This Blog is Mixxie

In the age of the internet, some things are so much easier to do.  Writers can put together a novel and put it out there in order to try and find an audience.  Musicians can not only put together tracks and make videos available.  But just because something is easy to do doesn’t mean that you should do it.  (Ain’t none of what’s going to follow safe for work.  So only click if you’re ready to hear some profanity laced, banal idiocy.)

I know I shouldn’t waste my time on this, but sometimes I can’t help myself.  (And some of my “so called” friends keep putting this stuff on my radar when I’m trying to keep a low, unopinionated profile in 2011).  Picking on indie artists at all seems like clubbing anorexic baby seals which have washed up on shore.  There is an automatic, sympathetic sentiment which wants to respond with “they’re trying.  They’re putting themselves out there.  We should be supporting them. “

No we shouldn’t.

In the marketplace of ideas, I’m not going to support an artist just because they mean well and their heart’s in it.  That’s the usual starting place.  It’s what makes a writer pick up a pen, an artist their paint brush, or a musician their mic.  Pouring yourself into your craft and then putting yourself “out there” is part of the process.  Then I see some of this mess and I now realize why folks begin their commentary with “bless their hearts” … especially if the next thing they want to say is along the lines of “that $#!+ was whack.”

(And now our video break down of the week…)

I can almost picture the video planning meeting.  How excited they were, talking about the women and money sure to follow once they blow up.  I know they’re just teens, but part of being an artist means that your art is subject to criticism.  And as a professional writer, I kinda believe that words mean things.  So when your dream of the high life consists of smoking, drinking, having sex and “hitting people with your stick like Gretzky”, your song should be titled “This Ish is Empty.”

And when I think about it, my mom would still be kicking my behind for pouring stuff on her carpets, cause you know they were filming this in their bedroom.  And Lord help me if she actually ran across me spouting this nonsense as my “values”, revealing after her hard work of raising me, this is what I’m about.  All I’d hear is “This is what you’re doing in your room when you lock the door?  Why couldn’t you be masturbating like every other boy your age?!?”

Hey, you know some things that are mixxie?

-going to school

-not pouring $#!+ on your mom’s carpets

-not living in your mom’s basement after you graduate

-getting a job

-pulling your damn pants up and walking around like you got some pride and a lick of sense

-NOT POURING $#!+ ON YOUR MOM’S CARPETS!

I know I sound like a cranky old man whose being too hard on today’s youth.  Truth be told, they are the product of our design having dined on what our culture has fed them. The advertising, which is what videos are, fuels our consumeristic mentalities, generating or nurturing a pursuit of designer labels. We want the cars, the house, the clothes, the jewels, the gear, not realizing that we chase an illusion. This driving materialism perpetuates a sense of the need for immediate gratification, perhaps even a sense of entitlement, as far too many of us are duped into pursuing these things. As if this meaninglessness is what life is about.

But like I said, I have friends which put this stuff on my radar.  I write, so that’s how I respond.  These same friends (I’m looking at you AlluringShrew and Thesselonious) pick up the mic to offer their own commentary (though she freely cops to having no vocal skills … and that in this day and age, that’s not much of a requirement anyway).  They, too, pick up on the nexus of ghetto crackery which sees folks caught up in an aversion to work, proclivity for violence, contentment with little to no education, sexual promiscuity, short-term thinking, drunkenness, an anti-entrepreneurial spirit, reckless pursuit of meaningless things.  Plus, their video made me laugh …

Their ending coda sums it all up:  “Stereotypes are ugly … why try so hard to be one”.  QFT.

Open Letter to Wal-Mart

Dear Wal-Mart,

It has come to my attention that you are in need of some damage control after a recent unfortunate incident regarding your line of black Barbie dolls. To wit:

Black Barbie Sold for Less Than White Barbie at Walmart Store

March 9, 2010 — Walmart is raising eyebrows after cutting the price of a black Barbie doll to nearly half of that of the doll’s white counterpart at one store and possibly others. A photo first posted to the humor Web site FunnyJunk.com and later to the Latino Web site Guanabee.com shows packages of Mattel’s Ballerina Barbie and Ballerina Theresa dolls hanging side by side at an unidentified store. The Theresa dolls, which feature brown skin and dark hair, are marked as being on sale at $3.00. The Barbies to the right of the Theresa dolls, meanwhile, retain their original price of $5.93. The dolls look identical aside from their color.

