It never fails. Every day since the Republican National Convention, my Facebook newsfeed has someone talking about the election in some capacity. Whether it’s a link to Samuel L. Jackson’s controversial ad for Obama encouraging everyone to wake up and vote, or a picture of Mr. Obama’s backside and a caption reading, “I’ve got my president’s back,” or some word of praise about Michelle Obama’s sophistication, or even a witty picture/quote pointing out an example of Mitt Romney’s so-called ill-qualifications, more than several of my Facebook friends are expressing their ideas about the upcoming election. As you may imagine, the majority of them will vote. Interestingly, someone’s status update recently provoked me to write my thoughts about voting. It said something like: “If I ever hear a pastor encourage people not to vote from a platform, that would be my last time at that church.” And while I understand and respect her sentiment, I don’t understand or respect dismissing people who choose not to vote without exploring their opinions. Since I have had such thoughts before, and am leaning toward not voting myself, l decided to explore them a little more fully.
Before I share them, however, I will share with you my understanding of the reasons people vote. I hear two the most:
1. Have your voice heard
If you want your voice heard in a political setting, voting is the way to do it. Instead of complaining to people who have no power to address your issues, every four years or every two years, you can express you contentment or discontentment with elected officials by voting for them into office or voting them out of office. The vote is one of the main ways everyday citizens can be heard.
Especially relevant to African Americans whose history includes people being denied their basic rights of citizenship, voting becomes a moral responsibility—a way to express gratitude for the sacrifices of our forebears and ancestors. Many put their lives on the line for the right to vote and were rewarded with death. The least we could do is register and go to the polls.
A study was recently released documenting how the number of registered voters in Chicago has drastically plummeted since 2008. Although Chicago (and an overwhelming majority of Americans) were excited about Obama’s historic run, I don’t believe the aforementioned reasons are sufficient enough to keep people enthusiastic about voting in this upcoming election. And though I don’t profess to know why people are not voting, I can imagine they feel similar to me: disenchanted because of the reasons I will mention below, or because the affect of the Obama Kool-Aid has worn off (probably a combination of both).
No. I haven’t completely made up my mind about not voting, but here are a few of the reasons why I am leaning toward not voting.
1. My vote doesn’t count
“He who votes counts for nothing. He who counts the votes, counts for everything.” – Joseph Stalin
When I first heard this quote sometime in graduate school, I had to read it a couple of times before it really clicked. But when it did, I was changed. Putting aside your personal feelings about Stalin and his philosophies, it is difficult to deny the truth of his quotation. There is, indeed, a veil between the voters and the declaration of the outcome of the election. That buffer is the counting process. It seems pretty flawless. If people can be persuaded to vote and then agitate the outcome to the favor of a predetermined candidate, the voters will have no idea of the corruption. They will go along with results because they have faith in the system. It’s interesting, people suspect cheating via counting in elections in high school, civic organizations, American Idol, and even churches who vote their pastors in and out, but the same suspicion appears to be absent in the people’s mind concerning the election of President of the United States and other local and national political offices.
Funny clip. But there is a message above that should not be overlooked. Electronic voting machines, though said to be more proficient, have the capability to swing elections. But don’t take my word for it; listen to a public testimony from a programmer who created a program that could fix an election. In his testimony, he talked about the importance of receiving a receipt upon voting on an electronic voting machine. When I voted in 2008 on one of these machines in Indiana, I asked for a receipt and was told they didn’t give any out. I was encouraged to trust the accuracy of these machines that “nullify” the human error factor. Knowing that the digital gas pumps are rigged, digital thermometers have been inaccurate, and digital scales just plain wrong (according to some women I know), I just shook my head and left wearing my “I voted” sticker.
2. It doesn’t matter who the president is, he is just a puppet
Since 1913 politics and politicians have been compromised. As we should know, The Federal Reserve is not federal at all. It is a privately owned corporation that operates independently of the government. As you research the Federal Reserve System, you will find that the bank creates our currency (Federal Reserve Notes) and that your and my income taxes go to the owners of the bank. This is relevant because the Federal Reserve loans money to the American government and the American people pay back the loans with interest (unconstitutional income tax).
“Give me control over a nation’s currency and I care not who makes its laws” (Baron Mayer Amschel Rothschild).
In summary, the president serves the Federal Reserve. As I see it, that drastically conflicts with serving the people. The Federal Reserve has controlled every president since 1913. And the ones who have gone against the directives of the banking elite have been assassinated.
“I am a most unhappy man. I have unwittingly ruined my country. A great industrial nation is now controlled by its system of credit. We are no longer a government by free opinion, no longer a government by conviction and the vote of the majority, but a government by the opinion and duress of a small group of dominate men” – Woodrow Wilson (1919)
So when I hear all of the many things “Obama has done” in his first four years touted as reasons he should be reelected, I get annoyed. Regardless, however, of the laundry list of successes or failures we attribute to Obama’s administration, I think acknowledging Obama with the credit is superficial. I sincerely believe that Obama (and any other president for that matter) makes no real decisions. The president is a parrot—repeating what he is told to say, and a puppet—doing what he is told to do. Whether the puppet tricks or treats, kisses or kicks, intelligent people direct their response of the puppet’s action to the puppet master. Don’t be confused, however. Puppets can puppet. In such a complex society, it shouldn’t be a surprise to find that puppets themselves can occupy the second and third tiers of the show. If you want to see the mind that facilitates the action, follow the strings—all of them.
3. Campaign issues are different from real everyday life issues
In my opinion, coverage of campaigns before a major election is huge distractions. The debates, news commentary, and commercials play on the emotional aspect of voters, getting them excited about irrelevant issues that have little to do with real decisions that affect citizens. In every election, issues related to Christianity (religion), abortion, homosexuality, gas prices, education, rights of illegal immigrants, etc. come up. The politicians give their usual campaign rhetoric about the matter, then the people who feel affiliated with a particular perspective vote en masse to support the candidate who professes to support the cause they are most passionate about.
This bothers me because it makes me feel like I am being played with. Many promises are made. Few are kept. I feel that the politician is fully aware of his impotence related to keeping promises. He is told to do or say whatever necessary to appeal to the masses. That way, whatever story is spun, the people will believe it. I am uninterested in being toyed with. I also uninterested in being promised something by someone who has no intentions on keeping the promise and/or no power to deliver it.
4. Voting is NOT the only way to voice one’s concern/ express one’s voice
The main reason I voted in 2008 was because I was advised not to complain about the state of the union if I didn’t vote. You may have heard the argument that if you don’t vote, you essentially subscribe to whatever the outcome is, and therefore can’t complain. As a former complainer who wanted the space and place to complain, I decided to vote. After I voted, however, I thought about how I still couldn’t complain if my candidate didn’t win. If you vote, and your candidate doesn’t win, you can’t complain either because the process is such that your candidate may not win. He or she did not get enough support… the system works…so try again next time.
The way I see it, this cannot be the only way to express one’s discontentment with political matters. There have to be ways, in the meantime, to have one’s voice heard. Unfortunately, this is where Black people, in my view, have been stuck for the past number of years. We have participated in the system and have patiently endured the suffering that ensued from a decision we didn’t support or legislation handed down by a candidate we didn’t vote for. And we have also waited another four years to see which of several candidates would be the “least evil” to replace the one with which we are currently dissatisfied. Why are we so content with voting for the poison that will kill us the slowest? This is one of the reasons I supported the recent teacher’s strike in Chicago. They had been lied to for years and years and finally acted in a spirit of unity to express their frustration with being false hope and empty promises.
I feel that it is past time that we, as an American people, found other ways to make our voices heard in this society. Voting is NOT, despite popular opinion, the only way to express one’s voice. I lean toward not voting because voting makes us more likely to accept the status quo and go along with whatever happens during an administration. The vote has put us in a position of passivity. We are not complaining as much. We are not complaining loud enough… we are too compliant. Smh.
5. Our ancestors fought for our right to choose.
I may get in trouble for this one, but people who say that our ancestors died that we may have the right to vote, or the right to sit in the front of the bus, or the right to eat in a segregated restaurant or sit beside white people in a waiting room are only partially right. As I see it, our ancestors died that we may have the right to CHOOSE to vote or not to vote, to sit in the front of the bus or the back, etc. They fought to have the restrictions that limited the Black man and woman’s right to determine for themselves. Our ancestors fought for true freedom and independence (as evidenced in the right to choose) and I think it is misleading to superimpose manipulative thoughts like these on our youth. I think our ancestors want us to do what is best for us in this day and in this time, not attempting to repeat what they did in their day and in their time.
