First Amendment

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…

 

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“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…

Hey Sucka Nigga…

You know Tribe, I love you , but you made matters worse…
The piece of music above is a clip of my least favorite song by one of my favorite hip-hop collectives, A Tribe Called Quest.
It’s called Sucka Nigga and by the end of this post, you’ll understand why I’m leading with it because for the next few minutes, or in my case, the next few paragraphs, we’re gonna talk about words, context, race, music and First Amendment rights.
No word combines all of these issues quite like nigger. 
Now I know that’s a word that’s gotten a few folks in trouble over the last couple of weeks. Paula Deen is real, real out of work because she admitted to using it. There’s a Philly chick that’s a contestant on Fox’s “Master Chef” whom National Basketball Commissioner David Stern would probably like to have a talk with because he doesn’t like it when folks refer to his league as Niggers Bouncing Around. 
Hell, CNN has become the “Let’s Talk About Nigger Network” in light of the Deen incident and the George Zimmerman trial. My personal favorite CNN moment was the discussion that anchor Don Lemon had about it that featured the best imitation of the flash card scene from Bob Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues I’ve ever seen done by a news anchor. They even devoted an hour to a special on the word.
To many folks, it’s just a word. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me and stuff.
And I get that. I believe that the First Amendment came down from Mount Sinai on stone tablets, so I respect free speech. I can even respect the premise that since some Blacks see it as a term of endearment (which I still don’t get), that it can’t be that bad, right? I had a former student walk up to me every morning for four months with the same greeting: “Good mornin’…my nigga…”
Okay. Like I said, I get all that. But that said, I’ve also been known to tell people “If you want to call me a nigger, fine. That’s your Constitutional right. I’d never take that away from you. But when I exercise my right to knock the shit out of you for it, you were warned. Fair?
But while some of the stuff mentioned above has been floating around in my head for a bit especially lately, that’s not what’s inspired this post.
What’s inspired this post is: (a) the perception I’m starting to get that there are White folks out there that want to use the word nigger really badly and are angry that they can’t and (b) the fact that these same White folks have decided that I can no longer get mad when it comes flying out of some racist’s mouth because of what I like to call the “Hip-Hop Exemption” or the previously mentioned “term of endearment” thing.
I’m sorry kids, but on that I’ve gotta call Shenanigans!
You see, while I understand that a lot of the White folks that read The Mad (political) Scientist are going to think that I’m being unfair when I say this, the word not only sounds different, but has a different context depending on who says it. I don’t think it’s right under any circumstance, but…
Well, I’m gonna let author, anti-racism activist and Professor Tim Wise explain it because he does a much better job at it than I do…

In other words, while you might think that it’s hip, cool and trendy to be able to throw around any word you want, until you can find a racial slur connected to white folks that has ever been uttered as someone is being dragged through the street, tied to a rope, and hung from the neck until dead, you, my well-meaning White friends, do not have a leg to stand on when it comes to the whole “Hip-Hop Exception” for the word nigger. You just don’t. I don’t care if Kendrick Lamar or Meek Mill or Nas or Jay-Z or even A Tribe Called Quest stand in front of a mic and do nothing but say nigger for 10 minutes on a record, you’re not allowed to use that word. You’re just not.

And I guess I have another question: What is it about the word nigger that is so intriguing, so powerful, so awesome to you that it’s prohibition from your list of words tends to piss you off so much?

Wanna know where I was the first time I was ever called a nigger? Church. Nope, I’m not kidding.

I was in the 7th grade and me and my friends had just finished Sunday School at Calvary Baptist Church in Pemberton where I grew up. We were sitting in a pew waiting for church to begin when a girl named Patty Laine walked up to me and told me to get out of the seat I was sitting in because she wanted to sit there.

I told her that there was no reserved seating and because my friends and I were there first, we were going to stay. There were plenty of other places to sit, so go find one, I said.

Well, I guess a combination of being the daughter of one of the founders of the church and White Privilege hit her because she not only grabbed me, but told me to “get my nigger ass out of her seat.”

I hit her as hard as I could…just as the minister was walking by…so naturally, my Dad had to take me home because Pastor Goodhart couldn’t allow me to stay after trying to bash in the head of a fellow parishioner.

But we talked afterward. And after I told him what she said to me, he let Patty…and the people who taught her to say stuff like that, otherwise known as her parents, know that if anything like that happened again, founders or not, they were out.

