Author: denisethewriter1

I've been a journalist for more than 20 years and have been covering politics and education for most of the time. I see politics as the one Reality Show that we don't watch nearly enough...and yet, it's the most important.

Actually, no…I don’t have to #FeelTheBern

Democratic candidates 2016

Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and the only person guy in the race that cared about cities until he dropped out…

Although it feels like it actually started on Inauguration Day 2013, the race for the 2016 Republican and Democratic Presidential nominations actually began last night with the Iowa Caucuses…or as I like to call it, Beginning Our 21st Century Electoral Process In A Place That Looks Like America Did In The 1700s.

For far too long, the Political Pundit Class has been abuzz with expectation about the Iowa Caucuses, who will win, who will lose, and what this means for the 2016 Presidential Race.

But you’re gonna have to forgive me if I’m already kinda fatigued with the whole process. While that’s been happening earlier and earlier as I experience presidential election years as your Mad (political) Scientist, I think that this year is some kind of record.

Why? Because when our political discourse devolves to the point that people are using terms better used to describe someone you might see on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D,  count me out.

Let me explain.

By now, you’ve met all of the people who hope to occupy 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue when Barack and Michelle Obama move out in 2017.

Until he lost the Iowa Caucuses last night, the Republican frontrunner was Donald Trump,a man who had managed to confound everything I ever learned in Political Science class by angering and offending almost everyone without dropping a point in the polls. He was beaten by Ted Cruz, a man who wishes he had that skill, thanks to Evangelical Christians.

(Am I the only one who finds it odd that the main group in this country that complains about ISIS and Muslim caliphates is the one group that wishes it could get away with creating a caliphate of it’s own?)

Marco Rubio, a guy who appears to have gone to the Sarah Palin School of Being A Public Official came in third, Dr. Ben Carson, who was the frontrunner at one time despite his propensity to compare everything (and I do mean everything) to slavery came in fourth, with former Hewlitt-Packard CEO (and Planned Parenthood video truther) Carly Fiorina, the Man With The Golden Mop, Gov. Chris Christie, and a whole bunch of guys that you’re not hearing a lot about including Rick Santorum, Sen. Rand Paul, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (who was supposed to be the frontrunner) and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who makes too much sense to be considered for the nomination.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a man whose ad based on the Adele song “Hello” is easily the frontrunner for Worst Campaign Commercial Ever, dropped out last night. Paul joined him in the “No Longer Running” category earlier today.

Which brings us to the Democrats.

Anyone who thought that Hillary Clinton wasn’t going to make another run at the presidency after losing the Democratic nomination to Obama in 2008 needs to pass around whatever you’re smoking because it’s obviously the good stuff.

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who was the only person talking about cities, dropped out of the race after falling to third in the Iowa Caucuses last night. What angers me most about that is how he was treated while he was in it….which was like a third eye. I get that in our current media landscape, paying attention to more than one or two things at a time is hard, but if folks would have tried it, the country may have benefitted.

Which brings me to the only person other than Clinton that the media seems to be paying attention to: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. He and Clinton were in a statistical dead heat in the Iowa caucuses, which Hillary won by the skin of her teeth and he currently leads in New Hampshire, another one of those states that determines America’s presidential candidates despite not looking at all like America does anymore.

Sanders, who has spent his entire time in the Senate as an Independent that caucuses with the Democrats, defines himself as a Socialist in a way that indicates that he knows what Socialism actually is. He’s filling basketball stadiums with people who are really taking to his message of breaking up banks, taxing the 1 percent, and providing a free college education and healthcare to everyone.

While I have some folks in my circle of friends that call Sanders’s ideas dangerous, I don’t agree necessarily. Free school for all might make it possible for me to get the last three classes I need for my masters. While I now have health insurance, something that diabetes made hard to get before the Affordable Care Act, single payer, Medicaid for All insurance could work.

But yet, I don’t #FeelTheBern, which has led to some really uncomfortable confrontations with friends of mine who do.

When I point out that much of what Sanders wants to do is going to be tough if not impossible because one or both house of Congress is going to remain in the hands of a Republican majority that’s come real close to committing treason a few times, I’m accused of an having an “irrational hatred” of their candidate.

When I ask about Sanders’s record when it comes to people of color or policies about things I find important like education or cities, I’m either told to “do your research”, something that I’d dare you to tell to a 85-year-old Super Voter, or and this is my favorite, to clarify my so-called “liberal bonafides” because I’m asking questions that make me look like a “shape shifter”.

No. I’m not kidding. I got called that by another Sanders supporter. That kinda did it for me. Like I said, when we’re using terms better suited to an episode of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., it’s a problem.

Now I understand that people are passionate about whom they support politically. I get it. And I also know that because of how passionate you are, you kinda take it personally when someone doesn’t necessarily agree with you.

But as my late Mom always put it, you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar, something that Sanders supporters might want to take into consideration.

I read an article in The Atlantic a while back called “Here Comes The Berniebro”, which was a mostly flattering portrait of the young, mostly White men who are spending a lot of time on Social Media and in the streets to get you to #FeelTheBern.

While in most cases they’re harmless, some of them are, well, pushy.

In another article I read on the website “Jezebel” entitled, “Bernie Sanders’ Campaign is Concerned About the BernieBro” these guys have been going around harassing women who support Clinton and coming for the neck of anyone who questions their candidate, something I’ve experienced first hand.

To be fair, Sanders’s partisans aren’t the only ones doing this stuff. Ever talk to a Trump supporter? Whew! And I spent most of the 2008 Democratic Convention dodging Clinton’s rabid PUMAs (Party Unity My Ass for those of you who may have forgotten) and the vitriol they were bringing.

Like I said, I understand passion. But as someone who spends more than a little time in the Presidential Sausage Making Factory, a registered independent, and someone who reserves the right to demand an eloquent argument for your candidate if you’re trying to get me to support them, it’s time for those who have been resorting to name calling, browbeating, and other less than helpful means to try and push me, and others like me, into the Bernie Sanders Fire Pit to back off.

Otherwise, there may be a run on aloe vera as the Democratic primaries roll on…

Aloe vera, as you know, heals burns…

 

Not Ready To Make Nice…

Charleston-Shooting

She’s visibly angry. You’ve gotta let her stay that way for a while. .

Forgive, sounds good
Forget, I’m not sure I could
They say time heals everything
But I’m still waiting

While doing some interviews for a story that i’m working on about the coverage of the shootings at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, I was interviewing my friend Brian Levin, who runs the Center for Hate and Extremism at California State University-San Bernadino.

We got on the subject of how the victims have been viewed in the media in the case of the church shootings as opposed to how victims of police shootings are generally viewed.

So far, the victims of this crime have been allowed to be, well, victims. There have been no stories about criminal records, bad work habits, or anything else that could be used to say, to paraphrase Fox News’s Megyn Kelly, “Well, they weren’t saints!”

In fact, what’s stood out about this group of victims is how their loved ones have responded to Dylann Root, the man accused of the shooting, Levin said.

“The coverage is showing an aspect of Black America that people are not familiar with if they’re insulated from this community; this strength that comes from grace,” Levin said. “There’s this stereotype of the dangerous and angry black person that people are used to seeing, but we didn’t see anything but grace.”

Grace.

Forgiveness.

Forgive.

Sounds good.

Now as a member of a group of people that has turned the other cheek so much that we might need to avail ourselves of the same kind of group plastic surgery plan that gave Michael, Janet and the rest of the Jackson family all of those nice new noses, the Dixie Chicks “Not Ready To Make Nice” got stuck in my head almost as soon as I got off of the phone with Brian.

