Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Black People Are Cowards?



I have tried to write this in a way that made sense and was coherent and not angry but…I couldn’t. A rapper and musician from NY just called all black people cowards. Black people like my grandfather who was shot in the line of duty in the army and didn’t receive a purple heart until 1989. Black people like my uncle who went to Vietnam and fought a war that wasn’t his. Black people who live in states and cities where they are NOT the majority, and they know it. Black people who live in states like Alabama, where interracial marriage is still technically illegal, not because no one tried to change the law, but because attempts to change it are voted down. Black people who live in Mississippi, where a black man was killed simply because some white teenagers decided at a party that they should go “f*** with some niggers”. Black people who wake up every day with the weight of oppression crushing their soul. To suggest that these black people and the millions like them are cowards is a position born of arrogance and privilege.

Black people make up thirteen percent of the population in America. That numerical minority is reflected everywhere except in prison, where in 2009, Non-Hispanic blacks accounted for 39.4% of the prison population. Meanwhile only six are CEOS of Fortune 500 companies. Are you really so myopic to think that our problems as a race are going to be solved with a boycott? By refusing to go to work? Black Americans are not going to affect any positive changes by becoming homeless or by wasting opportunities to spread wealth and power throughout their communities because of one racist’s comments.

Racists have had positions of power for decades now, and when black people decide to take up arms and fight against the system, the racists are the ones who WIN. There can be no victory when we as a race of Americans forget that while we are black, we are also American. There can be no victory if the most responsible of our race, those who have taken advantage of the opportunities that the system has afforded them, throw those opportunities away because there are racists in the world.

The struggle that Homeboy Sandman refers to is one that neither he nor anyone of our generation truly understands. Our parents and our grandparents understand what a struggle is because they survived it. They went through a time when black people were rightfully afraid for their lives. Homeboy Sandman doesn’t understand that struggle and to be fair, neither do I. But do you know what my grandfather, my grandmother, and my parents all instilled in me at an early age, as a young black man growing up in Alabama? Survive. It’s not as glorious as getting gunned down fighting the police, nor is it as bold as quitting your job because you work for a racist. But it is the long-term plan that has ensured that Homeboy Sandman and millions like him are alive and it is the reason why we have the freedom of expression we have now.

I’m not saying to smile and dance and “yes them to death” in the words of Ralph Ellison, but I am saying to use what the system affords to point out the wrongs and oppression. If Chris Paul keeps his high profile job and uses his money to help send black children to college, or uses his celebrity to highlight the struggle of inner city black children to get comparable education to others, who is to say that he isn’t down for the “cause” or the “struggle”. To suggest that we all throw away our jobs the minute the world is revealed to be something different than what we want it to be, is myopic simply because it is planning to win only one minor battle instead of remembering the need to win the war. Survival is how we win the war. Throwing away our jobs at the first sign of racism isn’t the struggle. Remembering the need to survive, gritting our teeth, swallowing our pride and doing what it takes to win the war against racism is. Maybe that means letting the American system deal with injustices. Maybe that means suiting up and playing for an organization that is owned by a racist. Maybe that means not fighting everyone who calls you a nigger. Maybe it means instead of punching your coworker for saying something racist, you take it to HR and let the system deal with it accordingly.

Don’t throw away everything in an attempt to win a minor battle. Survival is how we win the war against racism.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Don't. Just...don't.


I never thought I'd have to write this post. Seriously. But apparently, what I do know? Okay. Soap box time.

Blacks were not better off during slavery. I repeat: Blacks were NOT better off during slavery. Let's look at what slavery was.

Slavery was the legal dehumanization of an entire race of people. It not only condoned the sale and mistreatment of an entire race, but it was LEGALLY acceptable. There was no recourse against it, and by law, Black people were considered less than human. Recently, Clive Bundy said this. Shockingly enough, there are people still trying to support this statement, or flip it or...whatever. To say black people were better off in slavery because now they are under a different system of oppression is nothing less than inflammatory rhetoric designed to garner some notoriety and press for yet another white person who has some conservative agenda. 