Because he understood that while it’s misguided for Blacks to use nigger as a term of endearment, the only way that Whites can possibly use it is as a term of disparagement. Of dehumanization. Of harm.

And that’s why, my White friends, nigger cannot be a part of your list of words. The only way it could be is if you somehow went back more than 400 years, kept the Middle Passage from happening, and disconnected it from its associations.

I’d like to leave you with a classic from the late Richard Pryor and Chevy Chase. This is from the days when Saturday Night Live was actually funny…

This Week In Bad Communication


This has been one of those weeks where it seemed as if news was coming out of the woodwork.
From the Supreme Court deciding that a key provision of the Voting Rights Act was no longer needed despite a seemingly endless trail of evidence to the contrary to another Court decision that guarantees I’ll be invited to some really FABULOUS weddings in the not-to-distant future, it’s been a memorable week for news junkies.
But there were two events that everyone had their eye on and had an opinion about. One involved the woman sitting across from Anderson Cooper in this video, the trial of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin. The woman talking with Cooper in this clip is Alicia Stanley, Trayvon’s stepmother, who helped raise him for 14 years, but hasn’t been heard from much.
The second was the revelation that Paula Deen, a personal favorite of us here at The Mad (political) Scientist, had not only called someone a nigger at least once, which as a 66-year-old woman from Albany, Ga. didn’t surprise me a whole lot, but had also looked at planning a plantation-style wedding for her brother Bubba, and had been a lot less than fair to her African American employees.
(And she’s a friend of former President Jimmy Carter’s! I wonder if he knew about this?!)
Now the reason that I’m singling out these two incidents is because they are examples of what happens when you communicate poorly or worse yet HIRE people who communicate poorly. While everyone has taken shots at poor Rachel Jeantel for giving us attitude on the witness stand in the Zimmerman trial, I submit that between the Martin family and Paula Deen and company, there was enough ill communication for Jeantel, who is literate in three languages, to make everyone else look stupid.
I’ll start with the fact that Alicia Stanley wound up on AC 360 in the first place.
Ms. Stanley helped raise Trayvon Martin for nearly 15 years when she was married to his father, Tracy.  They broke up shortly before Trayvon’s death, but since she had been a part of the young man’s life since he was 3, she saw him as a son.
“I raised him along with my two girls,” she told Cooper on CNN last night.
But what made Stanley come on national television was the fact that she felt her contribution to Trayvon’s life had been dismissed. She wasn’t allowed to sit in the front row at his funeral. She wasn’t being told anything about the trial.
She was being made to feel like she didn’t exist, Stanley said.
There was no communication.
So Stanley tearfully put the Martin Family Business out in the street.
Like, for example, she says that Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon’s natural mother, wasn’t as involved in her son’s life as she’s being made out to be now. When Trayvon felt sick or needed to talk, he came to Stanley, not his mom.
Wow.
My guess is that right about now Tracy Martin, who really comes off as kind of a cad here, and Sybrina Fulton, who comes off as someone who didn’t show up until the cameras, lawyers, and fame showed up, can see Alicia Stanley from space.
But you know what could have kept all of this from happening?
Better communication.
If Tracy Martin had kept his Second Ex-Wife in the loop about her stepson, she wouldn’t have felt the need to go to Anderson Cooper. If he had let her sit in the front row and mourn Trayvon’s passing, she never would have been sitting across from the host of the one show on CNN that people actually watch telling her story.
A simple daily phone call, a little extra thought, and a little finesse could have kept Alicia Stanley out of the public eye…and could have kept the Martin Family from having to put a steak over it’s black one…
But lest you think that poor communication is strictly the parlance of blended families with lower middle-class bank accounts, may I submit Paula Deen for your approval?
Until earlier this week, Deen was the host of the only show that my Significant Other and I could watch together on Food Network, Paula’s Home Cooking. 
But now, she’s out of work. Real out of work.
Not only has Food Network sent her packing, but Wal-Mart, Target, Sears, K-Mart, Smithfield Hams, QVC, Norvo Nordisk, Walgreens, JC Penney, and even her publisher Ballantine Books have told Ms. Paula to go play on I-76, despite, in the case of Ballantine Books, Deen’s new cookbook hitting number one in pre-order sales on Amazon.com.
While Norvo Nordisk and QVC promise to revisit their relationship with Deen once everything dies down, everybody else has torn up the contracts and moved along.
The center of Deen’s problems is a lawsuit that was filed by Lisa Jackson, a former employee in Deen’s brother Bubba Hiers’s restaurant. In the suit, which was filed against Deen and Hiers (because Deen was a co-owner), Jackson accuses Hiers of sexual harassment, racism and mistreatment of African American employees.
What ended up getting Deen in trouble was a National Enquirer article that detailed her deposition in this lawsuit, which contained the admission that she had used the word ‘nigger” at least once and had advocated a special kind of wedding for her brother, who liked to watch porn while at work…
From the deposition…
“[W]hen asked if she wanted black men to play the role of slaves at a wedding she explained she got the idea from a restaurant her husband at dined at saying, “The while entire waiter staff was middle-aged black men, and they had on beautiful white jackets with a black bow tie. I mean, it was really impressive. That restaurant represented a certain era in America…after the Civil War, during the Civil War, before the Civil War…It was not only black men, it was black women…I would say they were slaves.”
Can we talk about how this info. came out on Juneteenth, the day celebrated as the day that the slaves in Texas learned they had been emancipated…?
And then there were the videos. 
First there was this one, an interview with the New York Times that introduced us to Deen’s “Black friend…”