That’s because I’ve seen too much of a focus on the grace of forgiveness and not enough on how to process the anger that you need to to get there.

When it comes to the Black community, or communities of color period, there’s a demand for the kind of immediate healing that allows folks to avoid dealing with the things that made us angry in the first place.

That the folks who lost loved ones in this racially motivated shooting were able to offer Roof a forgiveness he didn’t, and probably never would, ask for was significant. I’m glad that they were able to do that.

But you’re gonna have to forgive me (like what I did there?) and a whole lot of other people if a combination of being asked to forgive far too much, being expected to do it, and not being able to demand that kind of forgiveness for ourselves has got us singing “I’m not ready to make nice, not ready to back down, I’m still mad as hell and I don’t have time to go ’round and ’round and “round…”

Because, let’s keep it real here. The last post that I put on this blog was a post in which I talked about how tired I was with seeing people literally get away with murder because the person doing the murdering was a police officer.

So if i was tired from seeing that kind of stuff, imagine how I feel now that we’ve added a 12-year-old kid getting shot to death by police for brandishing a toy gun, a 15-year-old girl dragged to the ground by her hair and handcuffed while attending a pool party, and seeing nine folks gunned down in a church by some joker who’s spent a little too much time sitting in front of the Stormfront website to the mix.

And yet, when we take to the streets, demand that we be treated fairly as a people and make noise when we aren’t, we’re often told to chill. Calm down. Make nice.

But making nice and calming down is generally what happens when you’ve been allowed to heal. Healing can’t happen if you’re not even allowed to be angry. If you want real healing, you can’t force it and you can’t demand it. That’s not how it works. That’s not how any of this works.

So to everyone who keeps telling me that I shouldn’t be an Angry Black Woman like the one holding the sign here, I say this. If you let communities of color go ahead and get mad, healing can begin and maybe through that healing we can start working on things like peace in our communities, the end of police brutality and the end of inequality.

Remember: While Jesus is widely regarded as the Prince of Peace, he didn’t always make nice.

If He can turn over tables and whip folks, cussing out news people while holding an “Angry Black Woman” sign is relatively tame…

Battle Fatigue

...and we're tired. Really tired...

…and we’re tired. Really tired…

On May 24th, I turned 50.

While it was a milestone birthday, it wasn’t really all that big a deal. It felt like 30 with a few extra gray hairs. I still ran around and did things; saw concerts, hung out until the wee hours, all the stuff I did when I was younger.

I’ve been 50 for eight months. I’ve largely enjoyed it.

But I’ve never felt it.

That is, until about 2p.m. Tuesday afternoon.

When the alert went off from the ABC News app on my phone informing me that a Grand Jury in New York City had decided not to indict police officer Daniel Panteleo for the death of Eric Garner, that all changed.

I felt old.

And I felt tired.

Really tired.

I’ve kind of had enough of the reality show version of “How To Get Away With Murder” that seems to have become the relationship between Black men and police.

It was bad enough when Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis got killed by civilians and the police officer who shot Oscar Grant got little more than a slap on the wrist for shooting him.

But in the case of Garner, who was one of five unarmed Black men killed by police in the month of August, a list that included Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, there was a video that not only showed what happened, but showed everyone because it went viral.

(Can we talk about how the guy who shot that video, Ramsey Orta, is on his way to jail? Let me get this straight: You can’t get an indictment for PUTTING someone in a chokehold, but you can get an indictment for someone FILMING you putting someone in a chokehold? Okay…)

The fatigue actually started after spending all night last Monday watching St. Louis County District Attorney Robert McCullough blame social media and the 24-hour news cycle for why he couldn’t get an indictment of Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson for shooting Brown, and the ensuing protest, burning and looting that it caused,

It continued when I read about the shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland while holding a toy gun, being mistaken for a grownup, and coming across a trigger-happy cop who shows that the Cleveland Police Department might want to tighten up its hiring procedures.

Spending time on social media with people who think me so stupid that there’s no way I can focus on obtaining justice and improvement on two simultaneous tracks, meaning that they don’t think that I can concentrate on so-called Black on Black crime while demanding that the police stop shooting my unarmed loved ones, was another source of pounding that my psyche was growing weary of.

By the time I added the fact that we never discuss White on White crime or even acknowledge that it exists by talking about the intra-racial nature or crime, that “thug” has become the new “nigger” and the barrage of non-fact connected bullshit that comes from people intent on excusing the murders of Black men, especially from Black men like NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley and Dr. Ben Carson, the neurosurgeon and future Republican presidential candidate that I’m convinced is operating on himself, I felt like I was in my late, late 40s.

When the Garner decision was announced, I sat at my desk and had trouble keeping my head from just falling down. I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I felt weighed down.

I felt every minute of 50.

As I stared at the New York Times story on my computer, I could feel myself tearing up. Not in a sad way. Or a happy or angry way.

In a weary way.

Because if you ask anyone who is Black people, or loves Black people, we’re tired.

We’re tired of seeing our loved ones shot.

We’re tired of burying our loved ones after they’ve been shot.

We’re tired of hearing that our loved ones somehow deserve to have been shot, even if they’re doing totally normal things like going to the store for candy, walking home with a friend, listening to music at a gas station, or just standing around.

We’re tired of hearing the words “thug”, “demon”, “Hulk” and “scumbag” being thrown at our loved ones, especially if they’re on the end of the gun where the bullets are coming from.

We’re tired of the dehumanization that those buzzwords imply.

in other words, we’re tired of THIS.

This. Shit. Here.

This “We can kill you with impunity and no one, especially the system that we’ve spent years telling you to trust despite the fact that it hasn’t done right by you yet, is going to stop us from doing it,” shit.

Around the country, folks took to the streets after the Garner decision was announced. Some of them, like the folks here in Philadelphia that had a Die-In at our 30th Street Station, had planned these demonstrations to protest the Grand Jury’s decision in Ferguson. They marched, blocked highways (the Schuylkill Expressway was a little more clogged than usual near the 30th Street on-ramp) and disrupted some Christmas Tree lightings, which led to some clutched pearls and complaints of “wrong place, wrong time”.

I’m sorry for your inconvenience. But considering that what folks were protesting was the fact that there are several families that will have one less seat at the Christmas dinner table due to losing a loved one to a police bullet…or a chokehold…you’re gonna have to forgive me for having run out of damns to give.

Once upon a time, I’d have been right out there with the protestors. And maybe I will be again soon.

But right now, my 50-year-old self is too tired to pick up a sign, walk a block, or shout “No justice, no peace”.

Right now, I want to grab all of my male relatives, my Significant Other, and every other Black man , heck, man of color, who has a place in my heart and round them up, put them in a very large room, large enough to do everything they need to do with their lives, and lock the door behind me because if nothing else, I know they’re not safe.

I want to sit down with a cup of hot tea with a shot of brandy in it.

But mostly, I want to cry.

That’s all I really have the energy to do.

June 14, 1994

Read 'em...and weep

Read ’em…and weep

We’ve all been inundated with the phrase “sexual assault” thanks to the seemingly endless parade of women that have accused comedian Bill Cosby of doing it to them.

Some of the reactions to the Cosby allegations led to my going on the Google and finding this graph that talks about sexual assault, what happens when its reported and the kind of justice, or lack thereof, that women generally get when it’s reported.

