Friday, November 09, 2012

The ties that bind us.

I tried a few times to write something about the outcome of the election. But this is it in a nutshell: Republicans, people think you are racist. And sexist and homophobic, but I'm just gonna focus on racist part right now. Being racist is no longer seen as socially acceptable, so as long as you have that label following you around, you probably aren't going to win many more national elections.

Now, I have lots of Republican friends, and I know that they are no more racist than my friends who are registered Democrats. So really it is more of an image problem than anything. Maybe I'll write more in the future about things I think could help you change the perception, or you can shoot me an email if you're really interested. But it's time for you to have a come to Jesus talk about the future of your party. Because as I've said before, you do have ideas that I think would be amenable to people of color (at least some of them,) but the messages are getting muddled in a bunch of stuff that people are not interested in hearing.

Ok, moving on. Watch this trailer:

This is a movie that's coming out soon. I probably won't see it, because it doesn't look that interesting to me. I do like that it's about mental illness, because that is something that doesn't get enough attention.

But the reason I am writing about it is because black people often complain about how there are not many good roles for black actors in Hollywood. There is a black actor in this movie, Chris Tucker. And who does he play? The white main character's friend. Color me surprised.

So then I go to thinking...Why aren't the main characters black in this movie? Now is the part in the blog post where I ask a bunch of questions. This is what it's like in my brain--questions, questions, questions. Pretty much all the time, unless I'm watching one of the Real Housewives shows.

Could one or both of the leads have been black people?
Would they have had to change any of the details of the plot just because the skin color of the actors was different? Like the fact that the male lead wears sweatpants and a cross? Or likes football? Or just got out of a mental institution? Or that the female lead is interested in ballroom dancing? Or slept with a bunch of people at her job? Are any/all of these things quintessentially white?

What about Robert De Niro? Could he still have played the male lead's dad? Could De Niro still be the dad and there just never be anything in the script about why they were different races? Or maybe the male lead was adopted. Does the race of the actors change everything in such a fundamental way that it has to be addressed somehow in the dialougue? Or does it make it a completely different movie? Or a movie that will make significantly less money because white people won't go see it?

Louis CK recently cast a black woman as his ex-wife on his show, even though the actors that play his children are white. As far as I know, he hasn't explained it on the show, he just has a black ex-wife and white kids. Colorblind casting, and a black actress gets work. Although not really colorblind, because Louis did say that having a black woman in the role does bring something...
He doesn't say what (I'm assuming because the audience started to laugh,) but we know what he means--spice, flava, oomph. Are these things quintessentially black? Or more specifically, black female?

And this brings us to the conundrum. Well, two conundrums actually.

The first conundrum is that when you take a multicultural class or diversity training, one of the first things you learn is that the I don't see color way of looking at race, is the first stage of racial identity development. To put it more harshly, this is the least evolved/most racist way of looking at race. So when someone says, I don't care if you're black, white, blue or green--This is a clue to people who have done a lot of work around diversity issues, that they are talking to someone that probably hasn't done a lot of work around diversity issues.

But ultimately, isn't this what we are striving towards? Like Dr. King said, judging someone on the content of their character, not the color of their skin? Of course we see race (because we have eyes and notice the difference between brown and ecru,) but should race matter? Should we make any decisions (small or large) about people based on the color of their skin? If so, which ones?

Ok, second conundrum. People of color are very quick to call a white person racist when they associate negative characteristics with people of color. But at the same time, they are willing to embrace so-called positive characterstics--even though they are both just stereotypes. Like black people don't want to be called drug addicts or welfare queens, but they are open to reinforcing the idea that they are great dancers, or have swag. And when is the last time you heard a black man say that he had an average to small-sized penis?

It's like, you can't have it both ways. You want to say x,y and z aren't true because you are black, but a,b and c are true because you are black.

I'll tell you what I know is true about every other black person over the age of 10 that I meet. I can't tell you how the person is going to talk, what his or her name is, where they are from, if they go to church, how much money they have, or whether or not they like ballroom dancing.

But I can tell you that they have an experience of racism that they can share with me.

They can tell me about the first time they were called the n-word, or the time someone told them they were dirty or stupid or just less than simply because they weren't white. Every single black person I pass on the street--I know they have a story about this. And it is this that binds me to them; makes me feel a sense of connection.

We may not have anything else in common, but we have that. I hope that they love and want the best for black people the way that I do, and when they smile and say "hey" to me, a complete stranger--it makes me think that they might.

But this is a sad connection to have. It is one that comes from a lot of pain. And it is one that I would gladly give up if it meant that there were no more racism in the world. Until then...I'm holding on tight.

I have covered a lot here, haven't I? To Rebecca and everyone else reading this, please leave me a comment. Because as much as I occasionally try to convince myself otherwise, your comments are important to me. Just like my writing helps you to understand me, your feedback helps me to understand you. So interwebsters, let me know what you're thinking and feeling.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Decision time.

Let's take a break from all the election chatter today and watch a funny video:

That is an example of a joke about race that is actually funny. It's from the movie Role Models. It's a good movie, and I don't say that about many comedies. I would recommend you hulu it or netflix it or something.

Happy election day, everyone. I hope you voted. Unless you think the whole system is corrupt or just don't care. Since this is the U.S., you are allowed to hold such beliefs.

Ain't this country great? I think so.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

The song of my people...

Here's a song for Music Thursdays. I love this song. I am going to post it twice, but the first time you only need to listen to it for about a minute and a half, so you can hear him singing. But it's such a great song, you may just want to listen to it the whole way through twice.

I first heard this song on one of my Pandora stations. I then went to youtube and found the official music video that you can watch below:

At about 23 seconds is when I yelled to my husband, "Wait, this is a white guy?!"

Did you have the same reaction? Sam Sparro sounds like a black guy to me.

So, what does it mean to sound like a black guy (or a black person?) I've been thinking about this quite a bit in preparation for writing this post, and I've narrowed it down to two things.

You can sound like a black person if you talk like our friend Antoine, meaning you pronounce your words a certain way or have a distinctive (usually Southern sounding) drawl. Click the link if you don't know who Antoine is. You can also sound like a black person if you structure your sentences in a distinctive way (think Ebonics.)

But, you can also sound like a black person even if you enunciate the endings of your words, and structure your sentences in the way that we are taught to in school. Black people's voices seem to be generally deeper than white people's. Or maybe they just have a different timbre. Maybe black people's vocal cords are longer or looser or something. I have a theory that some white women artificially increase the pitch of their voice in order to seem happy, non-threatening or something similar. Not basing that last statement on anything other than my own personal experiences; not trying to piss anyone off.

So, is it bad/racist/racish to think that you can tell a someone's race just from hearing their voice? Is it bad/racist/racish to say someone sounds black or sounds white?

Well, I wouldn't have a problem with someone telling me that I sounded black if it were for reasons related to the quality of my voice. And I don't think that anyone would ever say that I sounded black because I don't pronounce the endings of my words. As I wrote here before, I'm sure there are many people who think that I probably talk like a white person.

But this is the problem: a white person telling me that I sound like a white person is not a compliment, and a black person telling me I sound like a white person is not an insult (even though that is how each comment is intended.)

