President Obama

“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…

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What Becomes A Feminist Most?

The flexibility of feminism...

The flexibility of feminism…

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

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

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

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

I’ll start from the beginning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the Crunk Feminist Collective: 

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

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

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

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

Well, let’s let them say it…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She appears age appropriate at least...

She appears age appropriate at least…

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

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

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

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

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

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

A lot of sex.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What About Your Friends?

I kinda wondered what would keep a 90-year-old man in failing health on a terrorist watch list...

I kinda wondered what would keep a 90-year-old man in failing health on a terrorist watch list…

There’s a saying: The Enemy of My Enemy Is My Friend.

That saying has played a pretty large part in the foreign policy of the United States since, well, forever.  It’s expected that if you’re going to be a friend of ours, you also have to be an enemy to our enemies. For example, if you want to be cool with the folks who run things here in the United States, it’s okay for you to swear allegiance to Israel, which is one of our friends, but you can’t hang out with, say, the leader of the Taliban.

Failure to understand and observe this dynamic can lead to your getting the  side eye from certain leaders here in the United States. It can get you branded as someone who, in the words of our favorite Sage From The Yukon, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, pals around with terrorists.

There are a whole lot of examples of this in American History…the latest being the man pictured above, former South African President Nelson Mandela. When the anti-apartheid activist died last Thursday, we learned a lot about him. We learned about how he passed the time in the 27 years he was imprisoned on Robben Island. We learned about how he ended up in Johannesburg (His parents had arranged a marriage for him). We learned about the trials and tribulations that Winnie Mandela, his wife at the time, had to endure because of the iconic status he had obtained as a freedom fighter among Black South Africans.

But the most interesting thing that we learned about Mandela, or Madiba as he was known among the Xhosa, is that despite a couple of visits to the United States in the 1990s, a lack of any violent activity since his release from prison, and the fact that he was an aging statesman in poor health, he was on the U.S. Terrorist Watchlist until 2008.

Now what would keep a 90-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner in failing health on a list that included Osama Bin Laden, a dude that masterminded the biggest terrorist attack in our nation’s history?

The fact that Mandela didn’t follow the whole “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” thing.

(And can we talk about how Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu couldn’t afford to come to Mandela’s memorial service in South Africa on Tuesday, but can afford $6,000 in scented candles? Who needs $6,000 in scented candles? What in the heck does that look like?!)

Now in the 1980s, when American news organizations knew that it might be a good idea to know what’s going on in the rest of the world because it could impact us, we all learned about the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. The nation’s Black majority was being ruled by a White minority that can be charitably described as cruel. Blacks lived in shanty towns called homelands. They were forced to carry passport-looking ID cards to show they were in the right place and punishment was pretty swift if they either didn’t have the card or were in the wrong place.

Police brutality took on a whole new meaning there as activists like Steven Biko were killed in prison. The African National Congress, the political party to which Mandela belonged, was outlawed. Blacks themselves had no right to vote.

Because even Stevie Wonder could see that this whole arrangement was Straight. Up. Wrong., Mandela and the African National Congress fought to try and change things. They got arrested and tried for their efforts. Mandela spent 27 years in prison, most of them on Robben Island working in a quarry. He could only see his wife Winnie twice a year…

While he may have been in jail, Mandela’s message managed to get out into the world. A lot of us participated in sit-ins at our colleges and universities demanding that our tuition dollars not be used to finance anything in South Africa until apartheid was no more. We joined organizations like Amnesty International and wrote letters demanding Mandela’s release. There were calls for businesses in the United States to divest from South Africa as well.

Meanwhile, President Ronald Reagan, like many of the leaders in the West, opted to go with a solution that was designed to silence the protestors without damaging any business relationships in South Africa.

Constructive Re-engagement.

O-Tay.

There’s another saying, and I’m going to paraphrase here: If someone shows you who they are, believe them. While that goes for people, that goes double for governments. When a government pretty much lets you know that if you give it money through investment, that money will be taken to oppress the majority of its people, you should believe them…and keep your money, money raised through taxation, in your pocket.

But because South Africa had the right enemies, namely the Communist Bloc, Ronnie Raygun (thank you Gil-Scott Heron!) and his friends were willing to give the Apartheid Government money. Too bad for him that Congress had other ideas…veto-proof ones.

But the enemies of the Reagan Administration’s enemies became Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress’s friends. Folks like Fidel Castro, Muammar Gaddafi and others who were definitely enemies of the United States helped when the West wouldn’t.

Which is why you had stuff like this as part of the list of tributes to Nelson Mandela this week…

Although Mandela found Communism as a philosophy lacking, to many on the Right, that kept getting thrown into remembrances of the man. You see, to most of those folks, the African National Congress should have just kept their mouths shut and waited for the West to finally get off of its ass. We see that you’re being oppressed, but take one for the team…

But it’s not a universal school of thought among the Right. In what can only be described as a shocker, I find that I have something with which I can agree with, gasp, former Speaker of the House, Republican Presidential Candidate, and Tiffany’s Frequent Shopper Card Owner Newt Gingrich.

As I mentioned earlier, Congress voted to hit South African with economic sanctions, which stuck despite the veto of Ronnie Raygun.

