weapons of murder on the black community. Such a history is a symbol of white American terror against the black community. Anybody who thinks such terror is funny or innocent needs the same severe response and level of education a person walking into a bank with a toy gun would receive.
Some people look at a noose and dismiss it as little more than a piece of rope. If that’s the case, a gun or a knife is little more than a lump of metal. A bat is nothing more than a piece of wood. But in the wrong person’s hand it can do a lot of damage. In the wrong hands it can kill.
But because the white dominating culture sets the standards for what is and for what is not acceptable behavior in America and because the white community has never been terrorized as a collective with the end of a noose, white people are quick to sympathize with the noose hanger and dismiss the entire affair as little more than a prank. In fact, the white community has always been the one hanging the noose. White people have always been the one standing around a tree, smiling, laughing, and patting each other on the back as a limp African American body hanged from one of the branches. Of course they would prefer not to understand why the black community would react with anger at such blatant racial disdain. To acknowledge the hanging noose as the icon of racial hate is one of the first steps to acknowledging one of the biggest skeletons that continues to hang in white America’s closet.
The black community must not let stand the dismissive attitude of white mindset America towards the ugliness of noose hanging. Nooses are a symbol of white racial hate in and of themselves. They do not need to be confirmed by membership in a racist organization or a racist tattoo painted on white skin. A noose is not cute. A noose is not funny. A noose is a prank done in poor taste. A noose is also a symbol of hate. A noose is also a nonverbal threat. All of America will do well to take the prankster hanging a noose a lot more seriously.
“If you live in the United States you have an opportunity to make it…its that simple case closed.” – James Ramos.
So were the words of wisdom from a visitor to my post entitled Black White. Because we have instances of black people and other minorities managing to become financially successful then we shouldn’t worry about instances of racism. In the opinion of Mr. Ramos all I am doing is looking to throw a pity party.
I would like to take just a second to apply this shortsighted logic to instances of murder. What if someone promoted the attitude that if you live in the Untied States you have an opportunity to live you life to its natural conclusion. It is that simple. So if anyone is calling the police because someone was stabbed or shot then they must be looking for some kind of sympathy. They must be looking for a handout or something. Why doesn’t the person who may have been shot just pull their self up by their bandage straps or something? So what if we have a killer running around without facing justice. Would it really be so bad? Chances are it wouldn’t affect me directly.
No one would take such a narrow and totally foolish point of view on murder or attempted murder. We realize that the community at large would be at risk if we started to condone instances of people indiscriminately killing other people. Societies make damn sure they take a hard and uncompromising stand on certain standards of ethics and principles. Thankfully, no murdering is one of these principles. Unfortunately, no racism is not.
Racism in America is not only condoned it has been institutionalized. The twentieth century saw racism reach a point so bad that the country responded with laws to try and counter it. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was supposed to eliminate blatant and obvious forms of racism, but it could not outlaw the sentiment. No law was going to undo centuries of near exclusive white only privilege. Blatant racism was outlawed but the idea of trying to reverse years of white exclusivity by reserving a small fraction of opportunities for minorities is just too racist a concept and smacks of blatant reverse discrimination. That would be the same logic as incarcerating someone who illegally incarcerated someone else and having somebody point out the fact that it would be reverse incarceration. The fairest thing to do at this point is not do anything and leave the privileged, which happen to be mostly white, with their status and leave the hindered, where many from the minority communities wound up, with theirs. We now have a system of white money dictating the rules to the rest of the players in the field.
And since white people make the rules and since white people don’t suffer from an institution designed to keep them subjugated, racial discrimination is hardly a problem for the white dominated American community at large. In the eyes of the white dominants racism is not the problem because racism is dead. Those instances of racism found in a memo or on a camera or in Jena, Louisiana are the believed to be rare but in reality the very often exceptions that pop up every now and then because there is hard, undeniable evidence to prove it beyond the shadow of a self induced denial fueled doubt. Lord knows if there is nothing to prove it then racism doesn’t exist.
Now America is a land of opportunity especially if you are willing to play by white people’s rules. Go to the school and get good grades, work hard and be diligent, keep a good work ethic and you too will get ahead. That all sounds good. But the reality is that some of us are working very hard and getting no where. Some of us have good grades and graduated from school with honors and letters of recommendation only to be rejected for appearing too ethnic (see Ghetto Dudes Need Jobs Too). There is a natural assumption that black people need more on the job experience. There is an assumption of suspicion with black people. A black person’s resume says one thing but how does an employer know that it is accurate or that the references are honest? Some employers just can’t run that risk of hiring a minority that doesn’t work out. It’s safer and more comfortable to hire white people who are more trustworthy. And if a white person isn’t exactly what his/her resume claims he/she can be more easily educated or trained to be what the company is looking for.
Since it is the white perspective that is the yardstick for human behavior we are programmed to see the black people who complain about situations of racism as the problem. People who are unable or unwilling to do the work on their own are quick to point a finger and accuse someone of discrimination. The idea is that if someone who is willing to play by the rules will always manage to do what is necessary to get ahead. No one who plays by the rules needs to fall back on some lame excuse that racism is keeping them down. Even if racism was the case other minorities make it here in America. You can too if you’d quit crying about it.
The problem isn’t racism. The problem is people who insist that racism is still a problem here in America. That kind of thinking ranks right up there with the same narrow minded philosophy as the problem isn’t murderers but the people who say that being murdered is the problem. All we need to do is dodge the bullets and the knives or whatever and we will all do just fine. If you live here in America you have an opportunity to live your life without it coming to an abrupt end. So quit your belly aching. Case closed.