Reflections on Henry Louis Gates’ Arrest: When Criminals Are Exalted The Innocent Will Also Be Guilty

So the arrest of Skip Gates has been dissected from most of its angles. Charges of racism have been levied. The immediate knee-jerk defense of any behavior by the police has been used by others. I have a slightly different take on things. We could ask why the neighbor made an assumption of criminal activity. They are sure to be embarrassed now that their name has been made public. We can investigate whether the arresting officer – who is white – violated Dr. Gates’ rights in some way. We can discuss the history of race relations in the United States and how he got the short end of the stick. We could also ask why he allowed himself to be so outraged – or how he was justified given that poor history. 
It seems many were expecting the officer to notice that Dr. Gates was the “right” kind of Negro and not a “thug” so the class difference should have been his shield. Well….it’s not! Just like the obvious racism displayed against the Creative Steps participants blacks have to stop deluding themselves that the deteriorating behavior of the collective will be ignored. In order words, “certain” blacks are not going to get a pass. People think we’re experiencing a time warp of sorts and on one hand we are. We’re experiencing a backlash of sorts for the choice of a millions of whites to set aside their racism and misgivings to elect a black man for President.
Obama is beholden to their interests and will address them accordingly as they are the majority population. The blacks, specifically black women that represent his largest voting group seem willing to “wait” for him to “do right” by them. The same way those that actually put their lives and limbs on the line to get Civil Rights passed were expecting to be taken care of for their efforts. It didn’t happen. Things are in fact much worse for the entire collective.
African-Americans are for the most part worse off than we were 40 years ago. I don’t think the same racism lens is being viewed today than then. Why not? We weren’t making role models and celebrities out of AA male (and some AA females) criminals. You know the rap music artists, sports figures and such. When you have these men bragging about how many times they’d been shot or “slangin’ rock” or have rap sheets that represent crimes committed not music and it’s not only tolerated BUT celebrated it is over for the “decent” folks left. 
There was a time education was touted and people knew how to behave in public. There was a time when an R&B singer who’d made a sex tape of acts between him and a minor would have resulted in some public retaliation “behavior modification” incident. There was a time when the college attendance/graduation numbers for AA men were much higher. There was a time when a man aspired to be a husband and no job was beneath him in providing for a family. 
The depraved has become the norm and warped the minds of so many. Far too many excuses are being made about racism, mediocrity, bad childhoods, hard times, etc. etc.  Let’s face it, life does suck for a lot of people. Yet other groups of people in this country and around the world are not elevating the gutter to the throne. 
Also people are still viewing this from the “white people as oppressors” meme. We have the power to change this. We can have standards, accountability and consequences for those that violate us but NOT when we allow others to drag the entire collective in the gutter. You can’t turn a blind eye to things and be surprised when there’s blowback.
So when we look at situations like what occurred yesterday had this been a few decades ago Dr. Gates probably would not have gotten too familiar with the officers. Now had he suffered any bodily harm it would be a different story. Some say it’s the indignity of being questioned that got to him. Perhaps it did. How is what he experienced any different than what so many of us have to endure on a daily basis? African-American women have to set aside their ego and outrage in so many ways and it’s not from any confrontation with white law enforcement officers. If we can do it then so can he. 
Keeping our heads on straight is very important right now. Being disciplined racially and focused is a non-negotiable right now. In much the same way blacks they could “overcome” just by showing up to the Integration Party it requires much more than that. People who think they are above having to account for themselves are going to be in for a rude awakening. I think it’s a great thing because the more it happens some people will stop thinking of themselves as better or special. Then maybe they’ll start thinking about how those “other blacks” behave and the message of tolerance and acceptance being bandied about. Perhaps their outrage will be such that they start discussing the need for policing those behaviors amongst other blacks so as to avoid the presence of the real police. Just a thought. Sometimes self-interest is the only thing that motivates.
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Are Blacks Politically & Personally Prepared For the Multi-Racial Revolution?

