Posts tagged ‘Black Men’

A few words: White House Party Crashers

I’ll make this brief and get right to the point as it will sum up all that I feel we need to know about the White House Party Crashers:

They’re rich and white. Therefore, they looked the part and got away with being as close to the President as they are in the above pic. Ain’t nothin else on it.

Now I know I might get told I’m playing the race card here, and I’m prepared for that. But I absolutely believe that if this couple were working class and perhaps not white, if this couple looked more like me and my fairly-new partner–young Black people with natural hairstyles (another topic in its entirety)–they wouldn’t have even seen the inside of that State Dinner. Like, at all.

I’m not saying that the CIA is racist or that there was racially-charged intent in their actions–all they’ve admitted to so far is they “made a mistake” (no sh*t sherlock) and that’s all we can really accept for right now. What I am saying though, is that the Salahi’s ability to get away with crashing a White House dinner speaks to their class and their level of white privilege.

From Anovelista:

I am having major issues with the White House State Dinner crashers, Tareq and Michaele Salahi. The first description of Michaele Salahi referred to her as a “glittering blonde decked out in a red and gold sari” and I knew we were in trouble.  Even at the White House, the automatic assumption about a “glittering blonde” is why of course she belongs! She looks the part, right?

My point exactly. My friend Wise told me a great story that further illuminates this point. A few years ago, Wise went to a VIP party a professional colleague of his threw in the Hamptons. While he had every right to be at the party as anyone else, Wise was hassled by security because he doesn’t “look the part”: a tall brotha in a suit with a smallish afro. They questioned his being there, asked to see his ID, the whole nine, simply because he didn’t seem like he”belonged” there. What message does that send about how we feel about class and privilege and who gets to “own” high levels of such things?

In any case, the White House Dinner Crashers don’t tell us anything else, and it doesn’t get any more complicated than this. They were white, they were rich, and they got over on the CIA because they looked the part. Open and shut case of what is afforded to people who are at the top of the class ladder.

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I Do Not Consent: Musings on Sexual Terrorism

This is a re-post from JoNubian’s blog. A painful truth is that rape plays too big a role in the lives of one too many of the women closest to me. I hope that both cis and trans women continue to tell their truths about rape and that men join us in breaking the cycle of rape culture.

I am the history of rape

I am the history of the rejection of who I am

I am the history of the terrorized incarceration of

myself

I am the history of battery assault and limitless

armies against whatever I want to do with my mind

and my body and my soul and

whether it’s about walking out at night

or whether it’s about the love that I feel or

whether it’s about the sanctity of my vagina or

the sanctity of my national boundaries

or the sanctity of my leaders or the sanctity

of each and every desire

that I know from my personal and idiosyncratic

and indisputably single and singular heart

I have been raped

From A Poem About My Rights by- June Jordan

I have been steadily dodging the writing of this blogpost about Black women and sexual abuse, however the words you are reading haunt me.  I would like to say that my thoughts on rape began just a few months back, but this would be a lie.  As a woman, and especially a Black woman, unkept and unsafe, the threat of rape is almost as constant as breathing and books.  What I will say is that rape has been at the forefront of my thoughts since POTUS Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, which may seem odd- although it is not.  I became curious to see who else was nominated for the award.  I consider myself solution oriented and felt that if I would denounce my support of the committee’s choice, I certainly would need to provide the name of a more deserving victor.

As I searched the list and read the stories, one name in particular was familiar to me, although unfortunately not in cheer. It was Dr. Denis Mukwege, a Congolese gynecologist, who has dedicated his life to treating the women of DRC who are the victims of rapes so brutal that I would need an entirely separate blogpost to describe them.  Dr. Mukwege’s hospital is overrun with battered, tortured, mutilated women. In one province alone, over 27,000 rapes were reported, which accounts for at least 70% of the women living there.  While addressing the US Senate last year Dr. Mukwege made the following statement, that has etched it’s way into my memory much like my favorite lovers or Baldwin quotes, “It is important to point out that this sexual terrorism is done in a methodical manner”.  It had never occurred to me previously to describe rape as terrorist or methodical, but therein lies the truth of it.

Moving forward in time, again my thoughts and heart are bombarded with the ugliness of rape after reading an article about a fifteen year old girl being gang raped by five boys (and men) as more than twenty people spectated.  My blood boiled so terribly that I assumed it was fever and that this world had been successful in literally making me sick.  And as I spoke about the incident on twitter, I began to receive all of these private messages from women who had been victims of gang rapes themselves.  I didn’t want to believe that such violence against women was so prevalent and commonplace. Subsequently, the days and nights following the details of that rape were exhausting.  Thoughts of my and my daughter’s safety began to eat away at my sleeping hours, and I kept wanting to embrace all of the women who contacted me, somehow allowing my love to spill through my pores, providing protection where others had failed them.  Yes rape is terrible and a terror, even for those women not raped.