Most of the Senators voted to override the veto, but a small group voted to keep financing the Apartheid government. In fact, one of them spoke out this week and said that he didn’t regret his vote to maintain the veto.

That senator? Well, it should be no surprise to anyone that it’s former Vice President Dick Chaney. I can only imagine what’s going to come out of his piehole when someone mentions to him that President Barack Obama shook hands with Raul Castro, president of Cuba and brother of Fidel, at Mandela’s memorial service on Tuesday.

(Editor’s Note: For those of you who are disgusted by the fact that President Obama shook hands with President Castro, don’t be. What did you want him to do, punch the dude in the mouth or something? Home training is a beautiful thing. Try and get some…)

It should also be no surprise that once folks discovered Mandela on that watch list, they cajoled President George W. Bush’s administration to take him off…despite the objections of his VP.

While I can understand the impulse of some to say that Mandela deserved the scrutiny that goes with being on the terrorist watch list because he took help from some pretty sketchy people without asking a lot of questions, I submit that the Cold Warriors making these criticisms need to shut their hypocritical pie holes.

We’re a country that tends to have no problem with tin horn dictators as long as they’re OUR tin horn dictators. Don’t believe me? Two words: Anastacio Somoza. Want three more? Jean-Claude Duvalier. We can even add Augusto Pinochet, Manuel Noriega, Ferdinand Marcos…the list of people we’ve paid to subjugate their people in the name of American interests in the Western Hemisphere alone is extensive and makes any so-called “moral” authority we have non-existent. I mean hell, my Dad fought in Vietnam. We’re not even going to go there…

Nelson Mandela, his willingness to forgive, and how that forgiveness helped South Africa move forward was brought up a lot this week.

That he extended this forgiveness to an allegedly democratic West that wouldn’t befriend his country until it had to makes Nelson Mandela a better man that I would be under the circumstances.

I guess that’s why he’s an icon…

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…




Follow the Leader

This here’s my Stepford Wife pose…please make a note of it…

What I’ve always loved about the news business is the chances that it’s given me to use what I picked up in the Sociology classes that I took both in high school and college.

Now what do I mean by that? I mean that when big, sort of cataclysmic things happen in news, stuff like the Sept. 11 Terrorist Attacks, the election of Barack Obama as our nation’s first President of color, the school shootings in places like Columbine and Sandy Hook, and the Boston Marathon bombings, we find out where we are as a society. Not the window dressing that we put on daily just to get around, but the stuff behind the curtain.

In other words, the Wizard of Oz comes out from behind the curtain when we’re hit with a national disturbance or a change that we didn’t see coming.

Last Saturday, we had one of those national disturbance things happen in the form of the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial.

In case you were in a cave somewhere last weekend, and I don’t think that being in a cave could have even kept you from getting this information, Zimmerman was found not guilty on all charges in the death of Trayvon Martin, a unarmed teen whose only crimes as far as I can see were (a) being a Black teen in a neighborhood that wasn’t his own and (b) being a Black teen in a neighborhood that wasn’t his own, wearing a hoodie, and defending himself when some dude with a gun decided to come at him.

As I said at the beginning of this post, stuff like the Zimmerman verdict, stuff that everyone in the country has taken a position of some sort on, tends to show us where we are as a country. Social Media has become the mother of all GPS systems and has really given us a pinpointed location in this regard.

So here’s where the Post-Zimmerman verdict GPS seems to be pointing.

One, I’ve noticed that a lot of folks, most of them White, all of them Conservative, think that Trayvon Martin deserved to get shot.

I have heard from a lot of the Conservatives that I let populate my Social Media life that Trayvon was a thug, he wore a hoodie, he was up to no good, and he sucker punched Zimmerman, so he deserved to be shot.

I surmised that these folks got their butts kicked a lot in high school because the only people who would think that it’s okay to shoot someone because they’re kicking your butt in a fight that YOU started are folks who got their butts kicked a lot in high school.

Under the Stand Your Ground law in Florida it’s perfectly legal to do this. I can’t change that as much as I’d like to. But folks, don’t try and justify it. While it’s legal, it doesn’t make it any less wrong. And it doesn’t make George Zimmerman any less of a punk because he decided to end a fight with a gun that he couldn’t end with his hands.

The GPS has also pointed me to this conclusion: Many of the same folks who think that Trayvon Martin deserved to get shot also believe that African Americans are incapable of something that we’re actually pretty good at.

Multitasking.

They believe that African Americans are not allowed to speak out about the injustice they perceive the Zimmerman verdict to be because they’re not paying enough attention to Black on Black crime.

(*cracking my knuckles because my fingers are gonna need to be really nimble for this*)

Now do I start at the section where this insults the intelligence of an entire race of people or do I go directly to the part where I use the word hypocrite a lot?

I think I’ll start at the insult because the ignorance implied in it burns and I’d like to put it out.

Because I’ve had times where I’ve had to remind certain White folks that I was not only as smart as they were, but in many cases smarter in my sleep, I’m sort of used to having to battle the perception that Blacks don’t know their heads from their asses.

So while having the folks who think that Trayvon Martin Deserved To Get Shot camp tell me that they find it impossible for Blacks to work for justice on both the Trayvon front and, for want of a better way to put it, The Children of the Corn front, is an annoyance, it’s a familiar one.