So I’ve been sitting on this for nearly two months. With the conversations that have taken place the past week or so I feel I’m somewhat better able to articulate my thoughts on this. This is an exploration of ideas versus a set standard of do’s and don’ts. There’s a political component at stake where we must learn to navigate through another facet of an established infrastructure we may be vehemently opposed to. We may not have figured out how to make it work to our benefit yet. There’s a personal component where we may wish to compete but may not be prepared and have to develop a winning strategy. Or we could just be mad about the whole thing. 
Is this the beginning of the end? Some people want separate categorizations for biracial and multiracial children. The ones that can will be folded into the white masses (as they will make accommodations for their dwindling numbers to continue their dominance) while others will be rejected and not allowed to do so.  Is this a reliable scenario for banding together or a consolation prize tactic for retaining certain privileges?

From WAPO: Public schools in the Washington region and elsewhere are abandoning their check-one-box approach to gathering information about race and ethnicity in an effort to develop a more accurate portrait of classrooms transformed by immigration and interracial marriage. Next year, they will begin a separate count of students who are of more than one race.

I see this as a multi-layered scenario. There’s genetics, culture, historical acumen, modern strategies and choice. One consideration is about needing to recognize diversity of thought, outlook, experience and birth. Another is about outside attempts at diversionary tactics and divisiveness. Finally there’s the internal development we must do to advance. Some don’t agree on tactics while others don’t think certain efforts need to be made at all. This isn’t about setting people apart, denying parentage or putting down some in favor of others. This is about having a reality check. 
Historically we can look at many people who were pioneers of the advancement of colored people who’s appearance could’ve lent them to be viewed as white: Thurgood Marshall, Adam Clayton Powell, Lena Horne and plenty of others. There may have been less options but they chose to align with the “Black” categorization for the uplift of all.  I wonder how many people with their phenotype would willingly do so today when they could (rightfully) claim everything and the kitchen sink. I can understand why things that took place in the past no longer work today. I can also see where we need to stop playing old scripts. There have always been those who had a vested interest in establishing a hierarchy that they benefitted from (i.e paper bag test). I don’t see that trend ending any time soon so we know why that expression about “skin folk not always kin folk” exists. 
There are those whose phenotype lends towards a Black categorization who do not want to be Black. They were taught to have disdain for the parts of their heritage deemed less than. They’ve continued to do so after the age of consent.  They’re not going to be considered “white” under most circumstances when their biracial makeup includes any direct/recent African heritage. 
Since whites are supposedly diminishing numerically they’ve upped the ante to change the Census for their benefit. (Some) Blacks have always banded together in solidarity for political and social purposes when set in opposition to whites. Intra-racially it was a different story. Those who were seeking advancement for themselves fought to separate themselves from the masses. This practice began during the forced enslavement of Africans. Of course the irony is how whites were fighting for independence while keeping people hostage but that’s why we need to really pay attention to our history and see how the few exert power over the masses. 
We need to have our own power tactics in place. The best and brightest want to ensure their survival. They will have laws enacted and other societal traditions that maximize growth. Groups of people who thrive are not allowed to be left to their own individual devices inasmuch as the majority don’t do things that threaten the collective.  
Black political power has been divided, short-sighted and focused on short-term goals. Those that declared themselves the “elites” of the bunch used phenotype to deny inclusion of a majority. How were they ever truly allies and why would those belonging outside those groups be able to trust an alliance built of a lie? Individuals have found ways around it, but what of the base? Sometimes it’s been more beneficial to work with those outside these groups.  Thomas Jefferson went to great efforts to ensure that his progeny with Sally Hemmings would get the maximum benefits allowed under miscegenation laws and for those whose phenotype lent itself to be considered “white”. Why must we still discuss advancing like it was a new concept?
In a related argument you have Blacks with American Indian heritage who are being denied tribal membership so the majority can retain its leverage. Via Racewire:

Does affirming indigenous identity and sovereignty necessitate drawing boundaries? In excluding Blacks from nationhood, are the Cherokee replicating historical injustices they themselves suffered? Should a shared legacy of dispossession encourage unity, even if it means grappling with a historical blight?