Ultimately, I feel that the political system is corrupt—very corrupt. I believe that it’s a huge illusion designed to make people believe their concerns matter when, in fact, the government will almost always carry out their agenda despite what the people want or need. It is structured in such a way that gives people a sense of hope during times they would express themselves in rebellious and even violent ways because of feelings of hopelessness and powerlessness. The way I see it, American democracy, American justice, and American politics are just ideas paraded around as realities until the government becomes so powerful, nothing can be done to stop it. In an ideal society, I would vote. It would be a legitimate way to voice one’s concerns about the state of the union and the issues that are important and relevant to elections. It would be fair and honest. Everybody’s vote would count. But sense we are not living in an ideal society, I have a dilemma: to vote or not to vote. Help me decide.
Black-on-Black violence is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. I have been personally frustrated for some time concerning this matter because I feel that we, as a people, are waiting around for someone else to pass a law or install a camera that will end it once and for all. Though they are easier to do, and may even seem like good things to do, the aforementioned suggestions will do little to solve the problem. This piece will explore the problem, the source of the problem, and suggest solutions toward addressing Black-on-Black violence.
Over the last 15 years, the statistics concerning Black-on-Black violence have gotten worse. And in these years, efforts to stop the violence have not worked. Curfews have failed. More police patrolling the streets of high-risk neighborhoods have failed. Metal detectors in the schools have failed. Surveillance cameras, with their flashing blue lights, mounted atop telephone poles have failed.
Despite the fact that these attempts to solve the problem have not worked, our communities are still flooded with police and cameras. Public schools have security guards, surveillance cameras, metal detectors, mandatory student uniforms, and transparent book bags. Every year there is a new idea that supposedly will be the one to stop the violence — but just like the radical ideas from all the other years, they fail.
Two years ago in Chicago, there was an idea to call in the National Guard to help the police stem the rising tide of urban violence. Is the only way to stop violence in Black communities to infringe on the privacy of all community members and intimidate them with a military-like presence?
The truth of the matter is that the aforementioned efforts have not worked and are not the best answers to the violence problem. The surveillance cameras do little to deter or solve crimes, and the police seem to occupy our neighborhoods rather than protect them. These efforts only add to the hostility, tension, and frustration that serve as a spark for much of the violence in the first place. If we really want to prevent the violence, we have to attack the cause. If my shoulder is bleeding, a Band-Aid on my forearm will not help. Neither will a Band-Aid on my hand or leg. But that is what seems to be happening in the case of violence in our communities. Much of the attention to curb violence has been misdirected and does not address the source of the problem.
Not long ago, I picked up a used social psychology textbook. After reading the first chapter, I was reminded that violent behavior has long been a topic of interest among scholars. The various theories that have been tested over the years have revealed that the problem of violence is not one of inherent delinquency. What follows is a short excerpt from the textbook. As you read, consider the solutions being offered up by today’s politicians and so-called experts. Do blue-light cameras, more policemen, metal detectors, etc. address what this book identifies as the source of the problem?
“… frustrating situations make people angry and increase their tendency to act aggressively. This is called the frustration-aggression hypothesis. It predicts that when people are blocked from achieving a desired goal, they feel frustrated and angry and are more likely to lash out…. The frustration-aggression hypothesis can also explain how large-scale economic and societal factors CREATE [emphasis mine] situations that lead to violence and crime. For instance, people who are poor and crowded into urban slums are frustrated. They cannot get good jobs, find affordable housing, provide a safe environment for their children, and so on. This frustration may produce anger, which can be the direct cause of violent crime” (Social Psychology, Prentice Hall, Eleventh Edition, 2006).
In our cities, people often commit crimes because they are frustrated, because they are poor, because they feel there’s no other option. People do not commit crimes, violent or non-violent, based on the absence of a surveillance camera or law-enforcement officer. People don’t steal because they want to be cool. People don’t join gangs because they don’t have a family. People don’t sell drugs to pass the time. People do these things because they’re hungry — both physically and spiritually. They do these things because they’re poor, because their angry, because they’re afraid.
This vantage point is important because, as I said before, if you don’t address the right source of the problem you will never arrive at the right solution to the problem.
To be honest, I am no longer convinced that the attempts of the government are well thought out or even submitted with the expectation to truly solve the problem. More often than not, the “solutions” are offered as quick fixes to keep voters placated or to keep certain public officials gainfully employed.
So, what do we do now? What can we do to rebuild, strengthen, and protect our own communities?
We have to do something. We cannot let news reports cause us to feel overwhelmed and powerless. We cannot push aside our responsibility to the youth in our community because we think someone in a high place is working on a solution. We have to do something. Here are a few suggestions for actions we can take ourselves:
1. We must seek help from higher sources. Seeking wisdom through faithful and consistent spiritual practices help to discipline people and to provide them with a healthy outlet for venting frustration. Additionally, many problems are spiritual in nature. Everything that happens on the visible (physical) plane was birthed on an invisible (mental, emotional, spiritual) plane. We must ask ourselves and the Most High God/ Creator of universes known and unknown to reveal what needs to be addressed in higher spheres so that we can see a shift in the material sphere where we perceive reality.
2. We must educate ourselves. We cannot respond to our problems with frustration. We must learn more than what the media is telling us about these problems. We must also learn our history so we can see what methods were effective under similar circumstances in the past. We can use this knowledge to think creatively about how to address current and, in many cases, worsening conditions.
3. We must downsize. We cannot get sidetracked by American consumerism, teaching our children and younger people to purchase expensive materials and possessions to the point of going into debt, or robbing and killing to get what they want.
4. We must respect each other. Unity and community are not a thing of the past. In fact, African Americans coined the phrase “unity in the community.” We have to make a concerted effort to instill in our youth (whether we know them personally or not) that there is certain behavior that is unacceptable — and that killing your brother or sister is an extreme example of this unacceptable behavior.
5. We must fight poverty and we must fight any system that allows poverty. This is one of the chief causes of crime and violence. We cannot passively accept, or participate in, unjust economic systems that thrive on keeping a certain segment of society below the poverty line.
6. We must focus on better parenting. Many of our youth have little to no idea of what is right vs. wrong because they do not have responsible adults guiding them. As younger children they are taught that mischievous behavior is “cute” or worthy of being overlooked or handled lightly. This only perpetuates the misbehavior and adversely affects the structures/rules set by schools and greater society. This inevitably leads to trouble and the aforementioned frustration. We must learn to reprimand our children fairly and effectively and not be “scared” of DCFS or police intervention for being an active parent. Remember who the adult is and who the child is.
7. We must stop making excuses. The fact that we have multiple jobs, or work at night or on the weekends, does not exonerate us from being active parents to our children. In fact, it requires us to work even harder to be present and involved with our youth. The connection to our children, now more than ever, is of grand importance.
School is starting. Let’s pray that it’s a safe and positive one for our youth. And let each of us ask ourselves: Will I be a part of the solution or the problem?
An earlier version of this post appeared on UrbanFaith.com.
by: Aaron P. Taylor
…Okay, so I didn’t want to write a note about this. In fact, my goal was just to stay out of it altogether. But then I started reading more and more stupid comments from people about this issue, and felt the need to make my opinion on the subject heard.
There’s been a recent bru-ha-ha about comments the President of Chick-fil-a made during an interview with the Biblical Recorder in North Carolina (later reprinted by the Baptist Press). Prior to reading the actual comments made, the only thing I heard that could be gathered from it was that Dan Cathy and the Chick-fil-a company were against gay marriage. Frankly, I wasn’t surprised at this – Chick-fil-a’s been a company running on Christian values since it opened. What, you think their “closed on Sunday’s” policy is just to give the chicken an extra day to marinate?
What I couldn’t understand was why someone would come out and blatantly state this, knowing full well that gay people may actually go to their restaurants. So, rather than listen to what everyone else was saying, I decided to find the actual article that started this whole thing.
And, as it turns out, my suspicions were correct: that’s NOT exactly what was said.
For those of you who don’t care to hear second-hand info, here’s a snippet from the article as it was written (click here to read the entire article):
Some have opposed the company’s support of the traditional family. “Well, guilty as charged,” said Cathy when asked about the company’s position.
“We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.
“We operate as a family business … our restaurants are typically led by families; some are single. We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families. We are very much committed to that,” Cathy emphasized.
“We intend to stay the course,” he said. “We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles.”
Let’s get a few things out the way here: first of all, nowhere in the ENTIRE ARTICLE do the words “gay,” “lesbian,” “transgender,” or “bisexual” appear. So, anyone who’s been saying that Mr. Cathy stated he was against gay marriage has been misquoting him.
Mr. Cathy’s statement was made when he was being interviewed by the Biblical Recorder, which one can assume is a CHRISTIAN organization. The website that posted the article, the Baptist Press, is also a CHRISTIAN organization who’s motto is “News With a Christian Perspective.” The Christian view of gay marriage is that it’s wrong. Therefore, companies built by Christians are going to have the same viewpoint.
