Archive for September, 2009

Black People, Decorum and Privilege

As I settle into another work week, I realize that this hasn’t been a good couple of days for Black America. First, Serena Williams loses her shit after a bad call during the US Open, which cost her the match. Then, Kanye decides to be a jerk (again) and ruin country music star Taylor Swift’s very first acceptance speech at the VMA’S by bum rushing the stage and declaring Beyonce’s Single Ladies video the greatest of all time.

The two situations above may seem very different, but I think the only difference between Kanye’s outburst and Serena’s outburst was a bottle of Hennessey. These are grown ass people who are fairly young. Black, and at the top of their game. So why did they act out in public like they could get away with it?

The way I see it, Serena and Kanye’s fame and talent, and even their wealth will not make up for their lack of privilege. Kanye didn’t get to perform at the VMA’s and was escorted out of the event. Serena lost  the match and had to pay  a $10,000 fine for her behavior. It wasn’t waved away as just being “colorful” the way it was when McEnroe did it, and I’ll venture to say that it’s because she is a Black woman and he is a white male. No matter how high a Black celebrity climbs, they will not just be a celebrity getting out of pocket, they will be a Black celebrity getting out of pocket. They will not escape their lack of privilege to do certain things and be able to LOL it up on the David Letterman show the next week.

That’s not to say I”m excusing Kanye and Serena’s behavior because I think both of them showed an extreme lack of decorum and what my Nana would call “home training.”  Everyone has to be accountable for their actions, but what I need for Black celebrities to understand is that their fame doesn’t put them on an equal playing field with white celebs that act out in a similar manner. Get your decorum game up and let’s cut back on the nigga moments from here on out.

So what you think? Does a lack of privilege mean greater attention to our public behavior?

Guest Blogger: Maia’s Descent is No Laughing Matter

Please welcome my long-time friend D.L. Chandler to the blog as he discusses actress Maia Campbell’s painful drug addiction and her struggle with mental illness. I too was saddened by how so many people made light of the recent youtube, and I hope some of you feel the same way. As always, feel free to post a comment here or hit him up on Twitter @dlc123.

Like many young men in the 1990s, I found actress Maia Campbell to be one of the more attractive young black starlets on television. Early on, I discovered that she hailed from the Greater Washington Metropolitan area just as I did and that factoid endeared me to her as well. Of late Maia Campbell has fallen out of the public eye, and has been unfairly ridiculed by her poor life choices fueled by her bout with Schizophrenia. The daughter of late bestselling author Bebe Moore Campbell, Maia found fame on the LL Cool J vehicle In The House. For 3 seasons, the show enjoyed some mild success and Maia Campbell was a prominent fixture of the sitcom. Once the show ended, Maia worked bit parts in television and small movies, but nothing more.

I am not going to play reporter here and try to guess what happened beyond that point. What I do know is that in the last three years, nude photos of an obviously inebriated Campbell and a very recent video of the actress has appeared on the Internet. The gossip blogs, Twitter, message boards and news outlets (such as The Examiner) have all had their say to the inner workings of Ms. Campbell’s fall. We don’t know what’s leading her down this path nor do we know if she’s ever had adequate help – at least as far as what’s been released publicly. However, what is quite telling is how much of my Twitter feed was filled with hurtful jokes about her condition. The blogs and their comment fields were also filled with the same insensitive and lame commentary found in the linked Examiner piece above.

I immediately felt sorrow for Maia Campbell after viewing the video and wanted nothing more than to protect her. It triggered an almost instinctive brotherly reaction. It was if I saw my little sister on that screen and just wanted to snatch that camera away from her antagonist and whisk her away. There wasn’t anything humorous about this scenario. There wasn’t a reason to make this a Twitter topic of the day. It didn’t have to become this ugly display of humanity – anonymous keyboard cowards levying all types of hurtful, insensitive words towards Maia. I’ve just read that there’s a prayer campaign for Maia Campbell and that’s great. I’m not a religious person but this is obviously a step in the right direction so I support it fully.

Many of us know a Maia Campbell, a young person lost to their own devices and lacking the help, love and care needed to rise above whatever demons ails them. Are we to look at Maia Campbell with pity or are we to act when we see this pattern in our respective cities and towns? What did you truly feel when you saw Maia in that state? What would you do if you saw it? Are you witnessing something of this nature now? Are you out there helping to prevent more lost souls? Are you content with reading the insensitive comments and hashtags on Twitter? I know I’m not. I know that any time I can help a person – young or old – I’m going to give whatever time I can spare. I don’t see how we can look at this as a laughing matter. Moreover, for those of you that I know who choose to see humor in such a sad situation, you’ve lost a huge chunk of my respect.