Blacks

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…

“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…

Of Slavery, Affordable Health Care, and Crazy Talk…

“I know that getting raped every night by Massa and getting beaten by his wife really stinks, but it could be worse…you could have to sign up for Obamacare!

Because I write about politics, I try to find stuff that takes me away from that topic on my downtime, something that’s become harder to do of late.

Since we have become such a strictly divided populace, everything, even going to a movie, can lead to a political discussion. Last year, the movie The Help angered people because folks found it far too simplistic when it comes to the Civil Rights Movement. George Clooney has made a name for himself producing movies with a political bent including last year’s Best Picture winner Argo.

On Tuesday night, I managed to get a ticket to a movie that is probably going to be much too much for some of you to look at.

The movie was Steve McQueen’s adaptation of Solomon Northrup’s book 12 Years a Slave. 

Now in case you haven’t heard about this picture yet, here’s a little info. The movie stars Chiwetel Ejiofor as Northrup, a free Black man living in Saratoga, N.Y. who makes his living as a musician. He’s hired to play for a circus in Washington, D.C., goes out for dinner and drinks with his co-workers…and wakes up the next morning in shackles, gets beaten when he tries to explain that he’s a free man, and winds up in the hull of a ship with, of all people, Omar from The Wire.

(Actually, Michael K. Williams isn’t in the film that long…but I admit that I did find myself wishing that Omar would show up at various times during this film…)

Throughout the movie, you see the indignities that Northrup and his fellow slaves, especially the women, have to face as part of their servitude. One female slave, Patsey, portrayed by Lupita Nyong’o gets it coming and going between being raped nightly by Master Epps (portrayed by Michael Fassbender) and being abused by his jealous wife.

(Think of the triangle of Olivia, Fitz and Mellie on Scandal, with Mellie being allowed to beat Liv whenever she wants to…)

Most of the movies that have been done about slavery have either featured comedic violence (Django Unchained) or have otherwise glossed over the subject. Until 12 Years a Slave, Roots was about as realistic as we got when it came to the issue of slavery.

This movie is Roots On Steroids. 

When Master Epps takes his whip to Patsey because he feels she’s been “unfaithful” (and because of his wife’s prodding…) it’s with a graphic brutality that made me cover my eyes a couple of times. As blood flew into the air and skin on Patsey’s back was ripped open by the whip, many folks in the audience cringed.

Some walked out.

Others were crying.

Many of us didn’t have the words to describe what we’d seen.

But because I’m a political writer, one of things I thought as I walked out of 12 Years a Slave was “This is one group of folks who could have really used the Affordable Care Act!”

Now what did I mean by that? 

Dr. Ben Carson, a guy that until recently was better known for his accomplishments as a neurosurgeon and for the fact that Cuba Gooding Jr. portrayed him in a movie, spoke to the Values Voters Coalition in Washington, DC.

Because he’s a doctor, the subject of the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as ObamaCare, came up. To most of the folks he was speaking to, this law, which is designed to give people access to health insurance, and thus better care, is the most horrible law ever passed…which is really saying something for a country that can count Jim Crow and the USA PATRIOT Act among its laws.

But while the sentence above might make you scratch your head, Dr. Carson topped it…

“Obamacare is really, I think, the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery,” he said. “And it is, in a way, it is slavery.”

O-Tay…

Now last I looked, no one has been so oppressed by the prospect of going on the Healthcare.gov website and trying to acquire health insurance that they’ve asked someone to help them commit suicide, but slavery? Well, slavery might make you want to do that…

While Dr. Carson’s bon mot is the most recent…and the most ridiculous…example, there’s been this trend over the last six years to compare things and people to some of the most heinous events in world history. 