Conservative agenda you say? Yes, a conservative agenda of "slavery wasn't that bad". Why would anyone want to prove that slavery wasn't bad? If slavery wasn't really bad, then the effects of slavery must be not exist. Black people as a whole being unable to obtain wealth can't be blamed on the damage of building the foundation of a country for free. Which means, that all the social programs which benefit black people are completely unnecessary. Affirmative action? Nope. Not necessary. Slavery wasn't that bad. Medicare? Nope. Not necessary. Slavery wasn't that bad. Everyone started in America on equal grounds, and because of that, we don't need to try to help anyone. Bootstraps! Equality! Freedom! Of course, I'm not privy to all of the conservative master plans, but this one seems relatively viable, though significantly paranoid and overwhelmingly myopic.

White people, as a black person, I have to be honest with you. I really hate when you decide for me and my race what's best for us. Funny story, that happened a lot during slavery. But if you're the latest white person in a long line of white people to say you know what's best for black people, chances are you might actually have no problems with slavery. Hear that? That's conservatives everywhere crying foul. I know, I know, you don't want slaves, you want equality, and blah blah blah. Look let's all agree, stop using black people to make points. Slavery happened and there's nothing you can do about it.

Of course, that'll never happen because conservatives understand even if they do all this, most black people still aren't going to vote for them.

Side note: Clive Bundy is a criminal who is willfully disobeying the government, and has been for years. Why would anyone put a camera or microphone in front of him, ask him his opinion and then spread it to the masses? WHY?

Sunday, February 16, 2014

So...Jeff Orr = Thug?


The news cycle is becoming ridiculous. I don't say that with some grand scepter or design to enforce change so that everyone bends to my will and does things a "better" way. Evil supervillain I'm not. But I can illustrate my point. Let's look at the story with Marcus Smart shall we?

For those of you who don't know, Marcus Smart is a 19 year old college basketball player from Ohio State, who upon entering the crowd during a recent game, shoved a fan. According to a sportscaster, Smart told his coach that the fan had called him the N word.. Understandably, the internet was set ablaze, from athletes weighing in on how the youngster should have conducted himself, to others who were arguing if you use the N word against a black man, he should be able to make you pay, no matter the context.

Meanwhile, in an attempt to save face with fans and the NCAA, Ohio State decided to suspend Marcus Smart, and issued a press release saying as much. The sleeping volcano erupted as the townspeople of the internet all begin to react to this perceived slight anew. Racism, the black people cried. Fairness, the not black people cried. As flaming conversations fell around them, mankind began to consume itself in sheer anger. And still, no one asked any questions. At least not any truly pertinent ones.

Questions like, what kind of person is Marcus Smart? What's been happening with him lately? More importantly, has Marcus Smart shown himself to be angry before? Why would he be angry enough to push a fan? One more very important question: in today's world, if a non-white fan calls a black player the N word, within earshot of others, why did no one else step forward and at the very least corroborate his story? So no one stood up and said, hey man, that's messed up. Okay, I can believe that. But no one, not even one fan heard a man call another man a slur? I know it's a loud arena, but I have a hard time believing that.

The news cycle doesn't reward asking questions, for pretty obvious reasons. If you're among the first to throw an news story/opinion out, more people will turn to you for the story, and the more people who look to you for the story, no matter how wrong it may later prove to be, the more you can be paid. That's how the news works. We all know it. The news is what it is because we made it that way. The news gives us what we want. It's our fault collectively. As I said at the outset, I'm not going to pretend that I'm above it all, that the world is full of idiots who are beneath me. I'm right in the midst of it, and I'm as guilty as anyone else.

After it was all said and done, ESPN ran a story about how the fan is saying he said "a piece of crap" or some such, and honestly, part of me wants to believe that fan. Sure he has reasons and motivation to lie, but no one heard what happened. At least no one has come forward to say they have. There were at least two people in the same area as Smart, and they haven't said if they heard anything. But again, who asked?

