By Ray Lewis’ sermony account, we get all riled up over police killing blacks. But when it comes to the “black on black” violence plaguing the nation, we’re quiet.
Just in time to close out Black History Month, my dear friend
and GOP nominee Dr. Ben Carson has given me some fun material to play with.
During a podcast on Politico, the good doctor thought it fit to tackle the subject of black authenticity, using President Obama as his subject. In the interview, Carson, the son of a poor and single mother noted:
“He’s an ‘African-American. He was, you know, raised white. I mean, like most Americans, I was proud that we broke the color barrier when he was elected, but — he didn’t grow up like I grew up. So, for him to claim that he identifies with the experience of black Americans, I think, is a bit of a stretch.”
Wow. Where to start?
Let’s go right to the elephant in the room. Dr. Carson’s tacit suggestion that being poor and fatherless is unique to the black experience is patently false and…well…stupid. Frankly, it goes beyond mere stupid. It’s self-loathing racism, even if it’s rooted in some kind of scientific truth. After all, there’s no doubt that Obama is genetically bi-racial. But that’s not what Carson was trying to imply. He was suggesting that Obama’s experiences disqualify him from being black, even if most of the black community has indeed embraced him as one of our own.
Here’s what Carson doesn’t get: the concept of “race” is not defined by where a person lives, how poor they are, the makeup of their family structure, or any other superficial descriptors. Simply put, to be black is to be human. And like any other human experience, being black involves a complex combination of attributes. Yes, skin color is one of those attributes. But we are also bound together by our struggles, our triumphs, our disappointments, our celebrations. We have core values passed down to us and values we acquire elsewhere. I get that people tend to generally place blackness in the “urban” category (translation: if you don’t like rap and don’t subscribe to certain stereotypical depictions of black folks, you ain’t being “black enough”). But I don’t think it starts or ends there. Black folks aren’t some monolithic group and we certainly aren’t limited to living/acting/thinking in a specific, universal way. A person can be just as black owning the entire Tom Jones discography as they can owning the whole 50 cent discography. They can be just as black voting for Barack Obama as they are voting for Donald Trump. Being black to me is about facing the struggles of the past, being willing to take on the harsh realities of the present, and finding the strength and resolve to survive for future generations. That cuts across tastes in music, preferences in food, clothes we wear, class status, or any number of other cursory things we erroneously use to define ourselves from a cultural standpoint.
But I’m going to put that aside for a second to point out the obvious: even in the unlikely even that Obama was able to live a full life separated from his “blackness”, the past 8 years have more than made up for it. He’s been heckled during an internationally televised State of the Union address, he’s been called “uppity”, people have joked about watermelon patches growing on the White House lawn, his wife has been compared to an ape, and he has dealt with a Republican Congress hellbent on opposing every single thing he does. I concede that some of the animus Obama has faced has been solely on the basis of policy. But most of us realize the unspoken but highly evident truth: most of it is because he is, despite Carson’s assertions, a black man in America.
Ah, yes! ‘Tis the season for Presidential Elections once again. Admittedly, this is one of my favorite times during the political season, the very idea that the next few months will determine who will be the next leader of this nation. The unpredictability of it all is killing me! But, in a good way.
Not so unpredictable, however, is the psychology of the voter. I can’t predict who the Presidential nominees will be on either side, as much as I can predict what kinds of people will support each candidate. Most notably, I already know well in advance that poor and rural folks will likely vote Republican. Politicos for years have been asking the burning question: how can poor people support a Republican party which typically goes against their interests? To me, the answer is quite obvious and can be summed up in a few points:
(1) Racial red herrings: In its simplest form, a red-herring is a distraction luring a person away from a more relevant issue, cause, or individual. In politics especially, what better way is there to distract a collective people from your foulness than by identifying racial groups you can vilify instead? If you build a platform on how “Mexicans” are here to take your jobs, how black welfare recipients are taking your hard-earned money, or how “A-rabs” are here to killer terrorists, it’s not hard to build a legion of followers. Simply put, Republicans are able to muster so much white, rural support because they paint Democrats as champions for these villainous racial groups hellbent on destroying America.
