The Value of the Values Debate

The saga of Mark Sanford has been given so much coverage that it could be turned into a soap opera. South Carolinians have every right to be upset. Their executive was derelict in his duties. He was awol, at taxpayer’s expense. But I think the underlying theme of this brouhaha is the continued dismantling of the Republican Party as the moralist party-even if they don’t see it.

By no means is mainstream media giving Sanford any leeway for his actions. However, there seems to be a much softer tone in their barrage of criticisms. Is it because of his poetic emails? Is it because he traveled to another continent? There should be no public empathy for Sanford because he was a “sweet romantic”.  Romanticism doesn’t mitigate the fact that he profligately spent taxpayer dollars to swoon his sweetheart. My 9th grade math teacher once said if it looks like a fish and smell like a fish then it’s a fish. Mark Sanford is a philanderer who forsook his state to be with his mistress.

The Feasting of Michael Jackson’s Flesh

I am deeply troubled by the buffoonery of the 2009 Black Entertainment Television Award Show where “blackness” guaranteed BET’s ownership of honoring Michael J. Jackson’s life. Of course, there is an endless laundry list of technical, sexist, homophobic, and simply tone death performances that I could blog about. However, the most compelling issue for me is that we witnessed consumption at “it’s finest” where Jamie Foxx unabashedly highlighted his many upcoming projects and the beauty of his voice, where every five seconds large digital placards of sponsorship appeared before our eyes beseeching us to buy their wares, where Joe Jackson plugs the revival of his singing career, where the infamous golden arches tell our children that they should dream of working at McDonald’s when they “become big kids,” and where we the viewing public further the cannibalization process of Michael Jackson by not turning our televisions off in righteous indignation because consciously or unconsciously we enjoy the thrill of consuming flesh . . . the gossip, the speculations, the betrayals, the “sins,” and yes “if it bleeds then it leads” or in the case of the BET Award Show if it stereotypes black people then it sales.

This only shows that we do not know how to honor our dead. We only know how to consume them and extract the last bit of value from their dead flesh. With Michael Jackson’s death, future record deals will be made from sampling his catalogue, cottage t-shirts industries on each street corner beckoning people to remember Michael through purchasing a t-shirt, increased Itunes downloads of Michael Jackson’s work, juicy gossip to make the workday bearable, legal rangles on CNN about the authenticity of Michael Jackson’s will, biased scholarly debates on Michael’s masculinity, psychological fragility, and his love of children. Of course, I too am guilty of participating in feasting upon his flesh, after hearing the official announcement that he was dead, I raced to Itunes and bought one of his greatest hits albums so that I could remember and honor him.

But does buying an album and then privately consuming the purchase constitute honoring the dead?

Of course, all of this is not to say that consumption in of itself is bad because we need to consume various things to live, however, when consumption becomes the end in of itself and when it is not intimately connected to the idea of mutual replenishment than it becomes capitalism where I take more from you and there is no guarantee that I will give you anything in return unless it too benefits me.

Michael Jackson singing "Earth Song"

Did anyone else notice that not one of Michael Jackson’s songs that deal with accountability (i.e. the Man in the Mirror), building a peaceful global community (i.e. We Are the World and Heal the World), environmental justice (i.e. Earth Song), critique of globalization/policing (i.e. They Don’t Care About Us), ending global racism (i.e. Black or White) justice and safety of children (i.e. Little Susie/Pie Jesu and Childhood), and the need to be connected to each other (i.e. Will You Be There and Stranger in Moscow) showed up on last night’s BET Awards show? Why not? Because these songs are Jackson’s kryptonite critiques on consumption behaviors.  And BET decided that that’s not what interests his fans, especially his young fans like those of us who are 20something like myself.  But I disagree. Yeah, there was Ciara’s song Heal the World, but my ears don’t allow me to count her rendition. (But that’s another story.)

