Saturday, October 30, 2010

Get out and Vote...

So, if you don't plan on voting... whatever the reason, no matter how noble or revolutionary, or principled you think you are. If you are too busy, too tired, or forgot to pick up the dog food on your way home. If the kids are getting on your nerves, if you're trying to catch BET's replay of the Hip-Hop Awards. If you had planned on going to the movies, going out to eat, or even better yet going on a first date. No matter what the excuse is..if you don't get out and vote, you are pretty much an asshole.

Now I'm not a fan of gratuitous profanity, but I really thought buffoon and knave were just lacking a certain urgency here. Sean Combs "Vote or Die" campaign had a nice slogan, and was helping in raising voting awareness, but I propose we change it to "Vote...or you're an Asshole". I mean there has to be a public shaming/severe mocking reserved for those who are "too busy" to vote. We have to treat those who do not actively participate in the voting process the same way we treat those who do not wash their hand after they use the bathroom, they need to be pariahs, outcasts, the Bully's need new targets, instead of focusing your rage and impotent anger on those of different: race/weight/sexual nature focus your bullying on those who do not vote.

This is a fight for the heart and soul of this country. And to those dissatisfied with Obama's presidency so far I say...simply.. there is a huge difference between having an ally who is not moving as fast as you want him to, and having an enemy who is actively plotting your downfall. As Americans we have a problem with patience. America is the biggest ship in this ocean we call the world & this ship has been steadily sailing in the wrong direction for about 8 years. Now we have a new captain, and we are turning, albeit slowly, but we are turning, but because he hasn't been able to turn this ship on a dime people have questioned his resolve, and ability. You do understand that this country is not a unicycle, it is an Executor Class Dreadnought Star Destroyer (excuse me, minor Star Wars nerd over here) and it will take some time to dig out of this hole.

Now the enemies of this President are not going to give him that time. They are too busy calling him a Muslim/Communist/Illegal alien to be worried about giving him the time he needs to restore this county to a level field. But those of us who are allies of democracy, allies of a progressive movement, those of us who rallied in 2008, who knocked on doors, who dragged friends to the polls. Those of us who think Glen Beck is disturbed,  Michele Bachman is scary and Fox News is neither fair, nor balanced. Doesn't the President deserve our support, doesn't he deserve our trust? Doesn't he need our votes?

Are you willing to stay home, and hope that everything works out? Are you willing to hand the House back to the Republicans without a fight, surrender the Senate? Are we willing to see the small progress we've made in these last 2 years take backwards steps? I'm not, I'm going to go to the polls and vote, I am going to drag a friend or loved one with me. I am going to bug, and mercilessly mock those who don't plan on voting, and I am going to do my part to keep this country turning until we get on the right path. Because I know that 2 years of hard work, is not enough to overcome 8 years of a Bush Presidency, we need more time, the President needs allies in congress and we need to get out and vote.

Don't be an asshole..... get out and vote.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Right Vs. The Left (How We Treat Our Heroes)

Say what you want about the Republicans, the Right Wing and the Conservatives. But they take care of thier own, and they make sure that others in the movement know what these people did for the movement. It rarely matters what the crime/scandal/embarrassing moment was it doesn't matter:
  •  If you are G. Gordon Liddy and were an integral part of the Watergate scandal, and went to jail.
  •  If you are Lt. Col. Oliver North and you took a proverbial bullet for Ronald Reagan for the Iran Contra scandal. 
  • If you  Scooter Libby, and you work for the Vice President, and you lie under oath about outing a CIA operative.
  •  If you are the Governor of Alaska and quit your job halfway through, 
  • or if you are the Governor of Arkansas and you fail at your bid to become your parties nominee for the President of the United States. 
  • Or if you were Newt Gingrich  Speaker of the House, and led the attempt to impeach Bill Clinton for cheating on his wife, while you were at the time ..CHEATING ON YOUR WIFE
It  does not matter, the right wing will take care of you. They will put you on the lecture circuit, or give you a talk show on Fox, or make you a Fox News contributer. They will find some way to repay your years of service to the cause, no matter how repugnant that cause may be, how much death it caused, or  who's lives it ruined.