Rape is terrorism, especially if one defines terrorism as, “the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce”.  Certainly, there is no stronger example presented to contest an individual’s (and possibly a group’s) humanity than a publicly viewed rape and torture as were the cases in the Congo and in California.   Suddenly there did not seem to be so much distance between the US and the DRC.  However, as tragic as these rapes are we cannot afford to limit our anger and remorse to these specific cases of abuse.  Sexual violence against women also includes sexual harassment/extortion, spousal abuse, incest and child rape (May peace be upon Shaniya Davis), forced sterilizations, and an overall inability to choose, as a woman, what happens to one’s body.   My revolutionary crush, Angela Davis, agrees, which I noted while reading an address she presented at Florida State University in 1985 entitled, We Do Not Consent: Violence Against Women in a Racist Society. She writes:

These particular manifestations of violence against women are situated on a larger continuum of socially inflicted violence, which includes concerted, systematic violations of women’s economic and political rights. As has been the case throughout history, these attacks most gravely affect women of color than their white working-class sisters.   The dreadful rape epidemic of our times, which has become so widespread that one out of every three women in this country can expect to be raped at some point during her life, grimly mirrors the deteriorating economic and social status of women today.

If we disconnect rape, and consequently, all sexual violence against women, from their socio-economic foundations, we cannot adequately discuss solutions to said abuses.  We dis-serve women by only acting or objecting to sexual abuse in extreme cases.  We have to understand that a woman should control her reproduction, or desired lack thereof- and be allowed to do so safely and with no judgement.  We must admit that, no matter how “provocatively” dressed or sexually explicit a woman appears to be, we have no right to objectify her and/or harass her.  We cannot emotionally abuse women, use women, treat them as receptacles, even if they contend that such treatment is okay, because we know that it is not. We have to sincerely view women as human beings before we can wholeheartedly respect and protect them.

There is no truth but this.

Please read the rest of June Jordan’s poem A Poem About My Rights here:

http://wp.me/pxAOY-2Z

To truly understand the intersection of race, class and gender, please read Angela Y Davis’ Women, Culture and Politics

More on Dr. Denis Mukwege and his mission here:

http://wp.me/pxAOY-2Z

Looking for the Next Barack? Yeah, right.

Some of you may have seen Jenee Desmond Harris’ piece in the Root last week. In it, she says that perhaps Black women can learn from Michelle Obama by letting go of our shallow “requirements”: a college degree (or two), a house, a “good” job (think Capitol Hill or a Consulting firm), and yes, “swagger.”

But now there’s a follow up from a male perspective. This week, David Swerdlick’s piece entitled “What Women Can’t Learn from Michelle” really sparked my attention:

You can’t argue with Jenée’s thesis: her coterie of pedigreed, upwardly mobile black women have to dig deeper for unseen potential if they’re looking for “Mr. Right.”

But if Barack Obama Part Deux is what it’s going to take to satisfy them, then her advice is going to leave a lot of women single as hell.

Personally, I blame Dwayne Wayne. Those endless reruns of your favorite episodes of A Different World get y’all completely twisted when it comes to evaluating a potential mate. But that’s beside the point. Here are a few tips to straighten things out:

Stop comparing regular guys to Barack Obama.

I can only speak for myself—I’m biracial, went to some pretty decent schools and spent most of my 20s in a cramped bachelor pad—but that’s where the comparisons to Barack Obama end. There’s nothing cool or Kravitz-esque to see here—I’m the other kind of mixed guy, in need of a tan and a fade. Picture Benjamin Jealous after six weeks on Survivor.

He had me at hello.

So many women–especially in DC–are on a mission for their Barack Obama. Now I know this goes against my past views about this topic, and I have to say that after much thought, I think that perhaps the “find your next Barack Obama” meme is over the top and, in a word, a little silly. There is only one woman for Barack Obama, and that’s Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama.

But beyond that, I think what what Swerdlick is getting at is that many women look at the wrong things: we are looking for some inkling of Presidential Swagger that may not be there because, well, the guy you’re peeping at the happy hour is not the President at all. And he may never be President. Sad, but true.

Stop looking at his checkbook and start updating your playbook.

