Category: Opinoin

#ThursdayReads: Michael Eric Dyson

Michael Eric Dyson is an award winning author, a widely celebrated Georgetown University professor, a prominent public intellectual and a noted political analyst.

A native of Detroit, Michigan, he is also an ordained Baptist minister. Dyson is a two-time NAACP Image Award winner (Why I Love Black Women, and Is Bill Cosby Right?), and the winner of the American Book Award for Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster. His book The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America was a Kirkus Prize finalist. Dyson is a New York Times bestseller, has written 19 books, and edited another one, over his nearly 25-year publishing career. He is also a highly sought after public speaker who is known to excite both secular and sacred audiences. Follow him on Twitter @michaeledyson and on his official Facebook page (facebook.com/michaelericdyson).

 

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Why White People Love Africans (But Can’t Stand African-Americans)

I’ve been aware of the preferential dynamic between Africans and White Americans for a very long time. It’s something I witnessed all throughout childhood and well into adulthood. It wasn’t a secret that professors at my university showed preferential treatment to African immigrant students, both in instruction and in resources. And it’s not uncommon to hear about preferential hiring and promotional decisions in favor of African employees as opposed to Black Americans in the workplace. I mean it’s cool for Africans and white people to love each other, the problem arises when innocent people are affected by this preferential treatment and biased decision making. It wasn’t until I saw the effects of such treatment played out in my own life that I thought to explore why this dynamic existed. Now these are just my theories, but let’s explore 5 possible reasons why white people love Africans (but can’t stand African Americans).

“All of the Melanin, None of the Guilt”

Slavery is America’s greatest sin. No matter how much white people would have us forget it ever occurred, grab our invisible bootstraps and move on, we know that can never happen. The truth is the residual effects of slavery are sewn into the fabric of this country, making the avoidance of guilt a seemingly impossible feat, especially when you’re still wearing it’s clothing. Not to mention, interfacing with your victims on the daily can get pretty taxing. Of course the white people we see today aren’t the ones who steered the ships and physically chained us, but their willingness to maintain hold of the privileges they inherited through these atrocities lets us know that they’re in no rush to make amends. And because White people feel this unavoidable sense of guilt when it comes to forging on in their ancestors bloody footsteps, their subconscious is always thinking of ways to avoid further persecution. And one of the easiest ways to do that is to avoid who makes you feel guilty about it.

If this observation is accurate, then it only makes sense for white people to prefer Africans immigrants. Not only can they whip out the “I have a friend from Ghana” card, but they also get to avoid the social responsibility, the expectation of ally-ship, the acknowledgment of wrongs, the challenging of old family beliefs, and many other responsibilities that come along with befriending Black Americans. Sure, the Transatlantic Slave Trade began in West Africa but white people don’t see slavery as a crime committed against Africans — at least not directly. So in the context of friendships and intimate partnerships between Africans and White Americans, these topics are easily avoidable. No victim, no crime. No rallies to attend, no protests, no boycotts, just guilt-free fun. The African friend essentially acts as a breath of fresh air to the white conscious.

“Is This Wakanda?”

Now this next sentence may not go over well, but Black Twitter will pretty much tell you all you need to know about Black culture. What we eat, how to cook it, how to season it, what we’re listening to, who we love this week, who we hate, what boycott we’re half-assing, where the cookout is, how to get there, and what kind of raisins to bring for the potato salad. Black people don’t keep much of anything a secret when it comes to Black culture. Nothing is off limits and nothing is too sacred to discuss out in the open. That’s not necessarily something to fault Black Americans over but when has easy access ever made us more appreciative of something? Not to mention that Black American culture derived from the culmination of European influences and whatever remnants of African culture were permitted to remain on the plantation.

White people know Black culture well because they had a huge part in its inception — been there, stole that. In contrast, African culture is a little harder to access. You won’t find nationally televised shows depicting a modern African way of life, there is no continent-wide cookout for us to dish out invitations to, there’s no honorary South African pass for best gwara-gwara dance, and you won’t find Nigerian gele (traditional West African style of headdress) at Forever 21 or Zara. African culture is tied to Africans which means you must go through the people to access it, which white people have proven they have no problem doing. White people cant get enough of things that aren’t made for them and it doesn’t get more F.U.B.U. than African culture.