(2) Religion: As a Christian, this one hurts me. But it also makes me realize how deeply true it is. What’s of particular interest to me are the multiple ways in which religious beliefs tie into people’s political tendencies. On social issues for instance, Republicans generally ascribe to philosophies shaped by systematic and selective application of the Scripture. Gay marriage is trumped by Leviticus. Reproductive rights are trampled on by “Thou Shalt Not Kill”, and so on. Also, from economic perspective, people rely on religious beliefs to justify their financial standing in the world. If you’re poor, it’s part of “God’s Divine Will” and nothing but “God’s Grace” and a little bootstrap pulling will deliver from your circumstances. The government is not factored into the equation at all. Similarly, if you’re rich, it’s because God blessed you (not because of the tax code, hiring discrimination, unfair housing practices, etc.), and that it’s not up to government to punish them by expecting them to pay their fair share in taxes.
When you think about, it’s actually quite amazing to see how so many people think and operate in the name of religion.
(3) Fox News: Have frequented the south many times, I’m amazed (but not really) by how popular conservative news outlets are. Everything from Fox News to talk radio (Rush, Glen Beck, Hannity) can be found feeding the collective conscious of poor and rural folks in that part of the country. Conservative politics aren’t the sole province of the south, but that’s where the Republican vote is mostly won.
(4) Liberal Elitism: I’m sorry – especially as a left leaner myself, but liberals can be real dicks. They’re smug, arrogant, and condescending. If you’ve driven your bumper sticker-littered Prius to Starbucks so you can engage in “critically deconstructive conversations about social structuralism and hierarchical oppression”, wearing your crocheted beanie caps and thrift store clothes (because of how anti-consumerist you are) all the while preaching to people about why eating meat is bad, chances are pretty high that people will hate you. What’s worst is that you will never be able to get most people to see things your way, even if your interests are aligned. Nobody…and I repeat…nobody likes to hear pontification or be talked down to (I can hear some of you saying “He ended that sentence with a preposition.” If that’s you, you’re the person I’m talking about. Excuse me: “about whom I’m speaking). Admittedly, it can be pretty tempting at times to take our advanced degrees and look down at “rednecks” with a certain level disdain because of how uncultured and uneducated they appear. But the reality is: both sides – though different in many ways – are very alike in so many more instances. Obviously, these are all generalizations. But this phenomenon occurs often enough to establish patterns.
To a previous point about religion: liberals are often portrayed (falsely, I’ll believe) as being entirely intellectual and anti-religion, often even poking fun at religious people for following an “imaginary god.” Yeah. Good luck trying to get people to join your cause when you’ve essentially reduced the entity upon whom they’ve built their life’s worth of values to nothing more than a unicorn.
(5) Guns: This one is pretty simple. Poor people (usually fueled by the Fox News apparatus) think the bleeding hearts in government are coming for their guns. This, despite the fact that there is no evidence to support that claim and no legitimate way for the government to confiscate the over 350 million guns currently owned by American citizens. But with every mass shooting and every subsequent conversation about gun control, owners become more and more riled. You might say they start “clinging to their guns.”
There are probably more reasons why poor people go against their interests and vote Republican, but I think these are the main reasons. Any conservative playing to these points is sure to gain supporters even if they have no intention to govern according to those people’s expectations.
What say you?
“Take the L and move on.”
“Fellas, stop being so sensitive.”
“Male insecurity on high alert!”
Those were some of the comments I saw on the web regarding the shocking and heartbreaking story of Janese Talton-Jackson I read late last night:
Pittsburgh Police homicide detectives are looking into the deadly shooting of a woman in Homewood.
Police were called to North Lang Avenue, near Upland Street, around 2 a.m. on Friday.
When crews arrived, they found 29-year-old Janese Jackson Talton lying in the street. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
Police have identified the suspect as 41-year-old Charles McKinney of Penn Hills. He is now facing homicide charges.