Furthermore, nowhere in his answer did he say he hated or had any animosity towards the gay community. In fact, he didn’t even go into discussion about his company’s position on marriage – one that’s been well-known for YEARS – until he was asked about it. And even then, it wasn’t as if whatever answer he gave was going to be that shocking. Can all of you who are now suddenly against Chick-fil-a seriously tell me, based upon how they’ve operated all these years, that you’re really, REALLY all that shocked that Chick-fil-a would support what they consider to be the biblical definition of a “family unit?”
They assume Mr. Cathy’s comment is just about their community. It’s not. Look at the way it’s worded: “traditional family.” Their stance is not about NOT supporting gay marriage (though I’m sure it’s not exactly something they’re looking to throw money at to support either). It’s about supporting the things and values they feel make for the healthiest family environment.
Their statement, if delved into more deeply, means they’re also against the following:
*Kids growing up in single-parented households
*Parents wanting to get divorced
*Families that constantly abuse themselves, each other, or others
*Families where the parents live together but aren’t married to each other
It would be against the mission statement of the company – not to mention their image – if they decided to say “screw it” and show support for any and everything that goes against the nature of what their actual values are. If they are claiming to be a company based upon Christian values, supporting certain things – like the list above, as well as gay marriage – would be more harmful to them in the long run.
This is not to say these types of elements are not allowed to enter their restaurants. However, if their vision of what a “healthy family unit” is consists of households with a mom, a dad, a few kids and some grandparents, they have the right to support that vision. They’re not discriminating against other types of families who come into their restaurant, but at the same time they shouldn’t have to feel the need to bend and/or change their views of what they feel a healthy family unit is just to make one group of people happy. In fact, if they DID do that now, it would be worse.
Before I finish this article up, I feel I should add something: I know someone is going to read this and want to comment with the response: “But Aaron, you’re Black! You should empathize with how gays would feel about this issue! How would you feel if they said they only support the idea of White marriages?”
First off, please stop comparing the gay struggle to the civil rights struggle. It’s not the same thing: Blacks were taken from their homeland, sold into slavery, separated from their loved ones, whipped, demoralized, pit against each other, and had to fight to get even an ounce of freedom and recognition as citizens. Tommy having to “struggle” about whether to tell his friends he likes boys is NOT a comparable situation.
More importantly: a company’s opinion about what they view a true marriage to be doesn’t concern me. What concerns me is how they treat me when I go into their establishment. Reality check: many, MANY businesses in this country were started and/or still ran by people who have views on things that are against my viewpoint. If I stopped supporting each one who had an “opinion” different from mine, I’d be walking around butt naked with no electronic devices or apartment to speak of.
Bottom line: if you liked Chick-fil-a before, don’t let Mr. Cathy’s sudden “shocking” statement about his company’s views on marriage stop you from eating there. You were eating there the day before you heard about him making the statement, but the company’s opinion has been public knowledge for YEARS. Suck it up, get your eat on, and make sure you order their lemonade when you do.
Aaron P. Taylor is a graduate of Hampton University. He currently resides in Los Angeles, CA, where he works as a film editor, creative consultant and writer. You can read more of his articles at www.1001ThingsToBeThankfulFor.com
Examining the Drastic Changes in Public Opinion—The 2000s
When Rosie O’Donnell came out in 2002 and became a spokesman for gay rights, public opinion shifted again. More people felt liberated by the caliber of celebrities coming out and the people started coming out of closets everywhere. The philosophical discussion around homosexuality also shifted. Do gay people have rights? Should they be allowed to marry? Should they be allowed to adopt children? Is homosexuality the civil rights issue of the new millennium? Interestingly, can you see how such questions subtly imply the acceptability of homosexuality generally, but the specifics within the “lifestyle” are up for debate?
We can’t forget JL King’s book, On the Downlow in 2004. “Down low” was no longer associated with the R. Kelly 1996 hit song talking about a secret (heterosexual) affair, but became a new term used to describe the anomaly of “straight” Black men who secretly had sex with other men, but didn’t classify themselves as gay. Society considered him as an authority because he was a Black man living the secret life he wrote about. As a consequence, the level of suspicion rose among different sects of the Black community against Black men.
Perhaps as a response the heightened suspicions, during this time period phrases like “pause” and “no homo” became very popular. “No homo” was used to preface a statement that may sound or be interpreted as homosexual, but is not. “No homo” is like a disclaimer people used so they would not be mis-taken as homosexual based on their comment. Soon after “no homo” came on the scene, “pause” was erected…no homo. LOL! If a man said something to another man that sounded homosexual in nature, the man hearing the message would have to say, “pause” to encourage the speaking man to think about what he said and say it another way to remove the homosexual suggestion. They not only showed a concerted effort of people attempting to distance themselves from being associated with homosexual before making a statement, it also indicated how homosexuality colored and influenced the mentalities of the masses. Language and definitions changed. Symbols changed. The general sense of humor changed. Popular culture changed. Advertisements changed. Everything, in a real sense, has been affected by homosexuality.
In 2006, I distinctly remember controversy surrounding the book, King and King by Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland. An elementary school teacher read the book to her class in Lexington, MA when talking about weddings. There was an uproar around the fact that parents were not notified and that children were being influenced to accept homosexuality as normal. But parents would not be able to stop the other forms of media as it injected ideas of homosexuality to an impressionable generation of children.
From the middle of the first decade in the 21st century, to now, so much has happened. I don’t know everything, but here is a short list of things that I remember. Feel free to comment and add what you remember and I have left out.
In 2004 Governor (New Jersey) James McGreevey resigns over gay affair.
In 2006, pastor and spokesman against homosexuality, Ted Haggard, is involved in a mega-scandal where he is accused of sexual relationships with a male prostitute.
In 2007, at the MTV Video Music Awards, Brittney Spears and Madonna. Also in 2007, John Amaechi made history as being the first (former) NBA player to be an admitted homosexual.
In 2008, Wanda Sykes came out of the closet (rather loudly) at a rally in Las Vagas protesting Proposition 8. Katy Perry, A preacher’s kid, became an overnight sensation with her hit “I Kissed A Girl.” Clay Aiken came out later in the year.
In 2010, there was a lot of talk about My Princess Boy—a book inspired by real events about a 4-year-old Black boy who enjoys dressing up like a princess (to see more books similar to this, click here)
In 2012, GLADD demands that CNN fire Roland Martin over controversial tweet that “encouraged violence against gay men.”
In May, President Barak Obama made headlines when he openly affirmed his support for same sex marriages and more recently Josh Dixon trying to make gay history by becoming the first out male gymnast on the US men’s Olympic gymnastic team, and the coming out of Anderson Cooper and Frank Ocean.
Next post: Formula to Normalize Homoxexuality
Examining the Drastic Changes in Public Opinion—The 1990s
In the early 1990s, I remember RuPaul getting a lot of attention in entertainment news. While I had seen Jamie Foxx portray “Wanda” on In Living Color, and Martin portray “Sheneneh” on The Martin Lawrence Show, and even heard about Flip Wilson’s portrayal of “Geraldine,” I never knew of any Black men so serious about dressing up like a woman they would make a career out of it. RuPaul’s appearance in the 1990s introduced the concept of a national figure (in my day) who didn’t care about what other people thought about his choices. While his presence was liberating to some, for the most part, homosexuality was still seen as unacceptable.
Later, during my high school years, I remember philosophies starting to change. I don’t know if I can put my finger on why, but it seemed like people were becoming more open-minded. In the black community, when rumors surfaces that certain celebrities were gay, I remember people saying they didn’t care what others did in the privacy of their bedrooms, as long as they didn’t approach them… For the first time, I also remember there being an intellectual debate around homosexuality. Where as in the past, the Bible was enough evidence to support the immorality of homosexuality, it became insufficient in philosophical debates that argued that homosexuality was natural, and that animals exhibited homosexual behavior. The argument that homosexuality was nature and not nurture was prevalent and talks of a “gay gene” promoted the idea that people are born gay. It was also during this time that homosexuality became a “lifestyle.” Historical Black figures like James Baldwin, Bayard Rustin, and Angela Davis were presented as evidence that homosexuality had been in the Black community for a long time.
I think Ellen Degeneres was one of the first famous people to come out of the closet. And when she did, she made waves. As I recall, the waves were not all waves of disapproval. Yes, her show was canceled later (some may say because of her falling ratings that resulted in her sexuality), but her coming out had a ripple effect that did not only influence other celebrities to come out of their own closets, it also shifted public opinion as a whole. We will see more of this as we make our way into the new millennium.
What do you remember about the public opinion of homosexuality from the 90s?
Next post: Examining the Drastic Changes in Public Opinion—The 2000s
You see evidence of it everywhere. You can’t miss it- even if you try. You may like it, hate it, dismiss it, or even applaud it; but one thing you can’t do is ignore it. The campaign to normalize homosexuality is real.