But on the left, we often let our standard bearers fall on their swords and leave them to bleed on the battle field. There are countless number of heroes, and activists, who's families ended up penniless, who's names were tarnished and drug through the mud and whose lives were ruined. I bring this up because I look at the case of Tommie Smith. When I first saw Tommie Smith, it was at a poster shop in Maryland, I was 15 it was a picture of him & Juan Carlos, at the Mexico City Olympics in 1968. I had to have that poster, it stirred something in me, I saw two black men in a foreign land, representing their country, and then showing the world that they wanted their country to be something better, in an extraordinary show of solidarity and power.

Then a couple of year ago I saw an HBO special called "Fists of Freedom", which chronicled the story of both these men, gave some interesting back story, and talked about what happened once they came home. They were largely blackballed, and shunned, it was hard for them to get jobs and be productive, because of the backlash. Then I read an article last week saying that Tommie Smith was selling his gold medal, now I'm sure the day he won is burning into his memory, and that the medal is just a small representation of that day for him. But a part of me was extremely sad, that he needed to do this. That people and  organizations, that benefits/honored his sacrifice had not stepped up to help "take care of one of their own". I would love to see a group of grass roots, professional athletes, and organizations get together, and make sure that medal gets to the Schomburg, Moorland-Springard Research Center, or the Smithsonian, somewhere where it would get the proper respect it deserves, and at the same time give some financial support to someone whose image is burned into the national consciousness.

I would like the Left, to start taking care of it's icons, as much as the Right does. And we have a long history of letting those who mean so much to us fall by the wayside, or we stuff them in corners dust covered and forgotten. There's the story of Jesse Owens resorting to racing horses at the end of his career because "you can't eat gold medals", or Rosa Parks almost getting evicted from her apartment in her old age, or letting others control the images, and legacy of the Black Panther Party, Malcolm X, and so many others.

If you cannot protect your heroes, your legends, if you cannot control how their story will be told, what does that say about us. Now these heroes do not do what they do in order to get rich, in order to make a buck. They do it because they have a calling, a feeling, a reason to rise above. And thats to be commended, thats to be treasured, and like they do on the Right, it should be rewarded, with more than empty accolades.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Homosexual Minstrel Shows at Morehouse

     First off, DISCLAIMER: this is not a blog post about all homosexuality. Nor is it a blog post about men dressing as women. I do not care about either of these topics per say because, what you do in the privacy of your bedroom, (as long as it doesn't directly effect me) is not my business. Men that dress as women or visa versa, in and of themselves, is inconsequential to me for a variety of reasons but in short, what constitutes acceptable "mens" clothing and "womens' clothing changes with culture and time period. For example British men in the 1700's wore wigs and enough make-up that it would make Dolly Parton blush. Scottish men wore kilts, I know many black women in the south that couldn't wear jeans to church, the Romans wore blouses and there are plenty of  current models that wear "boy shorts." So fashion is best a topic left to the fashionable, and I am not. What does concern me is the image of black men and women, because that effects me on an everyday basis. So this is an article with image in mind, it is a response to one isolated phenomenon. So while all responses are welcome, keep in mind my focus is extremely narrow here. This is me using a felt tip marker as opposed to a paint roller.

     Recently there was an article in VIBE magazine entitled "The Mean Girls of Morehouse". This article, in a nutshell talked about a specific group of homosexual cross dressers in Georgia  (they identified themselves as "gender benders") who felt like they were being discriminated against by Morehouse's new dress policy, which stated that men on campus could not wear dresses, carry purses or wear pumps. Now they also included on that list sagging pants, sunglasses, "doo rags" and caps, so it is clear that Morehouse was addressing the "erosion" of dress standards as they saw it on a broad scale. This group called themselves the Plastics and the "leader's" name was Diamond (which in and of itself is problematic with its stereotypical representations) Regardless, what bothered me about the article is that it failed to mention, or address what I feel was Morehouse's concerns ala the image of black men and women. Morehouse, in my eyes has earned the right (historically and culturally) to have a vested interest in how black men and women are perceived, and the article ignores that.