As far as Marcus Smart's reaction, well...one of the best things to happen to sports was the Malice in the Palace. Say what you will about Metta World Peace, but at the end of the day, he is a grown man, and he reacted like a grown man would to having a bottle thrown at him. There's a difference between sitting at home, yelling at a television and sitting in an arena yelling at a real people. Real people have feelings, and if you don't want to respect them, that's okay, just know that those real people with real feelings have real fists and might just give you a real good reason to shut up. I know, I know, the brawl in Detroit marred the image of the NBA for years after. So much so that the Pacers didn't even play in Detroit for another three years. It was a terriblly brutal example of the fact that NBA players, while they may be marketed as products, aren't products, they're people.

When I get angry at my laptop, I call it the N word. Loudly. A few times, I've smacked it around. That's because my laptop is a product, not a person. You can't treat people who play sports, professional or amateur, as if they are products. That's just the way it works. You mistreat a person, that person has a choice. There's been a lot of talk about college athletes having more to lose than fans, and frankly, I think that speaks to the sad state that college athletics is in, but fans need to have something to lose. If I told you that for fifty bucks, you can go and yell at 19 year olds all you wanted, throw things at them, and generally take all of your problems in life and yell them out with no consequences, why wouldn't you?  This is what happens in college arenas around the world. It sounds terrible. Which begs the question: why is this acceptable?

For those who say the fans are just wrapped up into the passion of the game, I say this: remember when Richard Sherman, someone who actually PLAYS in the game got passionate during an interview with Erin Andrews? What did we say about him?  He's a thug, right? Why is Richard Sherman a thug, but Texas Tech fan Jeff Orr isn't? Both are college alumni. Both care about a sports team. What's the difference between the two?

Look, at the end of the day, Marcus Smart will go on to be an NBA player, Richard Sherman still has a Superbowl ring and Jeff Orr...well, he's a white male. How many more advantages can he have?

Saturday, February 08, 2014

I No Longer Respect the Grammys


It's been a while, I know. There. That's all I'll acknowledge of the hiatus that happened. Let's all just move forward yeah?

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis won a Grammy for best rap album. Wait...stop...I don't want to start like this.

The Grammy's are, in my mind at least, the last bastion of artistic credibility. I had this conversation during a round of screen golf and the general consensus is that I am a) expecting too much from the Grammy's and b) racist/homophobic. At least that's what I was told.

This threw me for a bit of a loop. As a person who is proud of my heritage (I'm black and I'm proud) I tend to forget that my overzealous defense of my particular view point can actually lead to reverse racism. Maybe I disliked the Macklemore and Ryan Lewis nomination and win because it didn't highlight what I've felt is largely the only music genre that originated with Black Americans that still largely remains ours. This is a thought that's tormented me, ever since I decided to change the name of this blog from Deep Thoughts and Other Assorted Candies to The Words of A Full Time Knee Grow. Am I so adamant in my blackness, that I forget that others have equal rights?

After some thought, I feel this is completely and utterly ridiculous. My pride in my heritage doesn't damage anyone else, just as their pride doesn't damage me. I've never begrudged anyone who felt the need to tell me about how they were from Irish heritage, and I've listened to numerous "My people were just as oppressed as your people because we were (insert nationality here) and we got called dark and were treated as less than human". While, as you can clearly tell, I maintain my normal air of cynicism, I don't disbelieve or feel as if a claim of oppression weakens what happened to my ancestors. I simply accept what I've been told, and if you feel as if your ancestors were oppressed too, then let's commiserate together. If me taking pride in my heritage and who I am bothers you, I don't feel as if that's something I did. You have the problem. You dislike my pride and as much as I hate to tell you this, you can't force me to stop feeling proud in the way that my ancestors not only struggled to gain freedom, but didn't let the oppression they were suffering completely define who they would be, nor did they let that same suffering define or shape the legacy they left to their children and their children's children.

