It's about our community and our spirituality!

European Images Of Beauty

There is a commercial that has a little white girl walking by a billboard with an extremely thin white woman modeling black bikini underwear.  The girl stops and takes a look at the billboard.  From the perspective of the viewing audience we are suddenly pulled into the bikini clad billboard to see another billboard of a close up of a photogenic white woman with professionally applied makeup.  Without stopping we’re pulled into that billboard to see another billboard of another bikini clad, thin but athletic white woman.  And after that we’re pulled into another billboard of a white woman in bikini clad underwear caught running along the beach.  We are pulled through into another billboard of an image of a white woman barely dressed, and then another billboard of a white woman in makeup, and the process is repeated over and over again with young women with standards of beauty from a European perspective.

The images stop.  The commercial suddenly shows the little white girl sitting on a couch in a living room.  The little girl is apparently unhappy and looking a little insecure with herself.  She is wearing baggy clothes and is in a pose with her legs pressed against her body trying to minimize how much people can see of her.  A message appears on the screen that says girls are under more pressure than ever.  The commercial is for a self-esteem workshop created by Dove beauty products.

Obviously the concern is that we are feeding our little girls images of beauty and female body standards that not many people can ever hope to achieve.  The images of the women on the billboards have probably been manipulated to make their waist smaller, their bosoms rounder, their stomachs flatter, their legs longer and their smiles whiter among a number of other things.  The little white girl is made to feel inferior and insecure with her own body image.  That’s unfortunate.

But what about the little black girl?  In the Dove commercial, not a single image of an extremely beautiful, obviously black woman was played.  What affect does such propaganda have on the development of the little black girl’s self esteem?  What affect does the constant barrage of white beauty images combined with the absolute lack of black beauty images have on our collective psychological makeup and in the development of our racial relationships?

Little black girls see the same images of European standards of beauty that the little white girl sees and will develop an even more inadequate sense of self esteem over their inability to meet the minimum beauty requirements.  And then we wonder why our beautiful black women spend so much time trying to bleach their skin to appear lighter.  We watch and wonder why so many curvaceous black women work so hard to achieve near anorexic levels of body mass.  It’s why so many black women work so hard and spend so much time trying to transform their naturally kinky hair into something that resembles the covering of a horse’s ass.  Our culture is one that regularly rejects black people for embracing hairstyles that more accurately reflects our ethnicity.  Black women who wear an afro to a job interviews might as well wear a sign around their neck saying angry black ho’.

Generally speaking while white girls have at least something in common with their high fashion white role models.  But black girls are the furthest removed from such images.  And while there may be unreasonably high standards of well known European beauty images paraded in front of the little white girl, there are a large number of other white female role models helping her develop her self esteem.  A white women came very close to clinching the Democratic nomination for the White House, a white woman is currently running for Vice President, and white women operate in both houses of the Congress as well as operating as Governors and other state level capacities.

There are white actresses that run the beauty spectrum from Angela Lansbury to Dakota Fanning.  There are a number of white women in business as chief executive officers such as Carly Fiorina and Arianna Huffington and Meg Whitman of eBay.  But who do black women have to serve as their role model to help them develop their self esteem?  Oprah Winfrey?  The last time Ms. Winfrey did anything to help anyone in the black community develop their self esteem was last never.  I don’t think Ms. Winfrey even knows that she’s black.  Her magazine O is the very epitome of European beauty standards.  But who can blame the rich, formerly black, female billionaire?  Ms. Winfrey is just as much a product of this culture that pretends black people don’t exist as anyone else.  Like most black women, Ms. Winfrey has embraced this culture that plays so heavily to the European standards to the point that she, like many other black celebrities who know their place, will perpetuate the stereotypical images of American beauty and poison the self esteem of little black girls along with little white girls everywhere.

It is wonderful that Dove is taking steps to help little white girls resist the stereotypical images of beauty and accept who they are.  It’s a daunting task considering the broad spectrum of propaganda that oozes from every orifice of media that says conform, consume, and obey.  But given that the restoration of a little girl’s self esteem is an awesome challenge, it pales in comparison to the challenge of helping little black girls develop their sense of self esteem without so much as a single powerful black image to help them not only accept who they are, but to accept their black community as well.