    Getting down to brass tacks, there is a segment of the cross dressing community that essentionally lampoons black women. Lets not pretend they do not exist, there is a certain sub-culture within the cross dressing community as well as the black homosexual community who dress, and act in the mannerisms of the worst stereotypes of black women. Blackface is blackface, and a minstral show by any other name remains the same. Why do we accept this behavior from our community? If any other community were involved there would be talks of gathering the NAACP, boycotts, protests and demands for apologies. If a white man dressed in blackface, affected a "blackcent" and utilized over the top sterotypical theatrics that he saw as indicitive of the mannerisms of black women, the community would (justifiably ) be in an uproar. Oh wait, that already happened...Anyone remember  Shirley Q. Liquor? Many of these representations of black women are similar in deed to white fraternities and sororities dressing in black face and wearing afro wigs on Halloween. They are both examples of misrepresentations based on racial stereotypes.

      This does nothing but reinforce negative sterotypes about black men,and women, and further degrade our image. We would not accept this behavior from straight white men, black women (as well as many African-American homosexuals) did not accept it from Shirley Q. Liquor. There is a small but growing segment of the community that refuses to accept it, and is steadily growing critical of Tyler Perry. So why then do we turn a blind eye when it is enacted from inside the black homosexual community? Do we not have a vested interest in how we are perceved by all aspects of society? Is it too much to ask that we maintain dignity in whatever walk of life we choose?  Malcolm X once said that you can judge men by how they allow people to treat their women. As we are attacking the Don Imus's for their words, and attacking "gangsta" rappers for their music, do we not have the right to demand that our sister's images be protected from ridicule from all forces external and internal regardless of sexual orientation?
     While we are collectively cleaning house and demanding better treatment and respect for black women in all aspects of life, be it music, popular culture or politics. I see it as subversive and dangerous that black men can dress up in the most offensive charactertures of black women and portray those in real life as if they were accurate depictions of those women. It feeds stereotypes, and further show the world that we are unable or unwilling to manage our own images.

Monday, October 4, 2010

What Obama Means To America

I, like millions of African-Americans was quite surprised and happy that Senator Barack Obama became President Barack Obama. I was always worried that there would be some last minute snafu, some last minute "rule change", some silly law from 1921 that they would find that would make electing someone named Barack illegal. But he won both the primary and the general elections becoming our 44th President.

Now, I for one was not surprised at the vehemence of the extreme right, (and some of the moderate right that became extreme) after some of them realized that there was a black man in charge of the free world. There is going to be some angst that comes along with such a change from the norm. Nor was I one of these people that believed Obama would magically usher in a new consciousness about race, and that we would all stop hating one another. While, I do agree that his election means that the tide is turning, especially among the Millennials and the rest of the youth, all you really have to do is read anything in the "comments" section of  a Yahoo news article about the  President, or play any Xbox/PlayStation games with a headset to know we are not in a "post-racial" society...(whatever that is).

     That bit of sobering, but unsurprising news aside there is an item some have overlooked, one part of the story that fascinates me, and makes me feel good to be an American. The story of Barack Obama's ascension to the Presidency of the United States of America may be one of the only cases where a member of the minority culture, (especially a culture that has been victimized by state sponsored discrimination) had been elected to the highest office in the land. That is something to be proud of, from a nation building point of view. Now, there have been cases where members of the minority in a country took over, and subjugated the people through torture and force of arms, (South Africa and Iraq) there have been cases where the minority in a country ran the country through imperialism, (India under British rule)

     But I cannot think of many cases where the minority in any country has been allowed, through democratic means to rise to the most powerful position in that country, and historically never has a country done that when they were a World Power. You think a Palestinian will ever be Prime Minister of Israel, or a Irishman presiding over British Parliament (let alone have a West Indian or Pakistani Prime Minister) , or a Muslim President of India. This phenomenon is not common, it should be acknowledged and celebrated.

     And while we as Americans have a long way to go when it comes to matters of diversity, let alone race. While it is true that there are people out there claiming Obama is a secret: Muslim, Communist, Nazi Kenyen. And it is very true that there is a lot of work to be done to get us anywhere close to a society that Dr. King would be proud of. It behooves us, that while we are on this journey that we don't overlook the milestones. And I believe it was a major milestone, that in a country that embraced, Jim Crow, slavery & segregation, in 2008, 66 million Americans voted for a minority to be leader of the free world, defender of the Constitution, and President of these United States of America. That included three former confederate states, Florida, North Carolina and Virginia. And regardless of the backlash we are seeing now, the fact that we as a nation were able to even make it to the point where such a backlash was possible gives me HOPE for the future of my county..... and to quote a man I admire.

"In the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope."
-President Barack Obama