I talk the way that I talk. And since I am black, I would say that means I talk like a black person. Antoine talks the way that he talks, and since he's black, that means that he talks like a black person too.

Do more black people talk like Antoine than talk like me? I don't know. But I do know that Antoine's manner of speaking is much more commonly accepted as the black way of speaking than mine is. That is troublesome to me because it serves to create division among black people about who is truly black. Time spent on that is time not spent on changing the things in that documentary I shared my last post.

Are Antoine's professional opportunities limited by the way that he speaks? Probably.

And who shoulders the responsibility for that--Antoine? Or the person doing the hiring? Should he change the way he speaks (something that is a big part of a person's identity,) if he wants to get a job at State Farm? (that was just the first corporation that came to mind.) Or should corporations embrace a wider range of ways to speak, in an effort to celebrate diversity?

All right, I feel like I am kind of rambling now. But I wanted to leave you with a few more questions.

Do you feel like you can tell a person's race just from hearing their voice? Like, if two people read Mary had a Little Lamb, could you tell who was white and who was black?

If you're not white or black, can you tell if other people are the same race as you, even if they don't have a stereotypical accent? If so, how?

Have you ever thought someone was one race, and then met them in person, and found out they were another? What happened? How did you handle it?

Feel free to answer any, all, or none of my questions in the comments. You can even ask some of your own.


Monday, October 22, 2012

The House I Live In.

I put this trailer up on my twitter page a couple of weeks ago, but I thought I would also share it here. Check it out:

I think the saddest part for me was then the little boy was crying for his mother. I know this is cliche, but it is true that once you have children, things like that affect you in a way that they did not when you didn't have kids.

Also, I think it's weird that in Nancy Reagan's Just Say No campaign the main color was green. But green is typically associated with the word Yes, not the word No. It's like a Jedi mind trick.

Now, I know that it is easy to see trailers or movies like this and leave feeling like the problem is too big and there is nothing that I can do about it. But there are things that we as individual citizens can do try to change things.

There are a number of ballot initiatives in states across the country this year that have to do with decriminalizing/regulating certain drugs. Regardless of your own views about drug use, I think it is reasonable to say that the criminal justice system is not the best avenue for dealing with the problem of drug abuse. The more that individual states can relax their laws regarding illegal drugs, the more compelling the argument becomes that a new federal strategy is needed. So if you live in a state with a drug decriminalization issue on the ballot this year, I urge you to become more informed about the measure, and to look at it from the wider lens of The War on Drugs.

If you would like to see when The House I Live In is playing at a theater near you, visit

Questions? Comments? Leave them for me below.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Who owns the fisheries?

Hi y'all.

It's been a minute. I haven't been posting, and unlike most times when I haven't been posting, I also haven't been reading other blogs. So if I'm a regular commenter on your blog, don't worry. Your content didn't suddenly get super boring.

Today, I wanted to talk about an example from popular culture that I think is a good example of structural racism. Structural classism could probably apply too.

Like this previous post, the idea for today's post came to me as I was watching an episode of CBS Sunday Morning . Seriously, why I haven't I been watching that show my whole life? I really like it.

The segment in question was a profile on The Gregory Brothers. Even if that name doesn't sound familiar, it is likely that you have seen some of their work. This family takes news clips and then autotunes them and turns them into songs. They're really big on youtube. I was gonna put up one of their videos right now, but I think it would be better to first put up a news clip, so you can see the raw materials that they're working with:

Okay and now here's the song that they made:

Now here is the point in the post where someone is thinking, "Oh, I know what is going to happen next. Myblackfriend is going to tell us all about the evil white people and how bad they are for exploiting the black man from the projects."


Now, I'll admit I did think that was the direction we were going when I first started watching the segment on Sunday Morning. But then I heard the brothers say that they split the proceeds of all their song downloads with the person featured. I think that is honorable. Especially because there is probably a way that the siblings could have used some legal maneuvering to get out of paying the subjects of the videos anything. And it appears to be something that they really want viewers to know, because did you see how they made it very clear in the second video above?

So, I have to say I don't have a problem with them making money off the colorful characters from news broadcasts, primarily because they are splitting the profits 50/50.


remember in this post when I said that black people own 1% of the wealth in the United States, which is the exact same percentage they owned at the end of The Civil War, 140 someodd years ago? The Gregory Brothers and Antoine Dodson are an illustration of one of the reasons that that is the case.

You see, The Gregory Brothers don't have this one song download that they're making money off of, they have hundreds of millions of views of their videos on youtube. They have an app for your phone that will autotune whatever you say. They also tour, and sell Gregory Siblings merchandise. They are working on a pilot for a show on Comedy Central. Something tells me they are not splitting the profits from all of these other revenue streams with anyone but people whose last name is Gregory.

So Antoine gets a nice chunk of change for being funny on the news, and the siblings get even nicer, even larger chunks of change for coming up with the whole idea.

Which leads me to my next point--how did they come up with this idea anyway? Realize the next paragraph is pure speculation. But if I can't speculate and put out potentially incorrect information on the internet--where else am I supposed to do it?

So my theory is that the brothers have been interested in computers and audio stuff for awhile, let's say starting in middle school. They had parents that had the means and/or went to schools that had the facilities to allow them to cultivate their talents. And since public schools are financed primarily by property taxes, people who live in housing owned by the government (like Antoine,) probably don't have schools with nice A/V departments. So people like Antoine aren't thinking "Hey, I'm gonna mess around with this soundboard, and 15 years from now I am going to think of something that's going to make me and my brothers a lot of money!"

I just want to be clear that I am not hating on The Gregory Brothers. They had an idea, and since they live in this great country that is the United States, they were
able to turn that idea into money.

What I am saying is that there were structures in place that made it much more likely that they would be the ones making the video and Antoine would be the one in the video, instead of the other way around.

Which leads me to the title of this post. You know that saying about give a man a fish vs. teach a man to fish? What happened in this situation?

I personally think it's somewhere in the middle. They didn't give Antoine a fish, because he did do something. But I don't think they taught him how to fish either, because the brothers are in the process of building an empire that Antoine is not a part of. I mean, Antoine wasn't the one being interviewed on CBS Sunday Morning.

I hope that Antoine is able to take the fame and money that he receives from the song and parlay it into financial security and for him and his family. And I also hope that we as a society can take a closer look at situations like this one, and figure out a way that generations from now we won't have a really good idea of who's playing what role based on the color of their skin.

There are a lot of other questions that can be discussed (this whole thing started because of an attempted rape--what's funny about that? Does Antoine make black people look bad because he's keepin' it real? The newsclip has way more views than the song--who's making money off of that?) But I am going to end it here.

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts. So don't be shy; leave me a comment.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Five things every freedom fighter should know.

Yesterday, I started a post about the whole Chick-Fil-A sitchination. However, I quickly realized that I had so many thoughts in my head, that even my beloved bullet points wouldn't help me get them organized.

Then, the idea for this post came to me. Immediately, it was already appearing to flow better while it was still in my brain. So, I'm gonna go with the brain flow.