“Let’s Have a Pity Party”

National Geographic came forward this year and issued an apology for historically racist coverage of Africans and indigenous groups around the world. Shocker. But that apology doesn’t do much to rectify the lasting imagery that their coverage created. The naked African hunting bushmeat in the forest, the bloated belly of a starving African child, the drug fueled African warlord, some of these images are the only images of Africa that many Americans know. Leading some white Americans to see African immigrants as personal charity cases, whether warranted or not. It’s not uncommon for a white person to befriend an African immigrant for the sole purpose of feeling like a do-gooder. Who else would introduce Mbutu to the wonders of pants and forks? The destitute African friend gives White Americans their much needed dose of heroism, which is not the case for the Black American friend. And why is that, you might ask? Black Americans are somewhat destitute in their home country, are they not? The answer to that question is yes, we most certainly are. But it’s a little more difficult for white people to feel sorry for Black Americans because that would require them to acknowledge their participation in keeping Black Americans destitute in the first place. And white people hate feeling guilty, especially when they’re guilty.

“You Are Really Dumb… Forreal.”

Generally speaking, White People are ignorant. And despite all of the free information at our fingertips, many will choose to remain in that state. And it’s probably best they do, simply based on the fact that most of the ideologies, advancements, and innovations that white culture promotes and celebrates were birthed from Black minds, which for many would be too big a blow to their egos.

What we know about white people’s silent inferiority complex is that it’s very important to them to feel in control, in power, and in moral authority, which is hard to do if you’re constantly being called out on your immorality. And while it’s impossible to avoid the very obvious connection between the condition of Black America and its relation to White America, it’s a little easier to glance over Africa’s relation to the West. The truth is that the continent of Africa has been repeatedly pillaged, siphoned and squandered ever since Europeans first decided her resources were profitable. There have been countless documented incidents of war, genocide, group extermination, sterilization, intentional disease outbreaks, famine, child trafficking, molestation and rape at the hands of UN “peacekeepers”, intentional elimination of indigenous spiritual systems and the list goes on, all at the hands of white people. White people aren’t blameless when it comes to the state of Africa and it’s inhabitants, they’re just ignorant.

“He Wouldn’t Hurt a Fly”

White people aren’t afraid of a lot of things they probably should be: each other, wild animals, extreme sports, each other, the sun, illegal drugs, heart disease, cancer, each other, and chronic lower respiratory disease just to name a few. After all, these are a few of the things that pose the greatest statistical threat to white life. You know what’s not on that list, Black folk. That’s right, Black people actually pose an excessively low threat to white lives, (now if only the reverse were true). But you would never guess that with the immense amount of irrational fear white people seem to have when it comes to Black people. A fear they don’t appear to have when it comes to African immigrants. And while many would look at the rate at which American-born Black men are killed by police in comparison to that of African immigrants and attribute that to some instigative behaviors on the part of Black men, we would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge the vastly different representations these two groups possess. Black Americans are portrayed as unpredictable, unhinged, violent, aggressive and irrational. African immigrants, on the other hand, are depicted as docile, overly religious, determined and jovial. The African is harmless. Harmless to the fragile white ego, harmless to white establishments, harmless to the white savior complex, harmless to white sensibilities, just plain ole harmless.

There are a ton of other reasons that could potentially explain why white people prefer Africans. One being that African immigrants, having nationalities that don’t reject them, are less tied to racial classifications than Black Americans and therefore are less likely to see their race as an inhibitor. White people love that. Another reason could be that Africans are more willing to capitulate, quickly denouncing culture, language, tradition and birth name in order to blend into white society and corporate culture. A third reason could possibly be that Africans are often more willing to overlook the racist and bigoted comments and beliefs their white friends hold, not having the same historical attachment to various words and references. Whatever the reason, white friendship has never been and will never be the prize. And we should all beware of any white people who think making exceptions for a few “safe” Black people makes them any less racist or prejudice. It doesn’t. And whatever we call it, tokenism, favoritism, nepotism or a classic case of divide and conquer, the only thing I know for sure is that we should all be skeptical.