There are signs that feature President Barack Obama dressed in Nazi garb and wearing a Adolph Hitler-esque mustache. To be fair, President George W. Bush was featured in similar signs. The Confederate Flag is being waved in front of the White House by groups that have been led there by current Congressmen and former Vice Presidential Candidates…

And then there’s the whole health care as slavery thing…

Well at least we all know what “socialism” is…

(Probably not…)

As I was walking out of the Ritz Five theater with my Significant Other and an Old Friend discussing 12 Years a Slave, I came up with a list of observations:

  1. Slavery is in a class all by itself when it comes to brutality. Any circumstance where being Shark Bait is preferable to getting to your destination is a special brand of harsh.
  2. Solomon Northrup could have been spared 12 years of hell if someone had told him what freshmen co-eds in colleges and universities around the country are told every Fall: Watch who you’re drinking around…and always know where your drink is. If you walk away from it, it’s no longer your drink.
  3. Whomever is announcing the Academy Award nominations in March had better learn how to pronounce Chiwetel Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong’o because it’s gonna be important….And…
  4. The next person stupid enough to try and equate anything that doesn’t include brutalizing people for fun and profit to slavery in my presence is gonna get dropped like a bad habit with a right hook. 

  

I especially mean that last one…My ancestors kind of demand it…




Philadelphia Magazine Fight Club

The First Rule of Philadelphia Magazine Fight Club…

I’ve never actually seen the movie Fight Club.


All that I really know about the film is that it stars Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, features people fighting, and, as the picture above would indicate, somehow soap is involved.

But it’s the first movie that comes to mind when I think of the most inaccurately named publication I’ve ever come across, Philadelphia Magazine. 

You see, every year Philadelphia Magazine does something that the student newspaper from my alma mater Temple University, the Temple News, used to do every year like clockwork: piss off the Black community.

Based on this particular story, there’s an irony connected to Temple that I’ll get into a little later. 

But the Fight Club analogy is employed when it comes to Philly Mag’s relationship, or more accurately lack of relationship, with most of the people who live in the city for which it is named….you know, people of color.

The latest fissure in that relationship reared its ugly head on my Facebook feed last week and looked a little something like this…



This was the magazine’s cover story.

(Or actually, this was the cover story unless you were staying in a hotel. Tourists got a copy of Philly Mag with a picture of the lovely wife of local director M. Night Shyamalan on the cover.)

When “Being White in Philly“ hit the newsstands, it became the latest confirmation of Philadelphia Magazine own special thing it calls Let’s Piss off the Black Folks Fight Club.

Now the first rule of this fight club, like the first rule of Fight Club, is that you don’t talk about it…But where Philadelphia Magazine’s Let’s Piss Off All The Black Folks Fight Club is different is that it allows you to talk about it on a television show, radio program, or anywhere else you go to try and explain away some boneheaded thing you’ve done.

And make no mistake, this was a boneheaded article.

This saga of bonehead starts with author Robert Huber fearing for his son’s safety as he drops him off at his Diamond Street apartment near Temple University. Where all of his friends see new development (and where longtime residents seen creeping gentrification), he sees, well, this…

“Driving up Broad Street as I head home to Mount Airy, I stop at a light just north of Lycoming and look over at some rowhouses. One has a padlocked front door. A torn sheet covering the window in that door looks like it might be stained with sewage. I imagine not a crackhouse, but a child, maybe several children, living on the other side of that stained sheet. Plenty of children in Philadelphia live in places like that. Plenty live on Diamond, where my son rents, where there always seem to be a lot of men milling around doing absolutely nothing, where it’s clearly not a safe place to be.”

And the reason why he thinks that nothing’s been done about this is because white folks are afraid to tell black folks that they’re a mess and need to get their act together.

(Obviously, this guy has never had a chat with Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney…)

This lack of “honesty” with black folks on the part of whites is borne of the supposition that race as an issue is only looked at from a so-called “black paradigm” and that while it is also an issue for whites, whites are never asked for their feelings on it…something that Huber goes on to rectify by going to the city’s gentrifying Fairmount section and asking white folks there about their views on race.