Let me be clear: I do not aim to be offensive. I use the word normalize to convey the dramatic shift in public opinion about the matter in just a few decades. My intentions for writing and sharing these ideas are four: 1) to examine the drastic change in public opinion, 2) to explore the potential motivation of the unseen parties behind (what I’ll call) the gay agenda, 3) to publish One Black Man, Inc. survey results on homosexuality and 4) to introduce (insert) my personal thoughts into the discussion about homosexuality and Black manhood.
Whether one agrees or disagrees with the notion of same-gender sexual relationships, we can all agree that there are more people today who identify themselves as homosexual than 20 years ago. We can also agree that media depictions of homosexual relationships have increased exponentially and that upcoming generations are more tolerant of “alternative lifestyles.” Upon noticing these observations, I wondered what other people thought of the matter. I decided to conduct some research of my own. Before we get into the results, however, I want to take a quick look at the morphing of the views of homosexuality in my short lifetime.
Examining the Drastic Changes in Public Opinion—The 1980s
When I was growing up in the 80s, homosexuality was taboo. People accused of being gay were ridiculed with names like sissy, faggot, and queer. There was a degree of shame and embarrassment associated with homosexuality, and nobody wanted to be linked with such behaviors or labels. AIDS was also connected with homosexuality on a large scale. Looking back at Oprah’s 1987 coverage of AIDS in Williamson, West Virginia, one can not only see how ignorant the American public was concerning the disease, but how vehemently opposed to the homosexual lifestyle most Americans were at the time.
Next post: The 1990s
Michael Jackson died on June 25, 2009. It was a sudden and almost abrupt exit that literally shocked the world. There have been conspiracies surrounding his death and even speculations circulating about him faking his death. Unfortunately, there have also surfaced rumors of some activities that he engaged in during his life. Among them are the ideas that Jackson, a purported follower of Alister Crowley, conjured the spirit Cybele – the goddess of the nature/ fertility. Some have said he worshipped her and that some of his love songs are written to her.
For the sake of where this post is going, let’s say that these accusations are true. Let’s say Jackson, through rituals and other methods, got in touch with the Spirit of Nature. Let’s say they communed with each other. Let’s say he wrote songs to please her and to make the world aware of how she is hurting and in need of healing.
Michael Jackson’s message was one of love and healing and taking care of the planet. At the end of the movie, “This Is It” I heard something that was VERY interesting. Right before they prayed after one of the rehearsals, Michael Jackson said something to his team to inspire them. “We have four years to get it right or else it’s irreversible to manage what we’ve done…”
If Jackson was in communication with Cybele, did he know something that we didn’t know? Was he a messenger? What do you think he referring to? What can we do to reverse what we’ve done? What are the consequences?
I don’t have the answers, but I do have a few thoughts. The weather has been changing drastically over the last few decades. Biblical predictions seem to be coming to pass. Did Jesus know more about the Earth than we give him credit? Is our planet really unintelligent? Over the last 6000, we have done so much to hurt the third rock from the sun. Our lifestyles have become so demanding and are based on so much ignorance that they now require the destruction of the Earth. Perhaps nature is responding to us in some way. A warning? Or have we already received warnings?
As we remember Michael Jackson on the anniversary of his death, let’s not reduce him to a mere musician. Let’s remember him as a philanthropist and one who had a heart toward humanity and taking care of the planet. Let us hear anew the songs and follow the advice given in them… before it’s too late.
I respect Lauryn Hill. Not just because she is a great actress, or a talented musician, because she is a gifted poet, or a committed mother. Above all this, I respect her because she speaks truth. I think this is what made so many people resonate with her work. Her spiritual journey is inspirational to be (being on one myself). She is conscious, unapologetic about her authentic expression, and unafraid to shine the light of truth on corruption, illusions, and lies.
Recently, the public was made aware of Hill’s failure to file tax charges. I was sickened to see how the public tried to slander her character and make her look like a villain (or at least an incompetent citizen)– especially since I have accepted the argument that income taxes are unconstitutional. But I was not surprised because the true villain always depicts the victim as the villain in an attempt to distract the masses from opening their eyes to the reality of the true villain’s identity. Although Hill does address the argument concerning the corrupt history of taxing labor and where the money from taxes go, her statement is captivating and full of truth about the music industry and the bullying and manipulation that goes on behind the scenes. I dare not paraphrase or summarize. Read her words for yourself.
On her Tumblr page, Lauryn Hill spoke the following truth:
“For the past several years, I have remained what others would consider underground. I did this in order to build a community of people, like-minded in their desire for freedom and the right to pursue their goals and lives without being manipulated and controlled by a media protected military industrial complex with a completely different agenda. Having put the lives and needs of other people before my own for multiple years, and having made hundreds of millions of dollars for certain institutions, under complex and sometimes severe circumstances, I began to require growth and more equitable treatment, but was met with resistance. I entered into my craft full of optimism (which I still possess), but immediately saw the suppressive force with which the system attempts to maintain it’s control over a given paradigm. I’ve seen people promote addiction, use sabotage, black listing, media bullying and any other coercion technique they could, to prevent artists from knowing their true value, or exercising their full power. These devices of control, no matter how well intentioned (or not), can have a devastating outcome on the lives of people, especially creative types who must grow and exist within a certain environment and according to a certain pace, in order to live and create optimally.
I kept my life relatively simple, even after huge successes, but it became increasingly obvious that certain indulgences and privileges were expected to come at the expense of my free soul, free mind, and therefore my health and integrity. So I left a more mainstream and public life, in order to wean both myself, and my family, away from a lifestyle that required distortion and compromise as a means for maintaining it. During this critical healing time, there were very few people accessible to me who had not already been seduced or affected by this machine, and therefore who could be trusted to not try and influence or coerce me back into a dynamic of compromise. Individual growth was expected to take place unnaturally, or stagnated outright, subject to marketing and politics. Addressing critical issues like pop culture cannibalism or its manipulation of the young at the expense of everything, was frowned upon and discouraged by limiting funding, or denying it outright. When one has a prolific creative output like I did/do, and is then forced to stop, the effects can be dangerous both emotionally and psychologically, both for the artist and those in need of that resource. It was critically important that I find a suitable pathway within which to exist, without being distorted or economically strong-armed.
During this period of crisis, much was said about me, both slanted and inaccurate, by those who had become dependent on my creative force, yet unwilling to fully acknowledge the importance of my contribution, nor compensate me equitably for it. This was done in an effort to smear my public image, in order to directly affect my ability to earn independently of this system. It took a long time to locate and nurture a community of people strong enough to resist the incredibly unhealthy tide, and more importantly see through it. If I had not been able to make contact with, and establish this community, my life, safety and freedom, would have been directly affected as well as the lives, safety and freedom of my family. Failure to create a non toxic, non exploitative environment was not an option.
As my potential to work, and therefore earn freely, was being threatened, I did whatever needed to be done in order to insulate my family from the climate of hostility, false entitlement, manipulation, racial prejudice, sexism and ageism that I was surrounded by. This was absolutely critical while trying to find and establish a new and very necessary community of healthy people, and also heal and detoxify myself and my family while raising my young children.
There were no exotic trips, no fleet of cars, just an all out war for safety, integrity, wholeness and health, without mistreatment denial, and/or exploitation. In order to liberate myself from those who found it ok to oppose my wholeness, free speech and integral growth by inflicting different forms of punitive action against it, I used my resources to sustain our safety and survival until I was able to restore my ability to earn outside of it!
When artists experience danger and crisis under the effects of this kind of insidious manipulation, everyone easily accepts that there was something either dysfunctional or defective with the artist, rather than look at, and fully examine, the system and its means and policies of exploiting/’doing business’. Not only is this unrealistic, it is very dark in its motivation, conveniently targeting the object of their hero worship by removing any evidence that they ‘needed’ or celebrated this very same resource just years, months or moments before. Since those who believe they need a hero/celebrity outnumber the actual heroes/celebrities, people feel safe and comfortably justified in numbers, committing egregious crimes in the name of the greater social ego. Ironically diminishing their own true hero-celebrity nature in the process.
It was this schism and the hypocrisy, violence and social cannibalism it enabled, that I wanted and needed to be freed from, not from art or music, but the suppression/repression and reduction of that art and music to a bottom line alone, without regard for anything else…(Read More)
We are living in a time when everything is simplified. The thought is that if one can grasp an idea reduced to its simplest form, the person will be in a place to understand the complexities of the matter. Truth, knowledge, and information presented in this idea over a period of time, however, causes the receiver to become a simple thinker, virtually incapable of handling complex notions and profundities outside of surface level to which they have become accustomed.
My point: everything is simple and complex at the same time. Don’t settle for the superficial. There is merit in the journey considering the complex. If one never takes this journey, which most minds (in public education) have been trained to resist, thinking will be forever underdeveloped and thoughts will not come to full maturity. Critical and independent thought, therefore, are skills few will really possess.
