Archive for the ‘Black Community’ Category

Anthony Mackie: Respectability Strikes Again.

October 22, 2015

anthony-mackieAnthony Mackie  Photo credit: / WENN

Anthony Mackie has been very vocal of late, giving his opinion on all sorts of nice things. I’ll let others address his political leanings, black panther comments, and acting industry opinions, but his criminalization of black men based on their hair style was not one that I could let pass.

In case you missed it, Mr. Mackie gave an interview with The Grio in which he stated:

“Like my nephew wanted to grow dreadlocs. I’m like fine, I’ll sit you down and I’ll watch The First 48 with you and everybody you see on that show, that’s doing something wrong, they’re black dudes with dreadlocs. So, do you want to be seen as part of the problem or do you want to be an individual?”

“Let’s just say you have locs and you walking down the street. The police pull you over and say you fit the description of somebody.  You start yelling and arguing with the cops. Next thing you know you pressed up against the wall going to jail for something you’re not even involved in just because you look like somebody and you don’t know how to handle yourself.”  

I have a few issues with this mindset:

First, black people are often seen as part of the problem, simply because we exist. If the police want to stop you when they are looking for a suspect, people who are fat, thin, short, tall, dark, medium, light, bald, and have locs will ALL get detained. We ALWAYS “fit the description”. It’s the blanket excuse to search and seize.

Secondly, black bodies have historically been judged and accorded privilege or disdain in relation to how well they line up with white culture and white/European beauty ideals. The lighter the skin, the straighter the hair, the better the job opportunities and advancement. Tomes have been written on colorism, racism and the black community. The frustration I feel when I see respectability espoused by black people, people who should have the EXPERIENCE of knowing the stereotypes aren’t collectively true, is indescribable.

I won’t even go into the irony of his taking away his nephews individuality by trying to force him to adopt a hairstyle that is in compliance to a different standard by giving the false choice of “being part of the problem or being an individual” in choosing to loc or not. It sounded like he was saying “Be like me if you want to be an individual.”  Ahem.

Anyway….

I think many see black/African hair in it’s natural state as a threat, a sign of non-conformity. It’s a visual cue that you may not be a “tame negro”, which makes some people uncomfortable.

When negative connotations are associated with our natural hair, black women who do not have the curlier hair patterns are often assumed to be militant (BLACK POWER!!) or anti-establishment.  Our sexuality may come under question. We are told repeatedly that our hair in it’s natural state is not professional. Even some colleges have banned natural hair in their business programs. Our children are being told at younger and younger ages that their natural physical attributes are unacceptable even though black children perform better when they have been taught “black pride”. By having parts of themselves outlawed, they are being encouraged to despise these traits in themselves and others around them. Our children are internalizing that they are inherently sub-par and defective, down to their DNA. We shouldn’t be penalized for embracing our natural hair, wearing it in styles to allow it to grow and display it’s unique texture and protecting ourselves from chemicals and heat damage. Period.

Finally, he is flat out WRONG.

The issue isn’t the hair, it is the over-policing of black and brown bodies and how we are portrayed in the media. If he is watching The First 48 and every young black man stopped has locs, it is because that is the style of the moment. If it was the early 80’s, they would have all had jheri curls. If it were the mid 80’s to early 90’s they would have all had high top fades. While I have resisted the urge to tweet to Mr. Mackie every instance of a young black person who is shot or brutalized who did not have locs, I hope he comes to realize that being fashionable does not make you a criminal. This type of thinking may make you feel safe, that if you do x,y,z, you will be exempt from the brutality experienced by other black people, but ultimately respectability politics will always fail to protect us, and this is why we need diversity in media, behind and in front of the camera. For the record, neither James Blake, John Henson, Thabo Sefolosha  or Henry Louis Gates, Jr.,  wore locs, or were in poor areas when they had their negative encounters with the police or racial profiling.

One of the reasons I have been happy to see the Obama family in the White House for the past 6 years is the symbolism they represent. A BLACK man, in charge, with a loving, intact family is normalized for our nation, who usually will only see black people and families portrayed as broken, lazy, uneducated and poor, seeking to leech off others. We need to see diversity in our stories: stories of success, joy, fun – just regular living. We have stories to be told about our triumphs and struggles related to life and overcoming things other than poverty and racism.

If the primary exposure someone has to black people is via media, which for the most part, dehumanizes us and displays us as hardened criminals and thugs, then when we have public encounters with them, these people are going to draw on what they know – negative stereotypes which reek of criminal tendencies – in interacting with us. Every movement we make becomes sinister in their minds. We are always “reaching for a weapon” or approaching someone with “evil intent”. So, whether it is a white woman locking her car doors, grabbing her purse closely, or someone calling the police because a black person held open the door for them, or are walking down the street, we are all affected. Black people in general bend over backwards to avoid making others feel uncomfortable: slow movements, soothing voices, and even going as far as to cross the street, and frankly I’m tired of it.  As Mr. Mackie shows, it’s not just white people being influenced and buying into these negative stereotypes, and I think that’s the saddest part of it all.

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The Empty Chair

July 31, 2015

This past week has been very emotional for myself and many others. New York Magazine published an article detailing the stories of 35 of the 46 women (that we know of) who were sexually assaulted by Bill Crosby over the years. I guess we can drop the “allegedly” since his deposition has come to light. The cover, which has garnered lots of attention, has row after row of his victims, and one strikingly haunting empty chair.

nymag_cover

Social media discussion sprung up on twitter, centered around The Empty Chair, with women and men sharing their personal stores of sexual assault and molestation. I was literally in tears reading the heartbreaking tragedies shared with the hastag’s creator, Elon James White. I didn’t want to read these stories – they were that painful – but I felt that I owed the victims that much at least, to acknowledge that these horrible things had happened to them. While my focus today is on women and the attitudes toward us and our sexuality, I do recognize sexual assault victims as boys, girls, women, men, and transgendered men and women, the entire spectrum of humanity whose ages also run the gamut from infant to senior citizen.