Which brings me to the former point: I expect too much from the Grammy's as an award. I think this might be true. Ever since OK Computer, despite its not being what we'd expect from catchy mainstream alt-rock won a Grammy and was nominated for album of the year, I've had this illusion (for lack of a better word) in my mind that the Grammy's weren't about who sold the most, or who was the most popular, but about who presented the art form that most helped and moved forward his or her genre, or music in general. Oh sure, I was willing to admit there'd be a general nod to the most popular artist or the one who sold the most music by giving them a nomination, but ultimately the best artistic endeavor would win, undoubtedly.

Then Macklemore and Ryan Lewis won a Grammy. (See? Fits much more nicely here) Do I think that Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' album wasn't good? No. I found it pretty entertaining, and had it been merely nominated, I would have no complaints. But in my mind, in the world that exists in between my ears, wining Best Rap Album equates to "The album that from an artistic standpoint did the MOST for it's genre, more than any other album nominated. Here's where I feel as if this is where the contention lies. I don't feel as if it     did that. In fact, I dare say, all it did was not do what hip hop has done best ever since its inception.

Hip hop has always been an art form of defiance. From the early days of Sugarhill Gang or Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, hip hop has been a rebellious and defiant reminder that it would not conform to whatever it was you felt it should. When millions were beginning to just understand the power of the N-word (not negro, the OTHER N-word) hip hop was spitting it into the faces of the people who refused to acknowledge its existence. Hip hop culture extended from a section of the population who were expected to lay down and die: the unwashed, uneducated masses who would never contribute anything into the world, who were meant to be servants, either of food or waste disposal. An entire subsection of urban culture who were not told but shown that no one ultimately would care about them or for them. Hip hop as a growling defiant response to every politician who would ranter pander for a vote than care for the constituents that had no voice, hip hop was the voice of thousands who had no choice but to repurpose what was given them and contribute to the human experience a living culture, a constant art form that has persisted even to this day.

Hip hop doesn't know color or creed, nationality or race. It is the voice of the people. In this regard, I applaud Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. They spoke out for a largely oppressed section of people. the LGBT community, and they used hip hop to do it. Largely this is unheard of in the world of rap, the music that hip hop spawned. By and large, rap lives in a world where being gay is undesirable, and this is expressed in the largely homophobic expressions hurled at  one's enemies.

But this is not the first time that hip hop has championed the cause of an oppressed people, or even that of the LGBT community  Granted many rappers still use gay slurs as a way to denigrate their detractors (that one's aimed at you Eminem, Rap God or not.) but hip hop being used to open our eyes to the plight of the oppressed isn't new. If Macklemore and Ryan Lewis won a Grammy only for this, I suppose I could understand and even accept it. However, what has happened feels far less like a feel good story.

Macklemore beat out Kanye West's flawed album Yeezzus (yes I do mean it when I said flawed. I really enjoyed it as an album. But let's not kid ourselves MBDTF it's not.) Jay-Z's Magna Carta/Holy Grail and Kendrick Lamar's Good Kid, m.A.A.d City. Oh whatever Drake did. Yeah. That passing mention is all Drake's album deserved. I honestly feel that was the popular album mention that got nominated but should never win anything. Yeah. Sorry Drake fans.

Jay-Z not winning? Meh. I can understand that. Magna Carta was amazing, but this is a man with a Grammy, a listing on Forbes and a wife named Beyonce. Jay's won so much at life already. What else could anything or anyone actually give him? But Kendrick...oh Kendrick. Your album was amazing so much so that most of us could forgive how long it took for you to make it. More importantly, just as he did with Section 80, Kendrick didn't just give us 10 songs. He gave us an ALBUM with a tied in theme and actual artistic merit. Add to this the fact that each of the songs have boundless meaning and are artistically what hip hop should be and well...we all see where I'm going.