From Anna, the law student from Russia who believes that all black men do is smoke pot, make babies and comment on her looks to John, who liked his neighborhood until the blacks moved in from the South with “chips on their shoulders”, to Jen, who’s trying to get her neighbors to try the local public school for their kids and Ben, who stood up to drug dealers to stay on his block, just about all of the possible stereotypes are covered.

And presented in a way that guarantees a donnybrook.

And let’s be honest here. Philadelphia Magazine may say it’s interested in a conversation about race, but what it really wants is a fight.

I say this because of this inaccurately named magazine’s track record. 

Every year, Philadelphia Magazine publishes at least one story that lands it on the Facebook pages of black folks all over the city.

People read the story and get mad.

They have meetings and hold events to try and calm everyone down. In this case, a group of activists from Rising Sons, the Knight Foundation’s Black Male Engagement project, and others  are holding an event in LOVE Park at 4 p.m. on March 20 to show that not all black folks are wantonly procreating while simultaneously smoking weed.

Organizations like the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists, or in some cases even the National Association of Black Journalists, issue a statement decrying the article and the stereotypes it perpetrates. PABJ President Johann Calhoun called Huber’s article “a poor display of civic journalism on many fronts; and irresponsible in its action of race-baiting in creating tension and animosity between Blacks and Whites.”

Civil rights activists like Michael Coard, who writes for the magazine’s blog The Philly Post go H.A.M. (short for Hard As A, well, you know the rest…) on the magazine about the story.

And Philadelphia Magazine laughs all the way to the bank with the money it’s made from all those page views on its website.

Now a big part of the problem here is that the last staffer of color Philadelphia Magazine had was former University of Pennsylvania professor (and current MSNBC commentator) Michael Eric Dyson….a bit of stunt casting that went away as soon as Dyson went to Georgetown University.

Toward finding a way to change that and having a real dialogue instead of a monologue that masquerades as one, PABJ has invited Philadelphia Magazine editor Tom McGrath and Huber to a special meeting on March 19 to hear the group’s concerns on that score.

But I’m not optimistic. Do you know how many times Philadelphia Magazine has probably patted organizations representing journalists of color on the head over this issue? And let’s be totally honest here: both McGrath and Huber have already said that they stand behind this story and all of the stereotypes within it. 

What I would actually like to see people of color do when it comes to Philadelphia Magazine is start a serious “Ignoring Your Dumb Behinds” program. Now what do I mean by that? I mean that I pretend that your grotesquely misnamed publication doesn’t exist. Since I don’t read your magazine, boycotting you isn’t a solution…but boycotting your advertisers is. I’d send letters to your advertisers saying that if you want another dime of my money, you’ll stop putting ads in this bird cage liner with the glossy pages.

In other words, I’ll speak to Philadelphia Magazine in the only language it seems to understand: the language the WuTang Clan…most specifically “Cash Rules Everything Around Me”…

But let me get back to the Temple News aspect of this.

I found it kind of ironic that Huber is afraid of his white, middle-class son going to Temple because this is the kind of student that Temple has been trying to attract…almost to the point where students in the neighborhoods around the school need not apply.

Back when I worked for my alma mater’s Office of News Communications, I found myself saying more than once to my colleagues that if you don’t change the perception on the part of their white, suburban parents, it’s not going to matter. Temple is still going to be seen as this unsafe place surrounded by hostile blacks who want nothing more than to steal and beat up your kids.

Thank you, Mr. Huber, for making this argument better than I ever could.

Too bad it’ll lead to more kids missing out on a really quality education.

But then again, scaring white people back into the suburbs is what Philadelphia Magazine does best…

So in honor of that, I leave you with my favorite financial consultants, the WuTang Clan

My Left Foot

Oops…we did it again…

While most folks had their eyes trained on Houston and Mitt Romney’s appearance before the NAACP Convention, I was paying attention to what was going on in Congress.