One thing that stood out is how the reality of rape is so often different from the perception. The perception is that only “bad girls” get themselves into situations where they find themselves on the receiving end of an attack. Or that a rape is always violent. The perception is that these were women and girls who were someplace they didn’t belong, wearing something they had no business wearing or doing something they had no business doing. Not that this justifies being violated, but the underlying attitude is always that they share some blame in what happened to them. This is a universal attitude. In the United States we aren’t covered head to toe in burkas, but the centuries old narrative around rape is that women are somehow responsible for a man not being able to control himself and his lustful nature.

While there were instances were drugs or too much alcohol played a role, what I read mostly were stores of women whose abuse started before they were even in kindergarten. They possessed no womanly wiles with which to seduce anyone. They weren’t dressed to tease a man. I read stories of being violated by pastors, men of God. They weren’t hanging out in a club, they were at church. They weren’t out running the streets, they were at home, playing in a room or a yard somewhere.  Or taking a bath. They were home, in their own rooms, in their own bed, where hey were supposed to be and where they were SUPPOSED to be safe and secure. They weren’t hanging out with strangers, they were home with family, family who instead of protecting them, were preying on them.

There is always the control/power aspect to rape and sexual assault, or men who believe they are entitled to take what they want because of their wealth, accomplishments or some other self-aggrandizing trait, but two other things stood out to me:

1)How many times these women said no and were straight up ignored and

2) The speculation about why, when sexual assault or intimidation discussions occur, some men become instantly defensive and hostile, accusing women of lying, calling them names, and verbally attacking them instead of seeking to understand or help end a culture that could at any time come for their daughters, sisters, mothers, etc.. The explanation is simple, in my opinion. Pervasive, but simple.

To begin with, getting a woman drunk or high in order to get her to submit to sexual encounters is standard operating procedure for many. It’s like rule number three in the male dating handbook. Rule two, if they are broke. Rule number one if they just don’t give a damn. So if they are not charming and witty enough to talk her out of the panties, and they didn’t spend enough money on dinner and entertainment to make her feel obligated into stepping out of the panties, then they can always resort to plying her with enough alcohol to eventually slip her out of them anyway. It’s like a game of “cat and mouse”. Give her something to drink. Start sexual advances. She says “no”? Offer her a bit more to drink and then try again. The rationale is that eventually she will say yes or be too out of it to say no. (Silence is consent.)  Now, while most men realize slipping someone a roofie is bad, encouraging a woman who is holding the glass and drinking of her own free will isn’t, in their minds.

Coupled with this, boys and men are taught from a very young age to disregard women’s noes. The common wisdom is that women really want sex, but they don’t want to ruin their reputations. Women really mean yes, but said no because they want men to respect them in the morning. Women mean yes, but just like to play hard to get. Women mean yes, but are saying no only because they want men to show them how much they really want them, which of course is a cue to be even more aggressive. This is what is behind the whole “no means no” campaign. (The no means no campaign is a good start, but boys learn from the older boys and men around them. Younger people may be better at getting the message, but they are still more prone to respect and follow the “wisdom” of a male figure whom they admire. If they are being taught no means yes, the cycle will continue.) There is also a sense of entitlement: She said yes before, how dare she say no now, as though one or multiple intimate encounters gives them a right to the nookie always. I’ve even heard that in their own minds women would think badly of themselves if they say yes, so they need to be forced so they can have sex without the burden of thinking of themselves as sluts. (Yes ladies, we are even lying to ourselves.) So in order to get women to own up to what they really want, they need to be loosened up. Just give them a lil to drink and their real desires can be set free. This is of course all utter nonsense.

Now, people generally want to think of themselves as good people. Yes, they have body image issues, fear of success or failure and other issues around self esteem that can cause them to have low opinions of themselves, but for the most part people like to believe they have some nobility. They like to think that at least their intentions are good. So, if a man were to accept the notion that these actions are hurtful and damaging to women or just flat out evil, they would have to view their past behavior though that lens and pass judgement on it as being bad. Maybe seek forgiveness or attempt to make amends. If it is bad behavior, then they would have to modify their behavior going forward because to continue these actions would in effect make them a bad person. Most don’t make it that far in their analysis. Their minds shut down and they lash out as soon as any implication that their behavior – behavior that benefits them and has had some success- is hurtful in anyway to others. Many don’t want to do the work of gaining and keeping a woman’s trust.  They want easy and “uncomplicated” sex. They simply don’t want to change their behavior, yet can’t reconcile it with being a good person, hence the hostility mentioned above.