The only consolation I have available to me is that Kendrick will probably be rapping and creating art for many more years. Who knows, the longer that Jay-Z keeps defying the hip hop gods and producing relevant music, the longer the average career of the hip hop star will last. But to tell me that artistically, the album that helped the entire genre of hip hop more was The Heist and not good kid m.A.A.d city is just egregious. This isn't me being an unrelenting fan boy of Kendrick Lamar, which I'm sure most of you will accuse me of. This is me being a fan of hip hop, one who is both proud of what it has become and ashamed of its vices. Kendrick Lamar represents an artist, who within the confines of the genre has managed to redefine it and has done so on its own terms. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, however politically correct their rap may have been didn't do anything to expand upon the genre. Kendrick is using the traditional tropes of hip hop, the bravado, the rebelliousness and even the complete political incorrectness it has as a genre, and turning it completlely on its ear. Years from now, Grammy awards aside, who will we remember as being more genre defining?

The Grammy's aren't concerned anymore with artistic merit, at least not in the genre of hip hop. All they care about is their image and appeasing the perceived masses. This saddens me more than I care to admit. With that in mind, where can anyone turn to for a truthful assessment of any music? They all fall to capitalism eventually.

TL;DR
The Grammy's used to care about artistic merit. Now all it cares about is popularity, sales and ingratiating itself to hipsters and liberals. (Wow...that sounds extremely Fox News)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Flying and Reading Minds


Would you rather fly or be able to read minds? This rather binary question is supposedly a guide to understanding whether you are “left brain” or “right brain”. I’ve never really understood how the answer to this question can tell anyone that, but it’s so widely accepted, it must be right. Right? I’ve always thought it was an unfair choice.

Who doesn’t want to do both? Flying would be amazing (with a windshield of course) and reading people’s minds speaks to a very human desire to understand one another. Ironically enough, we can do both of those things now, and often we don’t exercise that ability.

“Wait…did he say we can read each other’s minds?” That’s right. I did say that. And to an extent, I’m kind of right. We have to the ability to communicate with each other. Communication is more than just sharing what we mean with other people. It’s also how we find out what other people mean. The problem is many of us don’t take advantage of every avenue of communication in a few key areas.

For example: thanks to Will Smith, we’ve all heard that 60% of what you say isn’t what you say because of nonverbal communication. If we know this much, we’re off to a dynamic start. However, how many times have we seen the confusion that just misunderstanding a tone of voice can cause? Or assumed that a person who was truthful wasn’t because they wouldn’t maintain eye contact? Even something as simple as a handshake can lead to misunderstood intentions simply due to the way we shake hands. Why are there so many misunderstandings around simple things?

Simply put, it comes from our own lack of knowledge of nonverbal communication. We expect nonverbal communication to have the same formulaic laws and rules as language, which is understandable. We’re taught at a young age that language is communication. Before we learn language, we only really have a few tools to expression, namely, crying, smiling, laughing or simply remaining silent.

This isn’t a denunciation of language by any means. But it seems that we forget the most important rule of nonverbal communication once we learn verbal communication:  nonverbal communication doesn’t have a set of universal rules to govern it. I’ve always felt this was primarily due to the fact that nonverbal communication encompasses more than just intentional communication.

We rarely say or write things that we didn’t mean to write. We formulate sentences before we share them. By the time our words have entered into the common area, they’ve been especially created for the purpose of presenting a specific thought from us to others. While some people may think more about their word choice than others, it still doesn’t negate the fact that we all put some amount of thought into what we say. How we say it may be another matter altogether. But that’s not where the problems lie.

The problem lies in the fact that we know that nonverbal communication isn’t “thought out” and that in most cases it’s almost impossible to control all aspects of it. Often, we mistakenly think since people don’t actively control nonverbal communication, that it all must mean the same thing in each and every person, which unfortunately is just not true. While some things, such as pupil dilation or the electrical impulses that can be measured through the skin, are completely beyond our control, the majority of nonverbal communication has no set meaning from person to person.  We’ve all had someone ask us what “that look” meant. 

Here’s the takeaway: communication is a way to share meaning, in some cases it may be systemic, but in others it may have no rhyme or reason about it. So instead of assuming, take the time to really understand what meaning is trying to be conveyed.