What I’ve learned from watching how the Cosby accusations have been playing out, especially on social media, is that a lot of people have no clue about the trauma that a woman (or a man) faces when sexually assaulted. They think that if you don’t go to the police or don’t file charges, it didn’t happen. You’re making it up. You had sex with this person, it didn’t turn out like you wanted it to, so you made the charge to get back at them.

It’s been really hard not to tell a whole bunch of people that I otherwise respect that (a) I’m disappointed that you’re that insensitive, (b) I’m disappointed that your that clueless, and (c) fuck you. But I’ve managed to hold my tongue and be respectful enough to stick to repeating the statistics I’ve noted above.

But I’ve gotta tell you. It pisses me off.

Especially since some of the people shoveling this nonsense at me know what happened on June 14, 1994.

On June 14, 1994, I was on my own, meaning that I wasn’t in a relationship, for the first time in five years. My fiancee’ and I decided that his desire for a home cooked meal when he walked in the door wasn’t going to mesh with my desire to be a professional journalist, so we called it quits.

I was doing something that I hadn’t done a lot…I was dating. I’d let folks take me out to dinner or maybe a movie, but I told them that I didn’t want anything serious because once you’ve been engaged, you need to kind of disengage for a while. I wasn’t sleeping around or anything, but there was one guy I had been intimate with.

I went to visit him at his apartment here in Philly on June 14, 1994, just to hang out. I was in the mood to watch TV, maybe snuggle, mostly talk.

But it turned into something else. Something ugly. Something it took me a long time to talk about.

It turned into a sexual assault.

You don’t know just how powerless you are until you find yourself on the wrong end of something like this. There’s a lot of indignity involved. It starts with being forced to do something that you until that moment only associated with desire. Then, there’s the whole power thing.

When he asked me if I enjoyed it, it was all I could do not to take the advice CNN’s Don Lemon gave to one of Cosby’s alleged victims and bite him in a place where teeth aren’t actually welcomed.

All that I wanted to do was leave. Quickly. I wanted to be elsewhere. I wanted to no longer have his smell on my clothes and on my person. I wanted to be where I felt even a little safe.

I wanted to be at home.

Now I know that the next question that some of you are going to have is “Well, why didn’t you report it?”, followed closely by “You were in his apartment. You should have known what was going to happen. You had been with this person before. Consent was implied.”

Those are all good questions…I guess. A little insensitive. A mite ignorant. But logical.

You see, in 1994, Pennsylvania’s sexual assault laws were such that a woman charging someone she knew with a crime like this would have to have bruises or other marks to even get the police involved.

Unfortunately, because I read a story about a woman who had gone through that indignity, I knew that. So I didn’t bother. In fact, I left town…

When he called my parent’s house looking for me, I finally told my Dad. Crying when I heard his name kind of forced that.

And my guess is that every person, no matter how far away they’re removed from that kind of trauma, feels the exact same way.

That’s why the demands for court records, police reports and other proof from people who insist that (a) the allegations against Cosby are a plot to bring down a powerful Black man by a cabal of thirsty White women who didn’t get all they wanted after a one-night stand; (b) it’s a plot to bring down a powerful Black man who is saying things that liberals don’t want to hear (don’t laugh…I’ve heard that…); or (c) it’s a conspiracy of another kind, make my head spin.

You’re telling someone that unless they go into a courtroom and put themselves into a position where their sexual history (but not the history of the accused), and their credibility (but not the credibility of the accused) are laid bare, you’re not going to believe that they were victimized.

And you’re also not going to take into consideration that this trauma is multiplied by eleventybillion when the person at the defense table is a rich, powerful entertainer with a flotilla of lawyers whose mission in life is to flay the accused.

I recognize that there are a few sociopaths out there that make up accusations of sexual assault. I get it.

But in the case of Bill Cosby, a conspiracy this large would require a hell of a meeting.

So how about if we stop allowing sexual assault to be the only crime out there in which the victim is automatically assumed to be lying?

As someone who’s gone through that kind of trauma, I’d really appreciate it.

“Stakes Is High”

You ever get a song stuck in your head?

It’s usually because it’s something that you just heard. For example, I had Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” stuck in my head for a solid week. Because of this, I believe that Samsung is the Devil and I will never buy their products. That was torture.

But last Wednesday, “Fancy” was replaced by DeLa Soul’s “Stakes Is High”.

Now I love DeLa Soul and “Stakes Is High” is a ringtone on my phone. But, that’s not why it’s been on a continuous loop in my head since Wednesday.

It’s because I’ve seen pictures of a young, dead Black boy lying in the street after being shot by a cop.

It’s because he was unarmed.

It’s because he was the fourth unarmed Black person this month who came across an armed White person, in all four cases a police officer, and wound up with a tag on his toe at the morgue.

It’s because this incident has caused a suburb of a major American city to blow up and take the First Amendment of the Constitution with it, reminding a lot of people of what was going on the year I was born, 1964.

It’s because if we’ve learned nothing else from everything that’s happened since Michael Brown was killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson last Saturday, we should have learned that the stakes are indeed high.

Ferguson residents began mounting protests of Brown’s death on Sunday night. Because protests sometimes attract people who have the wrong idea of what protest is about, windows were broken, looting happened, and fires started, all stuff that can make the police kind of take a dim view of your chosen mode of expression.

But I didn’t know just how dim of a view the police were taking until I saw this on my Twitter feed on the way home from work on Wednesday:

American tank

No, you’re not imagining things. That’s two soldiers. On a tank. Brandishing semi-automatic weapons and combat gear. In a suburb in a major American city.

Not in Afghanistan. Not in Mozul. In a suburb of St. Louis. Home of the Cardinals. Not too far from where St. Louis Rams rookie Michael Sam hopes to make history as a pro football’s first openly gay player.

Kinda stops your gaze, doesn’t it?

When I came home and started seeing folks getting tear gassed, including an AlJazeera reporter doing a live shot, I kinda knew I wasn’t going to sleep. You don’t want to see peaceful protestors getting hit with tear gas, especially when they’re standing in their own front yards.

In fact, so much tear gas has been flying around Ferguson that residents have been getting advice from Palestinians on Twitter on how to handle being tear gassed.

(Use Coke or milk to clean your face. Water just makes it burn worse….)

But that this was happening is yet another example of just how badly the powers that be in Ferguson have handled this situation from the very beginning.

From not allowing medical professionals to tend to Brown quickly enough to save his life, to leaving his lifeless body to bake in the sun for four hours, to not releasing Wilson’s name or his incident report, to hiring the all-White public relations firm that just made matters worse, this has been the gang that can’t shoot straight.

And they really screwed up when they started arresting reporters. Between last Wednesday night and the time I’m writing this, 15 folks who do my job found themselves hearing the “clink-clink” sound from “Law and Order”…

(Not really…it was more like the “rippp” of a zip tie, but you know what I mean…)

Now I guess I should get to the reason why “Stakes Is High” has been stuck in my head. Why the stakes are high. Why attention must be paid and paid now.

As I mentioned earlier, Michael Brown was the third of four unarmed Black men who came upon an armed White man and ended up dead this month.

This month.

As in August.

And August isn’t over yet.

Last Monday night, Ezell Ford, 24, was shot in the back by the Los Angeles Police Department. Police say that he lunged for an officer’s gun, which kind of makes me scratch my head considering the whole “shot in the back” thing.

John Crawford, of Beavercreek Ohio, was looking at an unloaded BB gun at a WalMart in his town and got shot to death when he didn’t put it down quickly enough. Being shot while looking at a BB gun in a place that sells BB guns usually doesn’t happen, but it happened here.