Now in the black community, our women and girls often come under attack at younger ages. Be it due to genetics, hormones in the food, parabens in the hair and beauty products, or any combination thereof, our girls tend to “develop” faster physically and look older than girls of other races who are the same age. They get approached by older men and boys when they are at a much younger age. Yes, she has the body of a 24 year old, but her face has the innocence of a 12 year old, so keep stepping. Often the newness of the attention and appreciation lures girls into situations that are not to their benefit. (PSA: Fathers, tell your daughters regularly how beautiful and special they are so when they get to that age, its not a novelty.) Men, you are the adult. Even if she is receptive to your advances, YOU should know better. To quote Hard Candy:

Jeff: You were coming on to me!
Hayley: Oh, come on. That’s what they always say, Jeff.
Jeff: Who?
Hayley: Who? The pedophiles! ‘Oh, she was so sexy. She was asking for it.’ ‘She was only technically a girl, she acted like a woman.’ It’s just so easy to blame a kid, isn’t it?! Just because a girl knows how to imitate a woman, does NOT mean she’s ready to do what a woman does.
I mean, you’re the grown up here. If a kid is experimenting and says something flirtatious, you ignore it, you don’t encourage it! If a kid says ‘Hey, let’s make screwdrivers!’ You take the alcohol away, and you don’t race them to the next drink!

On the subject of black women, one of the complaints that I hear leveled against us, which tends to bother me above all others, is that we are not feminine in comparison to women of other races. While street harassment is a problem for all women, (You OK, sis?) we often get approached at much earlier ages, and often we don’t always have the protection, safety and security to be openly feminine. We become defensive and suspicious, as being too polite can be misconstrued to mean the advances are welcome, and even saying no politely can have deadly consequences.  I was always a girly-girl, so it drove me nuts to see my nieces in baggy clothes and baggy sweatshirts where you couldn’t tell if they were a boy or a girl, but I got over that real quick. I figured if their baggy clothes would slow someone down enough to see he child in their face rather than the woman in their bodies, they can wear a parka year round for all I care.

One last note regarding children: Parents, please, Please, PLEASE learn to respect their boundaries. Please do not force them into physical contact with a stranger, friend or family member in order to be “polite”. I cringe every time I see this. For whatever reason, someone is giving your child pause. They sense danger on some level. They may simply have been startled, the person could be loud, lighter or darker than what they are used to, larger or smaller than what they have seen before or they may even smell or look funny to them. Maybe the child is just being temperamental. Regardless, when you force them to hug or kiss someone or let someone hold them when everything inside them is screaming to them that this person is a threat, you override their instinct for self preservation and teach them to submit to physical contact they don’t want. Now, once they are at a certain age forcing them to say hello or shake hands to be sociable is one thing, but please respect their personal space.

While I am fortunate not to have sat in The Empty Chair, I have friends and family who have. When my niece told her mother what happened to her when she was younger, she called her a liar and kicked her out the house. The first thing many mothers do when confronted with a situation they don’t know how to handle is go into denial. Some chalk it up to children experimenting. They don’t want to break up the family. They are depending on the perpetrator for finances. They think if the man leaves, they will be alone forever. So they put their head in the sand at the expense of their children. This is wrong. Period.

For the women and men who shared their stories, I believe you. I’m sorry you had such a horrible experience, sometimes more than once. It wasn’t your fault. You deserved better. You deserved to believe the first time. You deserved to be protected, not your rapist. You deserve justice. Society has failed you.

We need to end the cycle. We have to give people the safety, protection and benefit of the doubt needed to come forward and seek justice. We have to educate our boys so they grow into men who respect the choices of women and *gasp* treat us like human beings. Yes mothers and schools have lots of influence, but men have the most in this area. Please exercise it. Use your power for good.

Resources:

Aware: Arming Women Against Rape and Endangerment

RAINN: Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network

I believe you | It’s not your fault (tumbler) and twitter

Rape Prevention and Education

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

With all due respect: FUCK YOU Bill Maher

October 25, 2014

From the most recent Real Time episode:

BILL MAHER: You know what else I find disturbing is that everybody in America just sides with their own people and doesn’t look at the facts. The cops, I saw on the news a couple of weeks ago, were wearing bracelets or something that said, “I am Darren Wilson.” Why do you want to throw your lot in with this plain murderer?

And Michael Brown’s people. I’m sorry, but Michael Brown’s people say he is a gentle giant. Well, we saw of when he was in that 7-11. No, he wasn’t a gentle giant. He was committing a robbery and he pushed that guy. He was acting like a thug, not a gentle giant. He certainly didn’t deserve to be shot for it. (HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, October 24, 2014)

Fuck you, Bill.

Now Bill isn’t the first person to say this about Mike Brown, and he does agree he was wrongly killed. My sister is of the same mindset: Mike Brown was a “thug” and Officer Wilson is a “dirty, murdering cop”.  I’ve also had conversations with others who thought along the same lines:

“I was very sad and disappointed when I heard the news that this young brother had robbed a store. His mother had us believe he was a big teddy bear who wouldn’t harm a fly. That he was just a young cool kid who was on his way to his grand-mothers house when he was accosted by the police for walking in the street. In just a few days he was on his way to college. With a story like that we all need to get behind a brother like that.

Man, the way he threw that clerk around this guy has “thug” written all over him. These type of people are in the the ATL everyday doing home invasions, killing innocent families on the regular. Someone robbing a store is not normal behavior. My friends and I were never robbing people when we were kids,  that never entered our mind.

I know what I’m saying is not popular, but we can’t use up our resources and good will on this dude, no way in  hell I would be out on the street championing a dude that in any day might be robbing or killing me.” (Edited for language, ironic considering my title huh?)

I’ll say now what I said then:

“How much dirt do teens do that their parents know nothing about? How many kids are shoplifting on dares or for the thrill of it and taking and sending naked selfies? There was a bunch of white kids running a prostitute ring, I’m sure their parents didn’t know until the cops came knocking. He didn’t have a criminal record so if he was acting a fool outside the house and not bringing the drama home, I wouldn’t expect his mother to know. When I was growing up, it was called respecting your mother’s house. Plus, they had inquired at the QT store (not the liquor store where it took place) so she didn’t have any reason to believe differently.”