It was the Black folks, especially the College Educated Black Folks, that I found disappointing. When people of color with college educations start buying into this mess, I feel the Earth vibrating because the Talented Tenth are once again making W.E.B DuBois do double-back somersaults in his grave.

I didn’t see every piece of video in this particular vein, but I did see NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley’s interview with CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo. In case you didn’t, here it is:

Now people were more than a little mean to the Round Mound of Rebound on this, and I have a problem with people advocating that someone not be allowed to speak. But while I don’t believe that Black folks are a monolith, that Barkley is going along with something that was disproven in court, namely the whole “Trayvon had none of Zimmerman’s DNA on him, so how could he have hit him?” thing is a little troubling.

(Editor’s Note: I know that some of you want me to start calling people Uncle Toms here, but I won’t. If you call a Black person who bashes other Black people an Uncle Tom, you are insulting a noble literary character who allowed himself to be beaten to death rather than sell out his fellow slaves. Maybe we need to put “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Harriet Beecher Stowe back on scholastic reading lists…many folks need to re-read it…)

I’ll end this section by pointing out that it’s more than a little disingenuous for people who have had no real concern about Black on Black Crime in the past to try and use this case to deflect that lack of concern onto Blacks themselves. Let’s be honest here. Your sudden concern is more about neutralization than anything else. You’re hoping that if you shout “Well, what about Black on Black Crime?!” loud enough that you’ll distract people from working toward the goal of decriminalizing the very existence of Black men.

Because let’s again be honest here: if being a Black man suddenly becomes decriminalized: meaning the ability to wear anything you want to without getting shot; the end of the assumption of criminality because one is Black On Thursday; and the right to self-defense without fear, what will you do with all of that prison space?

First of all, if I had a nickel for every press release, invitation to visit, and request to mentor that I get from groups in the Black community that are working their asses off on less-than-shoestring budgets to try and keep Black children from killing each other, I’d be sitting off the coast of Barcelona in a really nice villa writing books about baseball and coming back to the States during the summer just to catch a few games.

And secondly, let’s get down to the hypocrisy part.

One of my Facebook friends felt the need to post this picture to my timeline a couple of nights ago.

Oooh…It’s Al and Jesse…Let’s use this to try and scare ’em off…!

In case you don’t know who these gentlemen are, they are the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.

Or as I like to call them, The Straw Men That Folks Pull Out Whenever A Discussion of Racism or Civil Rights Comes Up.

As you can see, it’s a picture with some statistics about Black on Black crime and a demand that either of these gentlemen, or anyone else in the Black community, be able to name a Black person that’s been killed. When this was slapped on my page, it was done so with the belief that it would shame people into no longer talking about Trayvon.

Since I can name a couple of Black folks who were killed by other Blacks since Trayvon Martin’s death, mostly because they were former Children of the Corn, it was all I could do not to break out the bag of hammers.

But instead, my Significant Other The Sportswriter With The African American Studies Degree pointed out something else to me that I hadn’t thought of.

He asked, “When are we gonna start talking about White on White crime?”

Since Feb. 26, 2012, the day that Trayvon Martin was shot, there’s been more than a few mass murders.

Let’s start with the latest one: June 9, 2013: John Zawahri, 23, was shot and killed by police at Santa Monica College, but not before killing his brother and father at home three other people at school, carjacking someone, and shooting at passersby.

But here’s some more thanks to our friends at Mother Jones and USA Today and they all have one thing in common: They were perpetrated by White people:

  • July 20, 2012: James Holmes, a graduate student at a Colorado University, went into the movie theater in Aurora, Colo. during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises and started shooting. He killed 12 people and injured 70. He is about to go on trial.   
  • August 2012: White supremacist Wade Michael Page shot and killed six people worshipping in a Sikh temple in Wisconsin in what police branded a hate crime. He shot himself after being shot by a police officer responding to the incident.
  • December 2012, Adam Lanza walked into the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. and gunned down 20 children and six adults.
  • Sept. 2012: Andrew Engeldinger, 36, handled his being fired from his job at a Minneapolis sign company by shooting and killing five people and then killing himself.
  • Later that month, Kurt Myers, 64, of Herkimer, N.Y. shot killed two men and wounded two others at a car wash in the town and held police at bay in a standoff overnight before they eventually killed him.   

I could go on, but I think you get my point. And this is only a partial list…

Now I know that the words “mental health issue” are going to come up, and in the cases of most of these folks, they probably should. Some of the Black on Black crime that folks are suddenly so concerned about should also be looked at from a mental health context, but never is.

But while we’re looking at mental health as a precursor for the crimes I just mentioned, and we should, we should also call them what they are: White on White crimes…

And the first march calling for an end to this is….when?

Finally, I need to explain the caption under the picture of myself I put on the top of this post because, you see, the only way that Blacks could truly be angry about the whole Zimmerman Verdict, at least according to this heading on my sociological GPS, they are instructed to be.

In other words, it’s kind of like my Dad used to say to me when I was doing something that I wanted to do, but that he didn’t want to recognize that I wanted to do like, say, journalism. He used to accuse me of following behind people, when what I was actually doing in some cases was leading.

(Now if I was doing what he wanted, I was leading. I never understood that.)