Thursday, October 9, 2008 Posted by | African Americans, Black Community, Black Culture, Black Hair, Black in America, Black People, Black Women, Life, Racism, Thoughts | 30 Comments

All Is Fair In Love And Hair

Doing Hair

For most people, there is no one they love like they love their mom. The bond between a mother and a child is truly special. I know I hold my mom in seriously high regard. As a kid, I had to compete with my brothers and sisters for my mom’s attention. But my mom had no competition for my attention. Dad and I didn’t get along very well at all. He was a too strict disciplinarian and felt that I was onerous. One day he went so far as to suggest that I was some form of subhuman. So trust me when I say that the relationship with my mom was truly unique. There isn’t much that I wouldn’t do for her.

My mom hates my hair. I’ll walk into her presence and all she can see are my locks. Without anything to prompt her, my mom will start complaining. “Why don’t you cut your hair?” I’ll look at the clock and I’ll retort with something like, “Looks like we’re ahead of schedule today!” She’ll continue undaunted, “You would look so much better if you’d cut your hair.” “I think I look pretty good now.” “But you need to set an example.” “I’m trying to set an example to black people that we don’t have to conform.” “But can’t you do it and look nice like everybody else at the same time?”

My mom is seriously old school. She’ll be eighty years old this year. She started losing her children to the Locked Side about fifteen years ago when my baby brother started locking his hair in his sophomore year in college. All of us, including me, tried to talk him out of it for the sake of his professional career. But he ended up postponing his pursuit of a professional career and dropped out of college for a while. He continued to grow his locks in more of a Rasta style, kind of puffy and naturally bleached by the sun. A few years later I started twisting my hair. And then one of my nephews started his locks. And finally another one of my brother’s started his locks.

Since then baby brother cut his locks off and became very professional. He got a degree and is doing very well in his career. His locks were thirteen years old when he cut them off. The fashion statement had worn itself out. My nephew wanted to get a retail job and thought it best to cut his hair if he wanted to expand his career opportunities.

As I write this the only other person in the family who continues to wear locks is my brother. He started growing his locks about a month before I got my last haircut. His hair could have been longer but he keeps his trimmed to a particular length. His girlfriend wears locks as well. When they first met she did the permed hair thing and all that like most black women in the corporate work environment. The woman would spend a good hour each morning trying to do her hair up in what everybody learned was proper fashion for black women. One day she started locking her hair. She was shocked to actually see how much time she was spending doing something she hated doing.

I had sacrificed my hair as part of my Yemonja initiation. After three years without a haircut my locks have grown to a pretty good length although they have yet to touch my shoulders. I try to get it touched up every two weeks. However, sometimes it’ll be as long as four weeks in between touch ups. I do my best to take care of my locks because I like for them to look good uniform and neat. But the way my mom would tell the story you’d think I was some kind of male Medusa with snake heads hissing about. And unlike my brother who only sees my mom once in a blue moon, I made the choice to put myself in front of my mom on a daily basis. Our routine has become practically a daily ritual.

I’ve tried to explain to my mom that my hair is not just a choice of fashion. For the longest time black people who do everything they can to conform to the rules of being black as defined by conservative white people will get better employment opportunities and more frequent employment opportunities if they just submit and profess their acquiescence to the dominant system. Black people should understand that they can be proud of their ethnicity and their inherent natural appearance and still earn a living as a professional. I would like other people in the black community to see that we can be black as defined by the black community and still be professionally employed.

Mom doesn’t hear me talk about black people developing a new understanding of ourselves. Yes we need liberation from the mind of the dominant culture. Just having a black man going to his job and wearing his hair in an ethnic style primarily unique to black people could give others the inspiration to step outside of the artificial boundaries that the establishment has setup around the black community. We don’t always have to be a rocket scientist or the first black astronaut to be an inspiration to others. Sometimes we could simply be the man next door who wears locks and works as a database application developer. Black people breaking walls don’t just happen on television it happens right in the neighborhood. We all can do a little something to help inspire each other in the black community.