Black kids often look older and more mature than kids of the same age of other races. People tend to perceive them as needing to be controlled, instead of guiding them and allowing self expression. I’ve seen young black boys scolded for doing things that are appropriate for their age while other kids around them exhibit the same behavior and go unaddressed or are encouraged in their behavior. When you are a black kid and bigger than the others, like Mike Brown, it’s even worse.  Bigger kids are always constantly reminded not to hurt others and to mind their strength. They often have their childhoods inhibited to a degree and are not free to express themselves, because in being open and active, they intimidate others. They are told they are too old to do things that is perfectly fine for other physically smaller kids of the same age. They never really get to “wild out” like other kids do. Older kids may not want to play with them because of their age, and if they do then sometimes they get exposed to things at an inappropriate level or that they aren’t ready to handle.  So, if Mike’s upbringing was typical of that which most kids in similar situations receive, I expect everyone around him thought of him as a “gentle giant” because in actuality he was. He had probably had it instilled in him since he could walk to be mindful and considerate of his physical interactions in relation to others.

From an early age, black children in general  are taught to view their behavior though the eyes of others and adjust it accordingly.  Ask any black man about not making sudden movements to keep others (read: white folks) at ease. Ask them about speaking slowly, in calming tones in order to try to maintain the peace of mind and security of someone else.  Ask any black person about going shopping well dressed, because if you are casual in jeans and a t-shirt, store clerks wont take you seriously, especially when it comes to buying big ticket items such as a car. When shopping, I was always taught to keep my hands visible, not to dig through my purse or open it except when I was at the register, not to wear big coats or carry big purses or place my hands in and out my pockets where someone might think I was shoplifting. I was well into adulthood when I was able to get to the point where I was able to go into a store and walk out with out making some kind of  purchase, even when they didn’t have what I was looking for, so as not to be thought a thief.

The problem goes beyond this though. When black and white kids display poor behavior, they are judged differently. The black kid’s behavior is seen as being indicative of inherent character flaws and innate criminal tendencies,  but the white kid is just going through a phase. Mike used his size to intimidate a store clerk, and while no one is making excuses for that, nor is it related to the shooting incident, somehow that one incident is being used to say he was irredeemable.  He was just a kid. They make bad decisions. He would have gone on to college, matured, and become a responsible adult. The white kids at pumpkin fest, who were older than Mike and already in college,  breaking out windows, looting stores, starting fires, well they were just being a little rowdy. They will grow out of it. Mike? Well there was no hope for him, those six bullets just stopped him from robbing someone else later on.

The person in the discussion I quoted above went on to say because he was in the adult business, that if he had died similarly and info on his business ventures got out, it would “derail the movement”  because “you need someone clean to lead a movement, even in death.”

I say this is bullshit.

We are individuals. We need to get away from black people being collectively guilty or innocent based on the actions of one or a few. We need to get away from saying a black person doesn’t deserve justice because they are poor, have a past, are not well spoken, wear hoodies or sagging pants etc. No other race has to have their victims vetted to see if they are worthy to seek justice for wrongs visited upon them. This is victim blaming and shaming.

It’s asking us to play the game by a set of rules no one else is using by telling black people if you do a,b,c or d, and be the “good negro” then you would be treated well and not be on the receiving end of violence or of racist acts and hate crimes. It is a lie. For decades we have been doing all sorts of contortions to have someone else pass judgement as to whether or not we are worthy to exist and breath the same air and have the same protections that all American’s are supposed to have under the protection of the law by simply being citizens. That’s like telling an abused child that mommy wouldn’t beat them and burn them with the iron or lock them in the closet for days on end if they kept their room clean, or played quietly or got good grades. No, mommy is a deranged monster and no matter how well behaved the kid is, when mommy gets good and ready she is going to go off. None of the changes he makes to his behavior  to try to placate her will make one iota of difference. We set some white people off simply because we exist, and it isn’t because we don’t dress like them, or speak like them or carry ourselves a certain way. The only trigger they need is our non-white skin and it doesn’t matter whether it’s covered in a a hoodie or a suit. Oprah is one of the wealthiest and well respected black women in the world. President Obama is leader of the free world.  The Obama family is the epitome of respectability.  Yet there are people who would hunt them down like animals if they could and mount their heads as trophies. If they aren’t exempt from being called n*ggers and apes, and being the target of racists, why would anyone in the hood or on a lower social/economic level be any different? Hell, often being well to do and successful sets them off even more.

The bottom line is that the protests that are going on are not about Mike Brown’s character. Protester’s are not out for two months straight because they are defending “an angel” incapable of wrong doing.  People protesting are not blindly taking Mike’s side, or denying he was flawed. If this is what you, Bill or anyone else thinks, you haven’t been paying attention. It’s about the fact that according to multiple witnesses, recorded immediately in the aftermath, he had his hands up in surrender and was shot multiple times (excessive force),  and then left to lie like an animal in the street for 4+ hours. It’s about Ferguson police bypassing basic policing 101 and not filing a police report. (I actually believe they did file a report and made it disappear. The robbery report involving Brown referenced both a Ferguson and St Louis County police incident report number the day he was killed, yet it took them 20+ days to release a report amounting to a blank sheet of paper. At the very least they are incompetent and guilty of shoddy police work. I’ve heard of confrontations between officers and citizens resulting in the shooting of a dog where a more thorough incident report was filed. I’d like to think that people are worthy of more consideration than a German Shepard.) It’s about It’s about having no confidence in the local law enforcement, whose ranking officers have a history of lying and falsifying police reports, but are asking us to believe them now when they say Mike Brown went for the holstered weapon of a police officer in a SUV.  It’s about withholding the name of the police officer, giving them time to scrub social media before the general public and reporters could vet him. It’s about Ferguson and St. Louis County police officers trampling on the civil and constitutional rights of it’s citizens and news reporters, treating a grieving community as criminals in a war zone instead of concerned citizens seeking answers. Ferguson has transcended Mike Brown. He was the last straw in a long line of slights and abuses across the entire nation. It’s now also about justice for all the other Mike Brown’s who are shot or beaten by police, who face no repercussions even with video evidence of wrong doing, because they did it with a badge on. It’s about preventing our loved ones from being the next Mike Brown.