Let me first talk about the term freedom fighter. I like the alliteration, but I don't necessarily like the imagery. Freedom fighter brings to mind bandanas around the bottom half of the face and molotov cocktails. I'm not really a fan of either of those things for myself. The term freedom seeker would work, but then we lose the fuh fuh. So we'll just stick with the original.

Now the question becomes, freedom from/to what?

Well, when I think of freedom, I think primarily of freedom from the shackles in our minds that are holding us back. All the messages that we get about what we are, what we aren't, what we can be, and what we can't be. As Oprah would say, the things that are keeping us from being our best selves.

It's like, the more I read about and think about, and do things related to issues of race and inequality, the more I realize that it really does all start in our minds. So these tips are for anyone who is also interested in moving beyond racism and all the other -isms, and creating positive change in the world.

#1) be honest with yourself and others.

I will be the first to admit that I struggle with and perpetuate racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, heightism, lookism, sizeism, classism, speciesism, ageism, xenophobia, transphobia, and any other -ism or -phobia that I forgot about, or have yet to hear about. If the premise is that I make snap judgments about people (and animals) and treat them better or worse as a result--then the answer is Yep, that's true.

The reason that it is important for me to admit this is because the less time that I waste trying to claim that I don't hold these biased attitudes, the more time I can spend examining said attitudes, and doing things to help lessen the frequency of the thoughts that come from the attitudes, which will eventually lead to decreased frequency of biased actions.

myblackfriend, did you just say you were a homophobe? I thought you liked gay people!

I do like gay people (at least most of the ones I've met so far.) And, you'll notice I didn't say I was a homophobe, I said I perpetuate homophobia through my thoughts and behaviors. When we apply labels like homophobe or racist, it's like we are trying to sum up a person's entire identity in one very hate-charged word. No one can be defined so completely so succinctly.

And because those words (and all the other words in the list above,) are things that very few people want associated with them, people will spend a lot of time defending themselves against such labels, instead of just being open to learning how to do things differently. But if we make a much more specific statement, we can accept it as true and move on. I am not completely defined by those thoughts and behaviors, they are just one aspect of my personality. This leads nicely to point my next point...

#2) No one is perfect, including you. And that's ok.

There used to be a thing going around on Facebook: 25 random things about me. Remember that? Boy that was fun. If any of my facebook friends wants to start that up again, that'd be cool; I really liked learning new things about you.

Anyhoo, one of the random facts I wrote when I did it was,

I believe there are two kinds of people in this world: good people, and good people who are covered up with varying layers of bad.

I believed that at the time, but now I would change it to this:

I believe there is one kind of people in this world: good people covered up by varying layers of bad.

No one is perfect. There was one Guy that was supposedly perfect, and his name was Jesus. But a lot of people don't even believe in Him. And even if you do, he wasn't just a Guy, he was the son of God. You're not a Guy, you're just a guy (or gal.) So remember that the next time you screw up and say something racist, or have a snarky thought about an overweight person. It happens. Why? Because you're not Jesus.

The decision then becomes: What are you gonna do about it? You can hold yourself up to some unrealistic expectation that you clearly haven't met and then waste time rationalizing and minimizing to hold onto a false view of yourself, or you can say, "I screwed up and next time, I will do better. Because it is important to me to do better." Then keep it movin'.

#3) Help the biases that you have about other people help you to understand the biases that other people have about you.

Since you've already accepted your biases (see #1,) you can now start to really examine them, which is kind of exciting.

Where did these biases come from?
When did they start?
What's going on with me right before I think/do something that perpetuates an -ism? How do I feel as I'm doing it? Afterwards?

I'll answer the first question to help illustrate my point.

This is the first instance that I can remember of being exposed to gay people in a movie:

Biloxi Blues. It's a movie about some guys in the military. There is a scene where the the main character goes into the latrine and comes across two guys doing something--it all happens very fast, so the viewer is not sure what exactly. But they are discovered, and one of the guys starts to leave quickly through the bathroom window. I was a young kid when this movie came out, so I asked an adult that was with me what happened. The adult told me that the two guys were gay, and that was the end of the conversation. So the connection in my mind was made that gay= do secret things in the bathroom and run away through the window when someone else comes in. And get kicked out of the military. To my young military brat mind, I knew that you only got kicked out of the military for doing very bad things.

Now for the first time I was exposed to transgendered/cross-dressing character: Silence of the Lambs.

Spoiler Alert: Don't read the rest of this paragraph if you don't want the whole plot of the movie given away. In Silence of the Lambs, the killer is a transgendered person or a cross dresser (I don't believe they clarify which,) who is killing women so he can make a suit out of their skin. So in my mind transgendered = serial killer.

So in my young mind transgendered = good person covered up by lots and lots and lots and lots of layers of bad.

This is at least part of the explanation of where my bias against people who don't fit neatly into the heterosexual box comes from. If I hadn't made the choice to see movies like Transamerica, or Brokeback Mountain, or Pariah--the two examples above would hold a much bigger space in my brain.

Making the conscious decision to see the movies with the more positive messages contribute to me to seeing movies like The Hangover as an adult and say, "Hey that gay slur was not cool, and didn't add much to the plot. What was the point of putting it in there?" It is also worth noting that the blockbuster hit of the Summer of 2009 will give some kid 20 years from now the opportunity to write on his blog, "My first exposure to homophobia on the big screen was when I saw The Hangover..."

So a lot of my bias came when I was a young impressionable child, consuming extremely popular media put out by extremely reputable corporations. So when I see someone who has racist behavior, it is not unreasonable to assume that perhaps that at least part of where their bias towards me comes from similar sources.

Since I am not an evil, vile person, he/she is probably not an evil/vile person either. This is what helps me to have reasonable conversations with people (on this blog and in person,) instead of yelling at them, calling them names, and pulling their hair. This does not lead me well into thing #4.

#4) Stop fighting with other people who are in the struggle.

Please stop comparing your struggle to other struggles, trying to prove why yours is just as/more valid than another one. When I hear "________ is the last socially acceptable prejudice." I have to make the conscious decision not to roll my eyes. (forgive me, but it is true.)

The reality is that they are all still socially acceptable prejudices; that is why they all still exist. It doesn't matter if you were born that way, or choose to be that way, it doesn't matter how you were dressed, it doesn't matter whose ancestors had it worse. Time spent trying to one-up each other or negate certain groups--that is time that could be spent on actually doing the work of making things better.

you can read more on my thoughts on #4 here and here. That leads to a pretty good segue to #5

#5) We are all in the struggle.

Some of us don't even know it, and are actually doing things that make the struggle worse. But as my white friend 5280 tech so eloquently said on this post,

I think a lot of white people have these moments where they wish they were black (I know I have,) so they could not always be seen as the over dog and the cause for other peoples' problems. It seems nice to think about being part of a struggle and taking down the system. If I am being honest with myself I could probably boil these thoughts of struggle down to "I wish I had an excuse for all this shit going on in my life.

I know from secondhand experience that being a straight, white, male (rich or otherwise,) is not easy.

Just because someone else appears to have it worse than me, that doesn't mean that I don't have the right to feel my own pain. At the same time, it doesn't mean that I can't hold myself or others accountable, and it doesn't give the the right to try to inflict pain on others in a misguided and ineffective attempt to try and feel better about myself.