Hey, I am not saying that Jackson’s pop and romantic tunes should not be celebrated because they should. But something is wrong when not one ballad about healing, community, connectedness, and environmental responsibility was featured in any public or pronounced manner.  That omission says something about where we are as a society. Certainly reminds us that the Black Entertainment Television channel  cares more about black consumption than black legacy.

Someone special told me recently that the way you honor your parents or mentors is not by submitting to their authority or legacy, but by choosing to live your life seeking your purpose so that if your parents or mentors had to choose to live their life over they would choose to live your life because your purpose is enriching the world.

Here’s how musical legend Michael Jackson would have been remembered last night if I were producer of the BET Award Show.  I would have ended the show featuring global cultural workers who enrich the world followed by a musical medley of Man in the Mirror, Heal the World, Will You Be There, and Earth Song set against the video depictions of current political events—political protests in Iran, rape in the Congo, foreclosed houses in the US, fighting in Israel, and Hurricane Katrina—and environmental concerns—erosion of beaches, global warming, pandemics and epidemics of all kinds. All of which was to remind the audience that Michael Jackson cared deeply about people and the current state of the world. Thus, we honor him not only by remembering his soulful music—Billie Jean, Thriller, and so forth—but by choosing to live our lives dedicated to the service of humanity, a life that if Michael Jackson had to live his life over he would choose our interpretation of his best vision. That’s what I think should have been done last night. Or something like that. Anything but how BET and last night’s performers chose to remember Michael last night.

I guess it gets down to this: Can we expect people who live in a consumeristic culture to know how to honor the dead when they don’t even know how to honor the living –without consuming them alive?

Michael Jackson’s Earth Song

Bow Wow vs B-Scott: HipHop homophobia

 

Black Men being Hard together
Black Men being Hard together

In mid-April 2009, Little Bow Wow told a “funny story”, which was over a live web-chat, about not wanting to get his haircut by a barber that he assumed was gay.   His comments sparked some controversy among gay media when his remarks were leaked.  One such critique came from video-blogger BScott who is this self-proclaimed “gay as hell”  “pretty man.”  In his original post, BScott, took Bow Wow to task over his homophobia and alleged closet status (funny as hell in a problematic way).

Legally Confused

I’ve always been an outspoken critic of political homogeneity based on identity. Like many young males, the word marriage sends chills down my spine. But the thought of party or ideological marriages irks me even more. However, I cannot begin express my outrage of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ decision to dissent in the case to nullify Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

And the Anti-Autotune Movement Begins…

Is it really that serious?  Well, I didn’t think so until two weeks ago when Jay-Z released his street single “Death of Autotune (D.O.A.)” as a precursor to his 11th studio album, Blueprint 3, which is scheduled for release in September.   There is no question that the track goes hard, I mean it’s been proven that that’s what happens when you put Jay and Kanye in the studio together.  (No I.D. is also a producer.)  But after listening to it a few times, I started to get a little confused about what the contender for “best rapper ever” was really trying to say.  In the song, he bashes autotune users.  It’s border-line hating, which makes me wonder why Kanye, an avid autotune user, would even agree to produce Jay on this track.  But I guess Hov suspected that listeners would raise these concerns and so he wisely called Hot 97 following the song’s debut to preemptively clarify any misunderstandings. (listen to interview here)  The emcee basically declared that autotune is wack, unless of course it is used by Kanye, T-Pain, or Lil Wayne.  Kanye West later told MTV that all songs with autotune that were previously set to appear on the Blueprint 3 would be taken off to underline his protest.

Can Fear Be Justified??? by Jonathan Lykes

This is in response to my good friend “Supernerdjlh” who chooses to remain nameless due to his “fear” that in the future his career could be jeopardized by the events written in this very blog. (I think I’m getting good at “opening up a can of worms”)

Can Fear Be Justified???

