Till Death

from the Chicago Sun-Times

from the Chicago Sun-Times

till
v. – to labor, as by plowing or harrowing, upon (land) for the raising of crops; cultivate.
n. – a drawer, box, or the like, as in a shop or bank, in which money is kept

I’ve been thinking about death a lot this year, both personally, with the death of my beloved great-grandmother, and publicly, with the deaths of Steve McNair (I thought my cheers would give the Titans the one yard they needed.), Bea Arthur (if you cannot grasp or appreciate the genius of The Golden Girls, there’s no need for us to be friends, internet or otherwise) and Michael Jackson (still waiting for Moonwalker on DVD).  Despite the emotions it compels, death often feels like a really abstract thing to me, like having a real job or money in my bank account.  But I know death elicits tangible, visible responses, and I saw some of those reactions when I looked at a copy of the Chicago Sun-Times last week.

Equal Opportunity Finger Pointing

 

As a youngster my father always told me to never make excuses. He stressed that habitual “excuse making” leads to defeatism. He spoke of defeatism so pejoratively that I began to think it was some sort of plague. When he even uttered the word excuse his face would contort in an ugly cringe as if he had just swallowed a lemon. Years later I found my father’s lessons to be very helpful when I was faced with adversity. The great thing about my father’s lesson was that he taught all of his children the same thing. My older sister and brother could not escape the long lectures and sermons my dad gave, because we all belonged to him. I wish Barack Obama would do the same.

The Cry Heard Around the World…He was the Best Father

It was the cry heard around the world when 11 year-old Paris Jackson said, “Ever since I was born, Daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine . . . I just want to say I love him so much.” From coast to coast, eyes wept for her sorrow and tears trickled down faces as a poignant realization set in, Michael Jackson, the icon the alleged pedophile was a father. Not just a father of one child, but a father of three. Wow. All of this says that Michael Jackson celebrated Father’s Day. He made sure his children had a capable if not loving, nanny, Grace. He played games with them like dangle infant Blanket from the balcony. He even willed his children to his mother knowing she would love them unconditionally. Michael Jackson was a father. I know what many of you are thinking not another post about Michael Jackson. True, there are countless blogs and news articles about the King of Pop’s death. However this post is more about redefining masculinity than about Michael Jackson.

Holding constant the many allegations surrounding Michael Jackson’s indiscretions with children, I find myself ruminating if not secretly obsessing over the question of whether men can love, nurture, emote, and innocently embrace children without physically, sexually, and psychologically violating them. I know many people reading this blog would say “Yes, men can.” But before you answer this question, let me restructure the question: Do we believe that men can love, nurture, emote, and innocently embrace children without physically, sexually, and psychologically violating them? And I would venture to say if we are honest with ourselves, the answer would be variations of no’s and conditionalities “of yes, but . . .”

Perhaps, I should restructure the question even further: Do we see men loving, nurturing, emoting, and innocently embracing children without thinking to ourselves, “Something is wrong with that man, he must be mentally unstable, a pedophile, or gay?” Once again, if we are honest with ourselves and recognize how we internalize sexist thoughts, the answer to the question is quite evident. Given patriarchy, I believe it is difficult for us to believe that men can L-O-V-E children and greatly desire to be in their presence. We are okay with men providing material and financial support for their children (especially the government), but when men move into the territory of radical love we question their motive and their manhood. Well, what do you mean by radical love? I am glad you asked this question.

My feminist academic jargon definition would define it as men who challenge hegemonic definitions of masculinity and disown privileges garnered through proper masculine behaviors. However, my colored school teacher ethos would define it as men seeking to be unconventional in their approach to rearing children. They are the dads who “choose” to stay at home with their children while their partner labor outside the house. They are the fathers who endure years and years of therapy to deal with their emotional immaturities. They are the men who are unafraid to show affection, care, and love for all children irrespective of the child’s biology. As bell hooks states in Communion, these types of heterosexual men threaten the foundations of patriarchy because they show “that sexist, masculinist behaviors once believed to be innate not only is learned, but also can be unlearned.”

Perhaps, my obsession with this question of men loving children stem from my own absent and abusive father issues. Of all the heterosexual men I have encountered in my 26 years of life, I have only met one man who exudes this radical type of love. This is not to say that other men in my life are hopeless patriarchal barbarians because they are not, they like most men unquestionably enjoy the rewards of male privilege. This one man I know who’s seeking to exude this radical idea of love is a man married to a woman who’s well known for her feminist concerns and beliefs. One day as I sat in his study talking with him, he said, “Its taken him many years of therapy to understand the power and the need of emoting and that sensitivity is not weakness or unmanly and that men now-a-days lack initiation into embracing their emotions because everything around them tells them they are not suppose to emote and show love because if you do than you are not a man . . .  you are something else.” After hearing this and observing his care, concern, nurturing, and non-dominating love for his partner, child, and congregational children, I was left completely baffled asking the question, Can we [can I] believe that men can love, nurture, emote, and innocently embrace children and non-dominance in their intimate relationships? I don’t know, however, this one man makes me think that it may be plausible.

