“Now That’s Trumped Up!”

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Well, it’s been two weeks since we awakened to learn that someone we believed could NEVER be elected President of the United States did just that. I guess this is how racists felt on November 5, 2008, the day after Barack Obama’s first election! It’s going to be a long 4 (or maybe even 8) years! My advancing age, professional status, and commitment to try to be a better Christian keeps me from saying what I really want to say. But I’ve come up with a substitute term… This is really, “Trumped up!” Here are just a few of the things I think are “trumped up” about the results of this election:

– A man with 5 children and 3 baby mamas was elected…that’s trumped up!
– A man who committed adultery on ALL of his wives was elected…that’s trumped up!
– The first-lady-elect (for now) has pornographic pictures of herself circulating while people denounced First Lady Michelle Obama for wearing bare arms…that’s trumped up!
– The President-Elect is an admitted sexual predator…that’s trumped up!
– The President-Elect built his entire campaign by instigating racist, sexist, homophobic ideologies…that’s trumped up!
– The President-Elect’s “appeal” to Black voters was by telling them they were all poor, unemployed, uneducated, and violent and asking what they had to lose by voting for him…that’s trumped up!
– The President –Elect demonized all Muslim families and suggested that all Muslim immigrants needed to be “extremely vetted”…that’s trumped up!
– The President-Elect started his campaign for the presidency by declaring our current president was not even a citizen of the United States…that’s trumped up!
– The President-Elect made a claim about bringing jobs back to the US while he is a primary mover for outsourcing in his own businesses…that’s trumped up!
– The President-Elect announced his candidacy while claiming that Mexico was sending its murderers and rapists to the US and he would build a wall between the two countries that Mexico would pay for…that’s trumped up!
– The President-Elect clearly lost all 3 presidential debates and demonstrated his unstable temperament…that’s trumped up!
– The President-Elect ran on a platform of “making America great again” (but I can not determine what bygone era of greatness he was referencing)…that’s trumped up!
– The President-Elect kept his tax returns secret from the American public for the entire campaign…and still has not revealed them…that’s trumped up!
– The New York Times revealed that the President-Elect has paid NO taxes for the last 10 years. So while the rest of us are paying for defense, social security, highways, schools, health care, etc., he’s paid for NOTHING…that’s trumped up!
– The President-Elect has been endorsed by the KKK and other noted hate mongers and White supremacists…that’s trumped up!
– The President-Elect began filling his cabinet and other key staff positions with racists and alt-right ideologues…that’s trumped up!
– The President-Elect encouraged thuggish and violent behavior at his campaign appearances…that’s trumped up!
– The President-Elect claimed he would prosecute his opponent when he won the election and led the cheers to “lock her up”…that’s trumped up!
– The President-Elect wants the nation to withdraw from international agreements and partnerships like NATO…that’s trumped up!
– The President-Elect wants to dismantle a health care plan that is the signature program of our current president and is likely to end up with many poor people without coverage and the rest of us with coverage with super high deductibles …that’s trumped up!
– The President-Elect wants to appoint Supreme Court judges that will control women’s bodies but will likely let old men get those little blue pills for free…that’s trumped up!
– The President-Elect claims to know more about ISIS than the generals whose job it is to know, plan and execute military strategy…that’s trumped up!
– The President-Elect claimed he could shoot someone in the middle of 5th Avenue (NY) and still not lose any voters …that’s trumped up!
– The President-Elect claims that climate change science is a hoax…that’s trumped up!
– The President-Elect ran a campaign based on fear and doomsday scenarios … that’s trumped up!
– The President-Elect is allegedly a billionaire who has poor people believing he is actually going to do something for them …that’s trumped up!
– The President-Elect is a reality show celebrity who has never run for any public office…that’s trumped up!
– The President-Elect believes he is the smartest, most charismatic, captivating person ever (despite a orange face and perhaps a hair transplant)…that’s trumped up!
– The President-Elect ran a fake University, was sued for fraud and recently settled for $25 million…that’s trumped up.
– The President-Elect is petty and petulant and explodes in Twitter ® rants whenever someone criticizes him …that’s trumped up!
– We may have to live with this man as president for at least the next four years…that’s trumped up!
– If the President-Elect messes this thing up the nation is stuck with his vice president who is a dangerous ideologue…that’s trumped up!