1) Read more. Don’t become like a sheep and do everything that everybody is doing and neglect what should be done. The mind (as little as we know about it) is truly a terrible thing to waste. Mental energy is squandered far too often on activities that have become normal in present day society.
Tangent: books are the best things to read. The screens on computers, ipads, phones, etc. are not good for the eyes.
2) Teach yourself. Don’t be content with information acquired though formal education. What one teaches him/herself is remembered to a greater degree than what one is forced to learn, and what one learns on his own is the area where he/she will eventually develop expertise. Remember: words don’t teach; experiences do.
Tangent: don’t sleep on the power of the media. TV seeks to provide a second hand experience as a teacher where the viewer will live vicariously through the story. In reality, TV/movies don’t teach, they program. Too much media has a stupefying affect on the viewer. Expressed in another way, formal education (in my thinking) is not limited to what one learns in school, but anything that perpetuates the system in which we live, or feeds to the masses in order to keep them “in line.”
Tangent: the answer is not more important than the quest to find the answer. The quest will be useful, even if the answer/ conclusion one reaches is found to be wrong/unbeneficial over time. I say this because truth is stumbled upon during the quest. Truth is higher than knowledge and comes through revelation/inspiration from upper realms after reflecting on or in the midst of a first hand experience. In summary, knowledge comes from the answers to questions asked and truth comes from the quest to find the answer. They are not always the same. Knowing truth is preferred over having knowledge—even though knowledge is a step in acquiring truth.
We don’t have many things think to remind us of how things used to be. Because we don’t have anything to remind us of how things used to be we are not sensitive to the past—and because we are not sensitive, we unconsciously disrespect the past. When we show no regard for the past, we jeopardize our standings in the present and the future. We remain in a blinded state because we choose to ignore the light that the past sheds on the present and the future. I believe that if we had reminders here and there, we would be more focused—we would be more inspired and more inspirational. But when we forget, we lose something… we lose innocence and wisdom. We lose the hopeful naiveté that accompanies the potential that comes with being inspired by the past—the nervous energy that is comforted when we find strength in our story. We also lose the wisdom that the past teaches and the insight that hindsight brings. I believe that if we had reminders of the past, we would be so lost in distractions now. We wouldn’t be as caught up in acceptance because we would have a basis or foundation on which we could stand—our esteem of self and race would be higher because the innocence and wisdom of a knowledge of the past would ever be before us. In other words, knowledge of history builds confidence. It builds esteem, it lifts spirits and tears down fears and doubts that lies produce. that ignorance produces. We cannot stay frozen in a state of recall, or paralyzed in a posture of looking back, but we must move forward in true progress—making history while remembering it… moving forward while looking back. Sankofa.
by: Melinda N. Gainer
For the past few days, I have watched my newsfeed flood (almost assaulted) with video, written stories, and pictures regarding the heinous murder of this baby-faced, seventeen year old, black male. I’ve read the banter among my Facebook friends and their friends, I’ve witnessed the support for rallies and have read numerous blogs all surrounding this injustice…I’ve said nothing. Not because this situation is not worth talking about, but because this situation is nothing new to Black America. While many are outraged about Trayvon’s death, I am outraged because of a much bigger picture.
Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., citizens of Florida, Roland Martin, college students, Facebook users, are forming rallies, signing petitions, and are writing blogs every single day, but where was everyone almost 18 years ago when a black man in the South was ambushed, chained to a truck and dragged to death, dismembering his limbs, by white supremacists? And now in the age of Facebook, where were the FB posts, last year, when 7 drunk white teenagers, went on a hunt to “find a nigger” in Brandon, Mississippi; they beat a 46 year old black father and ran overhim with a F-250 truck? Where were the FB posts, when Michael Vick went to jail for participating in a dogfight (his worth was compared to that of an animal whenhe was jailed)? Where were the FB posts, about 6 years ago, when Marcus Dixon was put in jail for having sex with his white “girlfriend” but her parents called it rape? Where ARE the FB posts, when black children are being kicked out of school for minor offenses such as using cellphones? Where are the FB posts, protesting these Southern Governors who are creating Bills to make voting extremely difficult for minorities, on the brink of a Presidential race to re-elect a Black man? Where are the FB posts, protesting the disrespect this country has had for Barack Obama, even by often omitting his title President? Where are FB posts when Rick Santorum makes statements during his GOP primary rallies that suggest the country needs to stop giving everything to blacks?
The issue I have with OUR people, is it takes Trayvon Martin for us to go bonkers, but all of the other underlying racism and hatred we seem to miss. I even read sophomoric posts that somewhat scrutinize the “Black President” for not doing more. Our president is under an immense level of stress and while he has wrongfully addressed other state issues in his federal capacity, this may not be something he needs to speak about just yet, but for the sake of this conversation, say he hasn’t said or done enough…nor have our Black congressmen, black governors, black mayors, black lawyers, black presidents of sororities and fraternities, black doctors, black professional athletes and entertainers, black teachers, black union leaders, black mothers, black fathers, black preachers said enough either.
We are such a reactive group of people. This is why our race will continue to be 30 steps behind. At one time, blacks were at least second-class citizens in America today we are being outpaced by every other race. Even this Hispanic Zimmerman has more rights as a partial immigrant than a black man. We are being outpaced not because all other races are any better but because of situations like this. We react in the wake of something…they plan decades down the road. If we were to band together and fight for justice, fight for equality, and fight to improve our brothers and sisters who are clearly making a mockery of every struggle our ancestors had, we would not be able to prevent senseless murders, but we would be able to ensure we are receiving more than adequate justice.
We think we have arrived and we are owed something by this government. We are content with being able to share filthy water fountains and social space with white people so much so that we forget about everything that still needs to be done for our race. Half of us are so radically black that we miss everything sitting in front of us and others of us are so radically blind thinking “some of my best friends are white” that we have missed the continuous struggle that has in essence gotten worse. Our people are too focused on being rappers, video vixens, and welfare recipients or highly religious, extremely militant, or obsessively upper middle class. We are failing because we are a reactive society. We just sit back and wait for something to happen to be outraged.
So, you black people who have suddenly become so black…and so outraged, open your eyes. This has happened, will happen and will continue to happen as long as we protest WHEN things happen instead of plan BEFORE they happen. In a few weeks, FB posts, pictures, and videos about this young man will fade away, you will not post about the work that needs to be done by our leaders or even those of us who sit quietly in our homes or at the Ritz Carlton having brunch on Sunday’s with our friends…you will be back to posting statements, pictures, and videos about your food, your natural hair process, your cars, Dancing with the Stars, your outfits and makeup, your Black Girl Run marathon shots, your vacations and maybe even your children getting dressed for Easter but you will not address the ongoing issues that are plaguing this race and our people. Get it together and stop reacting!
Melinda N. Gainer is a freelance event planner. She recently re-launched her
event-planning company Eventually Yours, after leaving her alma mater, Hampton University. Prior to this new opportunity, Melinda was the Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admission and an Adjunct Professor in the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications. Melinda is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated and has served on the board for Girls, Incorporated of South Hampton Roads. In her spare time, she enjoys entertaining for friends, gardening, and writing. To reach Melinda, contact her at Melinda.email@example.com
I thought there was momentum.
I thought people were angry enough to do something.
I thought the world would finally see the younger generation in action.
I thought wrong.
Instead of meaningful, power-shifting action, we got a bunch of silly instructions on how to “honor” Trayvon’s life, or express discontentment for Zimmerman freedom.
- Use a black magic marker to make a cardboard sign that says, “I am Trayvon Martin.”
- Take a picture of yourself holding the sign and wearing a hoodie. Be sure you have a sad or defeated expression in the picture. Post it on your Facebook wall. Hashtag “Trayvon Martin.”
- Buy a pack of skittles.
- Eat them and save the wrapper.
- Send the wrapper and a strongly worded letter to the police station in Florida that didn’t arrest Zimmerman.
I will not buy skittles and send a letter because I will not make Skittles® rich trying to make a statement that no one will hear.
I will not wear a hoodie because Trayvon was not killed because he was wearing a hoodie. Trayvon was killed because he was black!
I will not wear a hoodie because wearing a hoodie will not put an end to ideas and systems fueled by white supremacy that gave birth to the racism that killed Trayvon and a countless number of others!
I will not wear a hoodie because it shouldn’t take a million people wearing hoodies for Black people to get justice!
I am becoming annoyed.
What are we doing? What are we accomplishing?
I wonder if people really think that displaying unity by wearing a hoodie will get to the root cause of Trayvon’s death.
I wonder if people really think that Obama’s acknowledgment that his son would look like Trayvon will not ensure that such a flagrant disregard of justice will not happen again.
Why is it that our people are limited to such ineffective means of protesting? Whatever happened to the notion of never forgive, never forget, never again? Why not create a strategy that will empower those in society who are unprotected by the same laws that protect racist murderers?