The Tea Party Republican House (Don’t get it twisted folks. John Boehner no more runs this place than I do) voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or as some of us call it Obamacare, or as others of us call it, Romneycare. Depends on where you are in the country and how you feel about it, I guess.

It was the 33rd time that the House had decided to vote for repeal. Granted, it probably won’t even come to the floor in the Senate, and even if it did it would probably be vetoed by the White House (and there’d be no override because the votes aren’t there…) but they felt they had to do it. This time, they had five Democrats join them in the “repeal Obamacare” fun…

You’ve gotta admire these folks. Their single-minded focus is nothing short of extraordinary. It’s also one of the best manifestations of the definition of “insanity” I’ve seen in awhile. They keep doing this whole “repeal Obamacare” thing the exact same way, yet they’re probably wondering why the result is never different.

Especially since the U.S. Supreme Court took time out of of it’s busy schedule of giving corporations personhood rights while taking away the rights of unions to politically organize to decide that the Affordable Care Act was constitutional by a vote of 5-4. While Chief Justice John Roberts did no one any favors by using the legislature’s power to tax as a means of justifying the individual mandate that’s needed to pay for much of the ACA, he voted to uphold it.

Usually, a Supreme Court ruling on something means It’s a Wrap!

But not when it comes to the ACA.

As my eloquent friend Dr. Germaine Edwards put it yesterday, the Tea Party Republicans are acting like a little kid who can’t accept no for an answer on this one. They’ve gone to Mom and Dad (voting for repeal), and they’ve said no. They’ve gone to both sets of grandparents (the Supreme Court), and they’ve said no. But they just keep asking….

And now it’s up to 33 times.

From the moment that the decision was announced, folks bandied it about. Reactions from some of my friends ranged from “This is going to bring down the republic” to “This is going to screw the Middle Class”, to “It’s an unfair tax!”

(Granted, the penalty included in the ACA is only directed to those who don’t get insurance, but I’m tired of telling that to folks…The oxygen I’ve expended on this could have gone to just about anything else…”)

But after hearing a hour or so of this shouting, renting of clothes and gnashing of teeth (Yes, it did get kind of Biblical to me after a while), I decided that I had seen and heard quite enough of this.

So I grabbed my I-Phone, went into my bathroom, hit the camera app, and took the following picture:

Yeah, I know. Kinda gross. Don’t have to tell me…

I then put the following caption on it…

“Under normal circumstances, I would never put a picture this personal on my Facebook page. But I think that it’s about time that some of you saw what happens when a person has no access to healthcare. This is my left foot. You know, the left foot that kept me in the hospital for 39 days and nearly caused me to die from an infection? My foot is gonna look like this for the rest of my life. And it could have been prevented by the simple act of allowing me to buy health insurance. Now ask yourself: Should I have to die so that you could make a friggin’ point?”

I guess that I should explain.

To say that 2011 was a monumentally bad year for me would be a cosmic understatement. I found out just what it means to be poor…but not poor enough…in the good ‘ole United States of America. Now I won’t get into all of what happened to me because I don’t really feel like returning to that place, but one of the things that happened to me is that I ended up homeless. As a freelance writer, I have to hustle a lot to get the money I need to survive. I still have $1,700 outstanding from 2011…

When you’re homeless, you sometimes find yourself sleeping in cars, at extended stay hotels, and at other places that increase your costs of day to day living because you don’t have a home base.

When you don’t have a lot of money, and yet have a lot of overhead, something has to give.

Unfortunately, that something was my diabetes medication. While I could afford one of the prescriptions because it was generic, the other was $285. So I couldn’t always get it. In fact, for three months straight, I couldn’t get it at all.

And don’t even get me started on trying to get health insurance. Whenever I’d call an insurance company trying to get help, the minute I’d say “I’m a diabetic”, the phone would go dead.

I knew that eventually it would all come to a head. And in October, around two weeks after my Mom died, it finally did.