For being angry over the Zimmerman verdict, Blacks are being equated with robots in some quarters. This rage isn’t independent thought, it’s doing what you’re told by Al, Jesse, or “fill in the blank with whatever civil rights leader you can come up with here”. You shouldn’t do that, the critics say. How can you say that this was about racism? It was a man defending himself from a thug with traces of marijuana in his system.

(Sorry, but I have to cut in here because one of the things that’s bugged me about this case is that it shows there are a lot of people in Sanford, Fla. smoking some weed that they need to leave alone. Actual weed doesn’t make you want to attack anything but a plate of food. That you believe that Trayvon Martin got a hold of some weed that made him want to fight people tells me all that I need to know about the weed in Central Florida. We’ll be leaving that mess alone!)

As I usually do when I hear stuff like this, I call, you guessed it, Shenanigans!

I say this because you can’t get Black folks to agree on what kind of sandwiches to have for lunch, much less come to an across-the-board consensus on any issue. Black folks are also pretty hard to lead. That things like The March on Washington and The Million Man March even happened is more than a little significant if you know anything at all about Black folks.

Thus despite what some may think, the rage over the Zimmerman verdict isn’t about being told what to do as much as it is people combining it with the dismantling of parts of the Voting Rights Act and determining that America is up to some shenanigans when it comes to Black people and their agency again.

The rage is also a lot more multicultural than people want to admit. I’ve had more than a few of my White friends put up profile pics of themselves in hoodies, participate in marches, write their Congressmen, and otherwise say, and this is a direct quote from one of my White friends “That verdict was some bullshit!”

In the world of the People Who Believe That Trayvon Martin Deserved To Get Shot this kind of thinking makes them sheep as well.

But in the world where Justice isn’t just a hollow word, it’s beautiful.

Because of the places my sociological GPS has taken me on this issue, I’m kind of weary right now.

So I’ll leave you with the perspective of a Black Man on this issue. I think he can hit what I missed.


And because I’m feeling the need for some old-school hip-hop, I’ll also leave you with Eric B and Rakim…

For the Children of the Corn, Part II

“Oh, I’m so happy! I can get my gun back, go back to my house, and look for another Skittle-toting kid in a hoodie to shoot! Yay me!”


I was sitting in a booth at the Melrose Diner in South Philadelphia when the Associated Press alert on my I-Phone went off, informing me that the jury had reached a verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman.

Zimmerman had been on trial in Sanford, Fla. for second-degree murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

Briefly, the story goes like this: Zimmerman saw Trayvon as he walked home from a convenience store where he had gone to buy a snack for his little brother. He finds the teen suspicious and calls the cops. Saying, “These assholes always get away..,” Zimmerman decides to pursue Trayvon despite the Sanford Police telling him not to. He shoots the teen in the chest and Trayvon dies. Zimmerman claims self-defense under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law.

(Editor’s note: Under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, you’re allowed to shoot someone if you perceive that they’re about to harm you. They don’t have to actually harm you, however. They just have to look like they would.)

The trial had gone on for three weeks and people were sitting anxiously by their computers, television sets and smartphones waiting for the verdict. If the jury of six women, none of whom was Black, believed he was in a fight for his life, Zimmerman would go home, a free man. If not, he was looking at 25 years.

Shortly after 10, the verdict came: Not Guilty. On all counts. The jury believed Zimmerman’s self-defense claim and now he not only gets to go home, he gets the gun he used to shoot Trayvon back. 

Lovely.

What made me feel sort of hopeful was the reaction. I expected my Black friends to be ticked off. But a lot of my White friends were too. Disgusted was the most commonly used word.

Many folks weighed in via Twitter. Ben Jealous of the NAACP said he was “outraged and heartbroken” over the verdict and vowed to get the Department of Justice involved. Diddy took some time out from promoting his vodka brand to Tweet “I’m hurt and mad as hell! My heart goes out to the family.” My friend Albert Butler of WURD 900AM radio here in Philly reminded us to “Set our clocks back 400 years before going to bed…”

But my favorite Tweet came from the gentleman known as The Field Negro, whose blog you should be reading if you’re not. He said “Maybe Paula Deen will cook Sunday dinner for him tomorrow!”

(I ain’t mad at Paula Deen, but that shit was funny!)

Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon’s parents, also took to Twitter, thanking everyone for their support.

Not to be outdone, folks who believed that Zimmerman was being railroaded for killing an unarmed kid after being told to let police handle things and not get involved also weighed in. Most notably Ann Coulter, who is someone I can always count on to say the most vile shit on occasions like this. Her Tweet: “Hallelujah!”

(If you ever hear about my going to jail, it is most likely because I have, finally, decided to go to wherever Ann Coulter is, and give her the “People Who Need To Be Punched In The Face Award” for Lifetime Achievement.)

And my Significant Other was so angry that he nearly left the baseball game he was covering because he was to angry to stay. As I have mentioned before, he’s not just a sportswriter. He’s a sportswriter with a masters degree in African American Studies.

Certainly, a lot went on. As I was writing this, a group of African American fraternities and sororities were gathering in front of the White House in protest. Since First Lady Michelle Obama was given honorary membership to the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority shortly before her husband assumed the presidency in 2009, she might have decided to join her clan.