Just because a man can “afford” to pay for $15 apple martinis doesn’t mean he wants to. Sometimes the guy buying rounds of shots is on his third bankruptcy, and the guy drinking $2 Miller Lights owns three rental properties.

We’ll do what we have to do to get your phone number, but in case you hadn’t noticed, there’s a recession going on. If you start sizing up a man for all he’s worth right now, you’re letting him know up front that if things get too far, he’s on the hook for a three-karat rock and a mortgage on a beach house in Oak Bluffs. And if he knows that already, he might flee.

….and this isn’t to say that I don’t appreciate a man paying when we go out, but I’ll take a taco dinner at Taqueria D.F. just as happily as I would a gourmet affair at 1789. Maybe it’s the California girl in me.  It’s not the price of the time you spent. It’s about the person and how happy you are with him or her.

But I wanna know who these women keeping score based on a man’s salary are…do I know them? Are we friends? …but I digress.

And then, Swerdlick gives us one last word of advice:

Start dating white, Asian and Latino men.

And while we’re on the subject, how about trying Something New?

Not into white guys? That’s too bad because I’d be willing to bet that Bill Clinton has dated more black women than Barack Obama.

Black women hoping for a monopoly on black men have to realize that they’re like General Motors in a Toyota world—either develop your own hybrid technology or prepare to go out of business.

The bottom line: Single women should avoid using Barack Obama’s résumé as a job description for a position they’re trying to fill or treating their next boyfriend like a prospective applicant.

I’ve never been a woman who claimed to only date one race or another.  It would make sense to me, especially in 2009, that it’s okay to date outside of your race. So go ahead–holler at the token White guy (or girl) at The Park next Thursday 🙂

At this point in my life, I’ve dated lots of different guys–plenty of guys with good jobs and degrees from the “right schools”, plenty of boyfriends with “swagga”–and none of it really matters. What matters is that a man treats me with respect and love–and yeah, that he makes me laugh–among other thngs.

The rest is just plastic. It’s not about being in a power couple. It’s about being with someone who loves you for you. And well, shouldn’t we do the same for our mate?

Club Etiquette: How NOT to Act

Most people who know me at this point in my life also know that I don’t go to the club very often. Even though I’m an extreme extrovert who loves to dance, I tend to shy away from a club atmosphere–especially during the week during the happy hour circuit.

However, as the weather gets warmer and my urge to break out the strappy heels and tubetops gets greater, I will from time to time venture out with my girls. Now normally I can go to the club without incident, but recently I’ve seen people–particularly Black men–engage in some very ridiculous behavior. So, I thought I’d help the brothas out and provide of list of what NOT to do at the club.(1)

This is a continuation of a list of rules I had talked about on Twitter a few nights ago after returning from an interesting night at my least favorite place, The Park at Fourteenth here in Washington, DC. (Washingtonians, don’t judge me–I went as a favor to my soror. Besides, she makes everything fun. And overall, I guess I can say I had a good time). At the request of a few of my readers, I’ve decided to turn my tweets into a real blog post. Wanna hear it? Heah go:

1.-Do not hover over a girl and her friends. You won’t believe the number of times I’ve been somewhere and a man simply hovers. Literally. He sits there with his jack and coke while my girls and I are sitting down at the lounge or wherever and just looks at us. Not a good look, fellas. If you want to talk to me, then talk to me. Don’t be a punk.

2.-Do not make known your silly assumptions based on how a girl and/or her friends look. For instance: If we say that we are members of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., the appropriate response is NOT “Oh, I didn’t picture y’all as Zetas.” The same goes for if a woman says she’s a hill staffer, an engineer, a social media strategist, an MBA–that type of response is surely not a compliment.

3.-Do not act overly impressed if I use an SAT word. It only makes you look dumb. Again, this type of response is not a compliment.

4.- For those of you without a wingman: if you are talking to a girl, and her friend is close by, do not accuse her friend of being nosy. She is not being nosy, she is being a friend. If it bothers you, step your game up and get a wingman.

5.-DO compliment a woman on her overall look and style. I like when a man says he likes my hair, especially when I just got it done.

6.-DON’T Compliment a woman on her body in a suggestive or sexual way. “you got nice lips” is NOT the same as “wow, you’re pretty” or “you have a great smile.” I have nothing esle to say on this.

7. Don’t follow me around in the club. I do not come to the club to acquire a “club boyfriend” for the night. Just because you buy me a drink, chat me up, and/or look halfway decent doesn’t mean you can stay attached to my hip all night. Stop the foolishness.