My Significant Other and I were on our way out when I got my foot stuck in his car. I pulled it out, we went where we were going, and everything seemed fine. But when I got up the next day, something wasn’t right because my foot really started to hurt.

Then it began to swell. A lot. Eventually it got so big and so painful that the simple act of going to the bathroom required taking painkillers. But I didn’t want to go to the hospital because I didn’t have health insurance, and thus couldn’t afford it.

But once blisters showed up on my foot, and one of them burst, my Significant Other decided that I was going to the hospital, whether I liked it or not.

When the doctors and nurses in the Emergency Room looked at my foot, they looked at me as if to say “You know you’re not going anywhere, right?”

I probably would have laughed at that if it weren’t for the fact that I was rushed into the Intensive Care unit, hooked up to an insulin pump, and given some serious IV drugs. But the blood tests showed that the drugs weren’t working and the reason was that an abscess was keeping the medicine from getting through.

So they had to operate on my foot. And as you can see by the picture, the abscess must have been a real humdinger because they had to cut a big bunch of tissue out. I got to see what the inside of my foot looked like as a result, and it wasn’t pretty. Trust me on this.

I was then given more serious IV drugs with the aid of a PIC line, physical therapy to make sure my other foot didn’t atrophy, was attached to something called a WoundVac that helped get rid of excess moisture in my wound while helping new skin develop, discovered a serious new (for me) painkiller called Dilaudid, given a skin graft (you should see my left thigh), and wound up developing a new appreciation for the show Animal Cops on Animal Planet.

And I wound up getting all of this care in the hospital because if I had tried to do this at home, it would have cost me the equivalent of what it would cost to produce a small independent film…The WoundVac alone was $500 a day to rent without insurance.

I was able to go home 39 days later a now insulin-dependent diabetic who was hit with a nearly $500 bill for medication that I was able to pay thanks to an inheritance.

(Thanks Mom…)

While I was in the hospital, I was cared for by a group of really good doctors and nurses. Among those folks was a group of residents from my alma mater (Temple Owls are indeed everywhere…) who were budding podiatrists.

They were also the most honest with me. One of the residents told me as he changed my WoundVac dressing and marveled at my recovery, that he was glad that I was doing okay now, because I really wasn’t when he first saw me.

To be exact, he said, “If you had waited another day or two to come in here, we wouldn’t have been able to do anything for you. The infection would have traveled through your blood stream and you would have died. We’re glad that you’re grateful that we were able to save your foot, but that wasn’t our concern. We didn’t care as much about saving your foot as we were about saving your life.”

My life.

Over an infection?!

Ain’t that some shit?!

Now you might think that this kind of thing just doesn’t happen here, but in the good ‘ole United States of America, where there’s a difference between poor and not poor enough, it happens more than it ought to. A Cincinnati man who had lost his job and didn’t have health insurance, died last year when a abscessed tooth became infected and the infection spread through his body.

Death.

Over something that could have been cured by pulling a tooth and giving someone some antibiotics?!

In the richest nation in the world?!

Again, ain’t that some shit?!

But it happened.

Now don’t get me wrong. I understand why there was so much screaming, renting of garments and gnashing of teeth on the part of my conservative friends when ACA was upheld by the Supreme Court. The beautiful thing about America is that you can be loud and wrong (or right if you agree) and no one can take away your space on the floor.

But when it comes to whether or not people have access to affordable health care, and whether or not they live or die, your philosophical bent should be put to the side in favor of compassion for your fellow man.

This became an issue during the 57-post discussion that was the result of my slapping my left foot up on my Facebook page. I had one friend suggest that I could have gotten health insurance with a $5,000 to $10,000 deductible, something that wouldn’t have helped me even a little bit. This same friend also went on to tell me that perhaps my lack of health insurance and my illness were my own fault because I haven’t abandoned journalism in favor or something more lucrative that would make me less of a drain on society.

(No, I’m not kidding. And mind you, this is a friend…)

But I also had friends who called me, of all things, brave for doing this.