But as I looked at my Facebook and Twitter pages, and heard people debate the verdict in the Melrose Diner, I was relieved by one thing.

I wasn’t teaching. I’m not in school. I don’t have to try and make sense of the Zimmerman Verdict  for The Children of the Corn.

Because, frankly, I couldn’t. They’d say I was full of shit. And in this case, I’d have to agree.

I mean, how can I look in the faces of my kids, kids who have already had a few interactions with the Criminal Justice system or have parents who have, and tell them that justice is equal under the law after a verdict like this?

How do I get them to tell the police what’s going on in their neighborhoods and testify in court when they look at how Rachel Jeantel was treated on the witness stand…and on social media? How do I get them to understand that if they pull out the guns that they want to carry that they’ll get 25 to life if they kill someone?

There are conversations that all parents have to have with their kids. There’s the “Don’t violate curfew” conversation. The “Learn how to clean up after yourself” conversation. And the one that occasionally gets passed off to me by friends who don’t want to deal with their kids getting their freak on, the “You can’t trust a big butt and a smile” conversation.

But for young Black men, there’s a few other conversations that are unique to their experience. Conversations like the “Don’t put your hands in your pockets when you’re standing in front of the Police” conversation. The “Make sure you have all of your ID where the officer can see it” conversation. The “Don’t argue with the Police” conversation…

However, the Zimmerman Verdict gives us one more mandatory conversation to have.

The “Your life as a Black man isn’t worth a plug nickel to folks so act accordingly” conversation.

When Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick was playing for the Atlanta Falcons, he was arrested, tried and convicted for having a dogfighting ring and brutally disposing of the losers. He spent two years in federal prison for his crime.

A woman named Marissa Alexander is doing 20 years in a Florida prison for firing a warning shot_—not hitting him, just firing a warning shot—at her abusive ex-husband. She wasn’t allowed to use Stand Your Ground despite having a credible threat posed to her.

But you can shoot a young, Black man for being “perceived” as a threat to you, and walk out of court a free man.

How do I explain that to a group of people who have already been thrown away at least once? How do my friends who are parents figure that out? And why, for that matter, do we have to?

My friend Tracy sent out a Tweet saying that calling Zimmerman, who copped to no Latino heritage until he shot Trayvon Martin, a Hispanic man and asking when all of the talk about the role race plays in stuff like this was going to stop.

I told her that it would stop when my kids could walk down the street with a hooded sweatshirt pulled over their head, and be assumed to be shooting hoops, not guns.

And that day, was not Saturday. July 13.

"Who are we here to represent?"

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: The single most useless man in America

I know that some of you are looking at the caption under this picture of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and thinking “Wow! Our Mad (political) Scientist is being kind of mean here.”

Actually, the fact that I didn’t go any further than calling him useless was my being nice. If I said what I really felt about Sen. Reid, then you could call me mean. In fact, you could feasibly ask me if I kissed my late Mother with that mouth….

But let me explain why I think that Sen. Harry Reid is about as useful as a tub of jello…and why I think I may have insulted jello by saying that.

Sen. Harry Reid is the single most useless man in America because he had a public mandate to get something done about a very important issue concerning Americans and even with a majority in his house of Congress, he managed to get rolled by a special interest group.

Granted, the National Rifle Association is not your average interest group. It’s a big group with lots of supporters, some of whom supported what it was you were assigned to do. But when you allow folks like Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell to keep you from restoring something to the Senate that it had before you took over—the concept of majority rule—you deserve a heaping helping of my contempt.

I’ll explain.

While many of us were missing Soledad O’Brien as we watched CNN prove through its coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings that it’s better to be last and right than first and wrong, Congress was debating a bipartisan bill that if passed would expand universal background checks to cover gun show and internet purchases, but not purchases made between relatives.

(This had the potential of bringing a Conga line of adult adoptees into Family Courts across the nation to take advantage of this loophole, but I don’t think that anyone thought about that when they put this together.)

The compromise was brokered by two guys who had A ratings from the National Rifle Association, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey. This bit of Democratic (Manchin) and Republican (Toomey) partnership was designed to help the bill get one step closer to President Barack Obama’s desk and make families who had lost loved ones in mass shootings in Colorado, Wisconsin, Arizona and Connecticut and to urban street violence in Chicago feel like their loved ones deaths had counted for something.

In fact, I thought that the Sandy Hook shootings in Connecticut would put background checks over the hump. Now let’s keep it real here: When 21 white kids get shot by an assault rifle-wielding nut job in their elementary school, that tends to lead to something getting done. I’m not being racist here, something that I need to say because some white person will swear that what I just said was racist, but ask yourself: were we having a conversation about gun control or background checks when the kids being slaughtered on the streets were Black and Latino and the streets they were being slaughtered on were city streets? No. But when it’s an issue to White, suburban families, politicians generally run over themselves to be the first to solve the problem.

Hell, to make sure that something came out of this, the NRA was even invited to the table by Vice President Joe Biden and Senators Manchin and Toomey to put in its two cents.

But while the NRA was at the table, it was also whispering in the ears of the Senators it supports, telling them to vote no on the bill.

And they listened. By a vote of 54-46, the bill strengthening background checks was defeated.