8.-Don’t grab my ass in the club. Or any other part of my body. I shouldn’t even have to tell you this. I know that if I wear skinny jeans to a club or a lounge, men will look. I realize this. But please. Unless we are dating, then there is no safe space for that kind of touching. This is not an R. Kelly song.

(1) I realize that this list doesn’t have any rule pertaining to women…that’s simply because I had a hard time thinking of any. So if you do, feel free to comment 🙂

Happy Birthday, Stevie

Yesterday marked Stevie Wonder’s birthday.

Many of the people who know me know that music is very important to me. It has the power to change a whole nation of people.  I grew up in a house where music was used to inform, to comfort, and to educate my siblings and I.  My dad and I would drive around town listening to Earth Wind and Fire and listening to him tell anecdotes about the exact moment he first heard “Where Have All the Flowers Gone.”

I had always known about Stevie Wonder, but at the end of my junior year, Stevie’s music started really speaking to me.

There was a boy at a private school across town who I was just in love with…you know, that high school type of “love.”  He was a year older and I thought maybe he’d take me to his prom. He told me he hadn’t found a date yet.

And then, as high school drama goes, I found out he indeed had a date, and it wasn’t met.

The night of his prom, to take my mind off of the disappointment, my dad came to my room and said, “Let’s go to Marina Del Rey.”

At the time there was a HUGE Tower Records in Marina Del Rey, California where dad and I would go to buy music and sometimes just to stroll around and talk. This time, though, he said we should get a copy of Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions album. At this point I had only heard a few tracks:  “Don’t you Worry ‘Bout a Thing,” “Higher Ground,” “Living for the City,” and I think I was at least familiar with “Golden Lady.”

But when dad and I got home, we listened to the album in its entirety. By the time we got to the end of the album, I had forgotten all about not being at my high school love’s prom. Besides realizing how much of the conscious rap I had been into at the time was influenced by Stevie’s work, I realized that my Dad gave me this incredible opportunity to think deeper about the stories Stevie told in his music.

Visions made me consider my dreams, and my goals for the future as I looked forward to college.

“Higher Ground”, “He’s Misstra Know-it-All”, and “Livin for the City” made me think differently about social change, not only as a career but as a life passion.

I still revisit Innervisions for days when I need inspiration and an example of the way that music informs a generation and, sometimes, invokes a higher power.

Thank you Dad, for teaching me about Stevie Wonder that Friday night.

Poking Fun at Postracial

This commercial was so funny and clever. And so was the back story.

H/T: Ta-Nehisi Coates

A few Words on Chris and Rihanna

Cross Posted at Change.org

Most of you have heard about the Chris Brown-Rihanna domestic violence issue. There are several sides to this story, but I will say that violence against women is a serious issue and it is an issue that needs to be addressed in our communities.

Two members of Females United for Action – 15 year old Alex Pates & 17 year old Ace Hilliard – wrote about the Chris Brown / Rihanna case.  The group is hoping that the article will be used  for discussions around intimate partner violence and how the media frames the issue.

I am so glad that these two young women are speaking out about this issue. My hope is that this story will begin an honest dialogue about domestic violence among men and women, boys and girls, gay and straight.

This is not an easy discussion nor is it an easy topic for me to write about. The thing that really bothers me about the way the media handles the Chris-Rihanna case is that it perpetuated a culture of blame when it comes to domestic violence coverage. What did Rihanna possibly do? Bloggers and reporters started to ask. Maybe she dressed too sexy. Maybe she threw his keys out the car. OMG, she gave him herpes! 

All of a sudden, the blame game began. The media–particularly entertainment media and the gossip bloggers who benefit from it–were blaming Rihanna for what had taken place. Nevermind the fact that Rihanna was in pain, mentally and physically–it was her fault right out the gate. 

Many rape and domestic violence cases go unreported because no survivor, regardless of their sex, gender, race, or sexual preference, wants to be blamed for the abuse they have experienced. No one wants to be told that perhaps they “deserved” their abuse, and no one wants to go to court only to see their absuer let off the hook. 

We need to break out of the habit of blaming the survivor for their abuse. I will acknowledge that there are several sides to cases like Chris and Rihanna but I also we must realize that a honest dialogue means having compassion and sensitivity for our friends, loved ones, sorority sisters, neighbors, and coworkers who have survived any form of abuse. An honest dialogue means being careful what we say around our children–that if we continue to be insensitive and forwarding around pictures of Rihanna’s bruised face, we are only setting a dangerous precedent for them.