And yes, I’m including Eric Garner’s death at the hands of a New York police officer in this. He may have died of a chokehold, but the cop was armed.

But when these things happen, another process inevitably starts, and we’ve seen it too this week:

A young, unarmed, Black man and White armed person get into confrontation.

Unarmed Black person dies.

Blacks get mad and take to the streets.

Authorities, aided by certain media outlets, take apart dead Black person’s life to find whatever can be found to try and paint this person, who is not there to defend his or herself, as a “thug”, and thus deserving of being shot to death.

(In Michael Brown’s case, it’s a combination of stolen cigars and pot in his system. And can someone tell me where folks are getting this weed that makes people violent? Most of the weed heads I know don’t want to attack anything but a cheesesteak when they get high…much less a cop…)

The trial of the person who did the shooting becomes a referendum on the “Innocence” of the person who’s been shot, and that’s only if charges are filed and the person goes to trial at all. Which leads to…

…the person who did the shooting getting off and Black parents left to give their Black male children a list of things they’re not allowed to wear or do in order to keep from being shot by people who are already so terrified by your very existence that you could be walking down the street in a suit carrying a briefcase and you still might catch a bullet.

This, of course, also leads into the whole “What about Black on Black Crime?” thing. You see, Black folks aren’t allowed to worry about the deaths of four unarmed Black men at the hands of the police and the deaths of young men in their neighborhoods at the same time. Oh, and White on White crime doesn’t exist. Or at least that’s what we get told in so many words.

Now if that’s not enough, here’s some statistics that we need to pay attention to: Ferguson is roughly 60 percent Black. Yet, the Mayor is White, the Police Department is predominately White, and so is City Council. How’s that happen in a place that’s 60 percent Black, you might ask?

Voter turnout in the last election was a lofty 12 percent.

Twelve percent.

Okay…

I wish that I could say that Ferguson’s the exception, but it’s the rule unfortunately. And because of this, Black folks, despite having one of us in the Nation’s Highest Office, are still catching Hell. We have to remember that politicians, like just about anyone else in  customer service, do their best work for the people who support them.

To make sure that you don’t have police departments that do this kind of thing and invent the kinds of cover ups that would make most novelists jealous, you have to make sure that people are accountable to you. The best way to do that is by voting.

That and following up with being a pain in the behind to the people who get elected, whether you vote for them or not.

When people believe that they can do anything they want to you, and that you’ll do nothing because you’re so distracted by reality television, or what’s going on in Jay Z and Beyonce’s marriage that you’re not paying attention, they’re going to take advantage.

And if you’re not careful, that advantage taking is going to occasionally come in the form of people getting hit with tear gas in their front yards in a suburb of a major American city.

The stakes is high folks.

It’s time we acted like we understand that.

I’ll leave you with the video for “Stakes Is High”. You might recognize some folks…

“Lawd Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus…

"Someone's showing some love to their Lord and Savior!"

“Someone’s showing some love to their Lord and Savior!”

On Thursday night, I made it a point to be at home and in front of my television set so that I could watch the newest contribution to Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim lineup, “Black Jesus”. In this show, Jesus has returned to Earth, is living in Compton, California, and is drinking 40s, smoking weed, and otherwise “keepin’ it real!”

Now because I was a big fan of “The Boondocks” and the humor of creator Aaron McGruder, I was interested in seeing how a show called “Black Jesus” would turn out under his watch. It had some funny moments, but it’s got a lot of room for improvement.

I’ll probably tune in to this week’s show because I usually give shows a three-episode tryout before I just write them off.

But what I’ve found even more interesting than the concept of “Black Jesus” is how people, particularly Black people, have reacted to the concept of “Black Jesus”.

As I sat in front of my computer and took notes on the show for this blog posting, my brother Dennis came into the room and saw what I was watching. His response to me was “Denise, turn that blasphemous mess off!”

Blasphemous.

He wasn’t the first person to say that to me, by the way. I had a lot of Christian friends who refused to even look at the trailer for “Black Jesus” because they felt that it defamed their Lord and Savior by its very existence.

Heck, One Million Moms even called for a boycott.

Now I understand that to a lot of people combining “Jesus” and “Irreverent humor” might be a bit much.

But experience has taught me that this isn’t about the humor as much as it is about something else.

What is that something else, you might ask?

The Blackness.

If you want to start a fight with Black folks, and you’ve grown tired of touching the Third Rail of Black Entertainment that is Beyonce’, inferring that Jesus may have been Black will do it. Guaranteed.

I know this from experience….

When I was a student at Temple University, I took a course in the African American Studies department called “The Black Church”. My professor, Dr. Daudi Azibo, taught us about the connection between Black folks and religion. It wasn’t a class for the faint of heart…especially since among the things he taught us was that Jesus was Black.

Since most of the pictures I had seen of Jesus before that class were pictures that showed him as not only White, but as a strawberry blond, I found it kind of interesting.

Especially since I still remembered the time that someone brought a painting of Jesus that had him looking less like Max Von Sydow and more like Marvin Gaye into the house.

My Dad was not amused. If I remember correctly, it spent maybe two weeks hanging on the living room wall before it was relegated to the basement. I believe the words “that mess” were used to describe it.

So when I came home talking about Jesus being Black, well, I got the usual reactions that people get when you put “Black” and “Jesus” together.

  • You’re relying too much on education and not enough on faith when you say stuff like that.
  • Jesus doesn’t have a color. He loves us all.

And my personal favorite…

  • It doesn’t matter…

Okay…

Now let’s be honest here. When you look at the part of the world that Jesus is said to have come from, there’s no way He could resemble Sean Penn as Jeff Spicoli in “Fast Times At Ridgemont High”

Whether you like it or not, the Middle East is a part of the African Continent. And guess what the African continent is filled with…?

You guessed it! Africans!

So logic would tell you that Jesus was….Black…

(By the way Aaron McGruder, putting your Black Jesus in a straight, light brown wig is just one of the things that kinda made folks give your show the side-eye. Thought you might want to know that…)

So if we’re looking at this logically, or with any kind of knowledge of anthropology or geography, why is it that Black folks have an issue with Jesus being Black?

I kinda have an idea…

It’s a self-esteem issue.

Christianity may not be exactly the same everywhere in the world, but it has one very important thing in common: It was brought to people by the same people who write history books; the Victors. If you’ve been colonized, you don’t get to decide what your deities look like.

The deities are gonna look like the Victors.

And so is just about everything else.

That includes your political leaders, or has everyone forgotten how Political Blackworld looked at early supporters of President Barack Obama like they had two heads…and how it required the approval of Whites to get them on board?

If you don’t, I can remind you…I still have the stories…

Now if you’re a people that has been taught that everyone who has dominion over you, including your deities, looks a certain way, someone suggesting that this isn’t the case is going to lead to some cognitive dissonance…Your belief, and this new knowledge are going to fight.

Which is why I say that introducing the concept of a Black Jesus is a sure-fire argument starter. The cognitive dissonance it creates makes the whole “Black President’ concept look like a walk in the park.

Now I don’t know how this gets resolved. Or even if it can.

But if you want to call “Black Jesus” blasphemous, ask yourself this question: Is it the fact that Jesus is sitting around drinking 40s of Malt Liquor that’s making you feel that way or is it that Jesus is Black?

I’m hoping that McGruder addresses this question in a future episode…and that I remain interested enough to see how he does it…

This Woman’s Worth…

The Poster Children For Sending A Bad Message...