*Originally published on Madame Noire.

Things That Really Chap My Hide!

There are certain things in this society that just don’t make any sense to me, so I’ve decided to keep a list. I started that list in a previous posting, below is a continuation. Happy reading!

  • Why do hole punchers cost so much? – I don’t know if I’m paying to organize my papers in a binder or if it’s just another way of purchasing confetti. And why are hole punchers so heavy? It shouldn’t take a 5 pound object to cut through a sheet of paper, which only weighs about 2 grams. Oh well, at least they make great paperweights.

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  • Why are garbage bags so expensive? – I’ve asked my friends this question many times & no one seems to have a good answer. In essence, I’m purchasing garbage since all I’m going to do is throw the bag away with everything else inside. It’s such a shame that the bag itself is worth more than its contents. =(

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  • All doors should be pushed only, not pulled – I hate touching nasty doorknobs or dirty handles and am of the belief that they shouldn’t even exist. Why can’t all public doors be swinging doors – you know, built like the doors in a restaurant kitchen? I’ll bet this would cut down on so much disease.

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  • I can’t wear a red shirt with tan pants anymore lest someone think I work @ Target – I remember the times when uniforms were restricted to warehouse workers or gas station attendees. But now, it seems anyone who works a register has to wear one. The thing that gets me is that apparently workers at Target can not only wear a red shirt but anything that has red in it. So it gets more & more confusing as to whom the real red–shirt wearers are versus their perpetrators. At least Best Buy employees all wear Best Buy polo shirts, so there is no question that they are at work. The workers at Target conveniently forget to wear their badges so unless I see someone with a price gun in their hand, I can’t assume that they work there. Do you know how many people I’ve insulted that just happened to be wearing red shirts? Geez! It’s almost like me walking into a courtroom wearing a robe, and getting offended if people think I’m the judge. If you happen to be shopping at one of these places then don’t wear red! And don’t get me started on Kmart; they seem to think they are Wal-Mart workers because they all wear the same colors – blue & tan. And here I was thinking that Kmart’s employees would wear red because it’s the store with the big red “K”. How silly of me to think that!

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  • Why do batteries always come in packs? I only need 2 (4 at the most) – Anybody with a remote control can feel my pain! I’m sure by now somebody has complained to Duracell about it, yet they keep making these multipacks. I really should start a petition and even write my Congressman. It’s just so unfair! And what do we do with the extra batteries in the pack? Put them in the junk drawer & forget about them, right?! I know I’m not alone on that one! Of course, when we need batteries again don’t we always forget about that half-used pack stuck in the bottom of the drawer and end up buying a brand new pack? I know I do! Aauugghh! There’s got to be another use for these leftover batteries. Maybe I’ll start selling them individually on EBay or give them away as Christmas gifts.

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Are Men Pickier Than Women?: “The List” – Part 1

The other night I went to a relationship forum and there was a lot of talk about “The List”. The question came up as to whether or not women keep a list of the qualities & characteristics they want in a man and the response was a resounding “Yes!” When the men were asked if they had a list the answer was still yes but the men admitted to having a much shorter list than most women do. So what’s on these lists? And are these “lists” truly necessary? Well, since I can’t speak from a guy’s perspective, I’ll give you my opinion & tell you a little bit about my list.

Yes, I do have a “list”. I have a written list of things that I want in a man and although some of those qualities evolve over time, the majority of things I’m looking for haven’t changed. The last time I checked my list had about 20 qualities, which a lot of people may think are too many. (I tend to think that it’s not enough, but that’s another post) When men hear that I am looking for 20 qualities they laugh at me & often say “So, that’s why you’re still single”. Well, I am to here to write that I don’t care what people think or if they laugh because I think my list is valid and don’t plan on getting rid of it anytime soon. So what’s on my list you might be wondering? I won’t share everything because that would be too long but here are a few of the qualities that I want in a man –