Wal-Mart, I feel your pain. There’s just no pleasing some folks. We always got to be angry about something. First we’re all “destruction of the black self image” and then when you give us scraps from the table, er, remember there’s dollars to be made, er, not only give us the black Barbie (and, way to go Mattel, saving money by not actually Africanizing her features!) but discount said Barbie to get her into as many hands as possible, folks go an turn on you.

“The implication of the lowering of the price is that’s devaluing the black doll,” said Thelma Dye, the executive director of the Northside Center for Child Development, a Harlem, N.Y. organization founded by pioneering psychologists and segregation researchers Kenneth B. Clark and Marnie Phipps Clark.

One word for Thelma, Wal-Mart: uppity.

We here at the Broaddus Institute of Creative Spin are currently devising the best ways for you to spin this. Free of charge, we offer you these options:

-Call it your 3/5 Constitutional compromise sale
-clear shelf space by auctioning off the black dolls a dozen at a time (applicable to damaged/defective dolls only)

-Two words for you: “discount darkies!”
-Say it with me “Negro clearance sale”

Be strong Wal-Mart. This is one good spin move away from being a non-story.

Your consigliere during troubled times,

Maurice

O Harry: Because Sometimes Your Friends are Ignorant

It’s always a tricky bit of navigation when your friends say or do something ignorant. I remember a couple of occasions in church, I was attending a mostly white church at the time, and one of the members patted me on head. On another occasion, the pastor compared me to “a faithful dog” from the pulpit. For better or worse, I chalked those things up to well-meaning, but ignorant gestures. Perhaps she didn’t get the memo that the whole rub the head of a black guy has some pretty racist origins or maybe he didn’t get that comparing black folks to animals might not play well considering a history or dehumanization. I often got the “you’re the whitest black guy I know” (which I often heard as “you’re the only black guy I know and I only associate with you because you sound and seem to act a lot like me so you don’t scare me”) because I don’t “sound” black.

Which is why it didn’t exactly shock me that Senator Harry Reid had described Obama—as reported in the new political gossip book, “Game Change” by John Heileman and Mark Halperin—as a “light-skinned” African-American “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.” There was a steady chorus of people who bought into the idea that “the first black president” is actually not black.* The comments were being made on both sides of the political aisle and from across the spectrum of race. The “am I black enough for you” debate even raged in the black community (Reverend Jesse Jackson says what?).**

Race is the third rail in politics, in the church, and, well, most of our lives. If there is to be any hope of reconciliation, there has to be a sharing and hearing of stories and some of the conversations are going to be tough (and, as a friend of mine points out, you can’t have a conversation about anything by starting it with “Your voice doesn’t count.”) Now, I know some Republicans want to make hay of this incident, calling folks on the seeming-hypocrisy of Senator Trent Lott having to step down over his comments versus the gymnastics folks do to defend someone they like. And they’d have a point, except that conversations about race shouldn’t happen in a vacuum, but rather have a context. (Though, seriously, Senator Lott, how do you think trying to spin someone’s segregationist past is a good idea or that it wouldn’t get you into trouble? But again, if you have built up a lot of good will, you can step into such firestorms to make the point you thought you were making because friends can have those kind of tough conversations. If you don’t have that kind of good will built up…]

Every few years we have these sort of dust ups, so we were about due. Not too long ago we had Don Imus referring to the women of the Rutgers basketball team as “some nappy-headed hos.” After so many offenses, he rather struck me as an equal opportunity offender, but it led to the conversation about how there are some words and phrases “off limits” to certain folks in certain contexts and the situation resolved by the offended parties speaking up and reprimands given.

We also had Kelly Tilghman, play-by-play announcer for The Golf Channel’s PGA Tour broadcasts, while bantering with Nick Faldo about young players who might challenge Woods suggesting that they “lynch him in a back alley.” In short, it’s stupid and you can’t say it. However, I don’t think she should have been suspended. I think her apology should have stood on its own, she should have been simply reprimanded, and the conversations had about why what she said was a poor choice of words. We can’t police every bad sentence, because that would stifle conversations that still need to be had.

“I’ve apologized to the president, I’ve apologized to everyone that within the sound of my voice that I could have used a better choice of words,” Reid has said. Apologies happen for a reason. Sometimes folks simply don’t get that what they did was hurtful or demeaning and their apologies should stand and be accepted on their face value (even if the incidents themselves aren’t forgotten because we know that forgiveness takes time). Just like folks ought to be judged by their deeds and track record.