So, when 11 year-old Paris said she loved her father against the backdrop of the media’s desire to let it be know Michael Jackson was an alleged child molester, I caught myself asking the question, given how we are socialized to see men as the bread winners and non emoting patriarchs, can we fathom let alone conceive of the idea that Michael Jackson was simply a man who loved children in ways that women are allowed to love children. I can not count the many times I have laid in the bed with the child I was babysitting either to put them to sleep or to settle them down to rest. And let’s be honest about our sexist thinking, women are no more capable of radical love than men, but yet we trust women with the care of children.

Does all of this mean that I am saying Michael Jackson is innocent of his alleged crimes? No, because I do not know, but what I am saying is that it’s difficult for us to believe and to accept that men can love, nurture, emote, and innocently embrace children. It is far easier to believe that men like Michael Jackson are child molesters, gay, and mentally unstable than to believe that they are men who simply love because it goes against the very fiber of what we have been taught about men.  Yes, it was a cry heard around the world, “my daddy was the best father ever . . .”

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-VbIFtW6so

Some Black women and gays love denegration?

DOing IT Big (I guess?)

 

As we prepare for CNN’s Black in America 2 (July 22nd & 23rd), let’s “keep it poppin’” with a discussion about some black women and black LGBT folks. In my experience, some women and black LGBT folks are into being disrespected. Disrespect for me ranges — from dancing and signing songs that screams: bitches, punk, sissy, battyman and hoes if you are a black woman and/or a member of the LGBT, —to public physical, emotional and political acceptance of being valued by someone as less than or as a sexual object (i.e., being humiliated).   For me, acceptance is when you allow someone or somebody to humiliate you in public spaces.  In writing it out, it sounds crazy to suggest that anyone is accepting of publicly being reduced to jokes and sex objects, but I have seen it and at times have allowed it.

Happy to Have Maxwell Back!

I’d been waiting for Maxwell’s return for what seemed like forever.  Yesterday, after an eight-year hiatus, he released his fourth studio album, BLACKsummers’ night.  This highly anticipated album is the first installment of a trilogy—the other two albums, which have already been named are set for release in 2010 and 2011.  The second album, blackSUMMERS’ night will be more gospel influenced and the third, blacksummers’ NIGHT will be a slow jam album.  When it rains, it pours, huh, Maxwell?

Follow-Up: Justify My Thug

Perez Hilton in this months Advocate

Perez Hilton in this month's Advocate

There were some questions from folks–ok, maybe just one folk–regarding my inference that Perez Hilton really meant nigger when he called will.i.am a thug last month after the Much Music Awards.  Well, earlier today, a friend of mine sent me a link to a story about Perez’ interview in this month’s Advocate.  In it, Perez admits he wanted to call will.i.am a nigger, but instead settled for faggot because he thought it would be “even worse.”  That doesn’t automatically mean that nigger was on the tip of Perez’ tongue when he exchanged it for thug, but I do think it was in the throat area, at least.

I think this makes my argument a lot less flimsy.

(I’d say that I hate it when I’m [quasi-]right, but that would be a lie.)

My earlier post.

Excerpt from Perez’ Advocate interview.

Lets talk about Shades and Tints…

1. Is it bad that I want racial solidarity?

I was surfing the Internet this weekend—because what else does a 19-year-old black kid in the hood have to do over 4th of July weekend, when he is surrounded by little kids with fire-cracker ammunition, those things can definitely be dangerous. While surfing the net, I ran across a Myspace Video post that was titled “For light skin/caramel skin people only. ” As a very dark skin, confident, Hershey-chocolate-complexion individual, I was of course inclined to open and watch this video. A 15-year-old light skin kid spent 5 minutes ranting on about how light skin African Americans are coming “back into style” and then went on to say how dark skin individuals are going “out of style.”

dark-skin-light-skin-pic_edited-3

My initial reaction was to simply ignore the post and move on with my very complicated internet surfing life, but there was something about this internalized racial divide that I could not convince myself to forget. It was probably because the person who made the video was a YOUNG BLACK TEENAGER, if it was someone of a more mature audience, I might have been able to ignore it. What made the situation worse were the comments to the video post. “Dark skin is ugly.” “Finally someone has said what I have been thinking” “I’m only attracted to light skin people anyway”. I have no problem with preference, but I want people to understand if their preferences root from a history of racism.

My father who is also a darker toned man, explained to me that when he was a child he wished he was “light skin” with “good hair.” He warned me early in my life how this world can be easy to judge and he told me to always be proud of my skin color. My father was right, the judgment of my skin tone and the burden of colorism became a reality in my life. The first situation where I felt judged—or just teased—for my skin color was not by a klu-klux-klan member, it was not a former slave owner, it wasn’t even the common 21st century systemic racism. It was my Black classmates at O’Toole Elementary School on the south side of Chicago—near 67th and Western if you know the area. Students consistently yell playground taunts based on darker skin not being attractive. I can still hear echoes of comments like “you black as dirt.”