There’s a personal component at play here, an emotional tie. Then there’s looking to the future and taking steps towards advancement. There’s a few discussions going on a some blogs that seek to empower Black women about how to navigate that Blackness, what emphasis should be placed on it, how to move out of a narrow definition of it, how to accept all of our different life experiences and accepting our different heritages/legacies/ethnicities. How do you elevate yourself if you’re stuck in the past? How do you catch up in the game of life when you didn’t know the particular game to begin with? Who are you measuring yourself against? Is feeling frustrated appropriate? 
When you have a large portion of the “Black” population that doesn’t know their legacy and full spectrum heritage how does analysis of embracing power tactics really take root without addressing it? Some people may be able to move forward onto the next phase of development but what of the masses? If they’ve fallen down and the minority decides to leave them do we just say “too bad”? Then why even present it as collective advancement when it’s individual. 
Finally, how does one group who may not consider themselves a group work within that group as well as work with those completely outside that group, survive and thrive? Choosing to negotiate between cultures is one thing, having the government fragmenting it is another. I feel as if I may have presented this as a circle with no exit path for the majority. I can’t say I believe that will be of benefit to us all, but it may lead to a more productive future. At least I hope so.

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Deploying A Little Negro Spirit: When White Artists Go Black

I’m continuing the conversation from last week where I evaluated the use of Black gospel choirs to elevate the songs of non-Black artists. I haven’t decided whether it’s an all-out appropriation, some appreciation or callous apathy on their part but I suspect it’s a tradition that will continue. It will continue because some of us don’t have any cultural or racial pride and think of ourselves less than. Except when we’re validated by others (esp. whites). Even if that means we abdicate our musical heritage to anybody who shows an appreciation for early Aretha Franklin. We forget it’s the use of a music borne from pain, suffering and survival from experiences unique to African-Americans and part of our never-ending (but lax on acknowledging) contributions to the good ol’ USA.

Which brings me to the second conversation in this series about white artists who appropriate their version of the Black (American) experience and sell it back to us. Now the question that needs to be asked is why are those artists given a blanket credibility and support when we won’t even support actual Black artists who aren’t putting out what I’m calling XXX Porn & Warfare set to a beat? I think I already answered my question but I’m putting it out there for consideration anyway…..

Continue reading “Deploying A Little Negro Spirit: When White Artists Go Black”

My Thoughts on the Eric Holder Race Speech and Rebuttals

Our new Attorney General Eric Holder gave a speech Wednesday on race relations in the US. He spoke about people selectively segregating themselves. I thought it was a great thing for the top prosecutor of the country to speak so plainly. I also expect him to enact the policies that compliment what he said, otherwise he’s just whistling Dixie out his butt. These things needed to be said though. I found one important aspect that seems to have gotten lost in shuffle: he called for Blacks to be more open to expanding their social networks as well. A lot of Blacks are very reluctant to leave the confines of their immediate neighborhoods and mingle with other people of different classes and races. 
I grew up in a very segregated area that admittedly was designed that way for exclusionary purposes, but I always made an effort to seek out a variety friends. It was awkward and I didn’t quite understand what compelled me to do so. No one in my family was actively encouraging me to do so either. I just knew ultimately it would be good for me. Growing up I had always been encouraged to do well in school and I loved to read. 
I had a core group of classmates that I sometimes socialized with after school. We all had similar goals of no babies out of wedlock and college. They were in fact in a higher income bracket than my family. So when I came into contact with some other students in high school who didn’t have the same background I had to “deal” with them. They only hung out with other Blacks from the lower classes and were defiantly anti-intellectual. After being called “white girl” one too many times I confronted one female with a pop quiz in Black history: 10 easy questions I think every Black American should know. She couldn’t answer one question and that forever silenced her and her crew as to who was “Blacker”. 
I told her if she didn’t even know her heritage she could not define “Blackness”. I have never wanted to be white by the way I just wanted to be myself. That included listening to the Cure and buying my clothes at a thrift shop. So what Eric Holder mentioned is of great importance to those that isolate themselves and miss out. This is especially true for Black women who refuse to widen their dating pool and seek out marriageable quality men of all ethnicities. Black people especially need to get out of all-Black settings because they all too often lead to an extremely warped view of what it means to be Black. 
Also because we need to learn how to navigate our lives in many scenarios as well as be equipped to work around racism when we can. The ally or mentor we need to progress career and life-wise may NOT be another Black person. Go chew on that! So I was really surprised by Dr. Melissa Harris Lacewell’s Op-Ed piece blasting AG Holder. She says:
“But ultimately, Eric Holder’s discussion of race in America was a failure. It failed because Holder spoke more like a grade school principal than like the attorney general of the United States. He framed our nation’s continuing racial work as a struggle to feel comfortable, be tolerant, and have “frank conversations about racial matters.”