The Poster Children For Sending A Bad Message…

Over the last few years, the National Football League has been trying to attract women by having breast cancer awareness games, and fun events, like my friend Tashyra Ayers’ “Female Football Frenzy” benefit for the American Heart Association.

But it’s going to take a lot more than a bunch of guys wearing pink gloves and shoestrings in October and an appearance from a hunky wide receiver at a benefit to get the taste of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s latest move out of women’s mouths.

On Thursday, Goodell announced that Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice would be serving a two-game suspension for abusing his fiancee’, now wife, Janay in an Atlantic City hotel in February. He’ll also be paying a $58,000 fine and getting some counseling. He’ll also lose more than $500,000 in game checks.

(Or as I like to call it, his Petty Cash…)

“This league is an entity that depends on integrity and in the confidence of the public, and we simply cannot tolerate conduct that that endangers others or reflects negatively on our game,” Goodell said in a letter he sent to Rice telling him of his suspension. “This is particularly true with respect to domestic violence and other forms of violence against women.”

This is a strongly worded letter…for a two-game suspension..

Okay…

But in some light of some other punishments meted out by the league on a few other, not as blatant offenses, I’m a little confused.

So let me get this straight.

In the NFL, killing dogs as part of a dogfighting ring, the offense committed by New York Jets quarterback Michael Vick, gets you first suspended indefinitely, suspended for four games once you’re reinstated, and earns you the permanent enmity of a whole lot of misguided pet lovers.

Shooting yourself in the leg at a nightclub, the offense that put former New York Giants receiver Plaxico Burress on the hot seat, gets you suspended for four games.

Taking a fertility drug in hopes of helping your wife get pregnant, the faux pas that has Indianapolis Colts linebacker Robert Mathis riding the pine, gets you suspended for four games.

But decking your fiancee’ in a casino hotel, dragging her into an elevator and making her sit through a press conference that probably made Kobe Bryant’s wife Vanessa say “Damn! That sucks!” costs you four games and about $500,000.

No wonder Janay Rice looks like she hasn’t got a damn left to give. If I don’t stop scratching my head so hard, I’m gonna need stitches.

Now from everything I’ve read about Ray Rice, the whole “beating the snot out of my significant other” thing is out of character.

But my guess is that it’s not as much “out of character” as it was “finally got caught”.

According to the Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community, one-third of all women who have experienced a severe instance of domestic violence will experience another similar event in the same year. African Americans also make up one-third of the intimate partner homicides in the country.

I would be willing to bet my last dollar that Goodell took none of what I just mentioned into consideration when he made his decision.

Now let’s be honest here. The NFL has got a whole lot of issues. In addition to the whole “One of our teams is named for a racial slur” thing, the NFL has a culture of sexism bordering on misogyny.

There, I said it. And I meant it too.

From the cheerleaders for my beloved Oakland Raiders being forced to sue for their pay to the rather ridiculous hygiene rules placed on the Buffalo Bills’ pom-pom wielders, what women have to put up with to be involved with football makes my feminist skin crawl.

And don’t even get me started on the beer-and-testosterone-soaked shenanigans in the stands. Or the way that players use women like napkins. Or the fact that the marriage vows for most of the players should have written on an Etch-A-Sketch.

But if the league is serious about getting women (and their money) into the stands to keep the billions flowing in, it can’t afford to add “tolerance for domestic violence” to that mix.

Because like a woman who’s had enough, we’ll get up and walk away.

You Don’t Own Me…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overprivleged asshole in BMW

 

Nice car…for an asshole…

You don’t own me,

I’m not just one of your many toys

You don’t own me,

Don’t say I can’t go with other boys…

You’re not gonna find a whole lot of Lesley Gore on my I-Pod. In fact, the version of this song that I found myself listening to after reading about Elliot Rodger’s “Cute, Blond Girls Don’t Like Me, So I’m Gonna Kill Everybody” rampage on Memorial Day Weekend in Isla Verde, California was the version performed by Dusty Springfield.

But that song came immediately to mind when I saw some of the reactions to what he did….and the justifications he gave for doing it in a manifesto that you won’t catch me linking to or quoting here.

You see, Rodger felt that because he was a 22-year-old virgin who had never been kissed (his words, not mine) that he had the right to go around throwing drinks at men of color who got the cute, blond girls who wouldn’t give him the time of day, filling a Super Soaker with orange juice and shooting it at happy couples sitting in the grass at parks, and ultimately killing six people and wounding 13.

I can only imagine how many times he got the crap kicked out of him for all of that drink throwing. I can also imagine what a royal terror he would have been with a case of 2 liter bottles of Coke at the Kanye West/Kim Kardashian wedding. Too many blonds with Black dudes. So little time…

Now I’ve dealt with entitlement a lot over the last few years. As an adjunct professor, a media arts teacher, and as a plain, garden variety woman, I’ve heard the words “I deserve” so much and in so many different ways that if I had a nickel for all of the embodiments of that particular two word phrase used to assault my ears and sensibilities, I could retire. Comfortably. And become George Clooney’s neighbor in Italy.

But it’s the sense of male entitlement that seemed to come streaming out this weekend that put the Lesley Gore/Dusty Springfield classic in my head.While we talk about the sense of male entitlement that allows rappers to grab their crotches and call for their “bitch”, we tend not to talk about the kind of male entitlement that led Rodger to become a drink throwing, Super Soaker shooting, mass murdering Manzilla.

So that’s what we’re gonna talk about.

And don’t tell me what to do,

And don’t tell me what to say,

And when I go out with you,

Don’t put me on display, ’cause

You don’t own me,

Don’t try to change me in any way

You don’t own me,

Don’t tie me down because I won’t stay…

It seems that Rodger had an issue with women putting him in the “friend zone” in favor of men that he viewed as less than the “supreme gentleman” he saw himself as.

In his world, somebody needed to feel the wrath for that…

“You girls have never been attracted to me,” he said. “I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me. But I will punish you all for it. It is an injustice, a crime.”

Now let’s keep it real for a second, shall we, because I’ve heard this complaint from more than a few so-called “nice guys” and “good dudes” in my life.

I put the following on my Facebook page on Sunday:

“Okay, let’s think about this a minute.

If I had a nickel for every man who has stuck me into the “Friend Zone” since I started noticing boys, and I’m including the guys wanting to stick me in the “Friends With Benefits Zone”, I’d have been able to quit working about 15 years ago. If I add the guys who decided that I was only “friend” material in favor of a girl who ended up putting them through a rash of crap, I could have shaved off another five years. But while I’m pretty sure that many of the menfolk who are my Facebook friends see themselves in my remarks, and you should, I never felt like I was so entitled to you that I felt justified killing you and all of your kind. Most women don’t.”

And that’s kind of the bottom line, isn’t it?

Most women would accept their space in the “Friend Zone” with as much grace as you can muster when you get your heart broken. She may not return your calls for a while. She may block your Facebook posts or even unfriend you. She might even decide that since being your friend means having to sit and watch you be affectionate to someone who isn’t her, it might be time for her to make some new friends. It’s not that she doesn’t care about you anymore, it’s that she’s (a) protecting herself and (b) doesn’t want to be the dour one in all of the pictures.

(Heck, when the Girl Your Mama Warned You About turns out to be, well, the Girl Your Mama Warned You About, she’ll even listen to you when you cry. You’re gonna have to take some snark with that shoulder, and when she thinks you’re strong enough to hear it the phrase “I told you so” will come out, but hey, nothing in life is free…)

But if it’s a choice between killing you and going shopping, most of us are hitting the mall because we realize that we’re not entitled to you.Women are pretty much taught early on that we’re not entitled to much.