Police say Talton was approached by the suspect before closing time at Cliff’s Bar, but she ignored his advances. Police say after closing, he followed her outside and shot her in the chest.
As they were headed to Homewood, a police pursuit with McKinney began.
Officers said the car chase went through several neighborhoods. Pittsburgh Police said they shot the suspect during the pursuit and that he continued to drive until he crashed in the 1800-block of McNary Boulevard in Wilkinsburg.
The suspect was taken to the hospital and is in stable condition. McKinney will also face charges of aggravated assault, fleeing or attempting to elude police, reckless driving, reckless endangerment, possession with intent to deliver and firearms charges.
Incidentally, I was also able to locate her Facebook page which gave me a small glimpse into her life. She was a mother of three beautiful kids. She was a Steelers’ fan. One of her favorite singers was NeYo. She had over 1,100 Facebook friends. In an odd and comforting sense, I actually enjoyed getting to know a little bit about her. Puts a face behind the name, ya know? In fact, in any other time and place in human history, we could have easily been friends.
But then, it happened. Even though I was in the hallowed and testosterone-filled space I call my “man cave”, I cried. No, I wasn’t sobbing uncontrollably. I wasn’t hysterical. But I did shed a couple of tears. Mostly, I cried for her and her babies. But I was also a bit frightened. I started imagining the unthinkable: What if my wife was in that situation? One of my sisters? A grown-up version of my daughter or nieces? One of my cousins? One of my friends? With all those thoughts racing in my head, I had a hard time getting back to sleep.
But to round out my experience, I was also hit with another troubling reality: the only time I felt comfortable enough to cry about this was when I was in “my” section of the house and during an hour when I knew every one else was asleep. That’s a problem which, sadly, represents a part of the reason why I think Janese is no longer with us.
You see, men are generally not given the license to express their hurt, shame, or embarrassment, especially if it’s from something not deemed qualifying…like rejection. We’re told to get over it, man up, and move on. But we – both men and women alike – don’t often respond to romantic rejections very easily. We start by internalizing the rejection, finding fault in ourselves, bemoaning all our inadequacies, etc. But if those rejections are compounded by embarrassment (say, getting rejected and getting put on full blast), it can be concluded that a person’s already-damaged self esteem then gets beaten to a pulp. Rejection can be a painful, powerful, and mind-numbing experience. Studies even suggest that the brain’s response to emotional pain can even be on par with physical pain.
Society doesn’t make it any easier. We live in a world where, frankly, the Alpha male is glorified. We live in a space where men are expected to casually brush off their feelings of hurt. When a woman feels the sting of rejection, she can go to her mama, her girlfriends, her gay BFF, or her book club mates for a release. Men are expected to bottle it up or do “manly stuff” to get over it. Gender inequality doesn’t just swing in an unfavorable direction for women in terms of pay, violence, and social mobility. Men are usually victimized by an environment that doesn’t provide adequate and judgement-free mechanisms for coping with pain and embarrassment.
A few years ago, my ex-girlfriend cheated on me. It wasn’t the first time I was cheated on by a person, but it was the first time being cheated on while in a serious relationship. Those closest to me know I was damaged goods for a while. In response, I used both my blog and Facebook pages as a clearinghouse of sorts. I tapped into my humor, my anger, my misery, and eventually my acceptance of the situation. Though some folks were annoyed by all the postings (with some even telling me to “get over it”), it worked for me. That was my outlet. While I did eventually reconcile with my ex and went on to married the first love of my life as icing on the cake, I won’t lie: my journey wasn’t easy. But I was blessed. Not many men are able to face their difficulties with the same level of success.
That said, as I read the story, I imagined the following scenario:
As McKinney approached Talton-Jackson, he tried to spit game which she politely declined. He was probably resilient, forcing her to be emphatic with her rejection the second and possibly third time around…maybe even to the point where she embarrassed him. Clearly having mental issues – maybe from being rejected by other women in the past – and suffering from a bruised ego (hypermasculity at its worst), he shot and killed her.