But mom remains undaunted. She’ll say something like, but don’t we need to look presentable while we do it? Why would anybody want to wear their hair all locked up and looking like mice could be living up there? It bothers me to see you with your hair like that. If you loved me you’d cut it. I love my mother very much. I’m pretty sure my mom knows I’d do just about anything for her. For mom, I’d run right into the deepest hell of black people subjugation and back. I would do anything for love. But I won’t do that.

Thursday, August 14, 2008 Posted by | African Americans, Black Community, Black Hair, Life, Thoughts | 12 Comments

The Slander Of The Gander

I absolutely positively cannot wait to get my hands on the latest copy of the New Yorker.  The art cover features Barack and Michelle Obama in their true guise, at least according to a lot of less than well informed Americans who get their information from an institution of inconsequential integrity such as FOX News, more accurately described as the bizarro world news network.

Despite his protest to the contrary a lot of hardworking, white Americans cling to their bitter belief that Mr. Obama is a closet Muslim and Ms. Obama is a fist bumping terrorist who is also a Louis Farrakhan devotee and is the leader of the Chicago chapter of the Osama bin Laden fan club.  Ms. Obama loves Osama so much she married a man whose name is just one letter away from the terrorist leader.  I would not be surprised if there was a rumor floating about that she was set to live in Omaha until she realized it didn’t rhyme with Osama or Obama.

The magazine features an illustration from Barry Blitt named The Politics of Fear in which the Democratic presidential nominee and his wife are shown wearing traditional Muslim garb in the oval office of the White House, presumably after Mr. Obama won the presidency.  The drawing of Michelle Obama has a huge angry black woman afro while wearing fatigues and combat boots with an automatic assault rifle over her shoulder.  Mr. Obama is wearing a traditional Muslim headdress and attire ala Osama bin Laden style.  And to top it all off the stars and stripes is shown burning in a fireplace blaze while Osama’s portrait hangs above.

The only thing the cartoon needs is little caricatures of Sasha and Malia.  It would be the icing on the cake of comic fabrication to see the two girls depicted with bomb vests and copies of the Quran while wearing the traditional garb of Arab women.  I know that they’re much too young to be wearing the covering from head to toe.  But we are trying to drive home the point that the reality surrounding the Democratic candidate has been distorted to the point of severe absurdity.

This is not the first time the Democratic presidential nominee has been lampooned.  Dozens of cartoons of the Senator from Illinois appear in various newspapers, weekly and monthly periodicals, websites, and elsewhere on an hourly basis.  He has been satirized on Saturday Night Life.  Comics galore stand in line to ridicule any weakness in his political armor.  And even one of the hardest working white joes in the workforce is ready to make a dime off of this historic presidential run of an African American by plastering a picture of the monkey Curious George with the caption Obama ’08 on a t-shirt.

The official response from Mr. Obama’s presidential campaign referred to the illustration art as tasteless and offensive.  If anybody has a clear reason for being offended by this lampoon it would be the Muslim community that continues to be slandered by an affiliation with terrorism and unpatriotic tendencies.  Mr. Obama refused to give an opinion about the cover.  Other people have made their much less than favorable opinion known.  Unfortunately for Mr. Obama, many people will continue to unfairly associate his character with a negative stereotype without any foundation in reality.  Not unlike the way Mr. Obama continues to hold fast to his opinion that black people need to take more personal responsibility for the conditions of the black community before the nation takes any social responsibility.

At the annual NAACP convention Mr. Obama reiterated his call that black people show greater responsibility for improving their own lives.  Mr. Obama urged Washington to provide more education and economic assistance.  He called on corporate America to exercise greater social responsibility.  But he received his largest applause as he urged blacks to demand more of ourselves.  Said Mr. Obama, “I know some say I’ve been too tough on folks talking about responsibility.  NAACP, I’m here to report [that] I’m not going to stop talking about it.  Because as much I’m out there to fight to make sure that government’s doing its job and the marketplace is doing its job, none of it will make a difference, at least not enough of a difference, if we also don’t at the same time seize more responsibility in our own lives.”  I guess the other racial groups don’t have to have any personal responsibility.

