Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations: Part 2 Leadership

 

barack-obama

There is a problem with leadership in America, particularly black America. From every angle when we think of our leadership there are three main themes (i.e., the problematic, the self-aggrandizer, and the bad).  Leadership is a tricky thing when you think about it. No one is at birth (here in United States of America) destined to be a leader.  Particularly for African Americans, how do our leaders become  ‘our leaders’ and then how do they become viewed by the larger society as leaders of black America?  How does black America come to find a space in which to critique and offer guidance to ‘our leaders’?

Barack Obama is the perfect example of the problematic leader. The problematic leader is one that gains power and position through his/her work in a particular (often times minority) community without being voted to that position.  As a result, he can never be checked by this community in a formal way (i.e., power of the vote).  Yet and because, he gains access through the formal (i.e., power of the vote) to a majority community (read: often times white) he becomes loyal to not upsetting the apple cart of the community that will use the formal process to remove him.  This is particularly, true in Obama’s case. At every turn he uses his race and the fact that there are no formal processes to check him for any transgressions (read: truth telling) against Black America.  As a result he chastise black America (without fear of retribution) while white America goes unscathed (because of fear of retribution). I first became concerned of this problem in 2008 while he was on his presidential campaign trail.

I remember on June 15, 2008 when he, before being president, made the truthful Father’s Day speech.    He rightful said “…too many fathers are MIA,…they have abandon there responsibilities…and the foundation of our families have suffered… no where is this more true that in the African American community.”  It was the Friar Roast heard round the world, and he was praised for it unlike Bill Cosby’s speech. The Apostolic Church of God’s black people clapped for a national (read: mostly white) prime time audience to view. Moreover, His self-help message knows no bounds as it spread over to Accura, Ghana on July 11, 2009 .  In both of his recent speeches (i.e., at the NAACP centennial celebration and press conferences about Professor Gates), President Obama’s panders (read: caters) to white America’s sensitivities and he blatantly disregards black America’s sensitivities.

A Gay Man's Struggle: "Why DL?"

blog pics #1 why DL?

One of my friends came to me this week and told me one of those stories that make you shake you head in disappointment. My eighteen-year-old male friend (For Blog purposes we will call him Timothy) was approached and asked out on a date by an older man (We will call him Bernis). Bernis was in his mid-thirties and initially seemed to be a nice person. After a couple weeks of interaction between the two of them Timothy realized Bernis was DownLow (which he understood to be problematic but Timothy did not mind dealing with that aspect.) Timothy stopped interacting with Bernis when he saw a picture of him at a Vacation spot with a woman and two kids. When Timothy asked him about the picture, Bernis came clean and told him he had a wife and two kids.  

When situations like this happen, usually both the gay and straight community criticize and judge the DownLow man. In some sense I think those older men should be criticized, but I also think people need to understand why those men have hidden in the closet for so long and why they continue to drown in their infidelity with the same sex.

There are all types of DownLow men. I have talked to men on the DL who were “self-proclaimed” thugs, businessmen, lawyers, drug dealers, educated, non-educated, educators, Black, White, Brown, and everything in between. And I have been DL once upon a time. I tried to hide who I was and pretend to date girls so others would think I was straight. I’m just glad that I was strong and confident enough to break out of my “straight façade.”

So why DL?

blog pics #3 question mark why DL?

It always involves a combination of these three aspects: The American Dream, Religion and/or Homophobia.  

The American Dream is not a reality for many living in impoverished areas across the country. However, there is still a paradigm that consistently leaves remnants of ideas that root from our “countries dream” which causes any young boy (or girl) to not want to be labeled as “deviant.”

Things like growing up and having a wife and kids are programmed into the minds of individuals from the time of their birth. If you are apart of any lifestyle that deviates from what is considered normal, acceptable, or the status quo you will be ostracized and many have even been brutally gay bashed.(Read about Matthew Shepard)blog pics #4 homophob why DL?

People don’t decide to be DL once they reach adulthood. It starts when you’re just a teenager. When I was a young boy in middle school discovering how much discrimination existed towards black people in the past, I did not want to be discriminated against for two things that I could not control—Being Black and Gay. In middle school I decided early that it was best to suppress the thought and feelings I had for other men. And for the next six years of my life (from 12-18) that’s exactly what I did. I lied, had fake relationships, and stressed my masculinity so that I could be considered normal and not have to deal with the ridicule and judgment of society. In the black community, when oppressions develop in society, black people have a history of finding a haven within the church. But with gay oppression, that spiritual haven is non-existent, and the vulnerability of struggling gay men and lesbian women only escalates.