The NRA, of course, was happy. Thanks to their efforts, the Second Amendment stands to take over the rest of the Constitution. As the document’s Third Rail, you’re not supposed to even think about, well, keeping some people and a firearm from ever getting together because gun-rights folks will have a full-on, paranoid freak-out if you even look like you’re going to put the words commonsense, gun, and legislation into the same sentence.

They swear that asking for such things as making sure that you’re not allowing a murderer or a person prone to domestic violence through a background check is a slippery slope that will lead to nationwide gun registration, the government confiscating all of the guns from so-called “law abiding” gun owners, and the inevitable black helicopters of the New World Order coming to call..

(I often wonder if these folks realize that their tendency to have a full-on paranoid freak-out whenever someone puts common sense, guns, and legislation in the same sentence is probably the biggest reason why some of us want to see more gun control, not less.)
But President Obama, Vice President Biden and a group of parents including some from Sandy Hook and victims of gun violence like former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who left her dream job in public service after being shot in the head during a “Meet Your Representative” gathering, were less than amused with the Senate because of this. A member of one of the Sandy Hook families shouted “Shame on You!” in the Senate Chambers.

“Joe, I’m gonna need you to go and get Harry for me after this…”

At a press conference in the White House Rose Garden afterward, Obama, well, let the Senate have it. Calling it “a shameful day for Washington”, a town that’s had so many of them it’s hard to keep count, Obama asked out loud what many citizens were thinking after the vote.

I’ve heard some say that blocking this step would be a victory. And my question is, a victory for who? A victory for what? All that happened today was the preservation of the loophole that lets dangerous criminals buy guns without a background check. That didn’t make our kids safer. Victory for not doing something that 90 percent of Americans, 80 percent of Republicans, the vast majority of your constituents wanted to get done? It begs the question, who are we here to represent?”

Well, let’s see. They’re not representing the families of the murdered. In fact, some members of Congress said that bringing them into the conversation was the equivalent of “emotional blackmail.”

They weren’t representing those folks who say that closing the gun show and Internet gun sales loopholes makes sense.

And they weren’t representing those who believe that America is awash in guns and large ammunition clips designed to do nothing but kill.


The next thing that the Senate did, pass an amendment punishing states that publish information about gun owners, tells you who they represent.

The Senate, and by extension Congress, represents the NRA.

Thus, they will heretofore be known as “The NRA-Controlled Congress.”

Which goes back to my friend Sen. Reid.

Before Sen. Reid became Senate Majority Leader, you could pass most things in the Senate with a simple majority vote. There were some things that required 60 votes to stop a filibuster and end debate, but most things were majority rules.

But, as they are wont to do, the Republicans began abusing the filibuster rule. Now just about anything of any consequence requires a 60-vote cushion to even be discussed. Since Sen. Reid can’t always count on his majority to hold, certain things end up either not passing or twisting in the wind.

Sen. Reid promised that in a second Obama Administration term, he’d reform the filibuster rules so that majority would rule when it could, and 60 votes would go back to being the gold standard, not the “we’re gonna use it to obstruct” standard. 

But instead of true reform, he caved in to McConnell and didn’t go nearly as far as he should have.

Thus, you can have a majority of the Senate want to see something pass, and instead have it fail.

And with that, Sen. Harry Reid becomes more useless than jello.

My hope is that this defeat makes President Obama do something that he was kind enough not to do during his first term… decide that it might be time for a vote of “no confidence” for Harry Reid as Senate Majority Leader. 

Because if he doesn’t what happened yesterday is going to be the rule, and not the exception…

And, in the words of Sweet Brown, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”













Real. Clear. Politics.

Does this look like the place for politics?

If you’ve followed this blog at all you know that I love politics and all things politics.

But while politics is my favorite contact sport, I also know that there are places, things and events that politics just should not touch. I don’t like the fact that we have elected school boards. I think that things like health care should have no political contact.

And so should things like natural disasters, bombings and other things that cause mass carnage. Will someone try and make political hay of these things eventually? Yes. But should that hay be made within days of their occurrence? No. In fact, Hell No!

I bring this up in light of some of the things that have shown up on my Facebook timeline, my Twitter feed, and other social media spots regarding Monday’s Boston Marathon bombing. While I understand that for some of us every day is Politics Day, when it comes to this incident and making political hay right now, I think that Susan from Sesame Street says it best…

From the moment that my I-Phone started going off with alerts about the bombing to the moment that the television set in my dentist’s office switched from the Katie Couric Show, a show that illustrates just how little the host has grown as an interviewer since her Today Show days, to coverage of the bombing, I hoped that we would have a few days, maybe a week, before the personal switched to the political.

Folks didn’t even wait for President Barack Obama to address the nation before they got started.

My fellow travelers at Salon, Mediaite and Gawker were kind enough to compile the best of the worst responses to the tragedy. Here are some samples:

For starters, let’s go with Fox News contributor Erik Rush, who has probably figured out that nothing goes away on the Internet, even when you delete it: 

“Everybody do the National Security Ankle Grab! Let’s bring more Saudis in without screening them! C’mon! #bostonmarathon,” 

When asked if he was already blaming Muslims for this despite the investigation being in it infancy, Rush responded  “Yes, they’re evil. Kill them all.”