(And besides, we’ve probably gotten a hold of your credit card number so when you see the $1,400 Louis Vuitton bag charged on it, don’t say you weren’t warned…Just kidding…I think…)

But let me get back to my point here, which is while we don’t like rejection, we can take it.

Sometimes, because even the “nicest” guy often feels he’s entitled to a girl and that this girl is somehow deficient if she doesn’t return his affections,  you can’t. And that becomes problematic.

There’s a hashtag that’s been burning up Twitter since the shootings on Friday called #YesAllWomen. Tweets launched under this hashtag talk about the various ways that male empowerment has meant bad things for women. Stuff like “no” being thought of as a starting point for sexual negotiations instead of the declarative sentence it is; being catcalled on the street and getting called all kinds of things when you say “Don’t talk to me like that!” and the fact that I have to protect myself from being raped because for some reason you as a man were never taught that “taking” what you want from me without my permission is against the law.

The men viewing the Tweets from this hashtag fall into three pretty distinct camps:

*The men with daughters who are saddened to see that women go through all this. They are ready to whip their sons into shape around these issues if they haven’t already and in addition to whistles for their wives and daughters, they have also bought a 9mm Glock pistol that they have no problem using if you mess with any woman they love, from Mee-Maw right on down to that cousin who claims to be putting herself through college by twerking…..

*The men who see Rodger as a guy that might not have done this if he had used their method for picking up women…more on that later…and

*The men who think that these killings and the reason Rodger gave for them should send the following message to women: “Be nice to us…OR ELSE!!”

I don’t tell you what to say,

And I don’t tell you what to do,

So just let me be myself,

That’s all I ask of you…

I learned something this weekend through the coverage of the Isla Verde murders.

Apparently, there is a Pick-Up Artist Community. Who knew? I didn’t even know that people still did all of that “Here’s my manual on how to pick up women in bars” kind of stuff anymore. I guess it’s because I find myself laughing my ass off at these over cologned, tight pants wearing, driving my fancy car back to my Mama’s basement freaks of nature as they approach anything that moves and a few things that probably never did.

But apparently they do. And more than a few PUAs, an abbreviation that I heard on an episode of “The Closer”, but never thought I’d actually hear in real life, weighed in on how lives could have been saved if Rodger had learned how to up his “game”.

“Until you give men like Rodger a way to have sex, either by encouraging them to learn game, seek out a Thai wife, or engage in legalized prostitution—three things that the American media and cultural elite venomously attack, it’s inevitable for another massacre to occur,” said Roosh, a poster on the “Return of Kings” website. “Even game itself, as useful as it is on an individual level, is a band-aid fix upon a culture which has stopped rewarding nice guys while encouraging female whoring to benefit only the top 10% of alpha males, all in the name of societal progress. Game is a tiny release valve on a cultural pressure cooker where meaningful relationships have become sick, fractured, and unfulfilling compared to the time of our grandparents when traditional sex roles existed. Game may not have led Rodger to find his dream girl and live happily ever after, but it would have given enough results to stop him from killing six innocent individuals and himself. Until you allow and encourage all men to get sex by some means, these massacres will be more commonplace as America’s cultural decline continues.”

(What I do for this blog…)

And because there is a Pick-Up Artist Community, there is an Anti-Pick-Up Artist Community. Again, who knew?

Rodger was a part of the Anti-PUA sect. In fact, he was a frequent poster to the site PUAHate…

But while they call themselves haters of PUAs, a lot of their rhetoric was as misogynist as the stuff that Roosh feels the burning need to share with us. In fact, a poster on PUAHate’s Reddit page (the PUAHate site and Twitter feed itself have been shut down), asked “Will American women become nicer as a result of today’s events? People in New York were nicer after 9/11…”

And then there’s this conversation…

“It’s ridiculous that people keep accusing Elliot Rodger of being a misogynist and bellyaching about how misogyny and violence towards women is so horrible. Out of the 7 people who died, the majority (5) were guys. He killed his two roommates and whoever the third guy was, and then he killed a random guy on the street and then he killed himself. If anything, the stories should be about how dangerous it is for men out there.”

“Yes. That’s how society is. If an event happens in which 1000 men die and one woman’s hat is blown off, it’s an attack on women. Never mind the penis-havers. They’re barely even human. Remember, in any disaster: “women and children first” to safety.”

Wow. I’m amazed that women aren’t beating each other up for the chance to get with you guys!

If I’ve noticed anything in the Age of Obama, and believe me there’s been a lot for me to notice, it’s that we’re real close to being the America that the late Gil-Scott Heron talked about in his classic “B-Movie” where we’re decrying women’s rights, civil rights and gay rights as “all wrong”.

Especially when some rich guy, or a Black guy with a bunch of Ivy League degrees, blows the lid off of your privilege.

I’m young, and I love to be young,

I’m free, and I love to be free,

To live my life the way that I want,

To say and do whatever I please…

There seems to be a trend toward putting people in “their place” these days.

But here’s the thing about putting people in “their place”. Usually, its them who decide what that place is.

When Michael Sam kissed his significant other after becoming the first openly gay man drafted into the National Football League, he was saying that the NFL is my place, and this is the person I want to share this moment with. If you have a problem with it, kick rocks.

When the moving vans brought Barack and Michelle Obama and their family into the White House six years ago, they were saying, to paraphrase Diana Ross, “It’s our house, and we live here…”

And when a woman tells a man like Eliot Rodger that she’s not interested, she shouldn’t have her life threatened, or have to pay with her life for that.

Because, and I say this to the PUAs, the PUAhaters, and all of the arrested adolescents who believe that you have a right to any woman you want, you don’t own us. You never did.

It’s 2014. I thought that you would have picked up on that by now….

I leave you with the sounds of Dusty Springfield…

The Wrong Legacy

Image

Will the last student of color at the University of Michigan please turn out the lights? Thanks!

It’s the weirdest things that jog your memory sometimes.

For example, the latest pronouncement from the Supreme Court regarding the use of race as a criteria for collegiate admissions made me think of a lawsuit filed by two Howard University students against Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

The students, Lauren Cofield and Laurin Compton, sued the Howard Chapter of AKA because they were denied admission to the sorority despite the fact that both of their mothers were members, thus making them legacies of the chapter.

I asked my Significant Other, a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, if being a legacy meant that you automatically got into a fraternity or sorority. He said that while it gets you noticed, it’s not a guarantee.

The suit was filed in 2013 and according to the last story I read on it, a piece in the Huffington Post, the students’ mothers (and co-plaintiffs in the lawsuit), Lessie Cofield and Sandra Compton, had their privileges within AKA, the sorority in which they are members, suspended.

With allegations of witness tampering and other things, according to the Huffington Post story, this suit could get really, really ugly before it’s done.

But then again, anytime that privilege, be it the privilege of entering a sorority or the privilege of entering a university, gets threatened, those who enjoy that privilege, or think they should, tend to go for the mattresses.

I bring this up because I believe that this Supreme Court decision does what Supreme Court decisions do best these days when it comes to racial issues: take what is seen by some to be a “privilege” due to race away while keeping a true “privilege”, like for example legacy admissions, intact.

Or, put another way, it balances so-called “fairness” in collegiate admissions on the backs of potential students of color.

In case you missed it, the Supreme Court decided by a vote of 6-2 (with Justice Elena Kagan abstaining) to allow the State of Michigan’s constitutional amendment making it illegal to consider race in college admissions to stand. One of the consequences of the amendment is that the percentage of minorities on public university campuses, such as the University of Michigan and Michigan State, has dropped by 25 percent.

