Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Cost of Popular Culture

It's interesting to me that some of the people proclaiming "Black Lives Matter" and "All Lives Matter" still buy season tickets from sports clubs with blatantly racist names.

 A number of African-Americans and Whites 
defend & dismiss the Washington Redskins name:

"it's been called that for so long, everyone is just used to it..."

"well, I don't look at it that way..."

"it's just a name..."

"there are more important issues..."

I'm a Humanist, which I have firmly found to be the most distressing psychological state of mind for a human being, based off of my own experience. I am also educated, so I know that most people are largely ignorant of the true history of this country's native history.

To those African-Americans who say, "I'm part Cherokee and I'm not offended..." or my, "great-great-grandmother was Indian..." - I ask that if you have not studied Native American history, that you not speak on Native Americans. If I may take a quote from James Wilson's "The Earth Shall Weep" (which is an EXCELLENT read, by the way):
"Wherever possible, I avoid generic terms altogether and refer to people by 'tribal' names...[as]...the names by which most 'tribes' are generally known are usually not those which they use for themselves: often they are derived from the more-or-less disparaging terms their neighbours used to describe them to early European traders and explorers...such as Ani-Yunwiya for 'Cherokee' and Hotinonshonni for 'Iroquois'..."
You don't really care or revere your Native heritage. It's just a talking point that allows you feign a bit of cultural sophistication. Be honest- I am. 

Another common rebuttal to racist names for American sports teams is that, 

"most Native Americans support/aren't offended by the name..."

To all the ignorant (and I don't mean that in a disparaging tone), uneducated individuals referring to the largely dismissed now, 2004 Annenberg study, please refer to the following quote, from American University's Washington College of Law:
"The survey asked people if they were Native American, but did not follow up the answer with any additional questions to discern tribal membership or level of heritage.  If you walk up to a random person and ask about his or her ancestry, nearly everyone will give you an answer without hesitation, let’s say Irish.  Don’t get us wrong, most of those people would probably have some Irish ancestry, but it is likely that they don’t know what city or village their ancestors hailed from, their great-grandparents names or last names, etc.  Perhaps at some point in elementary school, they were tasked with figuring out their heritage, and their parents told them, “you’re Irish.”  From then on, they told people they’re Irish with little to no basis for that claim.  While this is common practice, it’s difficult to take those types of people and make them the definitive voice of a national or racial minority.
There are probably enough people in the United States that consider themselves part Native American that they could form their own heavily populated tribe.  How many times have you heard something like, “Well I’m 1/16th Cherokee, but it’s on my mother’s father’s side.”  Okay buddy, sure.  There may be some truth to it, just as with all those Irish people, but the thing is, tribes have specific membership requirements.  Most tribes either require proof that an ancestor was a tribal member, or that you are at least a 1/8th member of the tribe — meaning at least one grandparent was a full-blooded tribal member.  Don’t worry though, this hasn’t stopped people from self-identifying as Native Americans even when their purported lineage isn’t up to snuff with current membership standards.
In 1990, the United States Census reported 1.8 million people self-identifying as American Indian, while official tribal membership at the time numbered 1.14 million. Almost 40% of the people who self-identified were not members of any tribe.  That trend has only continued since then, and may even have grown as people look for an edge in diversity scholarships, hiring, or simply because they think it is “cool” to be part Native American.
To keep it simple, if you want the opinion of a racial or national minority, look to their representation.  In this case, a great source would be the National Congress of American Indians."
 There just isn't much to debate. We would never call a team the "Washington Niggers" or the "New York Jihadists" or the "Arizona Wetbacks". We just wouldn't. To suggest that this is okay on any level, for Natives and not your own respective 'race' is outright racist. It especially breaks my heart that so many African-Americans willingly and unconsciously play for the Redskins. You can't have it both ways. And I really don't want to hear an African-American player from that team proclaiming that 'black lives matter'.

I love perspective- let me educate you with another quote, again from Wilson:
"The impact of this disaster on Indian life is hard to imagine. The death rate far exceeded anything that modern Western nations have experienced: the First World War, for instance, which is often seen as the apotheosis of mass destruction, killed around 2 per cent of the British population over a four-year period. Many Native American communities lost 75 per cent or more of their member within just a few weeks, the kind of losses predicted for a nuclear holocaust, and certainly greater than those suffered at Hiroshima. The survivors, inevitably, were shocked, grief-stricken and bewildered."
And to further elaborate on the numerous diseases that afflicted them, an observation from Governor William Bradford of Plymouth (circa 1630):

"...they fall into a lamentable condition as they lie on their hard mats, the pox breaking and mattering and running one into another, their skin cleaving by reason thereof to the mats they lie on. When they turn them, a whole side will flay off at once as it were, and they will be all of a gore blood, most fearful to behold. And then being very sore, what with cold and other distempers, they die like rotten sheep..." 
That means their skin was falling off.