But that wasn’t why I did it.

“I put my story out there not as a means of garnering sympathy or compliments or anything like that,” I said. “I did it because I felt like this discussion needed a recognizable human face, and I figured mine would be as good as any. I understand where everyone is coming from here. But the bottom line is that you’re dealing with PEOPLE. Not ideology. Not theory. People. So the next time that someone tells you that those of us without healthcare are expendable, remember who they’re talking about.”

“They’re talking about me.”

Which is why in some ways I was hurt by some of the rigamarole when ACA was upheld in the Supreme Court. You’re my friend. You think I’m an okay person. You know I need what this act provides. And you care so much about your ideology that you don’t see that if we cling to your ideological bonafides, I could die? Really?!

In my last post, I said that while I could understand why folks might think it was kind of rude on the part of the NAACP to boo Mitt Romney for saying he’d repeal the Affordable Care Act, I understood why they did it because these folks are on the front lines of the healthcare disparity issue on a daily basis. If they’re not the person in need of health insurance, they’re a relative of someone who needs it and saying that you’re gonna tear a safety net that they really need apart might make them more than a little pissed at you.

And they’re also gonna show it.

So while I don’t condone booing a speaker at a convention, in the case of the NAACP and Mitt Romney, I understand.

Now if we could only help the Tea Party Republicans understand that the ACA is law…and that they might want to apply their laser focus to bills that truly create jobs…I’m just sayin’…

Gotta have a sense of humor. Especially if you’re in the hospital, have a hole in your foot, and haven’t seen your hairdresser in weeks!

Letter from a Philadelphia Jail…

My friend Vince, working to get out the vote…

Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t lead off my column with a picture of one of my friends.

But in this case, leading off with a picture of my friend Vincent Thompson makes sense because in the 20-plus years that I’ve known him, I’ve never heard of any issue that he’s felt passionately enough about to commit an act of civil disobedience.

Now what issue has made my friend, a Democratic committee person in South Philadelphia, willing to go all the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on us?

The right to vote in Pennsylvania.

I’ll explain.

As I often say here at The Mad (political) Scientist, I love Philadephia, but Pennsylvania makes me scratch my head so hard sometimes that I’m surprised I haven’t scraped up some of my brain.

A big part of that is because I’ve never seen a state so willing to take on everyone else’s really, really bad ideas. If there’s an idea that shouldn’t be tried anywhere ranging from hyper-restrictive abortion laws to lawsuits filed to fight for your right to not have health insurance (this chestnut filed by our former Attorney General, now Governor Tom Corbett), we’re not only going to try it here, but we’re going to follow the True Definition Of Insanity when we apply it.

(For those of you who don’t know what the True Definition of Insanity is, it’s doing the same thing, the exact same way, and yet expecting a different result.)

This week’s Really Bad Idea That Will Soon Become Law In Pennsylvania is the Commonwealth’s new Voter ID law. Under this law, which is modeled after Voter ID laws in places even more backward than Pennsylvania like Texas, Indiana and Alabama, people who come out to the polls will not be able to vote…and have their votes counted that day…unless they produce a state-sanctioned photo ID, such as a driver’s license or a state ID card. Now you can vote if you don’t have a state-sponsored ID, but that vote won’t count unless you come to your county’s Board of Elections with a state-sponsored picture ID within six days.

The reason why this law is on its way to being put on the books is because Gov. Corbett, like most good Republicans these days, believes that there’s serious voter fraud going on. Otherwise, how else would a Black Man From Chicago With A Funny Name have ever become President Of The United States?

The only way that Barack Obama could have succeeded in becoming the first Kenyan-born, Secret Muslim, Manchurian Candidate Sent To Ruin America to become President is by people going to the polls and impersonating other people, voting, and influencing the outcome. Or at least, that’s the logic at work here.

The Commonwealth has pledged $4 million to implement this law, including $1 million that’s supposed to go toward getting people these state-sponsored IDs.