Mr. Obama insists on holding steadfast to the notion that the black community is somehow more corrupt or somehow more irresponsible than any other race of people.  A cursory glance at headlines would support Mr. Obama’s assumptions.  But the headlines are controlled by a dominant community that would rather backhand people in the black community than extend a helping hand.  We all could take more responsibility for our communities.

For example, Mr. Obama could have gone before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and tell the Jewish community that Israel could take more responsibility for ending the tensions with the Arab community and Iran in particular.  Mr. Obama could stand at his podium and tell Hillary Clinton to take more responsibility for the debt she incurred when she campaigned against Mr. Obama.  I didn’t see anybody say John Edwards or anyone else deserved a handout for racking up debt.  What makes these other examples of irresponsibility so much more tolerable?

I seriously doubt that the problem of broken families in the black community is significantly more of a problem than the broken families in other communities.  I have to admit that I have not seen any numbers on the subject.  But if the propaganda that says black crime is so much more staggering than white crime compared to the actual crime numbers broken down by race is any indication, I have to say that unless Mr. Obama can produce some actual numbers from credible sources, all he is doing is reinforcing the negative image of the black community to his supporters who want to believe the stereotypical hype against black people.

There is little to support Barack Obama’s emphasis calling for more responsibility for the black community in relation to the level of responsibility in other community’s.  No matter what the reality is Mr. Obama will cling to his supposition that black people are the most irresponsible community of people in America.  So why would he of all people expect anything less from those of us who think he is a Muslim and his wife is a whitey hater with nothing to support their claims?  The way I see it, what’s good for the slandered goose is even better for the slandered gander.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008 Posted by | African Americans, Barack Obama, Black Community, Black Culture, Black Hair, Black History, Black Men, Black On Black Crime, Black People, Life, Michelle Obama, Politics, Racism, Thoughts | 30 Comments

Do You Know the Mutton Man?

Earl Graves

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.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007 Posted by | African Americans, Black Community, Black Culture, Black Hair, Black Men, Black People, Black Women, Capitalism, Earl Graves, Life, Thoughts | 2 Comments

Donda West Died For What?

Donda and Kanye West

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?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007 Posted by | African Americans, Black Community, Black Hair, Black Women, Gangsta Rap, Hip Hop, Life, Thoughts | Leave a comment

Black White

Black White

The show Black White produced by Ice Cube was supposed to challenge people’s concepts of racism by using makeup to expose families to what life is like living as their racial opposites. Black people were to become white and white people were to become black and everybody was going to live under one roof in a home in Los Angeles, California.

One of the players was Bruno Marcotulli. He was the father figure from the white group with his girlfriend Carmen and her daughter Rose. When he donned his blackface makeup and went out in the world Mr. Marcotulli said that he was on the lookout for instances of racial discrimination but not a single white person used a racial slur like nigger against him.

Somebody really needed to explain to Mr. Marcotulli that racism isn’t always so conspicuous. In fact, in all my years I can’t recall ever being called a nigger by a white person. And trust me I’ve been in plenty of tense situations with white people where it could’ve happened. All I can say is I am very thankful it has never happened, at least not yet.

Some people think racism is intent and intense discrimination. Racism is calling somebody a nigger or hanging somebody from a tree branch. Racism of this magnitude is the nastiest and horrendous form of this truly ugly form of human behavior. But then again, the racism that prevents black people from obtaining employment, education, housing, healthcare, and other areas that are important for establishing and maintaining a comparable standard of living is just as sinister and devious and ugly.

There was one incident in the Black White saga where Mr. Marcotulli was in his makeup and was walking with his girlfriend Carmen without her makeup in a black neighborhood. They looked like an interracial couple. An old black man said something as they were walking by holding hands. I can’t recall exactly what the old man said but the couple stopped in front of his store and was looking over his merchandise displayed on a table. The old man asked if they wanted anything and if not they need to move on. This was the extent of the racism Mr. Marcotulli was able to detect. The incident is not exactly a cut and dry example of racism. But what the hell, Mr. Marcotulli felt it was racist enough and I’m willing to let give him the benefit of doubt for the sake of argument.