…and yes, she did say ‘He’s as black as this board…” You weren’t hearing things.

And then there were the two videos she did instead of going on the Today Show like the Food Network told him to…which were pretty bad and have been rendered unable to be embedded.

Finally, Deen went on Today, probably at the behest of her new PR guru, Judy Smith.

For those of you who don’t know who Smith is, she’s the person you bring in when you’ve screwed up so badly that the level of screwed you are borders on grotesque. She’s worked with the first President Bush, Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback Michael Vick, President Bill Clinton’s jump-off Monica Lewinsky, and others.

She’s also the inspiration for the character of Olivia Pope of the television show Scandal. 

And scandal kind of describes Deen’s Today appearance, which was not one of Smith’s finest hours…


My personal favorite part was where she invites anyone who hasn’t said a hurtful remark to throw a boulder at her head and kill her.

Of course, the Internet, as it tends to do responded…

I know, I know. That’s dead wrong. Funny. Not nearly as funny as #PaulasBestDishes or #PaulaDeenTVShows on Twitter, but funny. And wrong. Dead wrong.

But Deen probably wouldn’t be dealing with ripped up contracts, Internet memes, and accusations of racism if she didn’t have possibly the dumbest PR and legal staffs perhaps in the world…pre-Judy Smith that is…

First of all, if her PR staff had let her do the initial Today Show interview instead of two very bad videos, a move that Food Network cited as it’s reason for sending Deen on her way, she might have been able to clear this up.

But secondly, if her legal staff would have said the following sentence to Lisa Jackson, the deposition and all that’s come after it could have been avoided. That sentence: “Let’s settle this out of court.”

Contrary to rumor, people who file a lawsuit aren’t nearly as gung-ho about going to court as you might think. What they really want is compensation of some sort, acknowledgement that you screwed up, and a promise that you’ll do better.

My guess is that Jackson would have been willing to compromise if someone would have communicated to her a willingness to do the same.

Instead, Deen is looking at a empire in tatters. Granted, she should also be looking at beating the mess out of her little brother, but that’s just me.

Now President Carter, who weighed in just as I was writing this, says that Deen should apologize, tell folks about her community service, and otherwise keep her head up.

Bur if he really wants to help his friend, he’ll teach her how to communicate.

Seems like there’s a need for that going around…

I’m gonna leave you with some music from Rock and Roll Hall of Fame hip-hop masters The Beastie Boys because they knew all about Ill Communication…kinda like these folks…

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

When Humor Goes Wrong (or why the folks at the Onion should be really, really glad that Quvenzhane’ Wallis isn’t my niece…)

She’s a little girl. With a puppy purse. And you called her a cunt. Really?!

Because I admit that I’m (a) An unrepentant movie buff and (b) A bit of a glutton for punishment, I watched almost all of Sunday’s broadcast of the Academy Awards.