Just because folks are your friends doesn’t mean that they aren’t capable of saying and doing ignorant things. Just like I’m sure there will be another RaceFail conversation in the genre fiction world as we muddle through what it means to live with one another, deal with the history of hurts with of one another, be different from one another, and respect one another.

*Now, I can’t wait to see the gymnastics folks do if President Bill Clinton’s alleged comment about President Obama—“ a few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee.”—prove to be accurate. After all, President Clinton was widely held as our “first black president.”

** Better to discuss this than the reality of what it means to be black in America, dealing with what W.E.B. DuBois called the “double consciousness” of black folks. How many of us may “act” or “speak” one way when we are in professional settings and then another when we’re at home or in a “safe” place.

[That and sometimes our “friends” are just too ignorant for words: “I’m blacker than Barack Obama. I shined shoes. I grew up in a five-room apartment. My father had a little laundromat in a black community not far from where we lived,” ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich said to Esquire Magazine. “I saw it all growing up.”] With a h/t to the blackfolks LJ:

President Oreo?

“People think they dis my person by stating I’m darkly packed/I know this so I point at Q-Tip and he states ‘black is black’.” –De La Soul, Me, Myself, and I

I was surfing the Internet when I ran across a LiveJournal community for “oreos”. Made up of black folks insecure in their “blackness.” Their stories start to sound alike after a while. Some variation on “I grew up in the suburbs and ‘lost my way’”: My whole life I grew up in “white” settings–school, church, neighborhood. So I don’t sound or act black. What’s ironic is that white and Asian people who act black or ghetto give me just as much grief. (OR) I never seemed to fit in with anyone. In high school, I read a lot and listened to whatever music interested me. I had friends, but I wasn’t hung up on color. The black kids teased me a lot.

So here’s what’s been bugging me: this rising/steady chorus of people who insist that “the first black president” is actually not black. This is exactly one of the reasons I spend so much time thinking about various ideas like ontological blackness. We inherited this screwed up idea we call race, we suffered through things like the “one drop rule”—that one drop of black blood in you was enough to declare you black—and played by those rules (btw, try explaining those rules to a six year old). You can’t just up and change them simply because you suddenly want to define someone’s blackness down so that you can suddenly stake a claim.

Obama has said, “I identify as African-American — that’s how I’m treated and that’s how I’m viewed. I’m proud of it.” That’s the end of the discussion. Period. Just like Tiger Woods can call himself a “Cablinasian” and be as “We are the World” a Negro as he wants to be. We all have to balance how we choose to define ourselves vs. how society defines and treats us.

Maybe I’ve been spending too much time on the Racial Slur Database, but I’ve never liked the idea of calling oneself or anyone else an “oreo”, to denote that one is black on the outside and white on the inside. It’s one of those epithets like “sell out” or “house Negro” or “Oreo” whenever someone breaks with our accepted group think, be it via philosophy, idea, or political agenda. And like “nigger”, I don’t believe anything is reclaimed by using it yourself to describe yourself.

People always find themselves having to define blackness (I know I’m about sick of being asked “what exactly is “being black”?”), but it’s another symptom of how the idea of race has us twisted up. What does “being white on the inside” amount to? “You talk like us. You look like us. You act like us.”

Like being called bougie, it’s an attempt to pigeonhole a group, people who don’t fit perfectly into some predetermined cultural box, and not allow for (even the biracial among us to) split cultures and interests. As if no one is allowed to like things not seen as “black”. It points to a level of assimilation, having grown up in the dominant culture. It points to how large our class problem is, often trumping our race problem as we assume that only one group can have middle class values or any kind of middle class culture … as opposed to redefining the boundaries of that culture.

Ok, Obama is half white. The next racial draft should be interesting, white people: just how many picks are you willing to give up to get him?

Bougie* Down Productions

“No one ever means bougie as a compliment. It’s never ‘Oh, you’re so bougie!’ It’s ALWAYS a negative trait.”

I guess this starts with a confession: I’m a black nerd. A Dungeons & Dragons playing, Magic: the Gathering crushing, comic book loving, occasional Dream Theater listening nerd. I’ve been thinking about some of the “iterations” of blackness (no worries, this isn’t another round of my Ontological Blackness series). I know how so many folks, within and without of the black community, like to define blackness by some sort of standard of ghetto crackery. But class plays as much a role in defining a culture as anything else, and there is the burgeoning folks whose blackness strays to something more middle class. And for our troubles, we enjoy a different epithet: Bougie.

