Troy Anthony Davis was killed by the state of Georgia last week. His trial, conviction and the refusal to reverse said conviction is a textbook example of the problem that the burden of proof has started to shift to the party charged with the crime and away from those who prosecute. In a hearing last year, a judge ruled against overturning Davis’s conviction because though he had raised certain doubts about his guilt, he had failed to prove his innocence…
Culture in itself is harmless. Simply a hallow word that curls off the surface of one’s tongue. It is only when culture is contextualized that it begins to define our world, our actions, and our perception. When “culture” is paired with another term, it ceases to be ambiguous and comes to life to either uplift or bring peril to the communities that we’re apart of. There is a culture to everything and it is inside of this infinite possibility of culture that lives are both made and destroyed.
There is drug culture, rape culture, black culture, city culture and the list goes on. These various cultures can support, sustain, and nourish both young and old. However, there are cultures that must be fought against at their inception. There are some cultures that should not be allowed to flourish in a society where we desire everyone to be equal. I declare war on the culture of homophobia.
When the SAT asked however many thousands of high school seniors take it every year to find the word that relates most to ‘oarsman’ and the correct answer is ‘regatta’, half of the white test takers knew the answer and a fifth of black test takers knew it. The white kids were more likely to know the answer and a wealthy white kid was even more likely. Culturally biased test questions have created a ton of controversy because, problematic as it may be, colleges put a huge amount of weight on these numerical values in their judgement of applicants. Standardized testing has been notoriously culture- and race- biased. And the SAT (which makes its efforts) is no exception.
Yesterday my friend who attends UC Berkeley told me that, “ish got real”. No, she wasn’t complaining about midterm exams or too much homework. She was referring to a bake sale. This isn’t your grandmother’s bake sale, well unless your grandmother set the prices of her cookies, brownies, cupcakes based on race, gender, and ethnicity.
Campus Republicans at the University of California Berkeley are hosting a controversial fundraiser that implements a sliding scale where the price of the baked goods depends on a person’s race or gender. Cookies for white men are being sold at $2.00, Asian men for $1.50, Latino men $1.00, black men for $0.75, Native American men $0.25. All women will receive $0.25 off of those set prices. The executive board is conducting this fundraiser as a statement of their disapproval of affirmative action policies in the college admissions process. Ironically, Proposition 209, which was approved by California voters in 1996 prevents public schools and employers from considering applicants’ race, ethnicity and gender. Nevertheless, UC Berkeley Republicans still feel like their counterparts from historically marginalized groups are less qualified and taking up the space of some qualified White student.
According to recent studies 53% of black boys in fourth grade can’t read at a basic level. As many people have heard before, many states base how many prisons they are going to build off of 4th grade test scores. I guess we can assume a lot more prisons will be built at this rate. That’s why it’s hard for me to understand all the controversy around this video of a father disciplining his son.
Yeah, I might have used different language, and shaving his eyebrows off was a bit much, but they’ll grow back. And no, I wouldn’t have videotaped my son’s punishment, but overall I see a father who doesn’t want his son to end up a statistic. However, some people are calling for this dad to be sent to jail.
Last week I made the decision not to mention Troy Davis in my blog. This week, however, I feel the need to make a desultory remark or two. So random are my words that I am thinking about the law and morality. A bad move, I know. But I can’t help it:
Despite my overall pessimism and general belief that this country will rarely, if ever, do the right thing, the hours I spent watching Democracy Now!’s fantastic coverage of the Troy Davis case last Thursday evening revealed that occasionally a modicum of hope that dwells underneath a crusty armor of curmudgeonly discontent emerges just long enough to be thoroughly crushed before I can toss it back into its secret hiding place. In other words, by 11:09 last Thursday evening, I was totally shook.
As I walked home yesterday from the market with my several bags of groceries and my godson in toe being harassed by young black men who probably could be my nephews, I finally understood why many Black men act the way they do. Why they are completely impervious to emotions. Why they can sleep with countless numbers of women and men and deny their sexuality. Why they have so much free time to harass me as I walk down the street (al. holding constant the double digit unemployment rate in the black community). Why they can walk away from raising their children. Yes, I know why they act the way they act. It’s pretty simple. They have no social responsibility and by extension no emotional responsibility.
Seven months ago you couldn’t tell me that Odd Future would achieve mainstream representation; I guessed that they were a group of outlaws that would manage their own channels. And here my predictions have been assassinated: while Earl is under a boarding school in Samoa, Tyler has won MTV’s Best New Artist and Frank Ocean is chillin’ on Kanye’s throne. Not even thinking about the success of Goblin and the cult of young adults that follow behind him, the pack’s front man Tyler the Creator has been blown by the whole situation. If Tyler is serious about the stuff he’s been saying lately this could be an artist that leaves the indie game quickly, but with a legendary grace.
By this time, I hope you’ve all heard of and joined the battle to stop the execution of Troy Davis. I don’t know where his fate will stand at the time that this is posted but I do know that I disagree with his fate resting in the hands of such a foul and uneven system. And once his case is decided, please continue to fight against capital punishment, a practice that has become far too routine in our prison system. So much so that we don’t hear of the majority of cases of inmates who are sentenced to death under the guise of protecting the safety and welfare of other citizens.
Before I ask you to support Troy Davis’s cause specifically or the battle against capital punishment in general, I want you to consider the purposes and limits of punishment. Are we to punish as deterrence? Is reform the goal?
When I was nine years old my stepmother told me blatantly: “don’t you bring no white women home to my house.” The statement, which was racially charged with 4 ounces of abhorrence, 2 cups of historical baggage, and a whole recipe of nuances that could rationalize or reprehend statements similar to my stepmothers. Regardless if she is justified in the statement or not, the message remained the same, if I (a black man) brought home a wife outside the black race (a white woman) my step mom would not approve. Of course this was way before I came to the realization that I was gay, so as a nine-year-old boy I had to grapple with the politics of race and marriage, even before I fully understood the complicated history that came with these two subjects.
Now a professor turns this conversation on its head and gives a dissenting argument when paralleled to the words of my stepmother. Professor Banks, who teaches at Stanford Law school, asks black women to “Put the Burden Down” and not be afraid to marry outside of the black race. In Banks’s new book titled “Is Marriage for White People” he seeks to find the reasoning behind the decline of marriage in the black community. 70 percent of Black women are not married and over 90 percent of people in the United States are okay with interracial marriage (at least according to a poll from USA today). Imani Perry, from the New York Times, argues that unmarried black women, have been a “figure of cultural fascination” in contemporary media and culture. However, there are a few thoughts I have about the idea behind marriage, attraction and the problematic history of “passing”.