I wanted to see how many awards Lincoln would grab. (Daniel Day-Lewis deserved his Best Actor award. That man could read a phone book and make it compelling…) I wanted to see if Argo could withstand the whole “The Directors Guild decided to screw the director of this film out of a nomination because he doesn’t look like an unmade bed” thing and win Best Picture. (Now I have to see it…and can we talk about how almost every good political film that’s come out in the last 10 years either has George Clooney acting in it, producing it, or directing it?!)

And last but not least, I wanted to see just how badly they were going to screw up the following name: Quvenzhane’, as in 9-year-old Quvenzhane’ Wallis, the star of another film that I now have to check out, the Indie pic Beasts of the Southern Wild.

(She tried out for that film when she was 5.)

But what I ended up getting was an Oscar night that made me want to bodyslam somebody, the appearance of Dame Shirley Bassey to sing the theme from Goldfinger as part of the Fifty Years of James Bond tribute notwithstanding.

(For those of you who were a little confused about why everyone lost their mind when they saw Dame Bassey because you don’t know who she is, get a copy of Kanye West’s “Diamonds”. She’s the person singing “Diamonds are Forever”. That’s from a James Bond film by the way. Do as I usually suggest and hit Google for more information…)

Seth McFarlane, otherwise known as the guy that gave us “Family Guy”, Ted, and a whole host of other things that should have immediately disqualified him from hosting the Oscars or any other award show for that matter, was the host this year…and managed to piss just about everyone off.

From jokes about presidential assassinations, to starting the evening out with a song and dance number entitled “We Saw Your Boobs”, to an off-color joke about domestic violence using Chris Brown and Rihanna as part of the punchline, McFarlane managed to make Hollywood’s annual night of lameness just that much more lame…something that I didn’t think possible. There are places where sexist, unfunny potty humor might be able to pass unnoticed, but the Academy Awards isn’t one of them.

But the real fun started shortly after the Awards were over. And it involved the little girl with the puppy purse who should have been able to remember the biggest night of her life without this in it.

Throughout the evening, the young Miss Wallis pumped her arms when she saw a clip of herself or the movie she starred in, which was also nominated for Best Picture.

For some reason, some jackass at the usually funny as hell Twitter feed from The Onion felt the burning need to send out the following sentence:

“Everyone else seems afraid to say it, but that Quvenzhané Wallis is kind of a cunt, right?”

Now, everyone who knows me knows that I’m a big First Amendment person. But nothing is going to get your Mad (political) Scientist out of her chair and off to her laptop faster than calling a 9-year-old kid a cunt. I don’t give a damn if you were exercising your First Amendment right. I’ve got to call Shenanigans! on your bullshit.

And that’s for a couple of reasons.

1-If you ask a 9-year-old kid what a cunt is, they’re going to think it’s short for something else. They’re not going to know that it is a derogatory term for a woman who is much more sexually free than some of the men in her presence are comfortable with. A term that Black women have thrown at them far too often by the way.

2-I know that there was no Twitter when a young Drew Barrymore was nominated for ET The Extraterrestrial or Tatum O’Neal was nominated for Paper Moon, but if there were, would this particular “C” word have come out so easily?

And 3-I love satire. I know good satire when I see it. I often use it to great advantage. Some of the best satire I’ve ever seen was on The Onion’s website following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

But there is no universe that I can put my finger on at the moment where it’s considered funny to call a 9-year-old girl a cunt. And if such a place exists, it’s not somewhere I ever need to visit.

That’s because kids, particularly female kids, are sexualized enough without your adding stuff. They can’t go to Wal-Mart and get something to wear that’s age appropriate. They can’t turn on the television without seeing the kinds of images that their parents have to explain. In some cases, they have to play “Dodge the Chicken Hawk” to do little stuff like play on the playground, go to school, or in the most extreme cases, go to their rooms to go to sleep.

So when I saw a petition that Sabrina Lamb, the woman who managed to keep the Shawty-Lo saga “All My Babies Mamas” from hitting the small screens at the Oxygen network, put together to take the Onion to the woodshed, I was kinda happy.

The Onion has since apologized, and that’s good. Getting comedians to apologize for jokes that sink like a stone generally doesn’t happen.

But they need to understand that there’s certain shit that just isn’t allowed to happen because I can tell you right now that if Miss Wallis was one of my nieces, or better yet, my kid, no apology would have been necessary. An ambulance, a really good defense attorney, and enough money for medical bills (the creator of this Tweet) and bail (mine) would have been.