Are we afraid of revolution? Are we afraid of our own power? Are we afraid of success?
I think so. But if not, let’s get on with it!
I listened to the 911 call that records young Trayvon’s last moments before he was premeditatedly murdered in cold-blood. A neighbor, after hearing repeated cries for help, did her part to help by calling 911. If you listen carefully in the background, you can hear Trayvon desperately pleading for anybody to step in and do something to help him and save his life.
It’s heartbreaking. It’s frustrating. It’s angering.
The reason it’s so angering is because when you contrast the main characters, you can easily see how uneven the match is. On one hand, you have an armed racist who is carrying out a perverted interpretation of an assignment to keep his neighborhood safe. On the other hand there is a defenseless and unprepared youth who had no idea of the trouble he was in, or the mentality of the person he was up against. And when I look at it in this way, I see this as a lot bigger than Trayvon. This whole situation parallels Black people, and if we don’t learn lessons from this tragedy, we will be cold bloodedly destroyed just the same.
I will not use this space to present the whole case of how there are a groups of people who have taken on a perverted and sinister assignment to cleanse/ purify the human race while drastically decreasing the world’s population. I don’t want to spend too much time talking about how, like Zinnerman, lies are being perpetuated by the media about the victims before the murder that will justify and protect the actions of the murderer.
I do, however, want to briefly show how we, as a people, are in the same position as Trayvon Martin, unaware of who our enemies are, and unprepared to defend ourselves once we are attacked. Whether you agree with violence or not (and I am not necessarily advocating it), you cannot disagree with the natural inclination to protect and defend one’s self in times of trouble. You also cannot deny the physical, emotional, economic, and other kinds of violence that is inflicted upon Black people daily.
What is our response to such violence? We march and protest—yelling for someone else to help us. Why can’t we help ourselves? Don’t we know that if we leave it up to the people who are designated to help us, we will find ourselves in the position of Trayvon and so many others—screaming for help as a dispatch officer asks Good Samaritans a bunch of unnecessary questions?
Even after this tragic event, there is a united outcry for help. But as admirable as said unity is, I question the efficacy of such outcries. For instance, Trayvon’s parents are crying for help. “All we want is justice for our son.” To whom is Mr. Martin directing his statement? The governor of Florida who said that he will look to see that “justice prevails”? I hope we don’t think that he means that Trayvon’s murderer will be prosecuted. All that means is that the structure will carry out its process.
It’s funny. We can look at movies like A Time to Kill (1996) starring Samuel L. Jackson and Enough (2002) starring Jennifer Lopez, sympathize with the character who is denied justice and celebrate when the main character takes justice into their own hands but when it comes to real life we make signs and beg enemies to give us justice and cry when they do not. Smh.
It’s funny. We can be in agreement with the government when they hang Saddam Hussein and “kill” Osama Bin Laden or other enemies of America, but when it comes to dealing with our enemies we are limited to forgiving them or calling some big time preachers to hold press conferences so we can demand that a corrupt system run by our historic enemies use their resources to lift us out of our rut of defenselessness and powerlessness. The presupposition with such a cry is that the justice system works for us! But it doesn’t. Once we accept this truth—that Black people have never been tried by a jury of their peers or been given a fair trial in America, or that white people are permitted to murder Black people with impunity, we will stop begging America for it. If you want justice, you’ve got to secure it for yourself!
Trayvon’s mother should not have spent the last month of her life and the first weeks of her grieving period to call for the arrest of her son’s murderer. The family shouldn’t have to ask Americans to sign a petition. Shm. I am sorely disgusted.
Let us not get consumed with getting Zimmerman arrested. Zimmerman is just one of many. Let’s not get consumed with seeing that Trayvon “get’s justice.” He, too, is one of a slue of others who have not and will not in the present system. Instead, let’s use our energy to organize ourselves and empower ourselves so that we are not dependent on any other entity to protect us, defend us, or give us justice.
The time is now!
The story has become an American classic. We’ve heard variations of it before.
The 250 pound 28 year old claims he was defending himself against a 140 pound 17 year old carrying skittles and a can of iced tea.
Police cannot find evidence to suggest that the white man is lying—even though everybody else sees it.
Lawyers busy themselves preparing arguments.
Black parents claim racism.
Protests and press conferences are held where irrelevant Black leaders parade in front of cameras.
Black people leave justice in the hands of the authorities.
Black people stay in their rut.
Regardless of what happens regarding the arrest and conviction of the murderer or whether or not the Department of Justice, FBI, or FDLE find anything in their investigations, if Black people continue leaving justice in the hands of so-called authorities, Black people will remain in defenseless and powerless positions—crying over injustice and complaining about unpunished racism in the 21st century.
Are we destined to remain in such anemic positions?
What, if anything, can we do about this?
How should we respond to this?
- Should we fight to introduce a law into congress that makes it illegal for a white man to murder a black boy ?
- Should we fight to make sure already existing laws are enforced?
- Should we assemble to express our disappointment with the silent local police?
- Should we make a sign with a MLK quote about justice and injustice?
- Should we write a blog expressing our disappointments and how this is incident is reminiscent to Emmitt Till’s murder in 1955?
- Should demand that Barack Obama or other political figures call for the
arrest of Zimmerman and not vote for them if they don’t respond to our demands in a way that is sincere?
I’m running out of ideas… I honestly don’t think any of these ideas will do anything to address the heart of problem of Trayvon’s murder. And I hope I’m not alone. Malcolm X’s words ring clearer to me, now more than ever: that the government is either unable or unwilling to address the problems that confront Black people in a satisfactory way. The most natural response seems to be self-evident : address the problems ourselves–but that is not what’s happening. smh.
“I for one believe that if you give people a thorough understanding of what confronts them and the basic causes that produce it, they’ll create their own program, and when the people create a program, you get action.” –Malcolm X
We know the problems. We’re affected by them every day. Let’s create some solutions. Here are a few of mine:
1. We should recognize our power and use it:
- Power concedes to nothing but power. White power is dominating us because Black power has not responded in a way to nullify or overpower white power.
- Black people have power. Always have and always will. Unfortunately, because we don’t know how to use it, we are misusing it. We have fallen into the trap of misdirecting our energies to kill each other in service of white domination (part of the plan of white power).
- If our power is redirected in ways that will help us get out of our current social, political, economic, and spiritual rut, we WILL succeed.
- We must want “freedom, justice, and equality” so badly that we will seek to obtain them using any means necessary.
- We must reject any and everything that is thrown at us to stifle our attempts to empower ourselves to lift ourselves. We cannot limit ourselves by dismissing ideas for Black elevation because they may not be the ways that we have historically fought.
- Let’s fight the fight and let the chips fall where they may.
2. We must redefine independence.
- Independence and freedom are often used interchangeably. As a result, people may erroneously conclude that we (as a people) are independent.
- Consider independence as NOT dependent and slavery as being dependent.
- Are we (as a people) independent?
- When the government provides assistance to “underprivileged” (namely Black) people, it creates a level of dependence that is paralyzing. We are very dependent on the very systems and structures that are failing us.
- Let’s stop putting our trust in people or systems that have not helped us in the recent and distant pasts.
- Let’s be intentionally about becoming self-determining and self-reliant. We must get to the place where we are not dependent on structures and systems that have been put in place by our former oppressors to do for us what we should do for ourselves.
- Understand that our formal education is one of the most important instruments used to keep us in the mentality that keeps us working in the interest of white domination and against the interest of ourselves and our children.
- We have been educated/conditioned to respond to situations in ineffective ways.
- When is it acceptable for children of former slaves to be educated by children of former slave masters? Have things change that much to where one thinks whites will teach blacks how to beat them at the game they’re playing?
- Recall the 5th point in the Black Panther Party’s Ten-Point Program: We should want an education for our people that exposes the true nature of this decadent American society. We should strive for an education that teaches our true history and our role in the present society. “We believe in an educational system that will give to our people a knowledge of self. If a man does not have knowledge of himself and his position in society and the world, then he has little chance to relate to anything else.”
- Reeducate yourself on the importance of Nationhood. (Marcus Garvey, Elijah Muhammad , John Henrik Clark, and a host of others talk about it in their books and recordings). Land, food, and shelter are very important in this equation.
4. We must separate.
- When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected with another… Language from The Declaration of Independence, one of the founding documents of America. It made sense for them then and makes sense for us now. It’s time for us to get out of the mindset that this system will do right by us. It has not, it is not, and if history proves to be a good teacher, will not.
- Put little faith in the American system/ government/ way of life. Begin to devalue the structures that we have accepted as indisputable and unchangeable. This is the first step in independence.
- Lose respect for the laws—Since they do nothing to protect us, we should have no obligation to respect them.
5. Stop being so damn afraid.
- Fear paralyzes. It will prevent an individual from reaching a goal and a race.
- Remove all notions of fear and doubt.
- Be lead by the Spirits. We have more help than we realize.