But it does give me the right to say, "This sucks. And it doesn't just suck because of me. Sure, I've screwed up (see #2,) but there are other factors at play also."

We all need to get in touch with our own pain. We need to look at those "other factors" that we didn't control but that have hurt us. Examining our own struggle will help us to move through it. It will help us to see the struggle in others. It will help us to have compassion.It will help us to see the difference between people who know they are in the struggle and those who don't. It will help guide us to what to do next, and figure out what numbers 6 through infinity are on this list.

But most importantly it will help us to Get Free.

As always, I am interested to hear what you think. Do you have #6 (or 7 and 8) to add? If you do, or if you have anything else to share, leave me a comment.

Monday, July 16, 2012

A little known -ism.

I was going to call this post, An -ism you've probably never heard of, but I have mentioned it here.

It is also true that you look at and read other things besides this blog, and so it is possible that you learned about it somewhere else. It's helpful for me to remember that my readers aren't as fascinated with my blog as I am. You're not sitting in front of your computers frantically hitting refresh yelling, "WHEN IS MYBLACKFRIENDSAYS.COM GOING TO PUT UP ANOTHER POST??!!?!"

Well, maybe you are--but you shouldn't be.

Ok, on to the video. It is pretty self-explanatory, so just go ahead and watch it below. And resist the temptation to skip over it and keep reading, because it is a really good video that you should watch. And you know I wouldn't say that if it weren't true.

I originally saw this video on this blog. The first time I saw it, I almost started to cry. I share that with you not to influence your perception of my level of commitment to the cause, but in the hopes that since I shared my reaction, you might be more willing to share yours.

Just a couple more things. One, I think about the fact that if these tweeters were talking about almost any other group of people, there would be outrage. That is not to say that someone couldn't put together a video of a bunch of derogatory tweets about black people or gay people or intellectually disabled people or overweight people. But I think even if you did find a bunch of tweets like that, such a large portion of the tweets would not be related to said targeted group killing themselves or ceasing to exist.

On a related (and probably more important) note, if the average person was following a tweeter who said something racist or homophobic etc. they might be more taken aback/likely to say something than if you saw a tweet talking about how the tweeter doesn't like short guys. It's like, heightism is way more ingrained in our culture. I mean, I have a degree in this stuff and I had never even heard the word heightism before a couple of months ago. When I type it, my computer gives me the red squiggly line under it that tells me it is a word that it doesn't recognize. It doesn't do that when I type racism. Or homophobia.

Which leads me to my final point. The only reason that my computer recognizes the words racism and homophobia is because some people a long time ago that had to deal with racism and homophobia were like, "You know what? This is a bunch of bullmess. I'm tired of this and even more tired of being told that any problems I have to deal with because of this are my problems. These are your problems too, you racist/homophobic dumbass."

[I'm sorry for the salty language, but my people from a long time ago were really mad.]

Similarly, the only reason I heard this word and saw this video is because the guy who runs that blog decided to start a blog to tell people more about heightism. Once again , it all comes back to people taking action to try and help create the world they want to see. It really is that simple (and that hard.)

So, what was your reaction to the video? What do you think about heightism? How have you perpetuated it? Have you ever experienced it yourself? I'd love to hear your answers to these questions or anything else you might like to share in the comments section.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Made in America.

Here's a commercial that I've wanted to post about for awhile. It's promoting the website The sound quality is not the greatest, because for some reason doesn't have this commerical on their official youtube channel. So this is just a video of someone recording the commerical off of their tv.

If you couldn't hear it, the man is saying how he was "afraid" of what he might find on the website, yet turned out to be pleasantly surprised that his relative, "was born a slave, but died a businessman."

Now, I have written before about how I feel about the word "but".
What if this guy's great-grandfather had been born a slave and died a slave? He makes it seem like the fact that his ancestor became a businessman is some sort of saving grace. Which begs the question: is there supposed to be some shame associated with being the descendant of slaves?

On a semi-tangent, one of my favorite quotes as a teenager was, It is better to die on your feet, than to live on your knees. I first heard it in a Star Trek movie. I'm not sure why I liked the quote, probably because it was all about being courageous and standing up for yourself, both things I like to try to do my own life. However, I think on some level that even at that young age, I was equating it with the black struggle for freedom.

Then I read this really thought provoking book called Sellout: The Politics of Racial Betrayal. In it, Randall Kennedy makes a really worthwhile argument about the idea of rebellion and why some blacks might have chosen not to participate, or even to inform white slave owners about plans for uprisings.

Kennedy points out that those people, (that many would call sellouts,) could have been motivated by the fact that slave uprisings were rarely successful, and often resulted in many other slaves that weren't actively participating in the uprising being severely punished. So the informant would tell in an attempt to serve what he/she saw as the greater good.

I am not saying whether that is the right or wrong way to look at the situation, just that I can understand that point of view. I suppose I am also saying that in this instance, there isn't necessarily a right or wrong side of the issue--just a lot of murky, unpleasant shades of grey.

So if we go back to my quote, we should remember that black people weren't freed from slavery because of some uprising. They were set free because of the proclamation of a white vampire hunter.

Addtitonally, if one of my ancestors had decided to die on his/her feet instead of live as a slave, I wouldn't be sitting here on the world's most comfortable couch writing this blog post--because I wouldn't exist.

As I wrote that last sentence, I started to get emotional thinking about my ancestors, whoever they might have been. I just want them to know that I appreciate what they went through, whether they died as slaves, or businessmen, or maids, or warriors, or nurses, or alcoholics, or whatever. They were all people trying to make the best out of their lives, with the resources they had available to them. And there is honor in that.

And now it's question time, dear readers...

What do you know (or not know) about your own family history? Where did you learn this information?
How do you think you would feel if you knew you descended from slaves?
How do you think you would feel if you knew you had descended from slave owners?
What (if anything,) do we learn about ourselves when we learn about our distant relatives?

Feel free to answer these questions, or tell me anything else you'd like to share by leaving me a comment.

Monday, June 25, 2012

What Nas and Newt Gingrich have in common.

This week's Music Monday post is Nas' I Can. They play this song often on the Back in the Day Cafe on my local hip-hop station. We won't get into the fact that a song that came out when I was a full-flegded adult is now considered a back in the day jam :p

The lyrics are pretty easy to follow, but if you'd like to read them, you can do so here.

My favorite parts of the song are when he says, read more, learn more, change the globe and also when he sings/screeches Your man'll sing, "She's my Queeeen!" That line always makes me smile.

But what I really like about this song is the message: Work hard, and achieve your goals. Don't look to others to take care of you, do what you need to do to take care of yourself.

So here is the first of many of my questions: What is it that makes it okay for Nas to make a song like this, but when someone like Newt Gingrich (i.e. a white republican guy,) says something similar, he gets seriously criticized for it? I am thinking of Gingrich's idea about children working as janitors.

I mean, Nas doesn't say, "Blame the system for your problems." He says, "Make a goal, stay out of trouble, and you will be successful." And yes, I know that the janitor example is not a perfect one, but it does illustrate a number of conservative principles.