I wasn’t there, so I can’t speak to how accurate my assumptions are. But we’re still left with enough details to conclude that this man didn’t have a clue on how to positively channel his rejection.
Earlier, I mentioned how I didn’t feel comfortable crying openly. I should preface this further, though; especially to show juxtapostion to this McKinney guy. I’m actually very blessed to have a wife who actually encourages me to be emotionally expressive. To her, it’s a sign of strength when I’m able to show vulnerability. It proves that I’m human as opposed to a heartless robot. I love her for that. Admittedly, it still doesn’t always make it easy for me to be openly expressive. But it’s comforting to know that when I’m at a low point, she allows me to show it without having my manhood questioned. Honestly, I think more men need that kind of support. No, we don’t need to become this guy. But being allowed to get in touch with our emotions from time to time without social reprisal isn’t always a bad thing. Maybe if McKinney was surrounded by people to remind him of that, he wouldn’t have been so damaged that his only coping mechanism was to kill an innocent woman. At this point, one can only speculate whether or not he already had that kind of support system in place. But I’m guessing not.
By no means am I stripping him of any responsibility. Hurt feelings aside, he was still in control of his own actions (since it was at a bar, he might have been drunk. But still, no excuse). Secondly, there was no “romance” involved here. At worst, he was probably looking for sex. At best, he wanted to date her. And while we’re diagnosing his behavior, it’s important to point out that absolutely none of this falls on the shoulders of Janese. She should be able to say “no” any time she wants to and however she wants to say it; polite or otherwise. But you have to acknowledge that something made this man flip. And if you do that, you must also consider how gender roles impact the way men respond to being let down and rejected. Anything short of that dismisses the male reality in our society and could lead to bigger and even deadlier outcomes down the road (as it has before and before that).
RIP, Janese. McKinney may have pulled the trigger. But the greater society is just as complicit. In one way or another, we all failed you.
Ohhhh yeah! I forgot I still have a blog. For a minute there, I thought WordPress went through a systematic cleansing and purged itself of long-forgotten pages. But by some miracle, this joint is still around. So I guess that means I can still write to it. But don’t celebrate just yet: I really can’t promise that I’ll keep this thing going for much longer.
Anyway, for today’s installment I decided to do a little role-playing. I have Dave Chappelle to thank for this one. A few years ago, he wrote a brilliant sketch on his equally brilliant Chappelle Show called “Racial Draft”. In it, members from several racial groups acted as the “delegate” from that group, picking and choosing racially-ambiguous people that group wanted to draft as their own. In a word, this skit was legendary. In case you somehow haven’t seen it, which at this point in human history is impossible, here it is in all of its glory. Enjoy:
Inspired by this clip, the intrepid host of this blog thought to himself “Who would he draft or trade if he were ever the general manager of the black race?” Well, I’m glad you asked Mr. Imaginary Person.
First off, let me say that it was hard to narrow down the list. There were so many people to consider. Tavis Smiley, Jesse Lee Patterson, Larry Elder, Jaden and Willow Smith, that one black dude defending Dylann Roof, Crefalo Dollar, Emergency Manager Darnell Earley, Eddie Long, proponents of the confederate flag. The list is too exhaustive. So in the interest of time, here’s my top five list of black folk who would be immediately kicked off the team and traded for more deserving people.
(1) Dr. Ben Carson: Starting things off would be the trading of Dr. Ben Carson. Dr. Carson is an American tragedy in its truest form. He started off as a brilliant neurosurgeon fighting his way through a once racist and exclusionary institution like medicine to become a true pioneer in his field. But today? The man is completely off his rocker. Don’t get me wrong: black people are entitled to support the conservative cause all they want. Black people do not have to subscribe to the tenants of the democratic party if they don’t want to. And they should be able to subscribe to Republicanism without scathing criticism. But there’s something unsettling about most black Republicans. They tend to act paternalistic and loathsome towards the rest of their race; shunning anybody who doesn’t roll with their agenda. On top of that, he’s said some pretty ridiculous things. From suggesting that gun control kept unarmed Jews from defending themselves during the Holocaust to calling Obamacare the worst thing to happen to America since slavery, the man proves with every utterance that being educated is not the same thing as being smart.