In the end, we have visited much of this foolishness on ourselves. We acted as if President Obama’s legacy would remain intact and because we weren’t enthusiastic about his Democratic successor we did not mobilize to stop who we got. And that is trumped up!

Stay Black & Smart!

“Shout Out To My Real Ride or Die Chicks”

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Well, we’ve just come out of one of the most vicious, contentious presidential election cycles and it has ended badly for most progressive, equality, and justice minded people. People on the left are wringing their hands and telling us that the sky is falling. Indeed, it may be falling. But it is not falling because of one group of women—Black women.

Once we saw the demographic voter backgrounds we learned that White men voted for Donald Trump at a rate of 63%. That does not surprise me. Trump tapped into some notion of an “angry White man” (angry for what—that you don’t own EVERYTHING?) but we kept hearing that he had alienated White, educated women. Well, the data reveal that White women voted for Trump at a rate of 53%, i.e. the MAJORITY of White women voted for Donald Trump. Let that sink in! White women voted for a serial adulterer who has talked about his sexual predatory ways and demeaned women at every turn.

But, one group of women has been ride or die for Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton from the outset. They knew she was flawed—deeply flawed, but they could not look their daughters in the face and say I voted for a man who will not permit you to have control over your body. They could not look into the face of their sons and say I voted for a man who tells you it is all right for you to take advantage of women and grab their genitalia whenever you feel like it. They could not look at their children and say I voted for a man who is racist, sexist, misogynistic, homophobic, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, and makes fun of people with disabilities. That group was Black women. We rode HARD for Secretary Clinton to the tune of 94%. She didn’t make us any grand promises. Some will argue that she took us for granted. But at the end of the day, we looked at our chances for our children with her versus him and decided that he had absolutely NO interest in helping us. She seemed to offer us the better chance.

Black women have been “ride or die” from day one. We birthed babies out of a rape culture that was slavery. And, we not only birthed them, we cared for them. We worked the fields side by side with our enslaved brethren. We cleaned the floors and cooked the food of White people and listened carefully to what they planned and plotted that spelled our destruction so we could aid in our own liberation. We led our people out of slavery in the person of Harriet Tubman. We sharecropped with our men. We saved our pennies to build Black colleges. We are the backbone of our churches. We keep our families together. We sacrifice for our parents, our men, our children, and our communities. Oh, we are ride or die chicks!

The fact that Black women are ride or die chicks is not news but some of us were under the mistaken impression that White women would ride along with us at least for the cause of gender. What a huge mistake that was! White women embraced their whiteness as fervently as men—maybe more so. And, that understanding creates some changed relations for those of us who have to interact with White women on a regular basis. Now, lurking in our minds is whether or not each White woman we meet is “one of the 53%.” The “implicit bias” Whites have hidden behind was on full display on November 8, 2016.

The question for Black activists is now to what degree we can work in coalition with White women? White comedian Samantha Bee did a post-election monologue in which she excoriated the White community but I noticed she said, “How many times do we expect Black people to build our country?” The pronoun modifying the word, “country” that she chose was “our.” This makes me ask, “who is the our?” She may have meant a collective “our” that includes everyone but I would have been more settled in my soul if she said, “the country.” This would suggest that no one group has a special right of ownership. But she is right about Black people building it. We plowed the fields, tilled the soil, planted the seed, and harvested the crops. But, we did not get to come to the table to eat.

Right now I have a number of White women contacting me via text, IM, and social media wanting to be absolved of guilt but I’m sorry that’s not going to happen right now. I still have to process the betrayal. Of course I have some White women friends and students (who know who they are) who do not have to ask me about our relationship or what they should do. They are already doing it. I don’t need any more White women running up to me telling me how much they love my work and asking whether or not we can get a selfie. I don’t need your idol worship. I don’t need a fan club. You can keep your fair trade coffee. You can keep your “mindfulness.” You can keep your hot yoga! But some White women keep asking me what should we do? My metaphorical eyebrows are raised as I ask, “We?” You have failed to convince me that you can participate in any activity with Black and other people of color where you can take direction from women of color. My experience has been if you can’t be in the forefront; if you can’t lead; if your name is not on the marquee…you are not interested. My experience is you will only ride so far (and typically only if you are driving) and you won’t die for anybody!