Hail to the Redskins.

P. Maestro

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The New House Negro - HBCUs and PWIs...

You know, there's nothing I like more than to start a post with an epic quote...lol.
"There was two kind of slaves. There was the house negro and the field negro. The house negro, they lived in the house, with master. They dressed pretty good. They ate good, cause they ate his food, what he left. They lived in the attic or the basement, but still they lived near their master, and they loved their master, more than their master loved himself. They would give their life to save their masters house quicker than their master would. The house negro, if the master said "we got a good house here" the house negro say "yeah, we got a good house here". Whenever the master would said we, he'd say we. That's how you can tell a house negro. If the master's house caught on fire, the house negro would fight harder to put the blaze out than the master would. If the master got sick, the house negro would say "What's the matter, boss, we sick?" We sick! He identified himself with his master, more than the master identified with himself. And if you came to the house negro and said "Let's run away, Let's escape, Let's separate" the house negro would look at you and say "Man, you crazy. What you mean separate? Where is there a better house than this? Where can I wear better clothes than this? Where can I eat better food than this?" There was that house negro. In those days, he was called a house nigger. And that's what we call him today, because we still got some house niggers runnin around here. This modern house negro loves his master. He wants to live near him. He'll pay three times as much as the house is worth just to live near his master, and then brag about "I'm the only negro out here. I'm the only one on my job. I'm the only one in this school. -Malcolm X

This past week I became engaged in a considerably spirited debate about predominantly white institutions (PWIs) and historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). The Black Salvage published a post about this issue years ago though the article centered around a biased Baltimore Sun piece and more or less, the societal view of HBCUs but in hindsight, I realize I didn't really investigate a very interesting dynamic in all this- the perspective of Blacks who look down on HBCUs, many of whom have an inherent sense of superiority because of their acceptance and attendance at PWIs.

For what it's worth, I don't have a problem with PWIs or HBCUs in any collective sense. I think you should go to whatever school best fits your needs and your wallet. That said, you can't throw out baseless, unvalidated claims and think that I won't challenge your ignorance (read: stupidity). The argument began when a Twitter acquaintince of mine, who is Black, implied through multiple tweets containing thinly veiled shade, that because he was a PWI, George Mason University specifically, that he was by default in a better position than those at HBCUs.

I'm used to this idea- during my senior year in high school some of my peers mocked me for applying to Morgan State University (an HBCU). One went so far as to say, “nobody is going to take you serious when they see your resume”. These were all Black kids and for many of them, getting into the University of Maryland was again, a sign of status. (no disrespect to the U of M)

What a lot of Blacks who perpetuate these ideas fail to realize is that there are countless HBCU alum doing 100 times better than they could ever hope to. Scratch that, there are countless people doing 1,000 times better than them with no degree at all. When I bring this up and ask them to account for it, they begin retracting previous statements and talking themselves in circles. Now, if we lived in a world where every PWI graduate ended up more successful than every HBCU graduate taken together, there would be nothing to discuss but that's clearly far from reality.

Now, I'm not saying that some HBCUs aren't up to snuff but the same is true of countless PWIs and let's just be real, if you are a successful kinda' man or woman, you're going to be successful at a black school, white school, or no school at all. We now live in an age where a lot Black people want to feel like somebody without putting in the work to be somebody. A PWI is no free ride to success but tell that to the New House Negro and he will laugh at you. See, the New House Negro can graduate from a PWI and go on to do average things and live an average life but because he went to what is in his mind, a “white” school, he is inherently better than you and all that you've done without contest. I thought to name-drop the many outstanding HBCU graduates that have gone on to become statesmen and media moguls and music legends high-ranking military officers and world-renown scientists to prop up my point but do I really have to?

More than 100 years ago, runaway slaves risked life and limb trying to learn how to read in secret. Of those who survived, many were harassed and lynched for starting and maintaining some of the first Black colleges. Attending an HBCU in some respects made me feel like I was apart of something so much bigger than myself. I have often wondered if I would have had the courage to take the risks and make the sacrifices of many of my embondaged predecessors. Maybe I'm getting too deep. Or maybe...I'm speaking on things that I cannot possibly expect the New House Negro to understand. 

-P. Maestro

Friday, February 1, 2013

Kelvin Okafor: The Pencil Photographer

Kelvin Okafor is an AMAZING artist out of Middlesex University in London. My jaw literally dropped as I watched this. He's not the first person I've seen draw lifelike images with pencil but he's definitely among the most impressive. Check out more of his work on his blog.

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Secession from Stereotypes...

I want to dedicate this post to Jon- he'll probably find the following conversation more delightfully entertaining than anyone else I know.

The individual did not respond further after this. You know, when my friends 
talk about sports I shut the **** up. When my engineer friends talk about engineering, 
I shut the **** up. Why speak on stuff I clearly don't know about?