(Now, we could talk about how Philadelphia alone will burn through this $1 million in a week, and also about how I really wish that people cared enough about voting to want to go around committing identity fraud in order to do it, but I would be bringing logic into a situation that has, thus far, steadfastly resisted it….and Lord knows that we can’t have that!)

Needless to say, folks are losing their minds over this.

The American Association of Retired Persons, otherwise know as AARP, is saying that it’s going to make it harder for senior citizens, some of whom may have been born in a house and don’t have the birth certificate needed to get the ID. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, otherwise known as the NAACP, is saying that this is designed to keep people of color out of the voting booth, just in time for the November elections. And the American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU, says it’s just plain unconstitutional.

Even the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, a group that’s notorious for not even  being able to agree on what to have for lunch during a meeting, have agreed that the law is a very bad idea.

Add to this that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is to get anything like a birth certificate or state ID request processed quickly in Pennsylvania and that this Really Bad Idea That’s About To Become Law In Pennsylvania won’t officially take effect until November (just in time for the 2012 Presidential Elections if you’re keeping score at home), and you might understand why these groups are sounding the alarm.

From the moment that these laws started dotting the national landscape, or put more succinctly, dotting the landscape in places where Republicans control all phases of government, it’s been kind of hard not to notice at where they’re aimed.

Statistically, cities, college towns, and other places similar to this are places where state-sponsored ID isn’t necessarily the Coin of the Realm. In fact, when I cast my first vote in my South Philadelphia polling place, the only ID I needed was a copy of my electric bill to prove that I lived where I said I lived.

But since cities, college towns, and other places similar to these came out in droves for President Obama during the 2008 elections and turned states like Pennsylvania so blue that they could be mistaken for the Atlantic Ocean, folks have decided to put the clamps down.

Now let’s be honest here. These laws aren’t as much about voter fraud as they are about voter suppression. If you keep city dwellers, people who are older, younger, and poorer from accessing the polls however possible, you keep them from voting against the interests of the True Elites, which have been trying to get their country back since the G.I. Bill was passed after World War II, giving everyone a shot at a good education.

And don’t even get me started on how dangerous it is to allow other disenfranchised groups like people of color to vote. Hell, they may vote to allow such things as letting gays and lesbians get married if they’re allowed to stay in the voting pool…and Lord knows we can’t have that!

To it’s credit, the Department of Justice has noticed, and has struck a few of these laws down. In fact, Texas’s went down via the DOJ on Monday. Also, a local coalition here in Philadelphia that includes the National Action Network, NAACP,  Radio One, a voting rights group called the Committee of Seventy, labor unions and politicians has formed to make sure that this law doesn’t pack the punch that it could.
Among the people who are a part of this coalition is my friend Vincent.  

Upon hearing about this law, and how folks could end up not being allowed to exercise the franchise, Vince, who is still the best political reporter I know despite not having done it full-time for a while, got the kind of pissed off that I’ve only seen him get when you mess with his family.  We must have talked about the Voter ID for at least two hours over dinner at the Broad Street Diner one night.  He had been watching the debate over the bill throughout the day on the Pennsylvania Cable Network, the Commonwealth’s version of C-Span.

The more he watched, the madder he got.

So he made a decision. If someone came to his polling place without a photo ID, he’d not only make sure that they got to polls, but he’d also make sure that their vote counted that day.

“I come from a people whose ancestors got water hoses turned on them, dogs sicced on them, and in some cases got murdered to give me the right to vote,” he said. “Black people have only had the right to vote for real for 40 years. I’m not going to let anyone get disenfranchised by a law that’s a solution in search of a problem.”

Then he said, “I’m willing to go to jail over this. This is about the right to vote. That’s too important to me.”

Hopefully, it won’t come down to that.

But just in case it does, I’m officially announcing the Vincent E. Thompson Bail Fund right now…

……because friends don’t let friends stay in jail overnight for fighting as the ancestors taught us…