There was another incident in this show where the black father Brian, on the show with his wife Renee and their son Nick, was in a bar wearing his whiteface with white people who were telling him how they wanted to keep their neighborhood free of black people. White people are just more comfortable that way.

The old black man with the words for the interracial couple and the white people who wanted to keep their neighborhood free of blacks felt similarly about race relations. What’s the difference between the two? The black man was in all likelihood powerless to keep white people out of his neighborhood. The black old man would be fortunate if he owned his own home. But chances are good that the man rented his home. Chances are even better that he rented his home from white people. The old man probably didn’t have much influence on hiring practices anywhere. He probably doesn’t even have someone working for him on a regular basis.

White people on the other hand are more likely to be business and property owners. White people are more likely to control rental properties and places of business that employ other people. While the old black man is powerless the white people in the show are can be powerful enough to negatively impact people of another race if they made the choice to do so.

Don’t people have the right to do what they want with their property and/or their business?

Of course they do. A person is free to put their house up for rent if they choose to do so. But once they make that choice to put their property up for rent, by law, they cannot discriminate by race. Unfortunately, racial discrimination has to be proven in a court of law. Unless there’s a memo that actually says something subtle like I didn’t hire this black person because I am a racist people are happy to give the employer or the landlord or the whatever the benefit of a doubt. Businesses that only hire white people, people that only want to educate white people, landlords that only want to rent to white people are actually damaging people of other races. It keeps black people in a position of subjugation. It keeps black people collectively wanting and needing more than the table scraps the few of us are given to tie us over.

Hiring one black person isn’t going to make much of a difference when an entire community needs jobs. When an entire people need educating but only a handful manages to obtain an education it doesn’t create opportunity for a people. It creates opportunity for a select few. This creates a clear situation between those that have crumbs and identify with their benefactors and the majority that still don’t have jack. It creates a situation so much similar to the plantation that enslaved so many black people to work in the field while a handful of selected enslaved blacks worked in the house.

It’s not hard to imagine back in the days of enslavement the black person working in the house identifying with the white plantation owners and arguing that there’s nothing wrong with the plantation system. Black people deserve to work out in the field and that’s just the way it is. Black people deserve crumbs and that’s just the way it is. Black people don’t need an education and that’s just the way it is. Black people never had anything and black people don’t need anything and that’s just the way it is.

But in a society where people need a lot of something in order to get access to anything such as healthcare, housing, education and other institutions for a minimum standard of living black people need just as much as their white counterparts to get by. Unfortunately, while white people have had the benefits of just signing up for free land in America’s westward expansion across the indigenous North American’s land and the advantages of the G. I. bill that offered American veterans easy access to loans for housing and education and other such institutions to help a number of white people to get a foothold on the American dream, black people were too busy fighting just for the right to be treated equal. Where is our opportunity to get the handouts white people received since this country started?

This isn’t to say that the black community wants handouts. But it is only fair that just like the white community benefited from affirmative action programs that enabled the white collective to accumulate their wealth the black community should be offered programs so we that we may obtain our collective wealth as well. Yet if black people are given just a sliver of opportunity with affirmative action programs that reserve a fraction of their benefits to the black community the white community want to holler foul and reverse discrimination.

If the black community had our own resources we wouldn’t be so vulnerable to white people who range from people who may be having a bad day all the way up to people who are just plain racist. If the black community had its own sources for loans, education, healthcare, and other institutions for public assistance we wouldn’t be so vulnerable to the whims of the white community who are so clueless to the African American condition. If each community had its own we wouldn’t have to worry about one subjugating the other.

Friday, September 14, 2007 Posted by | African Americans, Black Community, Black Culture, Black Hair, Black Men, Black People, Black Women, Life, Racism, Thoughts | 17 Comments

Ifa Initiation Doesn’t Require A Haircut

Initaition Doesn’t Require A Haircut

Yesterday I was walking home from the grocery store when I passed a brother who made eye contact with me and said, “I’ll be glad when my locks come back.”

“Trust me I understand, I understand, I understand” was my simple reply. I really could sympathize with the man. My locks are just beginning to get back to some kind of length.