We live in a society where homophobes are displayed on news channels for beating and sometimes killing people for their sexual orientation, where the mentality of a mass amount of people believe it would be best to get married/make 2.5 kids, and where a church says your going to hell if you don’t change your sexual orientation. With all these different aspects going on at once, it would seem smarter and wiser to just stay in the closet for a lifetime in some sense.

The reason we have 35 year old men approaching 19 year olds males after being married with kids, is because we live in a society that ridicules those individuals who are courageous enough to decide to be out and proud. I am not condoning a cheating man’s actions, but I want to explore why a man could live half his life and still be hiding his true self. Bernis is just a product of what society says he should be. We can call him a coward, but the truth still remains, if people come out of the closet, they will have to face more hardships in life.

blog pics #5 comingout why DL?

I decided to come out because I refuse to go through life under the oppression of anyone else’s opinions. I believe for a man (or women) to get to a point where they stop hiding, they have to stop caring what everyone thinks and feels (which is much easier said than done). When I came out, I had to not care what my family thought (the same family who fasted—literally stopped eating—and prayed for me when I told them I was gay), I had to stop caring what my friends thought (some of the same friends who abandoned me once they found out), and I had to re-evaluate my religion (a religion that had been the backbone of my life since I was a three year old in Sunday-school). I cannot blame Bernis for not wanting to deal with the oppression and rejection that gay and lesbian people encounter on a daily basis.

One thing I can take hope in is that things are getting better. The Laws (slowly but surely) are changing to support and protect all people. The first gay minister   blog pics #2 gay minister why DL?was appoint in the last decade, and people are starting to understand you can still achieve success and find acceptance as an out gay man or lesbian women. I suppose it is up to us (Straight and Gay people) to make sure our society stops giving such a negative and unnatural connotation to the word “gay” and everything that comes with it. Maybe then 35-year-old men will finally be able to accept their true identities.

A(nother) Word on Bootstraps

On the day the Senate Judiciary Committee considers her nomination:

I didn’t watch much of the Sotomayor hearings. I found them boring, and frankly, in some weird way they reminded me of my oral exams. And who wants recall that trauma on a weekday afternoon–especially when one is supposed to be writing a dissertation and not watching C-SPAN? Anyway, I caught part of Senator Jon Kyl’s discussion with Sotomayor. I believe this was the first round of questioning on July 14. At some point Kyl, as expected, turns to Sotomayor’s speeches and her “wise Latina” remark. He’s concerned because he thinks judging has (always been) and should (continue to) be neutral, and that Sotomayor might use her sassy Latina-ness to make decisions. Sotomayor says something to the effect of “I didn’t really mean it that way. I was just trying to encourage people who aren’t white, straight, male, privileged, etc.” Of course, I paraphrase. But Kyl likes her response. So he says:

On E. Lynn Harris

Last Friday (July 24), author E. Lynn Harris died. Though his passing is getting some attention, by comparison, the deaths of other, more famous people have peppered the mainstream media at a much higher rate. A lot of folks (still) don’t know who he is. Either way, learning of his death gave me pause. Not because I’m TOTALLY. FREAKED. OUT. by all these famous black people dying, but because I am surrounded by friends–internet and otherwise–who were deeply moved by his work.

The Color of Corruption

For decades Detroit has been the center of the automotive industry in the United States, and was the destination of many black migrants in the early 50’s and 60’s. The factories provided jobs that allowed black men and women with little education to pay for their families in sustainable and even upwardly mobile ways. As late as the mid-nineties, I can remember guys I was growing up with telling me that college was a waste of time because they could make good money working in the factories like their fathers had.

As such, when the economy crashed last year–and took the automotive industry with it–Detroit, and the black people who inhabit the city (Detroit is 81% black), were especially hard hit. With a 22% unemployment rate in the City of Detroit alone (the State of Michigan unemployment rate is 15.2%), the circumstances become more dire daily.

Third Friday News Wrap-Up

Beginning today and every third Friday to follow, I will blog vignettes of weekly news stories. This type of vignette blogging will allow people to comment on the story or stories that most affect them. So, for a blogger who delights in blogging about current events, race, and gender this has been as the cliché goes “a week for the history [her-story] books.” Early Monday morning, the internet buzzed with disparaging if now downright racist sexist commentary about newly appointed Surgeon General, Dr. Regina Benjamin. Pundits and conservative talk show radio host lambasted the pending nominee’s credibility as surgeon general because of her weight. Of, course my response to this was since when do we ask white male senators if their whiteness and maleness influences how they legislate so why is it now important to assess Dr. Benjamin’s weight. And Steve Colbert of the Daily Report agrees.