That’s because I’m sure that there’s a lot of surgery that goes into removing both a black-and-white Doc Maarten brogue from your ass and a broken wooden bat from the back of your head…which is what you could expect if you call my kid a cunt.

I will never tell anyone that they don’t have the right to be funny. While I’m not a big Lisa Lampanelli fan, if she wants to call some adult her nigga and they don’t punch her in the face, that’s their friendship.

But just in case anyone is wondering, calling a pretty 9-year-old Browngirl with a puppy purse, or any other 9-year-old girl for that matter, a cunt isn’t funny.

And if you ever forget that, Nina Simone can tell you where to go…

Adult Education

                         

One of the things I’ve found myself saying to people of late is that while the First Amendment guarantees your freedom of speech, it doesn’t give you a license to say whatever wackadoodle thing that pops into your head.

It also doesn’t give you permission to talk as loudly as possible about things that are really no one’s business but yours for hours at a time despite the entreaties of others that you Shut. The. Hell. Up.

But while I’ve said that to people, I’ve never written about it until now. In fact, if it weren’t for something that happened to me yesterday, I probably never would have written about it.

However, I feel compelled to do it now and as this posting goes on, you’ll understand why a clip of a show from the man who is singlehandedly keeping the DNA testing industry in business, Maury Povich, is relevant.

When I’m not sharing my thoughts on all things political as Your Mad (political) Scientist, I find myself in a classroom in an alternative high school here in Philadelphia teaching Media Arts.

The kids I teach are kids aged 16-22 who have either dropped out or have been asked to leave most of the other schools they’ve tried to attend. For some, the impetus to leave came from the discovery that they were about to have a kid of their own. Others had to leave due to one of the hazards that come with a career in what I call Street Corner Pharmacy: a date with the Criminal Justice System.

Others just left because they felt that a regular school was too constricting because in order to do well you’re required to come in every day and it’s a population of kids that with very few exceptions is African American.

They’re a challenging group because they’re largely raising themselves. And when you’re raising yourself, you kind of feel like no one can tell you anything. Most of them have parents who weren’t too much older than they are now when they were born. Many of them are on their third or fourth foster home. Others have been on the streets since they were old enough to walk.

Because of that, the phrase I hear most commonly is “I’m grown! You can’t tell me nothing!” I also get a lot of lectures from them about how I have to be respectful to them despite the fact that they often come into my class and talk nonstop while I’m trying to present a lesson.

But despite their best efforts to run me out of the building, something that several of them have admitted to me since, they’ve found that the only person more stubborn than they are in some cases is, well, Ms. Clay. Occasionally, I’ll hear a student tell a classmate “Don’t mess with Ms. Clay! She’s not trying to hear it!”

(That makes me smile by the way…)

Anyway, among the things I try and get across to them is that you can tell what’s going on in a particular society by the looking at the art it produces. I also try to get across to them that how they’re perceived by the larger society is directly connected to the face they put forth to the world through the prism of media.

The Bad Girls Club: notice the paddle…

I often tell them that the reason why folks clutch their purses a little tighter when they get on the bus, or would rather not sit next to them when they get on the subway is because they present themselves in a light that is far less than complimentary.

So as a means of self-exploration, I gave my kids the choice of two assignments for their final project in my Media Arts class: they could either do a documentary on anything they were interested in taking a long-form look at or do a photo essay of 6 to 8 pictures that took a look at a day in their lives. I was hoping through this essay that they would take a look at their everyday lives and maybe see what was good, bad, or needed changing.

So, I figured that because it was a high school Media Arts assignment common sense would prevail.

That hope was smashed against the wall when one of my students wanted to include a picture of someone having sex “doggy style” as part of her final project. After I got a look at the picture, I said “NO! You cannot include this!”

Her response: “Don’t judge me Ms. Clay! This is what I like to do!”

I wasn’t judging. I just didn’t want to see it.

And I really didn’t want to hear the conversation that came next….a conversation that included such things as how much “dick” someone was going to get over the Thanksgiving holiday, a story from one of my kids about how her lesbian lover “sucked her ass” and made her reach orgasm, the various sex toys lesbians use, how a kid’s naked mother came busting into the room where she and her boyfriend were having sex and said that if things didn’t quiet down that she was going to join the party, and, and this is my personal favorite, how having braces can be an impediment to having good oral sex.