I appreciate the sentiment, but I would prefer Holder use the Department of Justice to sue those who illegally discriminate against racial minorities rather than holding encounter sessions in the lunchroom. 

Eric Holder has something more. He has the law. I don’t want my attorney general to scold me about having conversations; I want him to tell me the lawsuits he plans to file against those who continue to practice educational, employment, and housing discrimination.”
I understand she wants systematic racism acknowledged and addressed and I completely agree. I also think this is the same argument that fuels the Civil Rights Industrial Complex and promotes too much of a victim mentality amongst the masses. It’s why the focus is still on white cops who shoot Black men who may or may not have criminal backgrounds. It’s why the NAACP only takes up the cause of a Black man that’s been harmed by a white person. Black women are rarely part of this call to arms to protect and support. Black on Black crime and the murder rates are completely ignored. The protectionist attitude of “saving the oppressed Black male” is seen as the only perspective. 
It fuels the Obama as Messiah perspective. It’s not realistic, not happening and it encourages people “to wait” on the benevolence of others. It promotes being passive instead of active participants. Laws can be changed to be favorable one decade and punitive the next. I think enough of our ancestors have paid the ultimate price. It’s time for a new strategy. 
Also this doesn’t address the internal motivations of many who will not step into their power and pick up the mantle of leadership. There’s a bit of a destructive element going on in the Black community where people are turning on each other – except when it’s to decry “racism”. The focus cannot be solely on that. We are stronger than that. We can do better now. It’s a choice we can make. 

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When Coloquialisms Run Amuck