Two and a half years ago I sacrificed my dreadlocks in order to be initiated as a student of Ifa. I didn’t hesitate. It was standard procedure in the initiation ritual. It was my opinion that no one should allow their vanity to get in their way of their spirituality. My hair was a small sacrifice to pay for the chance to be a lot closer to Orisas and ancestors; my hair and a good chunk of change. At least that was my thinking at the time. I must confess to a little embarrassment now. But I am happy to say that I did not make my sacrifice in vain. Hopefully, others can learn from my experience.

As a brand new iyawo I continued down a path that required me to make a lot of sacrifices in my life. I spent the majority of my time alone and deep in thought. But all the time in solitude with minimal external stimulation I began to formulate a series of opinions and ideas that began to run contrary to what I was being taught as the traditional processes in this African spirituality. I began to ask myself questions about the entire process. One of the questions that I began to ponder was what exactly did my haircut have to do with the initiation process.

Nothing should keep a person from their spirituality. Growing up a young Christian I learned the story of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22:1-19 where the Christian god wanted to test Abraham’s devotion by asking him to sacrifice his only son. I must admit that I always wondered why the Christian god saw a need to test Abraham since he is supposed to already know everything. And the test sounds so cruel to any parent’s emotions. But regardless, I internalized the story when I was a Christian and I wanted to prove to my Ifa community that I wouldn’t hesitate to do what is necessary to be a good student of Ifa.

But I soon found out that the problem with being a good student of Ifa is that you would not necessarily be an obedient student. An initiation ceremony doesn’t necessarily imbue someone with wisdom or knowledge. What it might do is give someone a sense of confidence that they may not have had before. So I guess that with my new confidence in myself I began to see the illogic of doing things because they’re tradition especially when they run contradictory to what would honestly be best for the community. Tradition says initiates that have more seniority have more authority in community issues no matter how irresponsible the seniors may be. Traditionally, it is how the African community keeps order. This is not to say that a healthy adherence to traditions is inherently wrong. But a single minded focus on the traditional way of doing things above all else is also a good way for a community to become stagnant.

One of the things I was told during my initiation ceremony is that a good student of Ifa would always stand tall for what was right even if he or she must stand alone. I learned very quickly that I would be spending a lot of time alone or at least away from my original ile. But freed of the interference of elders and seniors I was able to develop a new appreciation for the way Ifa truly works and what is truly required. The integrity of the people who lead in the community is far more important than their seniority. People who suffer from integrity issues may be tempted to put their personal welfare before the welfare of the community. That’s only human nature. But it is an irresponsible community that allows itself to be led by an irresponsible leader.

The haircut of the initiate has an effect on the person. It is a physical manifestation of submission not to spirituality but to the social rules of the ile. Neither ancestors, Orisas, nor Olodumare require people to shave their heads, dance a jig, go deep into debt, or anything else that has become standard practice in most initiation processes. The initiation ritual is little more than a confirmation of a special relationship between the devotee and their spirituality. It is a personal thing that doesn’t require outward manifestations or proof of the change to the crowd or audience.

So to anyone who is told to shave their head or take out a bank loan to get their initiation I strongly suggest that they take the time to think heavily about what they are being told and what they are about to do. Sacrificing your hair isn’t going to make you any more of a devotee and keeping your hair will not make you any less a devotee. I hope this message saves a lot of dreadlocks. In my humble opinion the black community simply looks so much better with as many locks as possible on people’s heads.

Sunday, September 2, 2007 Posted by | Black Community, Black Culture, Black Hair, Black Men, Black Women, Faith, God, Ifa, Life, Orisa, Philosophy, Religion, Spirituality | 73 Comments

Looking and Thinking Black

Sheriff Strain

I was trying to find a picture of some dreadlocks for another article when I ran across this story from the website

The sheriff in the predominantly white St. Tammany Parish in Louisiana had a problem with low income, mostly black people who fled from New Orleans because of Katrina permanently settling in his area. Said the sheriff, “The federal government is going to find somewhere for them to live. I don’t want to see temporary housing because of Katrina turn into long-term housing for a bunch of thugs and trash that don’t need to be in St. Tammany Parish. That’s something that we need to be aware of today and all leaders need to be vigilant and observant to see what’s going on. We don’t want to wake up one day and find out that New Orleans has been damn successful at running all of the trash out of the city and it end up roosting in St. Tammany.”