Then on Tuesday, Chris Brown released on the internet an apology for beating Riahanna. Many felt including me that it was not heartfelt or genuine. Furthermore, merely speaking with one’s spiritual counselors does not necessarily get at the complexities of domestic and teen dating violence. He needs to be in continuous therapy. And, perhaps he should read the statement that Females United For Action (FUFA) wrote in response to teen dating violence. Then news broke about how renowned Harvard scholar, Professor Henry Louis Gates, was arrested for entering his own home. Blogsphere went into a delirious tizzy. Commentary ranged from racial color blind(ism), “Well, the officer was just doing his job and if I saw someone entering who looked “mischievous” I would call the police too to racial analysis, “This is purely racial profiling.” My response to this story is mixed I simply wrote on my Facebook status, “I understand the racism of this story. It happens to countless numbers of black and brown people not just men of color, however, the class dynamics of being able to become as Michael Eric Dyson stated “the Rosa Parks of racial profiling” and to have the President of the United States, Barack Obama, make mention of the issue is something to assess when thinking about how class privilege (I am a Harvard Professor) intersects with race.”

Then on Wednesday, Soledad O’Brien, the race crusader herself, (of course I am being sarcastic) presented Black in America 2 as if the prequel actually reflected the complexities of being Black in America. To be honest, I did not watch the show because it was my birthday and I decided to watch Madagascar 2 at least in this TV viewing I expected to see characters displayed as animals. However, many people did watch the show and have strong opinions about it. Finally to end the week, news about how Barack Obama is losing the debate about reorganizing the health care system broke. Like past presidents seeking to shape public opinion, Barack Obama is relying on town hall meetings and news conferences to sale his agenda. However, I believe he and other Democrats must creatively figure out how to counter conservative group’s ads and commercials which display Obama’s agenda as a plot to take from the hardworking and give to non-hardworking. Of course, this is easily said then done given how this American ethos of hard work and due diligence is fed to us from birth, but it must be done if the Democrats expect to extend coverage to those who are currently uninsured.

So, as stated earlier in this piece, this is the Third Friday News Wrap-Up where you are able to comment on the story or stories that most affect you. Should we consider Dr. Benjamin’s weight as a factor for her not to become the new Surgeon General? Should we forgive Chris Brown for his abusive transgressions? Should we empathize with the white officer who arrested Skip Gates? Should we follow conservative rhetoric that the only people who deserve to medically insured are those who can afford it? Also, if you have other news stories that happened this week, please feel free to share.

The Soft bigotry of Low Expectation: Part 1 Violence

VIOLENCE

VIOLENCE

In May 2008, I was in the North Lawndale community on my way home from work when I was attacked. I was attacked by 8-12 black children ranging from ages 10 – 12.  They were throwing rocks, bricks and etc , because I had refused to give the youngest one money. I didn’t fight back.  I just got out of there and went to the police station to file a compliant. I learned that there was a neighborhood search for the leader (aka superman) of this group that had been attacking the elderly and other folks.   This was my second time being attacked on the west-side of Chicago. I remember sharing my story with a friend of mine. I was furious every time I thought of the little marauding group of delinquents. I told her how I wanted them to be put in a juvenile detention center.  She was appalled. She told me that I was exercising my privilege and not being compassionate to young black children and their struggle.  She talked about trying to understand how their community created them to be violent. I asked her if that applied to older “rogues and marauders”  and she said “yes.”  At this point, we had a conversation about self-determination and human agency vs. environment and other external forces that lead to poor decision-making, piss-poor morals, and a lack of humanity.

A Gay Man's Struggle: "Coming Out"

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Over the next couple weeks I will be exploring a gay man’s struggle. Organizing my own experiences and what I have observed in other close friends, I will try to give an inside look to what it is like to grow up as a gay man in the inner city. There are obviously many aspects to this subject and many in my neighborhood (emphasis on the HOOD part) would rather pretend that being gay is something that is just a “phase” or “non-existent.” Starting from when I was a confused child in elementary school to the point where my brother told me that he “hopes I get aids” this topic has being weighing heavily on my heart for a while now. So over the next couple weeks, here are the titles of the different subjects I will be writing about. A Gay Man’s Struggle: “Coming Out”…”Why DL?”…”Leviticus Said Man Shall Not Lie With Man”…and finally “Liberation?”