One last thought:  I’ve seen comments to the effect that because police shootings are such a small percentage of incidents,  that we shouldn’t pursue this issue:

This shows a total lack of compassion. This is viewing people as stats, as numbers on a page. By this logic, since the majority of people drive sober, we shouldn’t campaign against drunk driving. Since the majority of husbands don’t beat their wives, we can ignore domestic violence. Since the majority of children aren’t abused or molested, no awareness is needed.  Since the majority of children are born without birth defects, we don’t need to try to prevent them. This is telling people, who have been victims of police violence, that their pain is insignificant because the stats are insignificant. We are tired of having our pain and grievances dismissed. I don’t care if only one person in all the world is the victim of police brutality, they deserve justice. Also, please keep in mind, the drama going on in Ferguson is just to get Wilson indicted to be brought to trial, not an actual trial to determine his guilt or innocence. The family of Mike Brown and the people of Ferguson want and deserve to have Officer Wilson give an account of his actions and have them publicly weighed in a court of law.

Someone lost a loved one. Good or bad, Mike Brown was loved and mattered to someone. Several someones. If your loved one was killed, for whatever reason, would you want answers? If you lost your child, your spouse, your best friend, under normal circumstances, let alone a violent shooting, and could not get straight forward answers, how would you react? Yeah, I thought so.

Where is the Clergy on Ferguson and Race Relations?

September 1, 2014

istockphoto

I’m a huge sci-fi fan. I like it all from the cheesy to the spectacular. Some of the content that has come out over the years has been frowned upon by some Christians, but I don’t tend to freak out when I see a “Christian theme” expressed in secular entertainment. I see it more as making a Christian concept understandable in layman’s terms. One such concept was delivered in the 4th season of Angel, an episode titled Sacrifice.  Episode 86 on Netflix.  I wish I had the video clip to share. The demon Jasmine had come to have influence on the human population, with promises of peace and love. For lack of a better description she had basically possessed the people exposed to her. She could see what they see, feel what they feel and control them. She referred to them as the Body of Jasmine.  At the very end of the episode, her soldiers were descending upon the band of dissenters who had seen her true face and were no longer under her influence. As fighting commenced every slash, gunshot, or other wound visited upon those she dwelt in, manifested on her body.  As I watched her demonically laugh, seeming to enjoy all this, it occurred to me that this is what it must be like for the body of Christ when believers indwelt with the Holy Spirit, strike out at each other. The harm is visited upon the whole body, unbeknownst to us. It had such a profound effect on me, seeing the VISUAL, that I’ve never forgotten it, and it always comes to mind when I see Christians at odds with each other or divided somehow on one issue or another.

One such divide resolves around race.  We’ve all seen the historical photographs of black people being lynched or otherwise terrorized. Even now roughly 80% of Americans identify as Christian, so it’s not too far fetched to assume that these same people who could have a family outing for such morbid entertainment as a lynching on Saturday, were probably in church praising God on Sunday, and feeling guilt free.

So when I ask “Where is the clergy?”, I mean where are they when it comes to addressing racial injustice  by perpetrators who identify as Christian.  I know there have been clergy on the ground in Ferguson.  Some have been injured standing with protestors. I saw all the pastors who attended the gathering with Al Sharpton, (when you proudly stood as he asked the clergy present to show themselves, y’all weren’t expecting that $100.00 donation request were you? haha…)  and those who attended the Michael Brown funeral services. But where is the national church conversation, directed in-house, at Christians who hold racial biases and feel justified in doing so?  Also where is the conversation with the black youth who see Christianity as just another form of “white oppression”, designed to keep black people pacified, and less likely to revolt when they experience perceived (read: real, actual, concrete, and video taped) wrongs? Should they feel they can trust the church when they do not see their white brothers and sisters in Christ even addressed for their actions or skewed thinking?

See, when Christians are being persecuted in some manner, what generally tends to happen is that the victims hear something along the lines of “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” or “But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Perhaps, “In all their suffering he also suffered, and he personally rescued them. ”  In other words, be patient they will get theirs. Just stand and watch the deliverance of the Lord.  We hear  promises such as  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Not really convincing when you’ve seen the future of an 18 year old ended by 6 shots and no guaranteed justice in sight.  Not to mention remaining steadfast while seeking said justice when people vehemently oppose considering it for someone who had recently robbed a local store for cigars, as though that one act makes him ineligible for all time, or nullifies the wrong done to him by another. Weariness can definitely set in when you feel powerless and unheard. It wears one out to experience repeated insults and injuries while the world is either indifferent to or delighting in your misery. Death by 1000 paper cuts. You bleed out in the middle of the crowd, and remain invisible the entire time. This is not to discount the word. I believe the word of God has power. (I know there are those outside the faith that believe scriptures such as those above only encourage inaction and discourage working to change one’s situation, and while there are some who have used the word as such, the bible does not advocate this.)  In times of challenges, these and other scripture have indeed been a real and present help, making it possible for Christians to hold on and weather hard times and injustice. However, when they are uttered as simple platitudes to absolve oneself from taking action to help another, or to allow evil to go unchallenged, we rob them of their power, and bring no real comfort to those who need it.