- Fight the fight. Let the chips fall where they may.
Presentations of white Superiority Historically and Presently
The historic presentations of white superiority have been very overt. Illogical and foundationless arguments have been perpetuated as truth in all media forums to condition both whites and Blacks of this notion. Unfortunately for everyone, both groups bought the idea and we still see people suffering from complexes associated with it today.
We know that the Bible was used to justify slavery. Whether it was the misinterpretation of Cain’s mark (Genesis 4:15) or Ham’s curse (Genesis 9:20-27), these stories were marketing tools that helped sell the idea that Blacks were not only naturally inferior, but orchestrated by God to be inferior. Africans were branded as uncivilized, brute, unintelligent, and incapable of reaching certain levels of intelligence. In the late 1700s Negroes were depicted in scientific depictions that connected them to apes (Charles White’s An Account of the Regular Gradation in Man, and in Different Animals and Vegetables). These and similar “findings” were used to create the idea that race could be itemized on the great chain of being where whites were above all other races and Blacks were at the very bottom.
The general arguments:
- White people have souls. Black people do not.
- Whites are next to God on the Great Chain of Being. Blacks are next to animals.
- Blacks are physically strong, but mentally weak (and were created this way because they were made to serve others, namely whites).
- Whites have intellectual abilities that Blacks don’t have.
- Blacks can’t read.
- Blacks can’t go to school because they can’t learn or be taught.
- Blacks are people who orders should be given to, not taken from.
- Blacks have no rights that any white is duty bound to respect.
Anytime a Black man or woman rose above the low expectations—which were based on nothing but hate and stupidity, scholars of the day shot them down or wrote some thesis to explain why the achieving Black was an exception (Phillis Wheatley). More than this, whites used violent and illegal means to keep Blacks in their “places”. (Among other, see race riots/ massacres in Wilmington, NC 1898; Tulsa, OK 1921; Rosewood, FL 1923).
Present presentations of white superiority are not as overt but more abundant. Similar arguments are used, but in with a different slant. Instead of saying whites have intellectual abilities that Blacks don’t have, for instance, we talk about the “achievement gap” between whites and Blacks and how whites excel above and beyond their Black counterparts academically. Instead of saying that Blacks can’t read, society compares scores on standardized tests between the races and discuss the levels at which Blacks read compared to whites. Instead of saying the Black’s can’t go to school, they magnify the quotas and exceptions that are created so Blacks can get a “superior” education at Ivy League schools instead of the “inferior” education from Historically Black Colleges/ Universities.
Instead of talking about how Blacks are uncivilized and brute-like or how much closer they are to animals than God, society highlights statistics that “show” the low moral strivings of Blacks—how much more likely they are to kill others (Black or white), how much more likely they are to get a sexually transmitted disease, and how much more likely they are to be unemployed than their white counterparts.
As I reflect on why I’ve spent so much time on this issue, it is because too many people in my generation and the generations beneath mine are operating under the misguided assumption that racism is gone and that the playing field is level… that things are different. If we uncritically accept such lies, we will never appropriately address the issues (internally and externally) that we need to address that we may move from where we have been for the past 400 years to where we were created to be.
Working with youth and young adults for the past decade, I’ve noticed mistaken notions about racism that dominate the thinking of many people my generation and the majority of people in the generation after mine. Such faulty notions and misunderstandings cause people to accept the idea that racism was something that existed from slavery until the 1960s. And while Blacks have gained some ground in society, racism has gone nowhere.
Most young people think of racism as someone parading around the confederate flag or saying, “nigger” when referring to Black people. People who have more experiences may think of racism as whites discriminating against Blacks, falsely accusing Blacks, wrongly convicting them, or not giving them a fair chance, etc. However, these actions are expressions of something deeper. A white man doing something harmful to a Black man (whether it’s beating him, killing him, firing him, not hiring him, not voting for him, or not giving him a loan) is only the effect of a deeper cause. This causes is the notion and perpetuation of white superiority. Racism in America has always been the continued perpetuation and presentation of the idea/ claim of white superiority.
Whites who accept the idea of white superiority (whether consciously or unconsciously) assume a stance of privilege and authority that causes them to behave in ways similar to people with psychological complexes. Blacks who accept the idea of white superiority relinquish their autonomy. As a consequence they work against their own best interests and support white superiority.
The racist acts that we’ve seen in the past and those we see today are merely whites doing their best to defend their self-proclaimed position of dominance. But because there is no truth in white superiority, the action morphs into “holding Blacks back” which presents the illusion of keeping themselves up.
The truth is that other races must be used in presentations of white superiority, even if the other race (namely the Black race) is an unwritten/ unspoken parenthetical statement. Historically, the overt racist approach was to contrast the two races with unsubstantiated bigoted statements that any rational person could conclude recognize as false. Presently, however, these statements are masked in statistics. Either way, such juxtapositions exalt the white and demote the Black (or other race). In the coming days, I will provide two examples of how white superiority is presented historically and presently. Hopefully, this will give people in my generation and the generations after mine to consider as it relates to race relations and expressions of racism in 2012.
Black History Month has come and gone. Each year around this time, I reflect on the age-old question, “where do we go from here?” And my answer is always the same—“Up (you mighty race)” –Marcus Garvey. As I think about what prevents our upward mobility, unity (in the romantic sense) comes to mind. We are not united around a common cause or goal. In the past, it’s been because of leaders with different philosophies. Today it’s because of subcultures.
A few years ago, I was involved in a formal conversation about hip-hop music in the church. Later on that day, I had an encounter with a younger guy who was so upset with my stance that he wanted to fight! He told me that I insulted him because hip-hop was more than just music to him; hip-hop was his mother and his father, hip-hop was his friend, hip-hop was his culture, hip-hop was his life. “I am Hip Hop,” he yelled repeatedly as people had come around to hold him back. “I am Hip Hop!”
He was uninterested in hearing anything about Black history and Black (dominant) culture (although not monolithic). He dismissed any notions about Martin King or Malcolm X. His heroes were alive and in living color—covered with tattoos with grills that cost more than automobiles. Brilliance was measured by how much wit the artist could fit into a lyric or how many puns he could put into a rhyme. Philosophy was determined to how much word play the artist could use and by how coded the lyrics could be. History was respected when an artist sampled an old song, making a modern hit. Black history as made when the artist collected more money and fame than others of yesteryear.
In the past, Black people were united against a common enemy (oppression and racism) and were moving toward a common goal (freedom and self-determination). Even though there were different leaders with different methods on how to attain the goals, there was an overarching sense of unity. Today, it seems to me like that is missing. We’re not working with the same definitions of racism and oppression; neither are we working toward the same goals. As people identify with the subcultures, they drift away from the dominant culture, which inevitably creates a degree of enmity between the people in the dominant and sub-cultures (the generational divide).
As I think about the issues that we face as a people, the fight that we must champion is not one against issues of racism as we’ve known them in the past, they are issues of uniting despite so-called (sub)cultural differences. This is easier when we can agree on what culture is (and is not) and what the function of culture is. We must also come to terms and agree that others, who don’t have our best interests in mind, have had their hand upon many of the subcultures in the Black community.
The Next Generation
With no value placed on the following clips—let’s take a look at a few videos I’ve come across lately of what the younger generation has popularized.
Nearly 60 million views. That’s a lot. But that’s not all. Cartoons and other spoofs have surfaced since the original prank. There’s at least one high school band/ drum line that made a cadence from it.
Two brothers who have been putting thoughtful and humorous songs out since 2009. Their latest video has become a viral sensation (over 10 million views in one month) and still gaining popularity. They have become celebrities– interviewed, by news stations and visiting schools with students who know all the words to their songs.
Issa Rae had not seen herself represented on television shows or in the movies. She wanted to put something dealing with her sense of humor on YouTube. She never thought that it would become as popular as it was—so much so that her viewing audience raised money so that she could continue production. People everywhere have related to her sense of humor and are waiting impatiently for the return of the series.
No, everyone isn’t saying, “I am hip hop!” as the brother who tried to fight me a few years ago, but there is a new sense of humor emerging that is shifting education and entertainment. Funny rules the day. The silliest things and people become the most popular. People are becoming used to ideas and truth rapped up in sugary sweets and lighthearted and many times offensive humor. Fortunately or unfortunately, some have capitalized off of this understanding and present ideas in a new category: edutainment—unbalanced in many of its presentations.
It seems that Black (sub)culture is becoming less and less concerned about meaningful things that will get us out of the rut we’re in and more and more concerned about trivial things. Am I alone thinking this? Is there hope for unity in the future?
Tupac refers to a natural progression of fighting for rights. Have we gone backwards? Where are we now? Where do we go from here?
In the workshops and presentations I’ve given and participated in this month, the idea of power has been recurring. Consequently, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about power and protest, and the efficacy of the Civil Rights Movement. Did King’s methods work? If not, why do we celebrate them like they did? If they did work in the 50s and 60s, will they still work today?