“Coming Out”

A Gay Man's Struggle: "Coming Out"

When I was a young student at Shaw High School in East Cleveland I watched a movie about a 1988 civil rights drama “Mississippi Burning,” a film based on the 1964 slaying of three civil rights workers. It’s an amazing, troubling and heart-breaking film. The fact that it is based on a true story only heightens its terrifying impact. When I reflect on the African-American Civil Rights Movement of the past century one theme always returns to me, and always strikes my heart: Would I have been brave enough to be one of them? Would I have had the courage to risk life and limb to defend the rights I know and believe should be guaranteed to all Americans?

In my heart I always want to say “yes.” I want to think that I would have been marching on the streets of Montgomery, or taking a bus from Chicago to Birmingham as a Freedom Rider. But, in my head I know — or at least fear — that I would instead be the meek passerby, adamantly opposing segregation and hate as I sat idly on the sidelines, living an easy and comfortable life. This, almost as much as any other part of the Civil Rights Movement, breaks my heart. This fear of my own hypothetical ineffectuality is based, more than anything, in what I perceive to be my own failing in a more current fight for civil rights. In place of brave and courageous outspokenness I have consistently, with fleeting exceptions, substituted the ease and comfort of the closet; the_beauty_of_sadness_bw

A closet that runs nearly 8 years deep and that, as often as it has protected me from the potential hate and intolerance of others, has encouraged both self-loathing and depression. Knowing now that it was just one step to my liberation is a beautiful sadness.

What I mean to say in all this is that, as well as I know myself after my first nineteen years, I am a homosexual. This is, I suppose, my coming out. I don’t mean this to be a huge revelation, many who I interact with already know, and the way I will live my life tomorrow will be the same as I did today. I simply feel that it’s time for me (and everyone who struggles with me) to start presenting ourselves more honestly, and to take a firmer stand in the fight against homophobia and discrimination.

I still retain this hope now, that ideally those who hated me will still hate me, those who loved me will still love me, and the vast majority that really didn’t care one way or another, will not have a change of heart. “Gay” is who I am, not who I do, and in a perfect world no one would treat me differently once they knew. gay blog #6

However, I know that the world is far from perfect and many may have trouble understanding and accepting this part of me. I can empathize immensely with those of you who fit this description. It has taken me many years to understand what my sexuality means and even more to integrate it into the personal identity I had already accepted (part of which is greatly defined by my Christianity.) I like to believe that most intolerance is rooted not in factually informed hate, but actually in ignorance; and I’ve discovered for myself that ignorance is best defeated by knowledge, not further intolerance.

For any young black gay man, coming out is the biggest and most difficult struggle of their life. Getting to the place where they stop caring what society thinks and start to accept them-selves is a mountain to climb. For now I want to give tribute to those that live out and proud. And If anyone wants to also pay tribute to anyone they know that has climbed the mountain and came out of the oppressive closet (males or females) please pay tribute to them by writing their names in the comment box.

Joe Hovey, Siaara Freeman, Calvin Walker, Jessica wright, James Davis, Rayshawn Birch, Akeem Rollins, Erika Williams, Brianna Mcguire, Taylor Johnson, CJ Reed

But let us also understand why many have chosen not to “come out” and give a moment of silence because they are forced to be silent. Next week I will discuss, A Gay Man’s Stuggle: “Why DL?” silence_equals_death

Skip to My Lieu

A few years ago, when I was still taking graduate school course work, I got into a “disagreement” with a colleague about race and class. We had just left our course on mid-20th century black literature, and were hanging out in the department lounge for some strange reason–something I’d never do now. I think we had just finished discussing Native Son in class that day, and afterwards the issue of race and class came up. I think I started talking about how unsatisfying the last third of the novel, Fate, is. Or maybe I didn’t. The memory is hazy, as it was a traumatic time in my life, and I’m kind of old now; I don’t much remember my wide-eyed days. Anyway, I think I was making some poorly worded (and perhaps ill-informed) statement about Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison and being black and disillusioned with communism. At some point, and this is clear to me, my cohort emphatically said to me with authority, “I’m sorry. It is all about class.” I was pretty much like, no. I might have said something snarky. I might have not.