Where are the teachings that state “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” or “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.”  or “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” or “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness.” or “But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.” or even a simple “You reap what you sow”? I was always taught that “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” When is the clergy going to call out their congregation for sowing and speaking hate and division? Or do they not recognize black people as their brothers and sisters in Christ?

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end leads to destruction.”  is sometimes used to justify/excuse the actions of people. They just don’t know better.  Victims are told to love everyone and not let evil overcome good. The perpetrators aren’t getting told anything.  I was always taught that the word of God convicts you in your heart of wrong doing. You are compelled to change or go crazy rebelling. Yet when it comes to racism, race relations and indifference toward people of color and their experiences,  white folks aren’t hearing the word that would convict their hearts, allow them to have compassion and  possibly lead to repentance around their actions.  People and organizations can shed light on racism, show it’s effects, and pass laws, but you can’t legislate someone’s heart and mind. People have to have their own epiphany, their own “Come to Jesus” moment.  In failing to address this, the church is failing us.

The Church is not supposed to look like “the world”. It is supposed to stand on biblical principles, regardless of what the mainstream way of thinking happens to be at the moment. Sadly, the world has a lot more influence in the church than it should have.  How else do you explain something like what happened in Mississippi?  Members of a majority white church opposed having a black couple wed there.  Not an interracial couple, which caused church controversy before, even though there is no biblical basis to oppose it – this was  a basic black couple.  So instead of the pastor telling them all to kiss his backside and the backsides of all the saints throughout all the ages, he gave in and officiated over the wedding elsewhere in order to save his job. Now maybe they don’t make pastors the way they used to, but as I was taught the word of God is the same yesterday, today and forever,  I thought that Galatians 1:10 still applied: For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. Guess I was wrong.

Some may say there is no issue because they attend where there is a multicultural congregation, or because some whites/non-blacks may be willing to “sit under” a black pastor, such as TD Jakes,  Fred Price Sr.,  or whomever it is  that is well respected locally.  That is inconsequential.  Aside from the wedding example given above (of which the couple was probably unaware of the attitudes held in the hearts of their fellow church-goers until they were refused a place for their ceremony), for one, black people have always been willing to take religious instruction from a white pastor. Secondly, when you have someone with the reach of Jakes or Price, or one who has amassed a certain amount of respect, they are seen as the exception to the rule of whatever negative image is held for black people in general. Believing there is not an issue simply because there are black people in the congregation, or white people receiving instruction from a black pastor, is akin to situations where someone says something racially insensitive and seeks to rationalize it as not being an issue because they have “black friends” or friends of whatever race they just insulted.

When ever something blows up in “the world”, I go visit Christianforums.com to see what the Christian view point is regarding politics or current events.  I’m almost always saddened by what I read there.  I made a recent trip over there to see what the commentary was around Ferguson. There are always opposing voices on both sides of an issue, and they have trolls just like every other forum, but to see someone, seemingly intelligent, argue as to why we (black people) should be feared (we are huge, violent, and own the sucker punch apparently) is disturbing to say the least. I don’t think they are “bad” people, necessarily, but I wonder how much exposure to black people these posters have had in their day to day lives. Perhaps they are one of the many who can live their lives and barely come in contact with black people, aside from what they see on TV.  If so,  maybe they are not hearing sermons about brotherly love in a racial context, because no black peers = no problem. Out of sight, out of mind, so to speak.

Regardless, it’s unsettling to see some of the mindset that Mike Brown couldn’t have been redeemed.  Forgiveness and redemption are throughout the bible.  Forgiveness is not just a get out of jail hell free card when we have wronged someone. We are taught to forgive, as we have been forgiven by Christ.  So it strikes me as odd that while Paul persecuted and killed Christians, and was worthy to go on and be a leader in the early church, Mike brown stole some cigars and is  only worthy and deserving of the 6 shots he received, even if the officer in the situation wasn’t aware of it at the time. This is not to cast dispersion on ChristianForums.com, it’s a good place overall. I’ve asked for and received prayer there, and submitted questions to the ask a Chaplin section, and received very helpful replies. Also, as I said there is opposing views to balance out what I consider “the bad”. It just bothers me that (some) people who are my brothers and sisters in Christ (according to the bible, if not in their own minds) truly believe black people are superhuman, bullet proof, rowdy, violent machines and everyone should fear us coming for your wallets and your daughters at knife point.

In light of all this,  I’d like to see an effort on behalf of pastors who have a national and international audience address these issues.  Reprimand the members who would other wise look down upon and separate themselves from or even seek to harm or discriminate against other members who are all of the same Body.  Get us to stop cutting ourselves, and doing harm to the body of Christ. I’d like them to tell the youth why the church is not outdated, and black youth specifically why it still applies to them. (A word of warning:  Young people have a BS detector that is unmatched in this universe. They know when someone is being real, when someone is speaking on what they truly believe,  and when someone is just spewing talking points because it is what they are expected to say. They are also highly observant when it comes to disparities in how they and others around them are treated, and will write someone off with the quickness who is being less than genuine.)