To my ride or die Black women sista’s…

Stay Black & Smart!

“I’m Through!”

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This might seem like a very strange blog for me to write since I devote much of my professional life to teaching, researching, and writing about race and racism in education. But, with the exception of my scholarly pursuits, I am through talking to White people about race and racism. My absolute “through-ness” (I know, a made up word) came to a head when my university covered up blatant racism (a man in a Trump costume had a noose around a man in an Obama mask at a recent football game and the university president called it “free speech.”) Below is a litany of what I am through with:

  • I am through trying to assuage White tears whenever the topics of race and racism arises;
  • I am through acting like I don’t notice when I’m the only Black person in a room of White people with authority and power;
  • I am through pretending like I don’t notice that college football fields and basketball courts are filled with Black players earning enormous sums of money for universities that have stadiums and arenas filled with White fans;
  • I am through trying to explain why Donald Trump is racist…indeed, I am through not reminding people that the entire presidential election has race as a subtext;
  • I am through giving White entertainers and celebrities a pass when they do racist foolishness on line, on social media, etc. and then “walk it back” with, “I didn’t mean to offend anyone!”
  • I am through with trying to explain when something is racist…(e.g. police shooting, lead water poisoning, the justice system, schools, housing, voter suppression);
  • I am through going HARD for other people’s issues and then finding myself standing alone when the issue is racism;
  • I am through with people using “implicit bias” to paper over their racism;
  • I am through with explaining why Confederate flags, nooses, references to fried chicken, watermelon, and “Black on Black” (what about “White on White”) crime are racist;
  • I am through explaining the need for affirmative action (when you break stuff, you are obligated to fix it);
  • I am through trying to get people to understand why slavery is still relevant to Black people’s ongoing plight;
  • I am through pretending appropriation of Black culture is flattery (don’t braid your hair or try to enhance your butt and stop putting kale in everything);
  • I am through worrying about if something I say will “hurt your feelings,” “make you feel uncomfortable,” or “make things ‘worse’;”
  • I am through thinking it’s okay for White people to move into and take over Harlem, Detroit, or West Philly;
  • I am through explaining the need for HBCUs;
  • I am through explaining why I attend a BLACK church;
  • I am through explaining why I am in a BLACK sorority;
  • I am through with the unbridled hatred of Serena Williams, Cam Newton, and President Obama;
  • I am through with your children being so ignorant that every time they see a Black person they rudely stare (I will be staring back);
  • I am through listening to you start sentences with, “Well, you know I’m not racist, but…” (Yes, you are);
  • I am through with White mediocrity being called excellence while Black excellence is ignored;
  • I am through with people trying to pit the plight of Black people against that of others implying Black folks should still wait;
  • I am through indulging comments like, “everything is not about race,” when most times it is;
  • I am through explaining my style—hair, dress, swagger;
  • I am through being your teacher when I am not paid to do so;
  • I am through supporting “liberal” causes that don’t make race central to their work;
  • I’m through trying to get folks to understand that “Black Lives Matter!”

Yes, I’m just through! So you may wonder what am I going to talk to White folks about. Well, we can talk about Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones (although I don’t actually watch that), Portlandia (which I’ve only seen 3 times), and why every fall you turn EVERYTHING into something “pumpkin” (lattes, muffins, and bread).

Stay Black & Smart!

“Ida Already Told Us This!”

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In 1892 journalist and former teacher Ida B. Wells reported on the lynching of 3 of her friends, Thomas Moss, Calvin McDowell, and Henry Stewart who were lynched for the “crime” of opening a grocery store called “People’s Grocery” in Memphis, TN that “took” customers from competing White businesses. The White storeowners went to attack People’s Grocery and in the ensuing scuffle the Black men attempted to defend themselves and their property and shot one of the attackers. All three men were arrested but a mob broke into the jail and brutally lynched them. In her journalist description of conditions for Black people in Memphis Wells urged Black people to move because of the city’s refusal to protect Black lives and property. Ida was telling us almost 125 years ago that “Black Lives Matter!”