In her 58 page dissent to the ruling, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who must have really been pissed because writing 58 pages of ANYTHING on purpose requires passion, said that while the Constitution doesn’t guarantee people of color and women anything in the political process, “It guarantees that the majority may not win by stacking the political process against minority groups permanently.”

And let’s face it, that’s kind of what rulings like this do. The folks that make decisions like this don’t take into consideration the fact that people of color and women are basically competing on an uneven playing field. It’s like playing a baseball game in which the opposing team gets spotted 10 runs in the first inning and you have to catch up somehow knowing that you’re always going to be 10 runs behind.

Even if you had a team made up of Major League sluggers of color like Ryan Howard, Albert Pujols, Hideki Matsui and David Ortiz, you’re still not gonna catch up unless the disparity is recognized.

Which brings me back to legacy admissions. Former President George W. Bush is never gonna be confused with Albert Einstein, but he got into both Harvard and Yale.

How? Because his father, former President George H.W. Bush is an alum of both schools. Thus, he’s a legacy. Thus he got the privilege of admission that includes.

Basically, he was born on third and thought he hit a triple, something that the students most impacted by the decision that pissed Justice Sotomayor off so bad she killed 58 pages worth of trees can’t say.

And that’s unfair…even if the conservatives cheering this decision want you to think otherwise.

So let’s do this.

Let’s remove all preferences. Let’s make it so everyone, and I do mean everyone, who applies for college admission has to do so knowing that their merit and their merit alone will be the only criteria judged.

No more Affirmative Action? Fine. But let’s have no more Legacy preferences either. You’re a bright kid. You don’t need those extra points you get from Mummy or Daddy’s degree from the school of your choice, right?

I know this is wishful thinking on my part because the folks who champion “merit-based” everything know that if it were applied to them, things would get ugly.

Maybe for them to understand how wrong they are, and how much of an advantage they’ve enjoyed without realizing it, it needs to.

What Becomes A Feminist Most?

The flexibility of feminism...

The flexibility of feminism…

I’m going to start off by apologizing profusely to those readers of The Mad (political) Scientist that were hoping to see the 2013 People Who Need To Be Punched In The Face Awards as the first official post on our new WordPress.com site. The nominations have been made, the votes have been counted, and the Sluggos are all set…

But as I was getting ready to let you know who you, my readers, picked to get a figurative (not literal) punch in the face, I found myself involved in a discussion of feminism, feminists of color, and who gets to identify themselves as such….

Or at least that’s how it started. By the end of the day, I had read another piece that made me want to tell everyone having this discussion to shut the hell up…especially if you bought a copy of R. Kelly’s new album Black Panties. If that, or anything else from R. Kelly, is in your record collection, you don’t get to call yourself a feminist anymore. Period. I’m gonna need for you to shut your hypocritical pie hole.

(I like pie hole. I think I may use it more often.)

I’ll start from the beginning.

In case you’ve been in a cave in Afghanistan or pay no attention at all to pop culture, Beyonce’ released a new album on I-Tunes on Thursday. The magnum opus is only available on I-Tunes and includes 17 videos to go with 14 songs (!), many of which are apparently autobiographical. She released it without any studio promotion and because it’s on I-Tunes, directly to her fans. You’ll be able to find it at most record stores around the country on Dec. 20.

It’s actually not a bad idea on her part. Beyonce’ has already sold close to 900,000 copies worldwide and will be coming in to the Billboard 200 at Number One when it’s announced. My guess is that her promotional budget isn’t all that large on this and because she shot a lot of the videos while on tour, travel budgets weren’t that rough and tumble either.

While you expect a Beyonce’ album to ignite a lot of conversation, it’s only one type of conversation that’s kind of caught my interest: a conversation on feminism and women of color.

Editor’s note: I have not heard this album in its entirety, nor have I seen any of the videos in full. You can’t buy singles or individual videos from this album until Dec. 20. Since I don’t have the cash to plunk down on an album that will basically be a review copy for me, I’m not going to discuss the album itself at all. I will, however, be looking at the wider discussion of Beyonce’ and feminism that the album has initiated. So Beyhivers, stand down. I’m not in the mood and when we get to the second part of this piece, you’ll see why. 

I was at home watching a segment of the Melissa Harris-Perry Show on MSNBC when the connection between this album and feminism came up. Harris-Perry and her panelists made the argument that Beyonce’ stands as the entertainer’s “feminist manifesto”. Here’s the segment:

Now the main tune that everyone seems to have focused on in terms of giving Beyonce’ her feminist cred is a  tune that’s been referenced here on the M(p)S before, one we will refer to as The Song Formerly Known As “Bow Down”. For the new collection (I don’t know if I should call it an LP or a CD because you can’t pick it up terrestrially yet…) its been mixed with a speech entitled “Why We Should All Be Feminists” that activist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie gave as part of the TED Talks series and given a new title: “Flawless”.

So because I’m a glutton for punishment, and because Melissa Harris-Perry is someone whose opinion I respect a whole lot, I asked the question “Is Beyonce’ a feminist?” on my Facebook page during the latest East Coast Snowmaggedon Saturday night.

I think that the best initial response that I got to this question came from the lovely and talented Kellie C. Murphy, who blogs a lot about stuff like this. She said, and I quote, “Girl, just go stand outside right now with a key attached to a kite. You’ll go much quicker and easier…” She wasn’t totally wrong about that because,  let’s face it, Beyonce’ is the Third Rail of Black Entertainment. If you touch her, you will be electrocuted…

The answers I got were interesting…and also depended on your definition of feminism.

For the people who were in the “Beyonce’ is a feminist” camp, her new music is a feminist manifesto because it shows a woman who is using her ability to make her own choices to be a performer, a wife, a mother, and in the case of the song “Partition”, a woman who is willing to ruin a nice evening gown by letting her man get it a little messy in the back of the limousine. Anyone who doesn’t realize this is taking things a bit too seriously…or maybe academically…

From the Crunk Feminist Collective: 

“We need to stop acting like a radical feminist is the only kind of feminist to be. I mean look, I’m radical and committed to a robust structural critique. But I appreciate the good few liberal feminists in Congress who show up and actually fight for reproductive rights that can be on the books! As Meek Mill says, there’s levels to the shit. But newsflash – everybody didn’t go to college. So when women of color start waxing eloquent about how our grandmothers and mothers were the first feminists we knew and many of them would “never” use the term, I wonder then why we don’t understand Beyonce’s homegrown brand of feminism – one that honors female friendships, one that recognizes and calls out sexism and domination in her industry, one that celebrates the power of women. No, it ain’t well-articulated radical social justice feminism, but if you need a Ph.D. to be a feminist, then we’ve got bigger problems, folks. AND I’ll take a feminist that knows how to treat her homegirls before one who can spit the finer points of a bell hooks to me all day erry-day.”

(Maybe it’s a bias I picked up from spending so much time listening to the music of The Children Of The Corn, but I had a hard time getting past the Meek Mill section of this critique to get to the rest of it. When you shout out one of the Patron Saints of Rap Music Sexism, you kind of make it a slog…)

On the other hand, some feminists of color (and most traditional, read: “white” feminists) felt that calling Beyonce’ a feminist makes as much sense as calling me an astrophysicist. In their eyes, Beyonce’s brand of feminism is a corporate friendly one that advocates for her freedoms…and no one else’s.