We’re the folks who get compliments like “You speak so well” or “You’re a credit to the race.” We enjoy that tension of being accused of forgetting where we’ve come from vs. remembering where I’ve come from … but wanting to get the hell out. Look, my soft bougie behind wasn’t built for the streets. Me trying to “be real” would only end up with me being real dead, real quickly.

It’s rare that I’ve actually been labeled bougie. Mostly I’ve escaped that because 1) I’m England born, with Jamaican roots and therefore excused due to cultural differences; and 2) I’m given room because I’m just so much the weird one to family and friends and just about any community I’m dropped into.

Bougie, as an epithet, strikes me as a reaction to the idea of betraying community, a term to keep us in line as we’re policed by other bougies projecting their black insecurities. The Blacker than thou crowd demonstrating their superiority by shaming us back in line. It’s bad enough when I don’t live up to people’s idea of true blackness from inside the culture, but then it can also come from those outside (which strikes me as “you’re not black like the hip hop guys I see on MTv”) which then borders on the ridiculous.

This all points to a class fall out issue as I maintain that we have more a class problem than race problem in country. A middle class white guy has more in common with a middle class black guy than a trailer park living white guy. And don’t get me wrong, I’m barely clinging to middle class as it is. But the “policing” does serve a positive role: it’s a reminder to not separate. It’s a call for all of us to remember that we share the same fate as we are bound by community.

It all comes down to what “being real” actually means. Being real doesn’t mean clinging to some sort of ghetto aesthetic and value system. Allow me to say that me doing down would make me a minstrel, not being real because that’s not close to who I am or what I’m about. And as I look at many hip hop videos, I see enough minstrels to last us for years. No, it boils down to be personal authenticity. Putting on airs, if that’s my attitude, I can take my bougie ass to the back of the bus.

*Bougie as in the short form of Bourgeoisie, taken to mean that someone has a bourgeois personality. By rights, bougie should be “bourgie” – but I can’t stand the r, and if we are going to bastardize the term I would rather bastardize it phonetically. A variation on bougie is siddity.

Cosby’s Call to Arms

I finally got around to reading the transcript of Dr. Bill Cosby’s remarks in commemoration of Brown vs. the Board of Topeka Education to see what the brouhaha was all about. I understand that a lot of my white acquaintances want me to co-sign what he said, having heard snippets of his comments, but with all due respect, what these were were the equivalent of a barbershop conversation. A family conversation where some dirty laundry gets aired in order to possibly work toward a solution. So that’s the context in which I make my comments.

Few people call out the problems. Teenage pregnancy, families without fathers, drugs, and the chasing of materialism without any thought to life in the long term. These are all symptoms of the true state of despair in which too many people live.

I feel like an old man complaining about today’s youth. Maybe I’m mis-remembering the past, but it seems to me that there was a time when black folks lived together in community. That we have someone lost part of our cultural ethic, having gone from marching in order to secure equal education to dropping out of school in record rates and playing “gangsta”.

Too many of us have bought into the lie that we have no choice, that there’s no point to dream, that no one cares. We’ve bought the lie of low expectations. It is intellectually easy to blame racism and the actions of “some” people within the community. Folks may have their own ideas about what “some” may be code for, particularly as an attack on the poor. However, I believe that leaving the conversation behind, not having it at all, or forgetting about the poor is truly attacking them. It may be easier to kill the messenger because that’s sure beats wrestling with the actual problems.

The conversations may be hard; even still, the solutions are easier said than done. But the conversations need to be had. Often and loudly because how we treat the poor defines who we are as a culture and as a country.

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Raising Shadow People

It may have been Vin Diesel who coined the phrase “shadow people” to describe what it means to be part of two different racial groups: how they might look like one race or another, but would feel the pull of each world, not being able to properly identify with either. Derek Jeter, Mariah Carey, Tiger Woods, The Rock, Lynda Carter, Halle Berry, Jessica Alba. You get the idea, all shadow people to one degree or another.

I suppose the dilemma facing the parents of potential “shadow people” is similar to what folks go through when adopting/raising trans-racially; thus, the sleepless nights as we, as parents, try to think ways to ensure that our children find a place of wholeness for themselves. Like any good parent, we want to spare our kids from having to go through unnecessary pain. We don’t want them to have to experience the cultural disenfranchisement, that sense that they have no place. That they don’t belong to either group or aren’t accepted by either group. Too black for some, not black enough for others. While we may aim for them to experience the best of both worlds, life has taught us to prepare for the opposite.