Now, I may come off sounding as ignorant as those who question “Where is the outrage about black on black crime?” Who assume because they haven’t seen it, there is none. (Though that is a separate, made up issue,  the existence of such crime does not justify or nullify the existence of brutality at the hands of official police authority). Perhaps there had been an effort to discuss race, and I just haven’t seen it. I am not as avid a watcher of television ministries as I have been in the past, and it’s quite possible I missed it. I don’t recall anyone speaking out on race since Fred Price, and even he said he got flack and lost relationships over it. So if you have seen such a sermon, or your pastor has had such discussion please share, as  I’d like my hope renewed. My faith in God is absolute. His servants? Not so much.

~~~~~~~

Comments about Ferguson made by clergy I have seen so far:

TD Jakes:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bishop-td-jakes/a-fathers-cry-for-justice_b_5691027.html

TD Jakes daughter, Sarah:

http://sarahjakes.com/ferguson/

I thought I had seen a video response posted of Fred Price Jr. speaking on Ferguson. I was planning to watch it later, but I am unable to find it, and searching turned up nothing.

I  came across this just as I was going to post this blog piece. He gets it, I think:
http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/st.-louis-archbishop-the-issue-is-bigger-than-ferguson-america/

~~~~~~~

Scripture references used:

Galatians 6:9 Matthew 5:39  Isaiah 63:9  Jeremiah 29:11 Galatians 3:28 1 John 4:20-21
John 13:34-35 1 John 2:9-11 1 John 3:15  Galatians 6:7 Luke 6:45  Matthew 12:34
Proverbs 14:12  Romans 12:21 Hebrews 4:12 Galatians 1:10

Words Matter: Speak Life To Your Children

September 26, 2010

This is one of my pet peeves, and it applies to black men and women equally.  Black women: do not sit down in front of your sons, day in and day out, talking about how black men are not worth shit.” Black men: do not sit down in front of your daughters day in and day out, talking about how black women “ain’t worth shit.” Hearing it over and over again will make this statement a fact, and sooner or later they are going to look in the mirror and realize that they too are a black man/black woman and make the connection that therefore they must not be “worth shit either”. Mom and dad said it so it MUST be true, right?? Black folks get beat up enough outside the home. Please make the home a sanctuary, something that edifies their spirit and self esteem and counteracts the negative messages that are out there in the world. I know everyone has had a bad experience, but why pass that baggage that can lead to self hatred and other issues on to your kids?

You might raise your son or daughter to be the exact opposite of every gripe you have about black men and/or women. If the mindset of men in general is that black women are only good for sex, when they set their sights on your daughter, that will be the attitude that they have toward her. If the mindset of women in general is that men are only good for money and paying bills, that is the mindset they will have when they set their sights on your son. These ideas do not serve us as a community. They hurt our sons and daughters. Even if you marry out and your children are biracial, often they will be recognized and categorized as black and will reap both the benefits, disadvantages and struggle of any other average black person.

I realize I’m being general, and that in individual relationships people can make themselves stand out, but IN GENERAL we are all lumped together as a people, and so collectively these societal mindsets affect us all.

Every race has good and evil in it. No one race has a monopoly on virtue or vice. It is far more constructive to teach your child to recognize good, evil and HEALTHY relationships across color lines and not equate them to a skin color. They need to embrace good in whatever shade it manifests, and stand against evil in whatever shade it appears. Black doesn’t always have your back. White isn’t always out to get you. It doesn’t serve them to trust or distrust unconditionally based on race or gender.

Tyler Perry: My Two Cents

September 26, 2010

Everyone else on twitter has commented on Tyler Perry, I may as well also.| Dr. Boyce Watkins: “Are Tyler Perry Films Bad for Black America? No, They Are Not” – The original article, which I commented on at the time on the original site, has since been removed, but my response is as follows:

I can understand somewhat Spike’s (and other folks) point, but the things that he accuses Tyler of, is the reason why I could never watch School Daze. “Wannabe’s” and “Jiggaboo’s”?? The terminology itself is repulsive to me. I understand he was using that to make a point, but the same principle applies.

The Madea character actually reminds me of my late Aunt. She was large, fierce, feisty and loud, quoted bible scriptures (correctly), had a sharp tongue that could shred you to pieces, but a big heart that loved everyone. She often fed homeless and down on their luck folks. I don’t think I’m the only person who knows a Madea, and it makes me wonder is what the real issue is: is it a poor description/representation of black life, or an embarrassing portrait of truth?

Tyler got his start with black plays. Black entertainment for black people. Now that the world is watching, some want to silence him. I have mixed feelings about it. I want black folks to be viewed positively and I know that the behavior of one tends to be applied to all, but blacks, like whites, are a diverse community.  Whites have their trailer park, “dumb and dumber” characterizations, as well as positive or ordinary roles. In order for us to be accepted as just like everyone we need to have diverse images as well. If we want to be judged individually, instead of collectively, we need to stop acting like a single black image or movie or action represents the collective. Put out a counter-image. I do realize “the world” still judges blacks and other minorities collectively, and I’m not totally open minded myself: I draw the line at the “hot ghetto mess” crap that BET was trying to put on the air at one time.  However, in order to diversify our image, we actually have to start to diversify our image. We need an abundance of positive images to counteract the negative, so that we are not limited only to images that portray us in an unfavorable light. In real life, we have to accept people for their true selves: some are ghetto, some are high class, most are in-between.  Their accomplishments, or lack thereof, do not diminish or add to my stature.  I believe we gain personal freedom the more we come to realize this.

I often wonder if Tyler is going to have a Dave Chappelle moment where he walks away because he realizes that the world is laughing AT him, not with him. Regardless, he is giving jobs and exposure to blacks in an industry that is known to be hostile to us. In the past, blacks could only get roles as maids in the movies. Let him get a foot in the door, so he can drag others in with him, and then change the landscape. He’s only been at this (nation wide films, studio etc) for a few years. He has good mentors, like Oprah. I think eventually he will do very well and give even the naysayers something to be “proud” about.