Not racist enough? The sheriff also had this to say, “Now, I don’t get into calling people names, but if you’re gonna walk the streets of St. Tammany Parish with dreadlocks and chee-wee hairstyles, then you can expect to get a visit from a sheriff’s deputy. We’re going to deal with you one way or the other.” Good thing he’s not into name calling.

What makes this story amazing is that the sheriff has no problem letting people know his racist points of views. He wants to harass people based on little more than their ethnic hairstyles and perceived economic status. And what the hell is a chee-wee anyway? Mr. Strain is painting people who are bold enough to be black and even bolder to be poor as deserving of being the focus of public scrutiny or more precisely the scrutiny of law enforcement. In other words, don’t worry good white folks because we are going to do whatever it takes to keep these darkies in line. And American history is full of examples of negative consequences for people who are so negatively perceived.

And what makes this story even more amazing is the fact that the people of St. Tammany Parish have elected this racist as their sheriff. These people are essentially saying that they don’t have a problem putting their trust in this uber racist. I’m no lawyer but I believe it would not take a Johnnie Cochran or a Thurgood Marshall to show the sheriff’s proclivity for racial harassment. I think the parishioners should think about their potential exposure for a coffer emptying harassment lawsuit.

It should suffice to say that Mr. Strain is not a person people that the black community can view favorably. But what about black people who openly take the same racist and judgmental point of view? There are black people who actually promote the idea that dreadlocks and outward appearances of blatant ethnic identification are inappropriate for the working environment. I am talking about black people who choose to focus on all the reasons to keep other black people in their place instead of being focused on all the positives for employing and promoting their brothers and sisters.

I’m sure people will read this and automatically see all the problems with this line of thinking. “You want black people to hire black people because their black”. I’m not talking about just hiring black people for the sake of hiring black people. That would be stupid and counterproductive. But there is an abundance of qualified black people with the talent, skills, abilities, and experiences that will make fine candidates for employment if people would only make the choice to learn the person and their abilities. It is this line of thinking that automatically assumes black people who make the choice to look and think like black people are inferior that makes affirmative action a necessary evil.

I know one black woman who really hates dreadlocks. An elder in the community, she once made her son an offer of a thousand dollars if he’d cut his locks off and kept them off (he passed on the offer but made the decision to cut them off a few years later, unfortunately the offer had expired). But I also know that this woman would never judge a person by something as trivial as their hairstyle or the clothes they wear. As long as the person is clean and neat she’s okay with the person. The woman has the wisdom to realize that the hairstyle and clothing is a personal preference that she wouldn’t make for herself or her children. She doesn’t judge a person’s character based on such trivialities. My friend would not hesitate to defend someone’s right to wear his or her hair however they please regardless of how she felt about it.

Black people who toe the line on behalf of the white dominating culture it spells trouble for the black community. A black person who is willing to devalue another black person based on how well they fit into white people’s conservative perception of what is acceptable from and/or for black people can hardly claim to have the black neighborhood’s interest at heart. Honestly, it sounds like their heart is beating for white people’s values. We get enough of this make the black community conform type of thinking from white people, we don’t need our brothers and sisters contributing to the subjugation effort. It’s as if these black people are actually saying, “Stop it! You are reminding me where I came from! You are reminding me that my very existence, my history, runs contrary to how I want to identify myself!”

There are black people who wear dreadlocks that don’t belong in certain working environments. There are black people who have less than exemplary character. But whether or not someone belongs in a particular working environment or the excellence of someone’s characters is not based on their hairstyle or their appearance or their economic status or their skin tone. Character is based on who people are and nothing more. Judge my character negatively or favorably because how you feel about my hairstyle is nothing short of foolish.

Sunday, August 19, 2007 Posted by | African Americans, Black Community, Black Culture, Black Hair, Black Men, Black People, Black Women, Justice, Philosophy, Racism, Thoughts | 4 Comments