One racial equivalent of the dark night of the soul would be the journey of nigrescence (part of me wrestling with the idea of ontological blackness). I believe it’s important for my children to know both sides of their cultural heritage and be proud of both sides of them while leaving room to explore each. We intentionally keep them in multi-cultural environments, from school to our circle of friends/family to the church we chose to attend.

Our goal is to guide them in their search for “ontological themness” – defining themselves, for themselves, as themselves (as eikons of God) – not hindered by people’s expectations and definitions. Sometimes race can be a journey of its own, a bumpy road laden with historical baggage and the often overwhelming sense of community responsibilities. It’s easy to retreat to what’s comfortable … for the parent. At the very least, I’m there and have been through a version of this. And I want a world of substance for my children, not shadow.

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I’m So Articulate

I don’t sound black.

I get that a lot. I neither sound nor act black by some people’s definition. [I’ve already done the dissection of the idea of ontological blackness (in I, II, III parts) so I’m not going to re-hash that now.] It’s one of the reasons I don’t do reading of my work very often. A good chunk of my family lives in England, another chunk in Jamaica, and the rest live in America. As a consequence, I picked up an ear for accents and write them pretty well. However, having purposefully lost my British accent as a child in my efforts to fit in, I don’t have much of an affect to my speaking. Not British, not Jamaican, not black – and I would sound ridiculous trying to affect one.

Let’s be straight though, when folks talk about anyone sounding black, we know what they mean: ghetto. I took a linguistics course in college and when we got to the topic of Black English Dialect (B.E.D.), she asked me, the only black in the class, to give an example of it. She caught herself pretty quickly (cause I would hate to have to snatch a professor in front of her class) and realized maybe that wasn’t the best way to have that discussion. However, it did lead to a dialogue in why we make such assumptions.

Here’s another one: on a recent episode of the show Boston Legal, Denny Crane (William Shatner) gets in trouble because he tells an applying associate (played by a grown up Urkel) that he doesn’t sound black and thus is a keeper. Shirley Schmidt (Candice Bergen) gives this defense to quell the brouhaha:

My name is Shirley Schmidt, I’m a senior partner at Crane, Poole and Schmidt, thank you all for coming. It’s nice to see you’ll turn out when there’s hard news. Yesterday my partner, Denny Crane, made some regrettable statements, the most offensive being when he told an African-American law student that he didn’t sound black. I know Denny Crane. He is not a bigot. When he used the word ‘articulate’, as I suspect Joe Biden used it, as I suspect our President used it, what he was attempting to convey was that he thought Mr. Givens would play well with white corporate America. The simple but ugly truth is we all look for that. Perhaps unconsciously, perhaps not, but we do. We have a primarily white client base. We hire associates we feel will best appeal to that base. Before you point your finger at us I would invite the media to look at its own industry. Consider the criteria by which you choose your anchors. Denny Crane’s statement speaks not to his own racism but to a much more insidious one that exists in a white collar society that prefers to take its blacks as it takes its coffee, with a little cream and sugar. I’m not proud of it. But until we confront that truth, we will not change it. Thank you all for coming.

Which dovetails with the comment left by Laura:

When you hear someone’s voice you can’t help but try to picture them. I don’t think it is racist to say someone sounds black. You are just being honest, you are saying “when I hear your voice, I picture a black person.” There is a blonde white woman televangelist (I can’t think of her name) who I believe sounds “black” when she preaches. I could also say she sounds “southern,but not twangy, tough but not rude, with an attitude but a strict teaching kind of attitude” but I don’t think you would get the idea as clearly as when I say she sounds “black.” Her preaching doesn’t appeal to me, probably because I am white and I am used to the “middle-class white” vernacular. But when the camera pans to her huge audience, you can see that she has many black followers. How cool, this tiny, blonde white woman leading a huge congregation made up mostly of black people. What does that say? I think it says the same as what “Shirley Schmidt” said above. People are attracted to those people who communicate in a manner they are used to. It is just easier to listen to someone who sounds like you. I think it also shows that we no longer are supporting people based on their similarity to our skin color, but on their similarity to our own lifestyle. Unfortunately our vocabulary has not caught up with us. There just isn’t a word with the same kind of meaning as just saying “black.” And I think saying black carries a nuetral meaning whereas saying “ghetto” or “gangsta” or “thug” are definitely words with negative connotations.

One of the things I hadn’t thought about in my ghetto crackery blog was the idea of speech. When people hear a Southern drawl, much like when they hear B.E.D., there is the assumption of being uneducated. It’s what leads people to ascribe words like “well-spoken” and “articulate” to black leaders they feel comfortable with, as if they are compliments.