Don’t laugh…you see these in Philly all the time…

And this was just in the first three minutes of this conversation and despite my constant interruptions of  “Could you please stop this?!” followed closely by “Could y’all shut up and leave my room please?!”

After they left, I relished the quiet.

I also wanted to go home and take a shower because I felt so sexually violated.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not a prude or anything. But I couldn’t help but think that these kids were having this conversation in front of a teacher.

A teacher.

Someone who is technically an adult.

Now I’ve had Klansmen say some pretty vile things to me, but this conversation yesterday just made me want to cover my ears like a little kid and go “lalalalala”.

And why in the world would you think that it’s proper to share the disadvantage posed by braces when performing fellatio in your high school Media Arts class?

I guess it’s because we have largely become a TMI society. Thanks to folks like Maury Povich, Jerry Springer, Dr. Phil, the Bad Girls Club, and Shaunie O’Neal’s “League of Extraordinary Jump-Offs”, otherwise known as the “Basketball Wives”, the perception is that we can and should share every aspect of our lives.

The League of Extraordinary Jump Offs…

I mean hey, that’s why the camera phone was invented, right? I know that my goal in life is to wind up on World Star Hip-Hop…

(Actually, it isn’t. But folks Sarcasm Meters are still a little off post-election…)

In any case, when I walked into class this morning, still reeling from getting taught some serious sex ed. from a bunch of kids yesterday, I said the following to my students:

“I’m letting you know right now, if anyone even mouths the word “pussy” and “cat” doesn’t immediately follow it, you’re getting suspended!”

Like I said earlier in this piece, one of the problems that these kids have is the fact that they’re largely raising themselves and when you’re raising yourself, you see yourself as the adult, something that can cause a problem or two.

It also means that the adults that are supposed to be your role models are more like the Bad Girls. Or the League of Extraordinary Jump-Offs. Or the Drug Man on the corner. Or that much older man (or in some cases woman) who has introduced you to a sexual world that there’s no way you can understand or successfully negotiate at your age…even if you think you’re grown.

But it’s not always as bleak as yesterday felt. I do have my victories.

For example, there’s one kid in my class that’s either walking into my class late and being really disruptive (meaning that he wasn’t able to connect with the weed man that morning) or is totally mellowed out (meaning that said weed has been acquired.) One day, an obvious Day Without Weed, he did the whole manic thing.

I told him, forcefully, to sit down. His response was “My Mom don’t talk to me like that!”

My response: “Well maybe if she did, you wouldn’t be doing this mess!”

I haven’t had much of a problem in this regard since. I guess it’s because every kid is looking for someone to set a boundary. My colleagues are much better than I at that, but I’m getting there.

However, I’m feeling really burned out.

So I’m going to make as much of a difference as I can until that happens because as I said, many of these kids have kids….
                                   ….and I’d like for them to have the chance their parents didn’t necessarily get.

He’s got 99 Problems…oh, and he’s got that one, too…

Rush Limbaugh, and the Wrong Chick

If you’re having girl problems, I feel bad for you son..I’ve got 99 Problems, but a bitch ain’t one…

While I know that my liking this particular record might get me in trouble with my friends in the Feminist Tribe, I thought of this particular part of Jay-Z’s catalogue when the people in the picture above, radio host Rush Limbaugh and Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke, became part of the same universe.

For those of you who don’t know, there was a hearing a couple of weeks ago chaired by Republican Congressman Darrell Issa on the contraceptive coverage part of President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform plan. The idea behind the hearing was to give a whole bunch of religious leaders and other men a forum to complain, vehemently, about the fact that all employers, including those at religious institutions, would be made to provide contraceptive coverage to women as part of their health insurance.

(The fact that President Obama later decided to make the insurance companies themselves pay for the contraceptive coverage to assuage the religious leaders, who still want to cover such drugs as Viagra and Cialis by the way, wasn’t enough for them. It’s about controlling women’s choices. Anyone who tells you different is, well, full of crap.)