It is worth pointing out that in the entire 3rd verse, Nas gives the listener a brief lesson in African and African-American history. This is not something I would ever expect to see Newt doing in a stump speech. Is that the key difference in the two messages? Nas' acknowledgement that the white man was/is trying to keep the black man down? Is that why Nas' message is more palatable?

Even then, I still don't get it, because Nas is still saying "Yes, the white man was/is trying to keep you down--but work hard anyway." And while I don't know if Newt Gingrich would agree that the white man is currently trying to keep people of color down, I think he would concede that it happened in the past and his response would be, "Yeah that happened, and it was bad--but work hard anyway."

Actually, I think that Newt Gingrich might say that the white man is still trying to keep people of color down--by giving some of them welfare and free housing and making them totally dependent on the government.

Here's the thing: What makes it okay for a black liberal to say, Pull yourself up by your bootstraps, but not a white conservative? Or any conservative for that matter, because conservatives of color are not exactly celebrated for being voices of reason.

Is it because we think we know the intentions of these different groups? Black liberals like Nas are assumed to have good intentions, while conservatives of all colors are assumed to have bad ones? Some other reason that I haven't thought of?
Lots of question marks in this post, and they aren't rhetorical questions, neither.

Also, I'd like to remind you that with my new and improved commenting system, you can now get the instant gratification of putting your ideas into cyberspace, if you let me know what you think below. So...leave me a comment!

Friday, June 22, 2012

I'm in love with a stripperrrr...

So, that Magic Mike movie is coming out next weekend. Watch the trailer below if you don't know what I'm talking about:

I'm probably not going to see this movie. Mainly because Channing Tatum doesn't do much for me. I do think it's interesting that the film is loosely based on his life, since he was an exotic dancer before he became a movie star.

I also got to thinking: "How possible would it be for a woman that used to be an exotic dancer to become a movie star? Especially one where she played romantic leads in sappy Nicholas Sparks movies?" I'm guessing it would be near impossible.

There are probably some famous actresses that did strip in the past, but they were just lucky to do it before the days of youtube and camera phones. I don't think a young woman today could go from taking clothes off for money in a club to money making actress.

But I bet on an individual level, male strippers probably face a lot of the same issues that female strippers do: difficulty in finding people to have serious relationships with, getting lured back into it by the money when part of them wants to quit, and being treated disrespectfully by some customers. I also wonder if stripping is like modeling, where the women make way more money than the men.

I also realize that I totally just assumed to know what issues strippers have, based on very limited information and my own personal biases and assumptions. That is called non-sex worker privilege. I am interested to hear your thoughts on the subject, so if you have some--you should leave me a comment.

Oh, and a final housekeeping note: After getting some feedback from several people about difficulty with commenting, I have changed the settings so that comments post instantly, without having to type in any captchas or anything like that. Please don't post my home address, or pictures of my first born child. And while I love it when people disagree with me, any spam or useless troll-y messages (I'm looking at you, Nsangoma ;) will be deleted. But hopefully this will make it easier for you all to be part of the always enriching discussion that occurs here on

Happy Friday (:

Thursday, June 14, 2012

I ain't got jokes, I got problems...

I was listening to NPR's Talk of the Nation after running some errands today, and they had two people on that are part of a show in New York called Old Jews Telling Jokes. The host, Neal Conan was also having listeners call in with their own jokes. I only caught the tail end of it but these were my two favorites:

Q: Why don't WASP's go to orgies?

A: Too many thank you notes to write.

Two Jewish guys were walking down the street. They passed a Catholic church with a big sign out front that said, "Convert to Catholicism and get 50 dollars!" The first guy looked at the second guy and said, "I'm gonna go do that." He went in the church and came out about 20 minutes later. The second guy looked at him and said, "Well, did you get your 50 bucks?!" The first guy looked over and replied,

"Is that all you people think about?"

And this is the joke that I would have called in to share if I had time.

Q: What do you call a black guy flying a plane?

A: A pilot, you racist!

ha ha ha hee hee hee ho ho ho (:

One thing I noticed is how important timing is when telling a joke, because there were a few people who had funny jokes that fell flat because they didn't deliver them all that well.

I also noticed that they only wanted you to call in and share jokes if it was a joke about a group that you were a part of (lawyers telling lawyer jokes, Irish people telling Irish jokes, etc.). That got me thinking a lot, and is what compelled me to write this blog post.

It's obvious why they made that qualifier; because they don't want a bunch of people calling in and telling racist jokes. But it's the radio, so they have no idea if the person calling is actually a member of the said group, but as long as they said they were--it somehow made it okay. It makes sense, I only shared the first two jokes here because a person who claimed to be a WASP and a person who claimed to be Jewish shared them with me.

But is it racist/racish of me to repeat those jokes since I am not a member of either of those groups? Is it racist/racish of me to laugh at those jokes since I am not a member of either of those groups? Was your reaction to the first two jokes different than your reaction to the last one? Why or why not?

I also noticed that while all of the jokes played off of stereotypes, none of the ones that I heard would be what I considered offensive. Like, I know two other jokes about black people. And I would not share them here because I consider them offensive and not that funny. If I were to repeat them, people that aren't black might think that it's okay with me for them to go out and start saying them. I wonder if that was true of all the callers: they know other jokes about their group that they wouldn't share, because they think the jokes cross the line somehow. I also wonder if the TOTN producers were inundated with jokes that they refused to share because they considered them too off-color.

So lots of questions for you, dear readers. The ones I posed above, and...

How much should a person's own group identity influence what they are allowed to say?
How much should a person's intention influence how we respond to what they do or say (i.e. I was only joking)?
Are jokes about groups of people sometimes funny, or should we move beyond such juvenile humor?
Should comedy get a pass, or should we hold comedians to the same standards that we hold others to when it comes to being kind and compassionate? How do we know when people have crossed the line, so to speak?

I am interested to hear your thoughts. And I know I said I would talk more about my stamps post, I haven't forgotten. I also have more to say about #whitepeopleproblems. But you know how it is, sometimes public radio throws a wrench in your well-laid plans.

I'd love to hear what's on your mind, leave me a comment.

Monday, June 11, 2012


If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you probably already know where this is going ;)

I have a problem with white people problems.

If you are not really down with the internet scene, whitepeopleproblems is a thing going around (a meme?) where white people talk about some minor conundrum or annoyance that exists in their lives and at the beginning or end they say, #whitepeopleproblems.

Here are some examples:

I have to recycle after my housekeeper does all the cleaning #whitepeopleproblems

My wife and I got upgraded to first class, but they had no adjoining seats. #whitepeopleproblems

I have also heard them called #1stworldproblems. I guess is that this is so people who aren't white, but also want to complain/humblebrag/attempt to be funny won't feel left out.

I don't know why, but I have been neglecting my bullet points! I think now is a perfect time to bring them back.

--#whitepeopleproblems is a lot like the swagger wagon video. With the minivan commercial, it was like look how unhip we are because we drive a minivan. With the meme it's like, look how petty and spoiled we are because we get irritated by such unimportant things.

The problem with both of these situations is that we're supposed to think the white people are making fun of themselves. But it doesn't come across that way to me, and I have a hard time believing that it comes across that way to anyone else, regardless of race.

What's left unsaid is the mocking and minimizing of the group that is not part of the meme.