During College Orientation week in my first year at University of Chicago, the students had “forums” that were geared towards opening discussions about the various views on race, gender, and political background. In one of these sessions, this question was posed, “If you see a black man walking towards you at night, would you cross the street?” I of course was the only black student in the room and struggled not to be offended when I heard the shocking wave of answers. “Of course I would cross the street, I could get raped” One student answered. Another Student said, “I would be afraid of what might happen so I would cross the street to protect myself.” Being the person that I am, I spoke out and said it is ridiculous that someone would automatically stereotype a person by their skin color and justify their stereotypes because of some unjustified fear that the media and our culture has deceived them into believing. 

When walking across the mid-way on my campus throughout the school year at night, I would notice many individuals literally attempt to avoid me. I would see people walk towards me, look at me, stop and awkwardly walk in another direction. Is this right? Is this fear justified? 

The idea of “Unjustified Fear” extends beyond just the black race. In 9th grade I wrote a poem called perception. Here is a short excerpt from that poem. 

You see an Arab man sitting next to you on a plane. 
Your heart is pounding; your mind is going insane. 
You automatically you think he is there to bring pain, 
out to terrorize all for Allah’s gain. 
But what will put you to shame is that he never hurt a soul in
his life 
has three kids and a wife, 
and on forth of July with everyone else he sings “Im proud to
be American” 
Wrong perceptions. 
(If you would like to read the entire poem or see it performed
go to this link: http://www.facinghistory.org/node/175)

Many of what I like to call “Sheltered Groups”—or groups that have not interacted with different environments and people—will fear the set of individuals that are unfamiliar to them. Some students on my campus fear me walking close to them at night, an American on a plane might fear someone of Islamic association—or someone Mexican for those who are extra-ignorant—and “Supernerd” fears crack users on the Roosevelt bus. This fear is dangerous. This fear is the very same thing that waters the roots of Jim Crow, Japanese internment camps, and Not-So-Patriot Acts. This fear is what starts wars and ends peace. When one group starts to fear another without trying to understand that every individual is different, it becomes a dangerous bomb waiting to explode.  

I am not sure if I can judge other peoples fear, if I did I suppose I too would be guilty of the same offense that the fearers have committed against those who they fear. However I do offer this, always ask questions. Why do I fear this person? When did I start to fear this group? How would I feel in their situation? It is so amazing how things we learned in elementary school—like the golden rule—apply to our lives even more once we reach adulthood. Unfortunately, by that time, many of us have forgotten the lessons that would actually change the world beyond having an African-American president.

Justify My Thug

Listen, I care more about the state of Jon & Kate’s marriage than I do Perez Hilton, but I gave the guy five minutes of my time yesterday—and I hope I don’t recall that little factoid on my death bed.  (By the way, I think it’s the hair that did it.  Jon’s plugs + Kate’s coiffure by Edward Scissorhands = domestic dystopia.)  Anyway, a Facebook friend of mine (because who has real life friends anymore?) posted Perez’ video response to Black Eyed Peas (BEP) front man, will.i.am on her page, and I watched it.  If you haven’t heard, will.i.am and/or his manager and/or his bodyguards allegedly gave the gossip blogger a people’s elbow or two, because Perez said mean things to Fergie—oh, how I wish he had done so in the name of Kim Hill!—and then called will.i.am a faggot, when the BEP in charge confronted him about it.  I know, right?  Why can’t we all just get along?  Or were you wondering where the other two members of the BEP were in all of this?  Either way, I’m with you.

Cocaine User on the Roosevelt Bus

On my bus ride home, three African American males, ranging from early 40s to late 50s, entered the bus.  For whatever reason lately, I have taken to sitting at the back of buses. Much to my chagrin, the three guys came to the back and sat right near me.  As I began to read, I noticed that the youngest of the men pulled out these mini-tiny plastic Ziploc like red bags. The youngest of the three looked at me as I pulled out my cell-phone to call someone to avoid over-hearing them.

At this point, the youngest of the three talked about his job issues and poured the content of the mini-tiny Ziploc red bags on this card. The content turned out to be this white powder substance. At this point, I was completely floored and scared shitless because, if the powder substance was cocaine these men could have been carrying weapons.

The youngest guy rolled up a dollar bill and started snorting lines of the white-powder on the bus.