But anyway, I bring up this Jay-Z hit because I’m almost sure that at one time or another, Limbaugh has said the line that I started this piece with…or at least thought it. He may have had problems with angry people of color who didn’t like his latest racist screed, or with “feminazis” who pissed him off because they had the nerve to think that the stuff that came out of his Viagra poaching, OxyContin taking, misogynistic mail order bride catalogue owning mouth was beyond the pale, but as long as he had the fear of the Republican Party and a list of sponsors that included AOL, Allstate Insurance, and Netflix and other high-profile names, he wasn’t really worried.

Unlike his fellow shock jockers Don Imus, and Laura Schlessinger, Limbaugh appeared to have an Air of Invincibility. Like I said, because of his popularity with the Raving Right Wing, the Republican Party and his big ticket sponsors, he felt he could say anything…and often did. His forcefield was a reliable one that helped him survive any assault.

But I always knew that Limbaugh would go too far. While in my opinion he passed “too far” at least 10 years ago, I knew that when he finally hit it, he’d hit it big.

Observe…

When you’re calling a Georgetown University law student a slut and a prostitute because she dared speak out on behalf of a friend of hers who lost an ovary due to the birth control she couldn’t get as part of her university health care plan and couldn’t afford because of costs, you’ve officially gone too far.

Because of this, Sandra Fluke became the woman who pierced Rush Limbaugh’s Air of Invincibility.

And while the Republican Party is still too scared of Limbaugh to denounce him, (listening to the GOP Presidential candidates dance through the minefield Rushbo put them in was particularly hilarious)  individual Republicans like George Will are calling him on his nonsense and the firewall of sponsors he had is crumbling like a piece of day-old bread. As of this writing, 21 sponsors including AOL, Netflix and Allstate, have deserted Limbaugh like rats from a sinking ship. This tends to happen when the people that represent your profits start telling you that they’re not gonna pay your freight anymore.

(Personally, I knew that when Fluke ended up on The View, Limbaugh was done…)

While the sponsor desertions started slowly, they soon went from a trickle to a flood, despite what many have called the most non-apology apology ever uttered. Here it is…
 
For over 20 years, I have illustrated the absurd with absurdity, three hours a day, five days a week. In this instance, I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation. 



I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke.


I think it is absolutely absurd that during these very serious political times, we are discussing personal sexual recreational activities before members of Congress. I personally do not agree that American citizens should pay for these social activities. What happened to personal responsibility and accountability? Where do we draw the line? If this is accepted as the norm, what will follow? Will we be debating if taxpayers should pay for new sneakers for all students that are interested in running to keep fit?


In my monologue, I posited that it is not our business whatsoever to know what is going on in anyone’s bedroom nor do I think it is a topic that should reach a Presidential level. My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices.


Insulting word choices? You call me a slut and a prostitute for three or four days straight to a radio listening audience that numbers in the millions, say that I should have to post my sexual activity to YouTube, and basically make shit up about me, and the best you can do is a self-serving apology that compares my reproductive health to a new pair of running shoes?! Really?!

Ms. Fluke is probably too classy to respond to Limbaugh in the way he deserves…so I’ll respond on her behalf because while I’m classy, I’m not Georgetown University Law School classy.

My response is to invite him to perform an anatomically impossible act…or to put it more succinctly, go fuck himself.

(Seeing that he’s into Viagra, that probably shouldn’t be that difficult….)

Now once upon a time, there’s no way that this apology would have been made in the first place. And if it was made, it would have been enough to satisfy the sponsors that have now left.

But that’s because Rush Limbaugh was usually picking on someone like a Hillary Clinton, or a Michelle Obama, someone that was at least as big as he was…or at least as public. With the possible exception of when he came at a 13-year-old Chelsea Clinton, Limbaugh has usually emerged unscathed from the outrage he produces.

Not this time buddy…and it’s about time.

Now I know that the Republicans who read my blog are going to start squealing about how Limbaugh is being unfairly persecuted, how the sponsors that have now left him should be boycotted, and how this all represents trying to abridge his free speech.

To that I call “Shenanigans!”

While the First Amendment guarantees that you have the freedom to say whatever you want, there’s nothing in the Constitution that says that anyone has to pay for your fruit stand in the Marketplace of Ideas. If you’re saying something that someone finds ignorant, abusive, or otherwise useless, they have every right to take their money and use it elsewhere.

Like I said, Rush Limbaugh has gone a long time without ever having to seriously face the consequences of the words coming out of his mouth.

But now he’s got 99 problems…

Take that, bitch!

Jay-Z, take us home…