A Girl Like Me

September 26, 2010

(Repost from my old yahoo blog)

It’s a sin to be ashamed of what you are.

~Annie, Imitation of Life

Black children, self-esteem and beauty standards. This subject matter is so exhaustive and correlates to so many different areas of our lives that I just didn’t know where to start. I am not going to even begin to try to touch upon everything, but I think this is an issue which needs to be bought to everyone’s attention.  Recently, a short film was made by a 16 year old African-American teen, Kiri Davis, on the subject matter of black girls and self image. For those of you who haven’t seen the video you can check it out here:

Note: Original site no longer has video. There is some information here: http://peacemedia.usip.org/resource/media-matters-film-festival-girl-me and I located the video on youtube below:

If you have children, daughters in particular, or have young children under the sphere of your influence please watch the video. In the film she gets reactions from other teens about their experiences and thoughts about being black. She also recreates the “doll test” initially conducted by Dr. Kenneth Clark, used in the desegregation case, Brown vs. Board of Education back in the 1950’s. In the “doll test” a child is presented with two dolls, a black doll and a white doll and asked which doll is the “good” or “nice” doll and which is the “bad” doll. In one scene a little girl is presented with the test and selects the black doll as the “bad” doll, and when asked, said it is bad because it is black, the other doll is nice because it is white. She is then asked which doll looked like her. I tell you, my heart broke as she silently slid the black doll forward. Of the children Kiri worked with, 15 out of 21 preferred the white doll.

Being balanced, when children that age are presented with a choice, they may assume those are the only options. I would have preferred for her to have asked them if one of the dolls were good or bad, and then if they made that decision inquire as to why. The way the question was posed, the children may have thought one HAD to be good and one HAD to be bad. Even so, to see a black child say the black doll was bad, simply because it is black, is very disturbing. This is not simply about a black child wanting to play with a white doll, its about why. If its a preference, or they just like the doll, that’s fine. If its because they think to be black is ugly or “bad”, then we have a problem.

It all starts at home, though. We have access to and the responsibility to shape the minds of our children, so when they are faced with outside images that would paint black folks in a negative light, there is a frame of reference that has been internalized to offset that. We need to be able to help them understand the images, attitudes and stereotypes they will be faced with. We have to do this, society at large is not looking our for our children.

We also need to remember that children take in EVERYTHING. Just because they have not been explicitly told that black is “bad”, that doesn’t mean they have not come to certain conclusions. How are you referring to other blacks? Yourself? Are you something that needs to be fixed: Is your hair “too nappy”, skin too dark? I know some people who will not go out in the sun for fear of getting dark. I know a woman who was told by her mother not to bring a dark-skinned man home because “we are trying to progress and improve the race, not regress”. She was told she could date them but not reproduce with them. I’ve read experiences recounted of lighter siblings being favored over darker siblings, and times the darker ones were completely ignored.

I have come across similar issues in other arenas. Author Joanne Cornwell, in her book “That Hair Thing” discusses black beauty, and it’s affect on our lives and relationships. She noted that when she attends movies and a dark skinned actress comes on the screen how someone always says that she is ugly, and will talk negatively about their features: wide noses, nappy hair, thick lips, dark skin. She also noted that in the instances she was able to get a look at the person hurling the insults, they often had similar features. I’m sorry folks, but this is self hate no matter how you slice it.

Cornwell poses the questions: “What have we become when the physical traits of our women are acceptable objects of ridicule in our culture? What have we become, when our women feel that covering up or correcting nature is the only way to make themselves lovable, or even acceptable, both to men and to other women?” She calls this an “aesthetic crises“, where to a greater or lesser degree, we have lost our ability to see, believe in, and be empowered by the physical beauty that is unique to our own kind. She continues,“Although it is related to other external factors, I believe it has more to do with how we experience two things in our lives that are basic to all human beings. These are Beauty and Truth. Our experience of these two forces affects us through out our lives on a very deep level. As humans, we have a strong natural urge to connect the two, but as African Americans, too often in our daily lives, Beauty is not related to what is True for us at all…”

She goes on to state that growing up on media images given to us by Hollywood, we have internalized the images that are celebrated as beauty in mainstream culture, creating what is considered “normal” for the standard of beauty, stating “normalcy [is]a precondition to beauty, and our task is to ensure that our true images get included in what is considered normal.”

Going forward, tell your daughters they are beautiful. Also teach them that they don’t have to hate others to celebrate themselves. It’s not about being “better than”. As one woman put it, you “don’t want her subconsciously associating beauty, refinement, and ‘specialness’ solely with white skin.” Another puts it this way “its not about denying the differences, its about not making what is different bad, about not being inherently bad because you exist.”

You can expose your child to positive black images. If you conduct the doll experiment, and your child has a preference, find out why. I don’t recommend taking your child’s toys away if they do not choose how you want them to. That will only make matters worse. Just teach them. Teach them to love themselves, and each other. Teach them their value, that they are “enough” in and of themselves, and show them their beauty. In one forum a member stated: “When I was young, I told my mom I wanted a white doll. She politely turned me around and asked ‘Are you white?’ ‘Are your parents white?’ Of course I replied no. She told me she wanted me to have a doll that was as beautiful as I am. I never wanted or asked for a white doll since.”

The children are our future. Give them the tools they need to create a happy and prosperous one which validates their identity and helps them recognize their own power to be successful as their own person on their own terms.


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