It's like, it wouldn't be funny to explicitly say,

black people don't have housekeepers!
black people don't fly first class!

So, what makes it funny to imply it? I don't get it.

--another problem with wpp (hey it's like opp, but different) is that it continues to perpetuate this myth that white people don't have problems. That to be white is to have not a care in the world. You don't see on twitter:

eating disorders #whitepeopleproblems
meth #whitepeopleproblems
drinking yourself to death at a frat party #whitepeopleproblems

And yes, I know that the things that I listed above do not happen exclusively to white people, I am trying to make a point. The meme problems are never anything serious, when we all know that white people do in fact have lots of real problems.

There seems to be a lot of real discomfort around discussing white people as a group. So much so that it is rarely ever done, and when it is it is usually in some sort of joking manner.

--It is important to note that most (all?) of the #whitepeopleproblems are closely tied to being from a certain socio-economic status. Like having housekeepers and flying-- these are things that low-income white people don't have a lot of experience with. It is just another example of the idea that white and upper middle class are synonyms, and you can't really be one without automatically being the other.

This puts a lot of pressure on white people, because if you want to live up to the white ideal, it involves presenting this image of living a certain lifestyle. If you don't do this, you can be labeled white trash and from what I have gleaned, that's something that no white person wants to be. You can read more of my thoughts on the white trash label here.

--Another problem with conflating whiteness and money is that it can harm people of color who like money and decide that they want to try and legally make some. If they decide to go to college, pick a major that will actually make them money (i.e. not, Sociology ;) and get a well-paying job, they are often accused of acting white. And contrary to what some white people might think--that is not considered a compliment. Some people are so concerned with being perceived as a sellout that they will consciously make choices that harm their chances of being traditionally successful in our society, believing that it makes them more authentically black/latino/etc. The reality is there are many (ok, some) people of color that do fly first class and have housekeepers, and they should be free to do such things without having their racial identities questioned.

--So it would really make more sense to call this meme #problemsofpeoplethatappeartohavemoney. #1stworldproblems doesn't work because not everyone in developed countries has money, and there are people in developing countries that do have money. Plus 1st world, and 3rd world, are rude, imnsho. And I said, appear to have money because we all know that just because you have something, doesn't mean you can actually afford to have it--keeping up appearances, ykwim?

But my suggestion is wordy and not a lot of fun. It also doesn't allow for the detrimental myths to continue to be perpetuated. So I am not expecting it to catch on anytime soon ;)

That's pretty much all I've got to say; but I am interested to hear what you think. Leave me a comment.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

101 things you can do to stop being racist.

[Added 01.24.13: Hey there, if you found this post after googling something like how to stop being racist You should also click here and read a follow-up post I wrote.]

What's up people? You know how I feel about excuses, but let me take a second to discuss my absence. We moved. Not across the country, just across town. But you must admit that's a pretty good reason to explain my lack of bloggage.

So let's get to it.

Recently, I have realized that I haven't talked very much about what to do to help counteract the effects of racism and inequality. I have talked about things that have annoyed the heck out of me (i.e. what not to do,) but I have never said, "Hey readers--go do ______ to make a positive change in the world." And if you look at my sidebar, it says that my goal is to get people thinking, get people talking, and most importantly, to eventually get people doing things that will help us make real progress when it comes to the subjects of race and inequality in America.

Why the lack of focus on the doing? Well, there are a couple of reasons.

First, you'll notice that I said eventually get people doing things. The word eventually was a really important word. I think it is critical for people to be able to understand a problem well before they start to try to fix it. Especially when you are dealing with something as emotionally charged as race. Because when people are emotional and uninformed--they can end up doing more harm than good. Have you noticed how so many conversations about race end with people yelling and/or crying? That's all the baggage that the parties are bringing to the table. And if they don't even have their facts straight? That's not gonna help either.

So, if I just jumped right in and called this blog 101 things you can do to stop being racist, two things would happen.

1) A bunch of people wouldn't read it because they would say, "Hey, I'm not racist! She must have written that for KKK members. Anyways, I wonder what Miley Cyrus is up to?"

2) A bunch of people would read it because they think that solving our race problem is just as simple as doing some things on an arbitrary list.

[Sidenote: I just changed the title of this blog post, because I think this new title will get me more hits that my old boring title. Think Megan Fox Nude Pictures. Also, if you fall in the #2 category, hey what's up? You should like my blog on facebook or follow me on twitter so we can stay in touch (: ]

I don't think it's wise to just go out and start combating racism. Especially when you are talking about interacting with other people. It's like the rappers say, You gotta get your mind right. You've gotta try to deal with at least some of your own -ish before you start getting other people involved. That's why I have made my focus here the thinking and the talking.

Here's the ugly truth: Combating the different forms of inequality is something that is going to take a measurable part of the rest of your life. That's just the reality of the situation. Your interest and/or willingness to do things may ebb and flow, but the way the status quo is setup--things are only going to change if people actively, consciously work for them to change. In the past, I have compared it to that scene from The Matrix with the two pills.

Other sidenote: I just watched that scene again for the first time since seeing it in the theatre , and damn is it relevant--just listen to the dialogue!

Another reason that I haven't made the doing the focus is because I think the doing has to be a highly personalized experience. What I do as me and what you do as you are going to be different, because we're different people; we've had different experiences, have different interests, and different baggage.

The final reason I haven't focused on the doing is because once I start giving ideas other people can start telling me why those ideas suck. And no one likes to be told why things that they think of suck. But having this blog for 6 years has made me a little more thick-skinned, so if you really don't like the idea I'm about to share--that's fine.

How was that for a looooong build up?

Stamps. That's my idea. Buy stamps that highlight people from marginalized groups. They can be your own group or others. Like the last stamps I bought were:

this one:



and this one:

The reason I like this idea is because it's very easy. It may have a relatively low impact, but it also requires a relatively low effort. When you buy stamps like these, you can read the blurb on the back and learn about the people pictured. Like, I had never heard of Romare Bearden before, but I got to learn about a black artist that made cool paintings. Also, it's possible that one of the people that sees your letter/bill in the course of mailing will be inspired to learn more about them too. Or maybe you'll be talking on the phone to your grandma and she'll say, "Why did you put that stamp of the Mexican lady with the fruit hat on the birthday card you sent me?" And then you'll say "Actually, grandma she's not Mexican, she's Portuguese..." and then you and your grandma get into a stimulating conversation about race and ethnicity.

If you already occasionally buy stamps like these, you can push yourself and only buy stamps like these. And if you never buy stamps like these, you can start by buying a couple.

I was going to write more about the popularity of these stamps and why they exist, but I will save that for another post, because I think this one is getting long. But I just want to clarify one more thing before I go.

It might appear to some that I am talking exclusively to white people, or talking exclusively about racism in this post. I'm not. People of color can add the word internalized before racism anywhere here and the message will still apply. And that clip from The Matrix ? Morpheus could be talking about sexism, classism, heightism, homophobia--you name it. The points are all the same.

If you have thoughts, you know I'd love to hear them. leave me a comment.