Nope, I don’t sound black, so I’ve been told by black and white folks alike. From black people, it feels like the accusation of “selling out”, a warning that I risk being left outside of the community. From white people, there is sometimes an air of condescension, however well-intended it may be meant. Or, it would feel like that if I believed that being black boiled down to how people spoke or dressed. Still, it’s a shame that there is an undertone, even in this very blog, of middle class bourgeoisies trying to put distance between “us” and “them”. And that’s another simple, but ugly truth, one worth discussing further.

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Keeping It Real?

Dear Arbiters of Blackness,

The Blacker than Thou lobby is designed not only to shape and define a people, but also to demand a certain kind of conformity from them – forcing its members to swear allegiance to their side. With that, my new Intake column is up where I question the idea of what it means to “Keep it Real”.

Love,

Maurice (go to my website to direct your hate mail)

P.S.

I was interviewed for a new blog by my friend Lisa Baker that will reflect on various environmental issues, concerns, and events from a spiritual perspective. I was asked about my actual day job, as an environmental toxicologist for Commonwealth Biomonitoring. If you’re so inclined, you can read it here.

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If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say hi, feel free to do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.

Black Self-Image

A teenage girl stirred up quite a bit of controversy with her documentary re-creating Dr. Clark’s doll test that was used to make the case against segregation (in Brown vs. the Board of Education). The results of her experiment every are every bit as tragic today as it was in the 60s. Something in our culture still propagates this destructive (self-)image.

There was a reason for Amiri Baraka having to start a “Black is beautiful” movement and a reason why Ossie Davis said in his eulogy of Malcolm X, “Malcolm was our manhood, our living, black manhood! This was his meaning to his people.” It was about the reclamation of dignity. As the documentary makes painfully obvious, it is important to continue to have conversations and ask questions.

We continue to have debates about racism (what it is and how it affects people differently), reparations, affirmative action and so on. Too many times it is seen as black people wallowing in self-pity, a mentality of victimhood (although some folks also feel threatened by the rhetoric of escaping this victimhood). There is an assumed hubris of knowing the “answers” to the “Negro problem” because, as I will inevitably hear it, black people are too ignorant to work out our own solution.

It’s usually at this point in the conversation that white friends of mine feel unduly put upon. “They didn’t own slaves” and so on. They sometimes get defensive around discussions about white privilege. Why? Because the tricky part about conversations is that we aren’t always hearing the same thing. White privilege is not “all white people are evil.” It is not that all white people are out to get black people. It is not all white people are racist or “benefit” from racism. It is, however, the acknowledgment of the reality that there is a legacy of racism.

I don’t care if you agree with it or not. What I am saying is that there is a point of view, a mindset, a perspective that I’m coming from. Our story is the paradigm from which we operate. You might not “get it”, maybe because your story seems so removed from mine. You could see if you could contribute to the solution. You could see what you can do to challenge your thinking. You could see where you can find and recognize injustice and fight it where you are.

Or you could listen.

Let me try this another way. There is also male privilege in our culture. It doesn’t mean all men are evil or that they hate women. It does, however, point to the (historical) fact that the mentality that went into the founding of our society, that created the infrastructure of the culture we live in, was patriarchal. There is a legacy of patriarchal though that we have to deal with, systemic issues as well as heart issues – neither of which are easily rooted out. From closing the inequality of pay gap between the sexes to sexist attitudes in the work place as “old boy clubs/networks” are dismantled.

It’s the (sometimes perceived) attitude built into the system that causes so many to give up before they begin. It’s why I care so much about images and depictions of black people in news, movies, television, etc. It’s why I keep harping on the power of words. It’s why my mother so impressed upon us why we shouldn’t buy into being told what we can and can’t do. Look at the recent rise of black quarterback. It’s not like black people suddenly learned how to throw the football. The mentality was that black men weren’t smart enough to be a quarterback. So they were steered towards being a wide receiver or a running back. You don’t become “firsts” by buying into old stereotypes and accepting old barriers.

Progress has been made, but some battles still need to be fought. Hearts changed and lingering hatreds rooted out. This year’s Super Bowl marks the first time a black coach (much less two) has coached their team to the championship game. Lovie Smith, when asked about the significance of possibly being the first said that “Progress will really be made when something like this is not news.” The sad fact that he had to then concede was that “we’re not there yet.”

But we’re trying. One conversation at a time.

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