  • God-fearing: This is priority #1. I need a man who loves & serves the Lord. Notice I said love AND serve. Not a guy that just says, “I believe in God” or “Yeah, I go to church”. I know a lot of men don’t actively wear their Christianity on their sleeve but if I can’t see the God in you then I can’t see me with you
  • Ambitious: Life is too short to stay happy where you are. If you can do more, you should. I’m preaching to myself on this one, but I believe anyone who is not working to their potential needs to get off their behind & make it happen! I have too much life left to be with someone who is complacent where they are
  • Attractive: I’ve written about this before. Everyone can agree that attractiveness is very important in a relationship and I’ve always thought this was something that I would have to compromise on. As a woman, you always hear that a man can become attractive to you over time or if he has a great personality he will start to look better. I have resolved that I don’t want to be with someone that I’m not attracted to, so this quality will stay on my list.
  • Romantic: Life is tough, so a little romance with my husband would be nice. I’m not expecting to be romanced every week but a guy who knows how to light a candle and owns a wine rabbit will go a long way with me. J
  • No children: This is something that I will write about in a future post, but I am definitely not interested in being a stepmother at this point in my life.
  • Personality: Anyone who knows me personally knows that I’m pretty outgoing. I can’t be with someone who can’t hold their own in terms of conversation. I need intellectual stimulation (that is such a sexy term, isn’t it?!) and someone I can have fun with. So if a guy is boring or can’t keep me interested then he’s not the one for me.

As you can see this is only a glimpse of my “list”. I get much more detailed as the list goes on.

So, do men keep a list? And if so, how many things are on it? I’m talking about beyond the basics – attraction, smart, loyal, etc. – what else is on a man’s list?

I’d love to hear your thoughts….

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Don’t Try This At Home: Getting Pregnant Later In Life

By now everyone has heard the news that recently-married Halle Berry is pregnant at the age of 46 (her first pregnancy was at 42). While I certainly wouldn’t follow in her footsteps, I do question why anyone would want to have a baby at that age. Even with modern technology we all know the challenges that women face having children later in life, such as birth defects and higher rates of miscarriage. Not to mention, the disturbance in one’s career and the sheer physical toll. But even with all of those things aside, why would you want to spend your “middle years” changing diapers & chasing after a toddler?

Other things to consider having children later in life are: fetal distress, cesarean birth, high blood pressure, diabetes, ectopic pregnancy and premature delivery. And that’s just for the mother! The baby is at risk for low birth weight, genetic disorders like Down syndrome, asphyxia, brain bleeds and stillbirth. How terrible is that?! Those are problems that occur during the pregnancy & in the delivery room. Consider what age you’ll be when your child becomes a teenager. How will your parenting abilities be as you age? Can you keep up with your children or their friend’s parents? Will you have the energy? Will you have the patience? Will you be able to keep up with the rigor of raising multiple children as you age?

According to nationalgeographic.com the average life expectancy is 81 for women and 76 for men, so why spend the second half of your life raising young children? I would think that bearing children would be best to do while you’re younger. Instead of preparing for retirement, you now have to focus on raising an adolescent. While you may be more financial stable, the more out of touch you are with the younger generation that you are now raising. Not to mention all of your friends are just about done raising their children so you won’t have the support system that you probably hoped for.

Let’s look at some other famous people who had children later in life:

  • Uma Thurman – 42 years old
  • Celine Dion – 42 years old (with twins)
  • Tina Fey – 40 years old
  • Mariah Carey – 41 years old (and she’s reportedly pregnant again)
  • Nicole Kidman – 40 years old
  • Kelly Preston – 48 years old
  • Salma Hayek – 41 years old (her husband is a billionaire)
  • Molly Ringwald – 41 years old (with twins)
  • Mira Sorvino – one baby at 41 years old, and another at 44 years old
  • Charlie Chaplin – was reportedly 73 years old
  • Steve Martin – had his first child at 67 years old (and his wife was 41)
  • Hugh Grant – fathered a child at 51 years old
  • Warren Beatty – fathered a child at 55 years old
  • Tony Randall  – over 70 years old and died shortly thereafter at 84 years old
  • Luciano Pavarotti – fathered a child at 67 years old and died shortly thereafter at 71

It is a little different when you are rich – you can pay for younger help. You can also afford the best doctors to make sure that your health & the baby’s health is in excellent condition. Plus, Halle Berry looks like she’ll be young forever! But for the average woman these resources aren’t as readily available.