From the point of her first missive in “The Free Speech,” Wells and others in the Black community began documenting the brutality of lynching that plagued their community. In 1916 the NAACP established an “Anti-Lynching” Committee to develop legislative and public awareness campaigns. In 1919 the Committee published “Thirty years of lynching in the United States, 1889-1918.” This report indicated that 3,224 people were lynched in the thirty-year period. Of these, 702 were White and 2,522 Black. This is an average of 84 Black people a year! Among the justifications given for the lynchings were petty offenses such as “using offensive language, refusal to give up land, illicit distilling.”

The differences between what Wells and the NAACP reported back then compared to what we are now experiencing are that they lacked the instantaneous communication of Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and cable news to let the world know what had happened to Black people and the lynchings were allegedly carried out by extra police or law enforcement individuals. However, we know that a close relationship existed between sheriffs, deputies, and police officers and organizations like the Ku Klux Klan, White Citizen Councils, and vigilante groups that carried out these heinous acts.

The point I am making is that killing Black people at will has been a way of life for some segments of law enforcement. And, claims of “implicit bias” have become the latest and most convenient cop-out. While I do not deny Eberhart’s theoretical construct, I do not believe we should use it to give trained, professionals a pass on killing Black people. I walk into university classrooms all the time and truth be told I have “implicit bias” toward White students. My implicit bias comes from more than 30 years of working with them and more than a few unpleasant interactions based on our racial differences. However, I have disciplined myself not to allow my biases to interfere with giving each INDIVIDUAL a fair chance to counter any biases I might have. I am still uncomfortable walking into a sporting event filled with drunk and rowdy White males. I am still uncomfortable when recognizing that my career fate may lie in the hands of White professionals. But, nothing in those “implicit biases” forces me to pack a weapon and shoot them when I feel threatened. I cannot let my “implicit biases” over rule my judgment.

This “rash” of shootings of unarmed Black people we see on the nightly news and on our social media feeds are not new. Ida B. Wells told us more than a century ago that although many Whites do not believe it, “Black Lives Matter!”

Stay Black and Smart!

 

 

“The Land of the Free…The Home of the Brave?”

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Over the past few weeks the US news media and blogosphere have been flooded by the news that San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the National Anthem AND that his refusal was linked to his strong feelings about the way Black people continue to live under oppression in this society—specifically police brutality. Reaction to Kaepernick was swift and brutal. To be fair “Kaep” has had his supporters but rarely do his critics address the context and bigger picture Kaepernick is attempting to expose.

One question that has surfaced is “Why is he doing this? He’s a football player he should just play ball.” That kind of thinking reflects the “minstrelsy” we demand of the Black body. Just entertain us. Do not think. Do not speak…unless you are speaking to tell us how grateful you are to be here and how thankful you are to please us. The main reason I believe Kaepernick is protesting the anthem (and by proxy the nation) is because no one will listen to a retail store clerk (or any other no name citizen)! And, to his credit Kaepernick has pledged $1million to helping organizations fighting racial injustice.

Using celebrity to advance a cause (particularly an “unpopular” cause) is not a new thing. Artists like Jane Fonda, Marlon Brando, and Bono have stood before the world for causes they believe in. Black athletes have treaded an unsure road because they do not have the protection of Whiteness or wealth (yes, they have income but rarely money to pass along inter-generationally) to fall back on. Paul Robeson lost almost everything for being willing to stand up against US oppression. His passport was lifted (and he made his living singing around the world). Rutgers removed him from its athletic hall of fame (despite being an outstanding football player). There were venues in the US that would not permit him to perform in them. The all American icon, Jackie Robinson wrote in his autobiography in 1972, “Today, as I look back on that opening game of my first world series, I must tell you that it was Mr. Rickey’s drama and that I was only a principal actor. As I write this twenty years later, I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag; (emphasis added) I know that I am a black man in a white world. In 1972, in 1947, at my birth in 1919, I know that I never had it made.”

Perhaps the most memorable athletes’ protest against the US came at the 1968 Mexico Olympics when Tommie Smith and John Carlos stood upon the medal stand bowed their heads and raised black-gloved fists as the anthem was played. At that moment everyone forgot that Smith had run a record-breaking 200-meter race. They were largely ostracized for their stance and it was not until the 21st century that people recognized their courage and the rightness of their position. In 2008 both men were awarded the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYs.