Monday, May 07, 2012

El lunes de musica

Today's music has kind of an interesting story. I was watching a video on youtube and I saw the video below in the sidebar. The reason that I clicked on it is because a couple of years ago, I got a Starbucks free download of the week by the same artist. That song didn't leave that much of an impression on me, but I remembered the artist's name. So I decided to press play, listened and realized it would be a great song to feature on my blog!

So that's a little lesson in how being open to new experiences can lead you to unexpected good things later on.

Ok, watch the video:

Pretty obvious why I picked it, yeah? Positive, uplifting and all that jazz.

If I had one critique of the video it would be this: I wish they would have left the main words from the first t-shirts and associated them with the words from the second t-shirts.

Like fat and fabulous,
black man and successful,
little and capable.

By leaving the main identifiers off of the second t-shirts, Ledisi is subtly reinforcing the idea that those identifiers are inherently bad. This is why people say things like, I don't see you as black and expect you to take it as a compliment. [Sidenote: I understand that people may also mean "This physical characteristic of yours is not the first thing that comes to mind when I think about you," so don't freak out if you have ever said the sentence above to someone--it's possible that they still like you. But the interpretation I offered is another way to perceive the statement, so if they gave you the side eye--that's probably why ;)]

So give yourself a round of applause for being you, and leave me a comment if you'd like. Happy Monday (:

Thursday, April 26, 2012

I gotta shake, shake, shake my sillies out...

I had one of those times when someone says something to you, and then you say something back, and then a little later you think of something much more clever to say.

I was at storytime and talking to a 7-year old.

A little backstory: My son and I go to storytime at our local library twice a week. You know, that whole getting your kid around other kids his age so he doesn't grow up to be a huge weirdo thing.

A little more backstory: As you may know, I don't chemically straighten my hair. Most of the time, it looks like something that most people would classify as an afro. Sometimes, if I'm feeling particularly industrious, I will style my hair by using something called twists. They're like braids, but not really. So I'll twist my hair and then the next day I'll take the twists out. Then my hair is kind of crimped and overall more dynamic.

The last of the backstory: Normally, I comb my kids hair. This day, we were running late for storytime and his hair is cute and curly when I don't comb it, so I just said no big deal, almost two-year-olds don't have to have combed hair all the time.

So, it is the end of storytime and all the kids and moms and nannies are milling about. My kid and I are about to leave when I hear the 7-year old white girl mumble something. I could tell she was talking to me so I said, What? (or something like that.)

Then she said, You guys have crazy hair.

I am thinking at least part of the reason that she said this is because she is not around a lot of black people (I have never seen another black person at storytime,) and/or most of the people that she comes into contact with on a daily basis have straight, or maybe wavy hair.

Now,crazy isn't as bad as dirty, smelly, ugly or stupid. But it's not as good as pretty, fantastic, amazing or spectacular.

So I said something like, Yeah, then walked out. I thought of this other time when a white person said something unexpected like this to me, and I didn't have a comeback.

But after we left, I did think of something cool to say.

So she says what she said, and then I say...

Yeah...crazy awesome!

Aaaaaand scene.

And before anonymous jumps on here, I want to clarify a few things:

This little girl is not a bad person.
The little girl is not a racist.
I did not give this little girl a dirty look or hit her.
I am not upset this little girl made such a comment.
This little girl making that comment did not ruin my day.

This is simply a mildly entertaining story that has something to do with race and inequality, and so I thought I would share it with you all. If you have a comment, don't bother.

Ha ha! I'm just kidding, you know I love comments. I was just trying to see if some reverse psychology might work.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Wanna be a baller, shot caller...

I have another funny commercial that I wanted to share. But before I do, I wanted to mention my last post about the black guy and the biker. Now, I try to keep my expectations low (which is a good strategy for all aspects of life, not just blogging,) but I have to say I was surprised I didn't get more comments on that one. So, if you didn't get a chance to read it, or have been thinking about it all weekend and are finally ready to share your thoughts--click here.

Ok, onto the funny commercial--click to watch it.

Just a couple things: I like how there is not a super high percentage of black guys in this commercial. It helps to counteract the ideas that all black guys play basketball/only black guys play basketball. I think the Asian guy is a definite shout out to Jeremy Lin because I have never seen an Asian guy in any sort of sports related commercial before. Did you know Jeremy Lin was born in 1988? Dang, I'm old.

Finally, my favorite part of the commercial is where the guy throws the ball up and it hits the basket real funny. This reinforces the idea that I like commercials where people throw stuff up funny.

Leave me a comment if you'd like. Happy Tuesday!

Friday, April 20, 2012

A black guy and a biker walk into a bar...

Ok, I'm feeling productive. El kid is currently entertaining himself with a foam innertube and will be heading down for his afternoon nap soon. Let's do this.

I heard recently about a bill that was introduced in the Colorado state legislature that would have made it illegal for businesses to discriminate against bikers. Apparently, bikers sometimes go into bars and restaurants and are refused service because the managers don't want to deal with their kind.

Not surprisingly, the bill didn't even make it out of committee. But it did get me thinking.

I asked my husband, "Why is it okay to discriminate against bikers and not against black people?"

He said, "Because it is a choice to be a biker."

I said, "What does that have to do with anything?"

I'm guessing the reasoning goes something like this: If you don't like the fact that people treat you poorly because you are a biker, then stop being a biker. Problem solved.

Black people, women people, deaf people, older people--they don't have a choice to be in these particular groups, so if someone treats them poorly they need to have some sort of legal recourse.

There are two major problems I have with the whole I was born this way argument.

1) When a person says I was born this way it's like they're saying I can't help being this way. And when a person says, I can't help being this way, It's like they're saying, If I could help it, I would. Like when a person says, I can't help eating lots of chocolate what they are also saying is, I have no control over my chocolate eating habits, don't you think if I could eat less chocolate, I would?!!

By defaulting to the immutable characteristic argument, the person is in someway agreeing that their immutable characteristic is not ideal, but they have no control over it.

Perhaps my concern with this argument is obvious. But if it's not, I will explain it now.

It is true that I was born black. And as of right now, there is no way for me to change that fact about myself. However, even if I could change it, I wouldn't. I like being black, and it is a significant part of my identity. There is nothing inherently wrong with it, and so I don't see any reason to be anything different.

2) The second problem with the born this way argument, is that it opens up the idea that people who aren't born a certain way are legitimate targets for discrimination/poor treatment. Like bikers: Well, no one told you to be a biker, so if you don't like the dirty looks/decreased employment opportunities/ etc. you get, stop associating yourself with that lifestyle.

This completely overlooks the fact that it is the people who are doling out the poor treatment that are in the wrong, not the people choosing to wear leather pants and long hair. It doesn't matter if I choose to present myself in a certain way or not, am I not entitled to be treated with the same dignity and respect as people that appear in a way that is more pleasing to you?

Well, bikers have a reputation for being rowdy, it makes sense that a restaurant owner might not want them there.

Well, black people have a reputation for being rowdy too. But if you turn a black guy away from your restaurant because he's black, he can sue you.

This leads me into a nice transition to my next point: Why is it illegal to discriminate against people of a certain race, sex, age etc.?

