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.