Whom I’d trade for: Bernie Sanders. While it’s true that black folks – by and large – haven’t quite felt the Bern yet, give it time. If you recall another relatively unknown senator went up against the Clinton political machine…and won.
(2) Kayne West: Speaking of black men who have lost their ever-loving minds, Kanye West is now officially that dude who flew over the cuckoo’s nest. He’s gone from producing one of my favorite records of all time to becoming a Kardashian. Bruh, one Kardishian lover was on life support after being found unconscious in a brothel. Another one decided that after being with a Kardashian, it was time for him to give up on his gender entirely. Take the hint.
I miss the Kanye who was telling the world how much George Bush hates black people.
Whom I’d trade for: Sam Smith. Not only does he sing a song as soulful as any brotha, he actually won a BET award. I’d welcome Sam to the ‘hood with open arms.
(3) Raven-Symone’: Full disclosure here. As much as I hate to admit it, I’ve been known to agree with a lot of what Raven “I’m every-continent” Symone’ has had to say (I guess that means you people would be justified in calling me the Matt Millen of the racial draft. That’s a Detroit Lions’ reference for the uninitiated. A very unfortunate Lions’ reference). For instance, she took flack for making the same arguments I’ve made about the way we name our children. In fact, studies actually support the claim that biases are created based on names; among other things. So her being vocal is not my issue. My issue is her being vocal and harshly critical in front of a national audience. Airing our dirty laundry so openly substantiates the bigoted and narrow-minded thinking of other folks looking for a black face (or blackface, as the case may be) to justify their contemptuous thinking. What happens with the team stays in the locker room, Raven.
Whom I’d trade for: Rachel Dolezal. It’s pretty clear that she’d give anything to be black. She loves us just as we are and wouldn’t think twice about hiring a person named Bon’Quesha. All power to her. Just by sheer virtue of her body of work in social justice, she’d be a clear pick for my team. I’d probably even make her the franchise player.
(4) The Stump for Trump women: As GM, I couldn’t get rid of these bamas quick enough. Not only do they personify every single sassy, neck-twisting, finger-waving, loud-mouth stereotype about black women, they’re doing so to benefit a guy who clearly doesn’t have their interest at heart. Unless, of course, black people’s interests include getting rid of Mexicans and Muslims. But we all know that’s silly. America’s contempt with Mexicans and Muslims, if played correctly, could take the heat off black people. Light weights.
Oh, and even though Donald Trump is not on our team, I’d draft a contract ensuring that he could never be traded in one of these racial drafts. He’s toxic, divisive, and borderline crazy. Basically, he’s the Terrell Owens of politics.
Whom I’d trade for: George Lucas. Dude is worth a fortune, is married to a sista, and gave us Star Wars. Enough said.
(5) Stacey Dash: Stacey Dash has become the new black darling of the Republican party. She’s railed against Obama about as often as most people have coffee in the morning. She’s railed against the Black Lives Matter movement. She’s even called for the elimination of Black History Month, BET, and the NAACP (her numerous appearances on BET programming and music videos, her NAACP image award hosting, and modeling for black-targeted magazines notwithstanding, of course.)
Whom I’d trade for: OK, I’m lying. She’s too fine to release. You don’t trash a Benz just because the engine is loud and doesn’t work. First you try to fix the engine. If that doesn’t work, you learn to tune out that noise, chalk it up as a loss, and hoard the gorgeous, yet non-functioning machine. Granted, you’d probably have to lock it away in the deepest, darkest, corner of your garage. But you can still admire it from time to time because of its flawlessness. Even if it doesn’t run, it’s still a freakin’ Benz! Oh, what the hell? I’d make her a cheerleader on the squad…provided that she doesn’t…you know…talk. Like, ever.