Not to be outdone, Alex Jones, maintainer of the blog InfoWars, tried to say that the bombing was an inside job designed to lead to the “TSA groping you at sporting events soon…”, former Rep. Cynthia McKinney asserted that it was actually a Boston PD bomb squad drill gone horribly awry, and we’re not even going to get into Bill O’Reilly’s Nazi comparison or the fact that people are trying to make a buck off of this in the form of t-shirts and other merchandise.

After seeing this kind of stuff all day, I took to my Facebook page and put up the following:

While most everyone has shown restraint and not politicized the Boston Marathon attacks, there have been some folks that can’t help themselves showing their behinds on my timeline.
For them, I have this:
Stop it. Stop it now. Now isn’t the time.

I got a response from one of my friends on the right who said that now was exactly the time because, and I quote, “the country’s lack of leadership has been exposed. Harshly.”

Now, I could have said the same thing on Sept. 11, 2001 when the man who was president at the time was sitting in a Florida classroom reading the book My Pet Goat and looking right stupid, but I didn’t. That wasn’t the time. Thousands were dead. Hundreds were injured. People were mourning. People were in pain. If it’s between politics and people, my usually acerbic wit takes a backseat to my “Do you need a hug?” impulse.

So this was my response:

People are mourning. Folks have literally run their last fucking marathon because their legs have been blown off.
And you think that it’s time for us to start thinking about 2014?! Really?!
If someone had tried to politicize Sept. 11 when it happened, my status would be exactly the same. I may not have agreed with the folks running my government, but when it’s between people and politics, people are gonna win every time with me.
So I repeat…
This. Is. Not. The. Time.

What I’m starting to notice is that when there’s a tragedy like this, the toxicity of our politics really shines through. We’ve become so ready to search for scalps, come up with hackneyed theories and look for an “other” to blame at times like these, that little things like facts tend to fall by the wayside…just ask the New York Post, which had 12 people dead (it was actually only three) and an Arab man arrested. (He wasn’t.)

Unfortunately, compassion takes a backseat too. 

So, while I understand that some of you can’t help yourselves, ask yourself what you’d say to this person if you saw….

Her….
Or better yet, his Mom….

Republican National Convention: The Drinking Game

We go top shelf here baby! Ain’t no half steppin’ or malt liquor!

Now we here at the Mad (political) Scientist understand that while our readers may be political geeks in their own right, you’re not as big of political geeks as we are.

Because of this, we also recognize that while it might be a very good idea for you to watch gavel to gavel coverage of the political conventions and all of the speeches located within, you might want to blow off the Republican and Democratic National Convention clambakes in order to watch more stimulating television like, say, “Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo.

Now while we understand that you might want to do that, we want to keep your eyes trained on the one reality television show that we don’t as citizens watch nearly enough because it’s just a good idea to know what’s going on in your government and what’s up with the people who want to run it.

(Also, we want you to not watch shows like “Honey Boo-Boo” because while it’s given us a new word, “Redneckognize”, it’s the equivalent of eating a candied apple with a razor blade in it: the first bite is tasty, but as it goes down, it causes some really bad stomach problems.)

So in order to make sure you get the information you need to make informed decisions this election cycle, we here at The Mad (political) Scientist have organized an activity that everyone from scions of privilege with country club memberships to people who work part-time at WalMart and are in need of some amusement can do together.

What is it?

Well, it’s a Drinking Game!

But it’s not just any drinking game…no! It’s the Political Conventions Drinking Game.

Beginning with last night’s round of speeches, the text of which the folks at the Republican National Committee have been kind enough to send to me, I’ve scanned for words, phrases and other talking points that produce a coherent message, but don’t really tell you shit.

I’ve compiled the ones most often used throughout the various speeches and turned them into the RNC Drinking Game…

So…here’s how it works.

Whenever you hear a phrase like “family values” “American Exceptionalism”, “small government” “health care takeover”, or my personal favorites “tax cut”, “Ronald Reagan” and “Obamacare”, you are to take a swig of your favorite beverage.

We have even created a spotlight for the extremist views that get showcased at each convention because be believe that because those views are a part of the discourse, they should also be a part of the game.

For example, the Birther movement gets the spotlight this week. If someone says something that might be considered a “birther” position, you take a drink. If it’s a more overt “birther” thing, two drinks. An in-your-face, no doubt about it “birther” position, three drinks.

And if Donald Trump makes a birther comment, we consider it a wild-card. This means that if you want to grab that bottle of Jack Daniels’ Black and go hard with it, you have our permission…

Because you will hear a lot of phrases like these and a whole host of others a whole lot throughout this round of speeches, I strongly suggest non-alcoholic beverages. I’ve been drinking Arnold Palmers’ personally because, if Paul Ryan’s speech was any indication, the number of times he said “Obamacare” alone would have led to a nasty hangover.

But some of my friends have been doing much harder beverages, so I’ve kind of encouraged them to maybe drink a half a glass instead of a full one.

(To be honest, I’m not sure how many of my friends were awake for Ryan’s speech. A lot of them were hitting the sauce kinda hard. In fact, one friend of mine admitted to me that she was “hammered” before Condoleezza Rice took the stage. One friend had started drinking the minute he turned on the television.)