I was looking through a folder and found some writings I wrote back in 2007. After hearing about Genarlow Wilson and the Jena 6, I wrote for days about my thoughts on the inequities seen in the legal and political systems through the years. The piece I’m reading in this video was written after I returned from the mass demonstration in Jena, LA. I was very disappointed that the Jena 6 were still in Jail after we left. I was confused as to why we went down there and concluded that the 20,000 people who gathered to FREE the 6 students unfairly locked up had gathered for nothing. The “largest civil rights demonstration in years” was a failure in my eyes.
Do you think these methods are effective in 2012? Is the Occupy Movement gaining ground or is it just gaining attention?
The Argument: We are living in a post racial society. It took a while, but we (as a society) finally admit that our differences are superficial. At the heart, we are all human beings who want the same things—love, a family, a means to provide for our family, respect, and peace about what will happen after we die. Race doesn’t have the same implications as it did in the past. Opportunities are extended to everyone. The playing field is level. We have a Black president. It is both futile and racist to dwell on all the things that make us different. To do so will only cause further (unnecessary) division. After all, we all look the same on the inside. We all bleed red blood. The Bible is right, “all men are created equal”
My Response: Smh.
My Rebuttal: Don’t be fooled. We are living in a society where race still matters. If race didn’t matter, there wouldn’t be a big deal made about the gaps in education, technology, health, crime, jobs, and other social distinctions that are categorized based on race. It does not fail. Each year the census report comes out and everybody learns just how different the races are: How fewer Blacks there are in America than whites, how much more criminal Black men are contrasted against white men, how the Black race has so many more youth dropping out of school compared to whites.
So what we see is evidence the forked-tongue with which American society speaks. It’s publicly stated that all races are equal, but there are constant and consistent reinforcements that demonstrate the opposite. Hitler said it this way, “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.” As Black people, we must make a conscious decision not to get caught up in falling victim to the deception.
The Lie: The trick, as I see it, is to promote an idea of equality and to get everyone to buy into it. After everyone has accepted the notion of human and racial equality, whites exalt their unique abilities and differences as the standard. Others, in an effort to prove their equality consequently spend their time trying to do what whites do instead of doing what they are uniquely capable of doing. There are so many things that make us different and a too quick and uncritical acceptance of equality diminishes the power that the races have and causes people of other races to under-appreciate and devalue their uniqueness. Carter G. Woodson, in The Mis-Education of the Negro said it this way, “…even if the Negroes do successfully imitate the whites, nothing new has thereby been accomplished. You simply have a larger number of persons doing what others have been doing. The unusual gifts of the race have not thereby been developed, and an unwilling world, therefore, continues to wonder what the Negro is good for.”
It’s embarrassing that we’ve spent 400 years trying to prove to white people that we are not 3/5 of a human—but a whole human. As self-evident as that truth was, we’ve suspended developing our gifts and skills as a people and wasted our energies trying to get white people to say, “You are whole.” Smh.
It’s disappointing that we’ve spent so many years trying to prove to white people that we deserve respect and equal treatment under the law educationally, socially, and politically. As futile as it is to convince a our former slave masters to give us what they strategically and deliberately took away from us, we invested time and effort boycotting and marching and protesting, hoping that the passage of a Civil Rights Act would make white people say, “You are equal to us and we are sorry for slavery.” Smdh.
It’s a shame that we’ve spent so many years trying to prove to white Jesus that we love our enemy so much that we will not retaliate when he treats us badly. We inwardly hope that white Jesus would either make us white as snow and cleanse us from our black sins or (more realistically) open white people’s eyes to how badly they were treating Black people, have a change of heart, and stop oppressing Black people. Instead of loving ourselves enough to affirm truth and declare freedom from all kinds of oppression, we extinguished our light and conformed/ assimilated so that we could be peacemakers. Smmfh.
I am sad to report that our fight for “equality” has not ended. We still suffer from complexes that put us in positions to “prove” something to white people, whether it’s that we are smart, that we are peaceful, or that we are equal/ better than them. We still suffer from disorders which branch from slavery which make us reactive instead of (pro)active. We still, in an unnatural way, equate equality with becoming (like) white. This position will forever keep us at a disadvantage. As a matter of fact, striving to prove that we are equal reinforces the idea that white is the standard. With such a mentality, we essentially give power and credence to something that has absolutely no truth, white superiority.
Ever since Africans were kidnapped from their homeland and brought to America, a social structure was created: white over Black. This hierarchy has been the bases for racism and all of the racist acts that have been carried out in the interactions between the white and Black races in America.
Closer to “emancipation,” beloved former Presidents, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln were recorded arguing the inferiority of the Black race and a structure governing how the races would interact with each other.
Jefferson postulated that Blacks are physically and mentally inferior to whites: “I advance it therefore as a suspicion only, that the blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments of both body and mind” (Notes on the State of Virginia, 1787).
Lincoln recommended that the superior position be assigned to the white race: “There is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race” (Debate with Stephen A. Douglas at Charleston, IL September 18, 1858).
The fact that the word assigned is used is important because it implies a degree of randomness. Put another way, this definition/ assignment is NOT natural. However, years of drilling this concept into the psyche of former slaves and former slave masters have made the majority of present day whites and Blacks accept this as true. To further compound matters, the propaganda (pamphlets and radio shows, movies and TV shows, etc.) that have been put out with racist material (see video below) have made many forget the historical truth that Europeans were taught (before their age of enlightenment) by Africans. Not knowing the specifics of this fact or dismissing the truth in the details in this piece of history will cause us to strive to reach another lie, racial equality.
The so-called celebration Black History this month has sickened me to the point of speaking out. In all my observations at seminars and workshops and a variety of conversations, I have become concerned that too many Black youth (and adults for that matter) are not actively engaged in recognizing Black History in a significant way. I am also unpleasantly surprised by how much information youth generally don’t know as it relates to Black History and the apparent disinterest related to learning it.
I attribute this attitude to the mistaken notion of progress—or “how far we (Blacks specifically and Americans generally) have come” since the Civil Rights Movement. It is my intent, for the rest of this month, to publish a series of blogs to address the claims of social and racial progress in 2012. I intend to give Black History lessons that are significant in content and relevance to today’s world, and to outline how this so-called progress is, in reality, just an illusion.
Yes, we have “come a long way,” but we are in no position to rest and eat the fruits from the labor of our heroes and heroines of yesterday. There are problems we must address, issues we must champion, and heights we must reach. We cannot stop striving.
So take your rose-colored glasses off and come with me on a journey that will remind you a perspective that too many of us have forgotten.
When I was a substitute teacher, I remember talking to a class after a 14 year old girl announced that she had just found out she was pregnant. Many of her classmates celebrated with her and then went on to be misbehaved. They were very disrespectful and seemed to have an “I don’t care about anything” attitude. I decided to venture away from the lesson plan and started talking about Black History. I mentioned the fight our ancestors fought to take us from slavery to freedom, and asked the class why our enslaved foreparents cried and died and prayed. I asked them why Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X and others died? I asked them what they were fighting for? To my surprise, the mother-to-be raised her hand.
“Martin Luther King died so we could have fun.”
I never forgot that answer. As a matter of fact, it disturbs me today as much as it disturbed me when I first heard it. And although she does not speak for her entire generation, the actions of many Black youth say that they agree with the honest, yet ignorant comment she made.
As Black History Month comes to a close again, I find I am becoming increasingly annoyed with comments on progress and how much we’ve advanced as a people. In no way am I suggesting that we have not progressed—and that the generations before us have accomplished nothing; I am, however, asserting that we are not were we should be, and too much focus on “progress” will give the false impression that we have arrived or attained all of what our foremothers and fathers were fighting for. It will make us complacent when we should be fighting.
James Weldon Johnson penned the words of the Negro National Anthem, Lift Every Voice and Sing. To me, this is a song about persistence. Lift your voice and sing UNTIL the entire earth rings of the song you are singing… UNTIL the heavens ring with the harmonies of the song you are singing… a song of liberty… a song of faith and a song of hope. Let the song echo so loudly that the melody reaches the height of the listening skies and resound loud as the rolling sea. This is a message about determination. But the line that touches me the most is: “Let us march on ‘til victory is won.”
In short, the victory has not been won, but we have stopped marching. I want to tell the upcoming generation and any others who have slipped into a coma-like state from having become too comfortable is, “Wake Up! Stand Up! Look Up! Move Up!” We are not where we should be. We are not where God has ordained us to be. But we will never get there waiting for someone else to take us there. We must be persistent. We must be determined. We must strive aggressively and intentionally toward meeting our highest potential… and that’s a standard set by us—by our history—and NOT a standard set by another group people.
We’ve been there before. We can get there again… We must get there again. The future rests upon our arrival.