Of course we cannot forget the courage of Muhammad Ali who refused to participate in the Vietnam War. Because of it he lost his livelihood. He could not box and the 3 plus years he lost were in the prime of his career. Today we celebrate Ali as “The Greatest” but minimize the way he was punished for taking a principled stand. In each of these cases the media has trotted out Black “surrogates” to speak against the Black athletes.

Athletes are as human as anyone else. What is interesting is how quickly the powers that be are to forgive drug addicts, rapists, batterers, “serial daddies” (as in men who have multiple “baby mamas” without paying child support) and others. But let someone stand up and point out racism and inequity and we decide that she or he is not worthy of citizenship. Kaepernick is demonstrating what is allegedly the greatness of democracy—that you can hold and express opinions different from others. The “my country—love it or leave it” crowd are dangerous to civil society. Their lack of criticality is what has landed us in this particular presidential election cycle.

For those who argue that “there is another way to do it” I will remind you that Milwaukee has been languishing with a lack of adequate jobs and education opportunities. Black people are paying taxes and voting just like White people. But who wants to pay for people to ignore, demonize, and brutalize them?

When the Sherman Park community erupted in civil disobedience a few weeks ago the Governor and his people decided it was time to infuse some money into Milwaukee and create some jobs. So, “the other way” rarely produced results. Unfortunately, it takes people’s willingness to “get mad” and “tear some stuff up” to get attention. And sometimes it takes simply refusing to stand to show your righteous indignation to injustice.

Stay Black & Smart!

“Falling Across the Finish Line”

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2016 Rio Olympics – Athletics – Final – Women’s 400m Final – Olympic Stadium – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – 15/08/2016. Shericka Jackson (JAM) of Jamaica, Shaunae Miller (BAH) of Bahamas and Allyson Felix (USA) of USA finish the race. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS.

If you know me you know I am in sports and athletics heaven right now because it’s Summer Olympics time. I watch the swimming, gymnastics, and especially the track and field. As a former sprinter I love watching those runners get into their blocks, raise their hips after the starter says “on your mark, set” and then fire the starter gun. At that point we see the runners rocket out of the blocks head down and run themselves into an upright position with their arms and legs churning. The cameras often catch the muscles of their faces shaking and their biceps, quadriceps and calf muscles straining to propel them to the finish line.

Last night, 400 meter racer Allyson Felix, one of the world’s most celebrated track athletes appeared on the court ready to go for her 5th gold medal (7th overall) but just as she approached the finish line, Bahamas’ racer, Shaunae Miller dove (or better yet, fell) across the line just ahead of Felix. Immediately social media went ballistic. Cries of foul and unfair filled the Internet. But was it? Is the rule about finishing first or about finishing in a particular way?

I thought that Miller’s dive was an important life lesson for us all. As an African American academic I cannot tell you how many times I have seen students—especially African American students—dive across the finish line at the last minute. And, when they do their parents, families, and “mama ‘nem” show up at graduation and scream “Thank you Jesus” and “That’s my baby” at the top of their lungs. They do not care that the final project or dissertation was handed in just before the deadline. They do not care about all of the drama that led up to graduation day. They just cheer the accomplishment as their “Baby” walks across that stage.

When I was collecting data for my dissertation in a middle school in a predominately Black community I could not help but smile as the 8th graders in my study prepared for graduation (actually it was just promotion to high school). It was in stark contrast to the upper middle class 8th grade promotion ceremony at my sons’ middle class schools. Theirs was a low key, middle of the day event where the dressiest kids wore slacks and polo shirts. The kids got a few words of encouragement and the event ended with punch and cookies. But in the Black community where I was working students were dressed in their Sunday best. The girls wore semi-formal dresses and some of the boys wore tuxedos. A few of the kids arrived in limousines. I had spent a year collecting data in their classrooms and I KNEW many of them were literally diving across the finish line. They did not sprint across, upright in fine form.