I am so glad that my parents aren’t “older”. This means that they’ll be around a lot longer J

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Talk To Me, Baby: What Type Of Phone Call Are You?!

Life keeps us so busy that it gets difficult trying to catch up with family and friends. There are some people that I love talking to & some that I can’t stand to talk to for more than a few minutes at a time, so I’ve categorized my phone calls. Here are some examples of what I’m talking about –

  • Bathroom phone call: Sitting in the bathroom is usually one of the most peaceful times of day for me (don’t laugh) so what better time than to call someone that has stressful conversation? This way when I’m done with my “business”, I’m also done with the phone call. Sometimes I wish I could flush certain people down the toilet (lol!)
  • Lunch break: These phone calls are usually pretty quick since lunch breaks are only an hour long. Because I have to eat and possibly do other things during my lunch break people I call during this time are usually just acquaintances, business calls or family members I don’t really want to talk to for very long.
  • Making dinner: This is where I get to multitask – I call people who are not that interesting.  This way I don’t have to give them my undivided attention and once dinner is ready (usually 30 minutes or less) it’s time to get off that phone.
  • Eating dinner: While I’m eating, I usually call people who like to talk a lot. It’s not good to talk with food in my mouth so during this time I can be a really good listener. And if I go for seconds, then they can really keep talking!
  • In the car – These phone calls are reserved for people I really like because sitting in the car is the largest chunk of time I use up. Traffic can get really bad and driving a few miles can take anywhere from 20 minutes to over an hour, so this is truly the best way to kill time. I can connect with friends that I love talking with while I get to my destination safely.

I’d like to hear from you…..what type of phone call do you think you are?

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“We Are All Oscar Grant”

Today I went to go see Fruitvale Station. Unfortunately, it wasn’t playing in a theater near me so I had to travel a little ways to see it, and I am so glad that I did.

If you’re not aware of this film, here’s the back story: Twenty-two year old African American Oscar Grant, III was brutally shot & killed in Oakland on New Year’s Day in 2009 by an overzealous White transit cop named Johannes Mehserle. Johannes was sentenced to 2 years but ended up serving only 11 months in prison. That’s right – 11 months in jail for murdering an unarmed young man.

Not knowing much about the story of Oscar Grant, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I walked into the theater. But 2 minutes into the movie, I was enraged! The movie started off with the live shooting of Oscar Grant (what I’ve attached here) and sets the tone for the rest of the film. This movie shows the kind of man that Oscar was – an imperfect one, but a seemingly good father and completely innocent young man. His whole objective that night was to celebrate New Year’s with his friends and get home safely by taking the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) instead of driving. But he never made it home. Transit cop Mehserle claims that he was reaching for his taser to calm Oscar down but instead grabbed his gun and shot Oscar in the back while he was lying on the ground defenseless.

Riots & protests ensued in the days following Oscar Grant’s murder, some peaceful and some violent. I can only imagine the heartache that Ms. Wanda Johnson felt in losing her son Oscar considering that he was unarmed & not dangerous. Barely old enough to drink, he simply wanted to ring in the New Year without any trouble. There can’t be any worse way to start off your New Year than to learn that your son’s life was unexpectedly & unjustifiably taken. But through it all, she still fights for hope in our justice system and redemption for her son’s execution.

I did feel as though the movie was incomplete. Before the end credits rolled there was a status update letting us know what happened to Oscar’s family & the transit cop that killed him. However, the battle shouldn’t end with his death. Connect with the Oscar Grant Foundation, whose mission is in part to “Provide comfort, needs assessment, emergency counseling and resource referral information to assist the family through the initial aftermath of a traumatic event caused by violence and treatment for the emotional injuries sustained at the hands of law enforcement officers.”

Fruitvale Station won two awards in the 2013 Sundance Film Festival: the Grand Jury Prize for dramatic feature & the Audience Award for U.S. dramatic film. This film stars Academy Award® winner Octavia Spencer and is playing nationwide in a theater near you.

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