Marketplace of Ideas

“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!”


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…


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…

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

Bringing the Crazy Part III: The Muslim Brotherhood Edition

What?! Me, Crazy?!

When we last left Minnesota Congresswoman, and Tea Party favorite Michelle Bachmann, she was bowing out from the GOP Presidential Race, much to the chagrin of political columnists, late night comedians, and smart asses like me who were looking forward to seeing what a presidential debate between Bachmann and President Barack Obama would look like.

But while she is out of the Presidential Race, Rep. Bachmann is never far from the spotlight. She’s one of those folks that from whom the combination of an open mic, and a vivid imagination spring the kind of results that not even the best novelists or screenwriters could make up.

Her latest bit of “We’re gonna find the anti-Americans and smoke ’em out of their holes” nonsense involves Huma Abedin, an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and a fellow member of the Minnesota delegation, Congressman Keith Ellison.

Now why is she singling out Abedin, the wife of former Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York and Ellison?

Because they’re both Muslims.

And in Bachmann Land, a place that I imagine is a bit like the Eagles’ “Hotel California” (You can check out anytime you like, but you may never leave…) that makes them members of the Muslim Brotherhood that are helping this Egyptian political party bring down America.

No, you’re not reading that wrong. A current member of Congress is accusing a fellow sitting member of Congress and the wife of a former member of Congress of being part of a group that she says is looking to bring down America.

She made the accusation against Abedin in a letter that she sent to the Inspectors General of the Departments of Homeland Security, State and Justice that asked that they look into possible ‘tentacles’  of anti-American activity.

(Man, do I wish that Rep. Weiner was still in Congress! His floor speeches used to be one of my favorite things about C-Span. I can only imagine what he would have said about this…)

The accusation against Rep. Ellison came this morning in a story published in The Star-Tribune about Rep. Bachmann’s appearance on Glenn Beck’s program Thursday night. “He has a long record of being associated with [the Council on American-Islamic Relations] and with the Muslim Brotherhood,” she said to Beck.

(By the way, does anyone watch Glenn Beck’s new program? When you’re so off the wall that you get kicked off of Fox News, what does that say about you?!)

In any case, the accusations have caused a bit of an uproar and unlike most things in the current Congress, it’s bipartisan.

The Sen. John McCain that would have given President Obama a run for his money four years ago showed up on the Senate Floor to denounce the accusations, calling them “sinister”. Speaker of the House John Boehner, seeing yet another one of the ways that the Devil takes his payment up front and in pounds not ounces when you make a deal with him, said “Accusations like this being thrown around are pretty dangerous”…and not just to my position as Speaker of the House…

(Actually, that last part was mine…)

And just about everyone compared Bachmann’s charges to someone that no Republican likes to be connected to: Joseph McCarthy.

For those of you who don’t remember the whole Red Scare thing (and to my former students, no, I wasn’t there and I’m not that old…smart asses…) Communism was the boogey man in question. Because the Soviet Union had become this big thing post World War II, Rep. McCarthy thought that Communists had infiltrated the United States and were trying to bring America down from within.

As a result, he held a series of hearings that led to mothers testifying against sons, husbands against wives, artists being “blacklisted” and unable to find work, and a climate of fear that so seriously abridged freedom of speech that it got ridiculous.

Fortunately, JOURNALISM existed back then. Folks like Edward R. Murrow dug into McCarthy’s charges and exposed them as false, which is what journalists are supposed to do. Once that happened, McCarthy and his series of hearings came to an end…and McCarthy himself would up dying drunk and friendless.

But unfortunately, it appears that no one has learned from this exercise. Earlier this year, Rep. Allen West, a man that Kid from Kid and Play will be suing any day now to get his hairdo back, accused members of Congress of being Communists.

However, to outdo Bachmann in the Congressional Sweepstakes of Crazy, you’ve gotta work real hard and get up real early…She always brings it, and it’s usually a level of nuts that no one could make up.

Now are there folks in the so-called Muslim World (and I say so-called because I went to a panel discussion on Islam and the Media earlier this week that kind of taught me that this is how I should refer to it) that might want to knock America down a peg or two? Yep. While no one wants to admit it, we haven’t always been kind to folks in that part of the world.

But is everyone who practices the faith of Islam here in America looking to do the country in? Nope. Most Muslims are just trying to live their lives, raise their kids, and follow their faith without people giving them a hard time.

The least that a member of Congress, the body charged with creating the laws that we all live by in this country, could do is not make that harder.

But when it comes to Rep. Michele Bachmann, I think that Mark Twain said it best…

“‘Tis better to be silent and be perceived a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt…”

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.


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…