Now why did I do this? Simple. I wanted folks to actually start thinking about the political messages they’re taking in through these conventions.

I tend to call the buzzwords that permeate our current political discourse “dog whistles”. That’s because like dog whistles, these words emit a sound that no one else can hear except those tuned to its frequency.

When it’s your dog hearing the whistle to come home, that’s a good thing. But when it’s a group of people using those words to disparage another group, not so much.

I want us all to be able to recognize when the “dog whistles” are being sounded, so I created a game that allows us to look for them. Maybe through taking them apart, we can talk about things like the true impact of the Affordable Care Act on Medicaid, a responsible way to reduce the deficit that doesn’t do it on the backs of the middle class and the poor, education reform that makes EVERYONE involved in the process responsible, not just teachers, and ways to get to energy dependence that don’t involve war and further disturbing the fragile balance of nature.

Or at the very least, we can engage in some good libations and have some funny drunken moments that will end up on YouTube at some point.

In any case, if you’re gonna play, you’re need some practice before Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney takes the stage to end the RNC tomorrow. So, I leave you with Vice Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan’s speech…

Remember: non-alcoholic beverages!

 

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Surviving the Game

“That went well…”

Because I was trying to teach small children how to do journalistic interviews yesterday, something I would only recommend to the most patient of my fellow travelers in journalism, I missed seeing Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney’s speech to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, or the NAACP as it’s better known.

Romney, in what can only be considered the equivalent of walking into Ohio Stadium in a Michigan sweatshirt before the Wolverines and Buckeyes take the field on a Saturday afternoon, came to the civil rights organization’s annual convention in Houston in an attempt to do one of three things: (a) pick off some of President Barack Obama’s supporters in the African American community (b) make the Republican Party seem like it wants to be more attractive to people of color and (c) show independents and whites turned off by the antics of such folks as Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, and others that the adults that ran the Republican Party prior to 2010 were still, at least marginally, in charge.

At the very least, and I know this because i’ve covered NAACP conventions, Romney could be guaranteed a respectful audience. The gathered folks might not be real fond of what he had to say, but they’d show him the courtesy of listening. One thing that we are taught almost from birth as African Americans is to be respectful.

But while we’re a respectful people, even the most genteel among us isn’t going to let you pull down your pants and take a crap in the middle of our living room floor without us pointing out to you that it’s not cool…We’re probably not only going to ask you to leave, but will send your crap out along with you in a bag that you might hope doesn’t break before it hits you in the head…

Which is something that Mitt Romney found out on Wednesday when he said that among the first things he’d do as president is get rid of every wasteful program including the repeal what he calls Obamacare, what Massachusetts residents call Romneycare, and what those of us who need it to survive call the Affordable Care Act.

(I have a blog post coming on that, but let’s stick to this for now.)

And the crowd, well, responded…

I hear tell that Romney wasn’t surprised that he got booed for this. That’s probably because of (d) which is, he goes and speaks to Black folks, gets booed, and all of the white folks who have lost their minds completely over the last four years because we dared put not only a Black man, but a Black man with an African name and a pretty Black wife and two beautiful Black children into the White House feel better about voting for him despite the fact that he’s done the equivalent of an Extreme Makeover to make himself palatable to them.

Now is there a part of me that thinks it’s rude to boo someone that you basically invited into your home? Yeah. Miss Ollie, my late mother, would be mortified if I brought someone into my home for the sole purpose of being rude to them. She would tell me that if I was going to do that, I shouldn’t have asked them over in the first place.

And on one hand, she’d be absolutely right.

But on the other hand, there’s that whole “taking a crap in my living room” thing to consider.

While I can totally understand that Romney is running as fast as his legs can carry him from President Obama’s version of the healthcare plan he put together in Massachusetts, he needs to understand that most if not all of the folks in the audience that makes up the NAACP either know someone or are someone who could benefit from affordable healthcare.

Don’t believe me? Here’s some stats from the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured:

  • African Americans are less likely to have employer-sponsored health insurance than whites (53 percent vs. 73 percent.) This is in spite of the fact that eight out of 10 African Americans are in working families.
  • While Medicaid provides somewhat of a safety net for African Americans who have income levels at less than 200 percent of the poverty level, families that make more are uninsured at a level of 30 percent because they make too much for Medicaid, something that would be taken care of as part of the expansion of the program in the ACA.
  • Uninsured African Americans are at least three times as likely not to have a primary care doctor than uninsured whites. Much of this is because income levels in the African American community are lower than that of whites. 

I could go on, but hopefully you get my point.

Mitt Romney didn’t get booed by the NAACP because, as Rush Limbaugh says (and can someone tell me again why we’re still paying attention to this gasbag who was supposed to be in Costa Rica by now) the group is racist. He didn’t get booed because the NAACP, as some dude on Sean Hannity’s program put it, is a hate group.

He got booed because he told a room filled with people who live the whole health care disparity debate on a daily basis that he, basically, didn’t care if they lived or died.

Don’t know about you, but if you’ve been through some of the stuff that I’ve been through due to a lack of health insurance, you’d have probably booed too…and you may have used a megaphone.

So while I understand that there are folks who feel that the audience at the NAACP convention committed a faux pas by booing Mitt Romney, I can also see why they did it.

And in my next post, so will you.