And, it is not merely the students that are diving across the line. If I look back at the road I traveled I had to throw myself across the line a time or two. I didn’t have college-educated parents to give me a head start in the race for success. No, I started way in the back of the pack. I had White high school classmates who had traveled to Europe. I had never been on an airplane. Some of them drove their own cars and there were times in my home when there was no car. And, when we did have a car it was never a brand new one. When I graduated from high school, college, and graduate school my parents and family were jumping up and down like I had won a gold medal.

My own children have had the advantage of middle class life in safe communities. But, there have been instances when they have had to dive across the finish line at the last minute. There has been too much Black Greek life partying, too much athletics, and major battles with anxiety and depression. But, in the end when they were finally able to pull it together with mom, dad, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and community pushing, pulling, and prodding they hurled themselves across the finish line—high school and college graduations, jobs, successful relationships, and great kids of their own—I was there cheering like a crazy woman and I didn’t care that they didn’t always do it upright. Sometimes they dove across that finish line just like Shaunae Miller.

Stay Black & Smart!

“You Are So Beautiful…To Me!”

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United States’ Gabrielle Douglas looks at the scoreboard during the artistic gymnastics women’s team final at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

After a summer filled with vicious political fighting for the presidency and various Congressional seats, ongoing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, police shootings of unarmed citizens, alleged retaliation of those shootings by deranged people, and terrorists attacks in Orlando, FL, France, Pakistan, and elsewhere in the world, I was good and ready to watch the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Like many who are deeply critical of our country when it falls short of its democratic ideals, I turn into a decided homer when it comes to USA athletes. Also, it’s BRAZIL! This is a country I think EVERY Black person should visit. Despite the huge income disparity—the horrible favelas and homelessness—it is a magnificently beautiful country. And, the African influence is unmistakable! Its art, music, dance, and culture all reflect the African aesthetic and its population is largely African in its heritage. The girl from Ipanema is a tourist industry fantasy. It should be the girl from Angola!

But, despite the excitement of the Olympics in Rio, I came across a post that suggested a group of Black women were once again reading Gold Medal gymnast, Gabby Douglas about her hair! Really, people? This young woman has accomplished more in her short life than most of her social media trollers will EVER in their lives. Indeed, I imagine that most of her haters are in far less physical shape than she is. I imagine that they cannot point to one major contribution they have made to the world. I imagine their own children’s hair can use some tightening up! But whether that is true of not what makes Gabby Douglas fair game for YOUR critique. Is her hair any worse than Katie Ledecky’s huge forehead? Is it worse than Michael Phelps’ obvious lisp? Is it worse than Breanna Stewart’s ghostly white complexion? No, yet no one is holding them up to ridicule…and they shouldn’t. They did not achieve Olympic quality greatness based on what they look like. They achieved it based on their skills and the hard work they put in to develop those skills. The physical flaws of these athletes are not unlike the flaws almost every human being has. Most of us are not runway or print models. Most of us are not screen actors. We are as John Legend’s (who incidentally, is incredibly short) song says filled with, “perfect imperfections.”

There are plenty of people who I think are fair game for potshots and clap backs—politicians, Hollywood actors and actresses, reality stars, sports figures, musicians, rappers, and the ridiculously wealthy. We can pick on them because they can take it. They expect it. They wear big boy and big girl pants. But a young woman whose only desire is to represent her country and showcase the talents she and her family have sacrificed everything to get to this point are strictly out of bounds!

For those people (and in this case it’s primarily Black women) who have time to pick apart Gabby’s hair I can only imagine you are spending more money on your hair and nails than you are on books. I bet your hair (whether it’s in a box or in 5 packs on the top of your head) is “slayed to da gawds” but can you get a mortgage? Are you children all on the honor roll or dean’s list? Are you bringing down a 6-figure salary? Are you donating to charity and volunteering in your community? No? Well then you need to take several seats and leave that young woman alone. I can’t imagine what you’re going to say when the two sista’s on the swim team get out of the pool and take off their swim caps. Every time I see Gabby Douglas and Simone Biles I smile and say to myself, “You are SO beautiful…to me!”

Stay Black and Smart!