Probably the most provocative essay I read on this came from the blog Real Colored Girls and it caught my attention because any essay that uses Pimp Theory as part of a critique on feminism is going to get the attention of a smart ass like me. The argument that the post “The Problem With BeyHive Bottom Bitch Feminism” makes is that…

Well, let’s let them say it…

“As womanists and black feminists, we have a responsibility to bring it with our cultural work which we will infuse, at all times, with an ethic of care and responsibility. The coontocracy of assimilationist corporate negroes is in full effect, riding for patriarchal capitalist agendas and having us believe that somehow Bey’s success is a step toward some dystopic vision of progress for Black women. There may be empowerment for some folks but by and large it is a false hope steeped in capitalism and individualism, supporting the escapist desires of rampant pornographic consumerism.”

(Can I tell you that “coontocracy” is one of my new favorite words now?)

 As I said toward the beginning of this piece, I can’t really talk about the good or bad of Beyonce’ because I haven’t heard all of it.
But I’ve been a feminist of color for a minute…and I’m a little concerned about the group of newly minted Feminist Beyhivers this album has spawned.
My question is, what happens when their new icon is no longer interested in female empowerment? What happens when Beyonce’, Blue Ivy, and Jay Z finally retreat to that private island that some of us wish they’d go to right now?

What I want my young sisters who are finally starting to embrace what women like Shirley Chisholm, Rosa Parks (didn’t know she was a feminist, did you?) and others have been fighting to get them to understand for years is that feminism is not a pair of Christian Louboutin pumps. It isn’t rolling around in the sand with your baby and your man. It isn’t million selling records. It’s a movement. It has been for a minute. It’s a fight to get poor women equal pay and the contraception they need to be able to choose when they want to have children. It’s making sure that they’re not scapegoated when they ask for help because some in society see their circumstances as problematic. It’s about making sure that they’re protected when they’re being abused and that their abuse is taken seriously.

In other words, It’s a marathon. Not a sprint. And it requires that you fight, really fight, for the sanctity of women and girls.

Some of us do that all the time. There’s an attorney named Gina McCauley who started a blog called “What About Our Daughters?” and has been known to go for the mattresses whenever young Black girls and women are threatened. There’s also folks like Sabrina Lamb, who got the folks at the Oxygen cable network to change their minds about a show called “All My Baby’s Mamas” featuring a rapper named Shawty-Lo and his band of baby mamas, by protesting, getting media attention, and showing the show’s advertisers the error of their ways.

But sometimes, feminists, even feminists of color, drop the ball. When Shirley Chisholm became the first woman to run for president, she was a woman alone. Unlike Hillary Clinton, whose partisans went so far as to say that Black journalists on the campaign trail were so in Barack Obama’s pocket that they received marching orders via telephone every morning when the former Secretary of State  ran for office in 2008, Chisholm was attacked on all sides with no support from the troops. When Michelle Obama was called a “baby mama” on Fox News, “fat” by Rush ‘Why haven’t you gone to Costa Rica yet?’ Limbaugh, and became the subject of a number of gorilla pictures by various right wing groups, the silence from feminists on her behalf was also quite deafening.

But none of that compares to how the group of girls who found themselves victimized by The Chickenhawk That Ate Chicago were treated…

She appears age appropriate at least...

She appears age appropriate at least…

On Monday while everyone was giving far too much thought to Beyonce’, I noticed a story from the Village Voice on my Facebook news feed. The story, done by Jessica Hopper, was an interview with Jim DeRogatis, the reporter that broke the story of what i’ll call R. Kelly’s Young Girl Problem.

While the subject matter caught my attention, I found the 11 times that the story had been shared by my Facebook friends even more interesting. When 11 folks in my circle of friends, a circle that includes journalists, activists, business people and even a few former pro athletes, are sharing the same article, it’s important. The number of share-ers has gone up since then.

And between the story itself, the legal documents, and the Chicago Sun-Times stories that had to be pulled off of Lexis-Nexis because they’re no longer a part of the newspaper’s archives, I made a decision. If you want to call yourself a feminist of any color in my presence, you’d better not be playing music from R. Kelly when you do it. I’d better not see a copy of Black Panties on your I-Tunes playlist.

That’s because we feminists let these girls down. Let them down hard. And I say this because this guy still has a career. If you’re gonna call yourself a feminist around me while dancing to “Step In The Name Of Love”, I’m going to invite you to go to Wrigley Field in Chicago and take as many seats as humanly possible.

The first that we as music listeners heard about Kelly’s proclivities was when Vibe magazine published a copy of the marriage license that he had gotten for himself and the late pop singer Aaliyah. The only problem with that is that at the time, Aaliyah was only 15 and Kelly was 27…

But a fax came to DeRogatis desk at Chicago Sun-Times that said that Kelly had been under investigation by the sex crimes unit of the Chicago Police for two years in connection with allegations that the singer had been going to his former high school and picking up young girls. He’d let them spend time in the studio with him or go to an event with him, and in exchange, he expected sex.

A lot of sex.

Sex in different ways…with different groupings…and with different kinks.

The videotape that featured Kelly relieving himself in a young girl’s mouth was on every bootlegger’s table in 2003. So we all knew about that and I even know a couple of people who’ve seen it.

But apparently that was the tip of the R. Kelly iceberg. There were other tapes. There were other girls.

One of them was forced to have an abortion. Another was so traumatized that she tried to kill herself.

All of them were young, Black girls. Girls who were probably told that if they said anything, they wouldn’t be believed.

The sad thing is, I can’t say that they were wrong to think that.

What’s always disturbed me about this case was the willingness on the part of the Black Community to blame the victims here. These girls were “fast”, as my Mom would put it. They knew what they were doing. They weren’t “really kids”. People need to let R. Kelly alone and let him live his life. They’re just hatin’…

It’s kind of heartbreaking to hear that kind of stuff when it comes to young women of color. But it wasn’t unexpected. My guess is that most of the female Children of the Corn I taught were young girls who got pregnant with the babies they were far too young to raise by someone who should have been told a long time ago that 15 gets you 20…

DeRogatis got that too. “The saddest fact I’ve learned is: Nobody matters less to our society than young black women. Nobody,” DeRogatis said. “They have any complaint about the way they are treated: They are “bitches, hos, and gold-diggers,” plain and simple. Kelly never misbehaved with a single white girl who sued him or that we know of. Mark Anthony Neal, the African-American scholar, makes this point : one white girl in Winnetka and the story would have been different. No, it was young black girls and all of them settled. They settled because they felt they could get no justice whatsoever. They didn’t have a chance.”

Now I hope to never have to say this again, but here it is: There is no such thing as a 15-year-old girl who deserves to have her mouth pissed into by a grown assed man. It doesn’t matter what color the girl is. It doesn’t matter how old she looks. She’s still 15. If you’re over 16 and you’re pushing up on a 15-year-old school girl, that is wrong. You are wrong. You shouldn’t be doing concert tours. You should be doing time.

 And yet, R. Kelly walks free. There’s nothing that we can do about that because the legal system of the City of Chicago has spoken. Kelly was tried and found not guilty of 14 counts of Child Pornography in 2008. (He was never tried for the rapes.)

I’m sorry, but that’s just plain unacceptable to me.

So I say to my fellow travelers in the Feminist Tribe, do you think that you can apply the considerable energy you’ve spend discussing whether or not Beyonce’ is a feminist into trying to get some justice for these girls, even if it’s symbolic?

Because you see, we owe them that. And the note has been overdue since 2008…