One thing that I learned from reading The Help was that it was illegal for black and white people to commingle. Now, I know that they were called Jim Crow laws, but I didn't put two and two together that black and white people couldn't eat at the same lunch counter, even if they wanted to. In my mind, it was like the stuff about voting and running for office were the laws, and the stuff about the restaurants and stores were more like customs. But no, it would appear that even if a black person and white person were each consenting to hang out together in a public place, they could be arrested.

Obviously, this is bad. But I don't necessarily agree that the answer to it's illegal to have black and white people eat together is it's illegal for black and white people not to eat together.

Ok, hear me out. What rights do individual business owners have about who they will or won't serve in their establishments? You may remember that Rand Paul made a similar argument, but he got his booty handed to him.

Clearly, it is okay in our society for a business owner to say, We don't serve bikers. Why not okay to say we don't serve black people? Is it because black people went through slavery and bikers didn't?

I personally would like to go to places where I am welcomed with a smile, and not have to wonder if I am being served only because it would be illegal not to serve me. If a person put up a sign that said whites only, that might be better, because then I would know that that person didn't want me (or my money) and I could find another establishment to support. It would also help because then I would know which of my white friends did go to these businesses, which would help me get a better understanding of what their priorities were. Like how I can't go to Chick-Fil-A anymore for delicious chicken sandwiches with extra pickles because Chick-Fil-A doesn't like gay people.

It seems like a more reasonable response to Jim Crow laws would have been, it's no longer illegal for blacks and whites to hang out, so now do whatever you choose to do. Some business would have stayed segregated, and some would have decided to integrate. And everyone would know where they were and weren't welcome.

Well, black people pay taxes and small business owners get tax breaks, so these businesses should be open to everyone.

Bikers pay taxes too.

It's like by making discrimination illegal, we didn't stop people from wanting to discriminate--we just basically forced them not to. And that forcing thing hasn't really been going very well. Because most places where there is some element of choice--schools, churches, neighborhoods, etc. are still quite segregated.

If discrimination was still legal, we would all have much clearer picture of what we were working with. Perhaps I could avoid situations like this one. Maybe we could finally see just how far we have (or haven't) come.

Just a couple of other things before I close: I would not be a proponent of making discrimination legal in any public or government space (like libraries, government buildings, public schools etc.) Also, it is quite possible that since I never lived in the era of whites only signs that I have no idea of their damaging psychological impact. Perhaps being followed around in stores and/or receiving poor service is actually a major upgrade.

My basic point is this: In an ideal world, anyone could go anywhere and be treated with kindness, because we all recognized each other's common humanity. But there is a reason that be nice is not a law in any state, city or municipality: Because you can't legislate morality. People don't treat others decently because they have to, they do it because they want to. We should be focusing on getting people to want to, not forcing their hands through laws.

So what do you think? Is this the most brilliant thing you've ever read? Are you wondering if I smoked something since it's 4/20? Whatever your thoughts, you know I want to hear them. Leave me a comment!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Rick Santorum, blah people , and me.

A few weeks ago (before he dropped out of the race,) I had a dream about Rick Santorum.

I dreamt we were in a church, and I was sitting in one of the pews. He had his head in my lap, and I was stroking his hair to comfort him about something--I don't know what. Then a group of beings (I don't know if they were people or monsters,) started to come into the church, and Rick and I ran away from them up towards the front. And then the dream was over.

Weird, huh? Though I'm not sure the last time anyone had a normal dream.

I know that I don't have strong positive feelings for Rick Santorum, so why was I stroking his hair in a church?

Then I remembered something that my old therapist told me when we were discussing one of my dreams. Yes, people really do talk about their dreams in therapy.

He told me to look at it as though each person in the dream was some manifestation of me.

Using this lens, I decided that what this dream was telling me was that I need to let more of the conservative side of my personality come out. Because to my unconscious mind, Rick Santorum represents conservative values. I also interpreted the horde of beings that chased us as backlash from liberal people of all races for expressing more conservative views.

Because that's the tricky thing about race: All the different groups have things that are generally accepted as being okay for them to say, and they have other ideas that they can say that will quickly get them labeled with some not so nice names. I have come to the conclusion that people can label me however they'd like, 'cause that's really all on them.

I am not trying to win some blacker than thou contest; I am keenly aware of how people might think I do (or don't) measure up. What I am trying to do is look for real solutions to problems that sometimes keep me up at night. I know what is in my heart, and ultimately that is what is most important.

So get ready to hear some more republican-y stuff. Maybe even this week if I am feeling particularly productive.

If you have comments you'd like to share, I'd love to hear them.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The State of Florida v. George Zimmerman

George Zimmerman has been arrested and charged with 2nd degree murder. My first reaction upon hearing the charge was surprise. I figured he would be charged with manslaughter or something similar. I am not a lawyer, but I have watched a lot of lawyer shows. It seems like it might be hard to prove intent. And I think the worst possible outcome would be Zimmerman getting off because the jury thinks that he is guilty of something, but not 2nd degree murder.

That being said, the prosecutor knows much more about the case than I do, and this is what she thought the appropriate charge was. I hope that the jurors that are chosen will listen with an open mind, and follow the law.

Also, let me take this opportunity to encourage you to eagerly serve your community if you are ever called for jury duty. That running joke of people doing whatever they can to get out of it...I've never really understood that. Intelligent people with life experience can do a great service if they give their time for such an important activity. A person's life could literally depend on it.

So, what do you think? About the case in general? The charge? What you think the future holds? Whatever you feel like sharing, I'm all ears.

P.S. Right before I went to hit post, I thought about the part that I wrote that said the worst possible outcome would be...

I didn't say/think that the worst possible outcome would be for George Zimmerman to be convicted of something he is not guilty of. That troubles me, and I think it speaks to how charged this case has become. At the end of the day, George Zimmerman is innocent until proven guilty, and he is entitled to a fair trial.

So yeah, if you have any comments--you should leave them for me.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Clueless no more.

I think I've said all I have to say about the Trayvon Martin case. At least until the grand jury says whatever it has to say, or there is some other major development.

So today, I am going to share with you with two interesting pieces of trivia. One I've known for awhile, and one I just learned.

1) When basketball first came out, white people said black people would make unsuitable players. I learned this from watching a documentary about the Harlem Globetrotters. I can't remember if it's because they thought black people would be too dumb, or weren't up to the physical demands of the game. I spent way too much of this morning trying to refresh my memory via the internet. But let me tell you, typing reasons black people are not well-suited for basketball into google doesn't get one very far.

2) Fried chicken was brought to the United States by Scottish immigrants.

I don't know how you'd make the first one a trivia question. Maybe you could just make it true/false. Either way, some interesting race and ethnicity related tidbits you probably didn't already know.

I also wanted to take this opportunity to tell you that I have recently added an option whereby you can have new posts emailed to you. This is good if you are a reader who has this site bookmarked, because Lord knows I update this blog...sporadically. It will save you some valuable clicking time, because the new posts will just come right to your inbox. You can sign up over on the sidebar to the right.

Finally, I also wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you for reading my blog. Whether you've been reading from the beginning, or have just recently come aboard; whether you frequently leave comments, or never leave them; whether you agree with me, or just like to come and shake your fist at the computer screen: I appreciate you taking time out of your day to read what I have to say (:

Comments? You know what to do.