2. Is it bad that I want racial solidarity?

The Video post did not offend me…it did not make me mad…not sad either…I was worried. The deeper I go into academia, the more I start to surround myself with liberal thinkers, and begin to forget that there are still young minds that are lost in the sauce—yes I still use corny phrases from my childhood. I was worried because I want to believe that we (all humans of every race) have moved beyond a paradigm that believes the tint or shade of an individuals skin can be “in” or “out” of style. I was worried because I want my slightly younger peers to understand that this inner-racial tension roots from attitudes perpetuated when slavery existed, the same attitude that caused many people to believe that the level of Black success in this country depended on what your results were in a brown paper bag test. I’m worried because I know that these tensions grew when light skin individuals would get better jobs and slide into better neighborhoods while in my experiences I have seen too many little dark skin girls fall into low self-esteem due to this social stigma that black is not beautiful. We read and study about all of this hate and self-hate carried throughout history, and now, through the progression of technology this 15 year-old Black male wants to create an internet video that rekindles the fires of hate within a race that has more than enough to deal with between issues of  poverty, lack of education, HIV, drugs, and incarceration rates.

3. Is it bad that I want a little racial solidarity?

Diversity_Hands

They say the third time is a charm. Maybe this desire of mine will one day become a reality, but I won’t hold my breath.

I encourage you to check out this poem by Michael Ellison titles “Light-Skin-DID” It gives a comical side to this issue, and ultimately taught me that every serious conversation can be talked about openly when guards are down by the way of laughter. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OH2a46QmHR0

Celebrating Serena!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the fourth of July, I watched Serena beat Venus at Wimbledon on ESPN2 at a viewing party in a friend’s apartment.  It was the  fourth time the Williams sisters have met at Wimbledon (but only my friend’s second Breakfast at Wimbledon Party). Venus has won 5 titles there. This was Serena’s 3rd Wimbledon title and her 11th Grand Slam title. The announcers and commentators are always beside themselves whenever these two meet, debating their popularity, who is the better player, their off the court social and business endeavors, and the antics of their father/coach who never watches them play because he says he it is  too much like watching them fight. Serena’s best friend, Kelly Rowland, from Destiny’s Child was there with their mother Oracene Williams. The match was exciting, especially in the first set when Serena came from behind to win. But for me, the best part of the whole event was the post match interview with Serena in which she was questioned about how she felt about remaining #2 in the rankings even though she had just won her 3rd Grand Slam title this year. The player who is ranked #1, Dinara Safina, had lost to Venus in the semi-finals. Here is the link to the clip: Serena’s Post-Match Interview

 

 

The WTA ranking system is complicated but basically the major tournaments are each alloted a point value and players get a share of the points according to how they place in the tournaments. I am not suggesting that anyone screwed with the numbers or anything like that. No, what is being discussed in the video clip is a more subtle discrepancy about the ways in which the player with the most points in the WTA system is often not the same as the most dominant player. The Grand Slam titles are the tournaments that have the highest point values. Serena has won 3 out of 4 Grand Slams this year. The top ranked player hasn’t won any Grand Slam titles. So what is in debate isn’t really who should be the top ranked player within the WTA ranking system but what that system really tells us. Serena’s response to the reporter’s question about how she feels about being #2 makes it clear that she feels like she is the best player in the world. Her performance on the court certainly backs that up! This post is intended to celebrate not just Serena’s dominance in the tennis world but also her winning self-confidence. Despite the trumpets that sounded at Barack Obama’s inauguration like he was the Second Coming, it is rarely surprising to me when a black person who has achieved something remarkable does not get their due praise. When you are passed over for something you feel you deserve, it can be very easy to dwell on the (minor) injustice of that moment and lose sight of the bigger picture.  Serena’s full throated laugh and flippant tone show that she will not be derailed in her quest to match Billie Jean King’s 12 Grand Slam titles. Serena refuses to believe that other people are better than her (especially when there is a truckload of evidence to the contrary). There is something inspiring about holding on to that idea of who you are (in her case, the best women’s tennis player in the world) no matter what you are told.  Plus, she made me laugh out loud. Go Serena!

A Word (or Several Hundred) on the BET Awards

It’s taken about a week for my feelings about the BET Awards to be articulated as something beyond, “I hate Debra Lee,” or “If Harriet Tubman got frequent flyer miles, she’s now really upset there weren’t more blackout dates,” or “Where’s Nat Turner and Denmark Vesey when you need them?”** or “How long before they just start calling it the Al Jolson Awards?” But I’m less irritable—and hopefully more constructive—now. Besides, Al Jolson doesn’t deserve that dis; he never did anything to me.