I was having a conversation with a passerby while in a customer service line yesterday. We briefly spoke about the Inauguration and the weather in SF compared to DC. We separated and went about our business. As the woman left she turned back to say goodbye to me but what she said stopped me cold, “See ya later gurlfiend.” Or it was some variation of that because honestly my mind went blank for a moment as I felt as I’d been punched in the gut. I swear if she had used a a racial epithet I wouldn’t have felt worse. 
So why did it bother me that she addressed me in such a ‘familiar’ manner? I immediately told myself I was overreacting and she didn’t mean anything by it. So why did I want to go after her and tell her that wasn’t a friendly exchange? She was a white woman in her 40’s. I’m younger and am Black. I felt she insulted me and though it was partially race-based I feel much more strongly that it was a class issue and a way of keeping me in my place. Or the place where she sees Black people – not where I see myself belonging. 
If you know anything about me you will know two things: one is that I despise beer and cold tomatoes; the second is that I do NOT speak Ebonics!!!! I could walk out the door and onto the set of any news station and deliver the reports with aplomb, okay. I have a writing style that uses a certain stylistic flourish but I am edumacated. I don’t sashay down the street, do a neck roll, snap my fingers, pop gum, speak at an ear-splitting decibel or wear clothes that expose my body to the public. I have Black female friends and we do not refer to ourselves or each other in this manner. 
Of course this woman wouldn’t consider herself racist because I’m sure she knows some Black people. She may even live near some or work with them, too. To be clear I don’t have unlimited disdain for white women (or men) though I do bring up the systematic privileges white people automatically get to enjoy and how the majority don’t (want to) realize it. I also talk about how whites who think they’re more liberal or (non-racist) because they’re not members of the KKK but don’t acknowledge such privilege are deluding themselves. It’s easy to be benevolent when you’re holding all the cards. When the time comes for sharing and giving up some of those cards is when we shall see how invested in equality white people truly are. There are certain individuals who are aware of this and are willing to do so – but as to the collective – the jury is still out.  
I’m not even going to get into the racialized sexism particular to Black women as perpetrated by Black men and the Black community as a whole. It exists though and the sooner we stop trying to conform to ridiculous standards of ‘acceptable’ Blackness and putting ourselves last, Black women will continue to be the mules and overlooked. We will still internalize our suffering to our detriment. That’s for another conversation though.
Now I know this woman somehow thought it was okay to speak to me the way she did because no one has told her otherwise AND in part due to the crap on tv and in the media.  I also know that she does not refer to herself or her white friends that way. I have noticed lately a lot of non-Black people using what I’d refer to as some form of “Black-speak” with each other, which is definitely based on the class status as the source of those that use it but is almost always attributed to race exclusively. The larger problem is that this is the majority image being shown of Blacks around the world. It’s distinctly American and patently absurd. 
Quick: name a tv show with a majority Black cast that contains Black professionals who just happen to be Black. {Crickets}. Well, wait there’s the ABC Family show Lincoln Heights which is about a family that returns to the hood so the father can make it a better neighborhood. If you don’t have cable you can watch previous episodes at ABC Family online. Now what do I say about this other than this is the vision that someone has about Black people instead of it being envisioned by Blacks. What man in is right mind who understands his role of father and husband as a provider and protector would intentionally move his family into a bad neighborhood because he wants to ‘save the world’? That is the most arrogant display of ego or extreme foolishness as the character works in law enforcement. So if you can get past that giant roadblock I recall the show being advertised on the basis of the oldest teen daughter and her budding interracial romance. It’s not a bad show and is currently in it’s 3rd season – but that premise is very very flawed.
It’s a goldmine compared to the other 2 shows that come from the (feeble and Black woman hating mind) of Tyler Perry. House of Payne and now Meet the Browns. If someone asks me if I’ve actually seen any episodes I will admit that I haven’t. Why? The commercials show me all I need to see. Dumbier and Dumbiest. Laughing with their mouths open, dancing, jolly, rotund, loud and using made up words to convey a point. All they’d need is Blackface and throw in a few phrases using the word “massa” and that would complete the coonery. If I see another Madea movie advertisement….grrr!
The Game – if it’s still on the CW. A show about professional (foot)ballers and the women who may come in and out of their lives. Of course certain criminal elements refer to the “game” as dodging the law and trying not to get caught. Some guy decided to use that as his rapper moniker as well. Somehow I keep thinking the people that got beat up or killed during the Civil Right’s movement wouldn’t be pleased right now. 
Can I just state for the record how disappointed I was when WB & CW merged and Half & Half got cut! We never found out who Mona chose. I loved that show!  The Game is based on an excellent book, Interceptions and the real-life story of Staci Robinson. She pitched the idea and in true Hollywood fashion had her idea stolen and used without her permission or compensation. She sued and settled for an undisclosed sum. These situations are rarely exposed publicly.
Remember how the network cancelled Girlfriends (see where people get these ideas?!) after the writer’s strike ended without giving the audience a finale episode. It really pisses me off that shows like Gossip Girl are considered successful and those actors get the celeb weekly covers and the subsequent paparazzi interest when they have similar ratings – but I get it – different demographic. 2M+ viewers but one audience has less melanin is therefore more valued.  
I’m not even going to mention that joke of a show on CNN by DL Idiot and no, Chocolate News does not hold a candle to its counterparts on Comedy Central. So there you have it. It’s either reality tv with Black people foolishness or cable tv with it, but all I see is foolishness. So it’s no wonder some random stranger initially thinks despite the manner by which I carry myself I must be like the only images she sees on television. After all, other Black people watch these shows, will defend them as well as participate in the foolishness. 
One image of a Black family in the White House and one television show from 20 years ago is not going to undo all the damage that’s being inflicted by people who know better but don’t care because they’re cashing a check. Hurrah for progress! I guess I’ll brace myself in the future.

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