“Learning to Play the Long Game”

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton throws a pass against the Denver Broncos during an NFL football game in Charlotte

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) throws a pass against the Denver Broncos during an NFL football game in Charlotte, North Carolina November 11, 2012. REUTERS/Chris Keane (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

 

We are in the midst of a heated political debate and it is interesting to hear fellow Black progressives talk about the dilemma of voting for someone they do not fully believe in versus opting out of the process all together. I understand this dilemma because I remember being at this very same place in the summer of 1968 when the DNC erupted in Chicago, Mayor Richard Daley had his police force brutally beat down the protesters and we came out of the convention with a candidate that many of us felt we could not support. Hubert Humphrey who was basically a decent human being was not Eugene McCarthy, the peace candidate of my generation. The failure to support Humphrey resulted in the election of Richard M. Nixon.

 

Now in truth, Nixon like any president has but 4 or perhaps 8 years to visit their behavior—good or ill—on us if what you are looking at is the “short game.” Over the years I have learned that what really matters is how we play the “long game.” If you will excuse a few sports analogies the 2007 New England Patriots went 18-0 but lost the Super Bowl to the New York Giants. They did not win the “long game.” This past year the Golden State Warriors won more regular season games than any other NBA franchise in history but ended up losing the NBA Championship to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Warriors did not win the “long game.”

 

In politics the “long game” is not who wins the next election but rather what the long-range policies and implications will be. When we put Richard Nixon in office he began a systematic rollback of Brown v Board of Education that has resulted in the destruction of public education we are continuing to suffer from. Nixon also helped to orchestra the Southern strategy that turned the nation’s south into a solid red block of conservatism. Nixon’s election was part of a conservative long game. Similarly, when Barry Goldwater was soundly defeated in the 1964 election the American right began planning its conservative strategy of right wing think tanks, TV and print media. They began planning their long game and it continues to flourish to this day.

 

For me the current long game is the Supreme Court, not the Oval Office. Supreme Court Justices sit on the highest court for a lifetime. President Obama placed Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan on the bench as a part of his long game. Unfortunately, an obstructionists Senate will not allow him to appoint his third justice but someone will be making that appointment soon. And, as much as I love the “Notorious RBG (Ruth Bader Ginsburg) her time on the court will eventually come to an end as well as that of Justice Stephen Breyer. I don’t have to be crazy about a candidate to know that I need someone who will put a justice on that court who will not work to keep my grandchildren from admission to college or insist that corporations are people.

 

Quite frankly, at my age, career status, and income, whoever becomes president is unlikely to make a huge difference in my individual life. But for me, the result of the long game for my 5 precious grandbabies is what’s at stake. I owe it to them to always play the long game.

 

Stay Black and Smart!

“A Real Prince of a…Person”

060712-music-evolution-Prince.jpgYesterday we were all alerted to the horrific news that Prince Rogers Nelson died at age 57. Most of us knew him only by his singular name—Prince! Like Cher, or Aretha, or Beyoncé he did not need a last name for the entire world to recognize this towering talent. Prince became the soundtrack of the 80s, 90s, and 2000s. But this blog is less about his talent than about him as a person who brought us all to a new level of awareness about what it means to be fully human.

By all accounts we should have never heard of Prince, let alone have made him a mega-star. He was diminutive standing only 5’2” tall. Despite his size he was an accomplished basketball player. He was painfully shy, giving few interviews. He was a Jehovah Witness, practicing a faith outside the mainstream of US religions. He was not constrained to traditional gender representations. He wore heels, make up, and complex hairstyles. To be sure Prince was not the first artist to do the things he did. Little Richard was every bit as “flamboyant” in his stage persona as Prince. But Little Richard’s appeal was more limited to African American audiences. Prince was a worldwide phenomenon. Michael Jackson exhibited some of the same qualities as Prince but as fans we grew up with Michael—from a cute little brown boy to a man who was almost unrecognizable to us. Prince burst on the world scene already having embraced a hybrid, androgynous identity. Little Jimmy Scott was a vocalist in the 1950s and 60s who suffered from Kallman’s Syndrome that resulted in stunted growth and a voice that sounded like a women. His audiences were in small jazz clubs and to this day few people have ever heard of him.

Prince grew up being picked on in school. At 5’2” he was a regular victim of school bullies. Also, the fact that he was “pretty” had to exacerbate the taunts and victimization he experienced. However, as a master musician and shrewd businessman he broke all the rules. He was more than rhythm and blues, more than rock and roll. He was an accomplished singer and instrumentalist. He played the piano and the guitar. He appealed to women and men, LGBTQ and straight, Black, White, Latino, Asian, US., and international audiences. He defied categorization and that was his allure.

In his ability to defy conventions and entertain in ways we have not experienced in a generation Prince became the embodiment of the term unique. He reminded us a bit of Little Richard and James Brown. He seemed to grab a bit from Mick Jagger and David Bowie. His hairstyles alone were an adventure. Sometimes he work a curly mullet, next he wore a short, processed look, then he wore long shoulder length tresses that he shook with abandon. In his latter days he donned an Angela Davis-like Afro and continued to write amazing music and entertain at an incredible clip.

Prince also had a social conscious. In the days following the death of Baltimore’s Freddie Gray and insurrection in the streets, Prince performed a free concert for the community. He loved the people and he loved the music. He resisted our desire to put him in a box. He was a real prince of a person and now he has transitioned from this world to the next. All I can say is “Goodnight, Sweet Prince!”

 

Stay Black & Smart!

“Blame it on Beyoncé”

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So on the night before her Super Bowl 50 half time performance singer Beyoncé dropped her song, “Formation” that stands as an ode to her Black heritage. Throughout the song Beyoncé makes unashamedly Black cultural references. She talks about her father from Alabama, her mother from Louisiana teaming up to create her, “a Texas ‘Bama.” She claps back at those who think she should “tame” her baby daughter’s natural hair. She sings the praises of collard greens and cornbread. She refers to herself as someone who has “hot sauce in her bag, swag!” But, in addition to the cultural references sprinkled throughout the song the imagery of the accompanying video is evocative and provocative. She offers up images of New Orleans destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, a Black Mardi Gras Indian, Southern University clad band members, a Black church service, and what might be a second line. Near the end of the video we see graffiti on the side of a building that says, “Stop shooting us!”

I saw the video Friday when the song dropped so I was anxious to see if she would include it in her Super Bowl performance. If she did, it would require some major editing to be acceptable for a prime time audience. And, she did just that. Her performance stayed away from the obscenity and instead capitalized on the star’s obvious sexuality. But that sexuality came with a twist. She and her dancers wore militaristic costumes that harkened back to the Black Panthers and in giving a nod to the Panthers Beyoncé suddenly became an undesirable. Instead of acknowledging the marketing genius of the performer—drops a song and video the day before the Super Bowl, gives an electrifying performance at the Super Bowl (that, in my estimation saved Cold Play’s anemic performance), and announces her next national tour—White folks are mad that she references her heritage and the historical contribution of the Black Panthers.

My favorite “commentary” on the response to Beyoncé was the Saturday Night Live skit called “The Day Beyoncé turned Black (https://youtu.be/ociMBfkDG1w) that describes the panic that came over the White community because Beyoncé acknowledged her blackness. Later in the week we began to see the negative response of various police departments (for example, Miami and Tampa) who urged their members not to serve as security guards for the singer because her message was “anti-police.” Let’s be clear. Mega-stars always hire a local security force for their concerts. Those security forces are often comprised of off duty police officers and security guards. Working the concerts puts money in the pockets of the individuals who take the jobs. Failure to work the concert only provides job opportunities for additional people. The local police forces will still need to insure the safety of the public concerning possible traffic congestion in the streets surrounding the venues. After all, they are supposed to “serve and protect!”

Interesting, police departments advocating boycotting Beyoncé regularly found their way to NWA concerts where the group from Compton openly defied the cops in songs like “F*%k the Police” and “9-1-1 is a joke.” The tensions that exist between African Americans and police departments are not a result of Beyoncé dropping a new song. Evoking the Black Panthers in Black History Month when filmmaker Stanley Nelson, Jr. debuts his documentary on the Black Panthers was another example of the artist’s marketing genius.

I would never look to Beyoncé to lead a movement or educate my children. However, the fact that she has taken up a current, relevant topic in her latest song makes me hopeful that our art is starting to be about more than drinking vodka, getting high, and having sex with any and everybody. When a major star like Queen Bey takes on a serious topic that impacts our community I appreciate it—and for that I blame Kendrick Lamar!