Mention the words Confederacy or secession to most black people and instantly their brains populate with notions of Southern, white, slave-owning, racists. Those who know me well or well enough know that I don't beat around the bush with the truth. Every soldier in the Confederate army wasn't pro-slavery and anti-Black. Who do you think was on the front lines? Rich, land-owning slave masters?

The Confederate draft exempted those who owned twenty slaves or more, however, arousing resentment amongst the poor whites who constituted the vast majority of the army. Abraham Lincoln instituted a draft on the Northern states a year later, likewise calling on all able-bodied 18-35 year old men to serve. There were exemptions in the North, too, if those drafted could pay a significant fee or provide a substitute. -CivilWar.org

There you have it. If you think every poor white man in the Confederate army was fighting to maintain slavery you are either stupid or ignorant of the facts. Some of these men had impoverished families they were forced to leave behind for a war that largely did not benefit many of them. Attempting to avoid the draft or deserting after being drafted carried harsh consequences if found out. For many, it was a lose-lose situation.

I'm not saying none of those drafted to the Southern army didn't want to be there. I'm just not a fan of gross generalizations. People should think before they so freely judge the dead. Poor people of all colors have been drafted to wars that mostly benefited the wealthier members of their societies for hundreds of years...

For those of you into good movies...you should check out Cold Mountain with Nicole Kidman and Jude Law. A lot of what I just discussed underlies the love story in this film. As far as the Zora Neale Hurston quote, I have been able to find it but she more or less expressed respect for Robert E. Lee because he felt obligated to protect the people of his state, not necessarily slavery. Let's end with a quote, no?

In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral & political evil in any Country -Robert E. Lee

P. Maestro

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Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Light Skin Complex

Anybody who knows me well, or well enough for that matter, knows I was going to write about this at some point...smh...
Why do Dark Skinned Black people hating on Light Skinned Black people? Without Frederick Douglass, we would probably still be slaves. Without Jesse Jackson, helping out MLK jr,, White people would probably ignored him. Without Thurgood Marshall, Clarence Thomas wouldn't be Judge now. Now we got Obama as President... and you know eventually we will have a dark skinned African American President. Bush looked at Colin Powell, made him Secretary of State, then gave Condi Rice a chance. See... Dark Skinned Black people should be grateful that we Light Skinned Black people are making their life easier...Agree?” - Yahoo Answers Poster

I have grown to accept that many African-Americans don't have a genuine desire to learn or embrace their history and heritage. I have become accustom to one's “Blackness” in America being more so defined by their clothes and vernacular and taste and music- this is the new Black Pride, at least among younger people.

What I still find increasingly difficult to accept however, is what I refer to among my friends and associates as “Light Skin Complex”. Like most things in life, there are multiple dimensions to this phenomenon- you have the light skin blacks who perceive light skin as a default certification of beauty, you have the light skin blacks who think that all darker skinned people are out to get them and envious, and you even have light skin blacks who believe, as the Yahoo Answers passage above illustrates, that light skin people have somehow carried the weight of Blackness on their backs. It's not all light skin Blacks, obviously...but with the advent of social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram, the Light Skin Complex is not only more visible, it's openly glorified.

"#tbt" refers to "Throw Back Thursdays"; on Thursday many Instagram/Twitter Users 
post old photos from childhood. How shallow must you be to remind us that you're light skin?

The younger generation is so oblivious, so ignorant of what it means to be Black, that we now have terms like, “team light skin” or “team mixed”. (you can find 'team dark skin' or 'team caramel' on social media as well but the prevalence is drastically lower and often the context is far less narcissistic). There are even entire Instagram and Tumblr accounts dedicated solely to the proliferation of light skin beauty. What significance is their in reaffirming your skin color in a photograph when the photograph makes it obvious? I have to assume stupidity unless you're a child.

I refuse to get preachy about this issue- anyone of any race who has studied American History knows how sad and disgusting this is. But I do think we need to be less dismissive. When people post things like “#teamlightskin” on my Twitter timeline I tend to unf-ollow them instantly but maybe I should use moments like this an opportunity for constructive debate (I use the word 'debate' very loosely) and education. Some people are going to crucify me for saying this but I didn't write history- the dark skin experience and the light skin experience for blacks, among others, are largely different. It doesn't matter if we're talking about field slaves and house slaves or the representation of color among music video vixens, light skin blacks, like white people will NEVER understand what it feels like to live day to day with dark skin. You can disagree if you want but that statement isn't just about Black people- it's about Dravidians, it's about Aborigines, it's about darker skinned people across the world and throughout history. That withstanding, it still doesn't negate the fact that light or dark- you are still Black to the world.

I forgive children caught up in the Light Skin Complex but if you're a young adult or older, chances are you just unknowingly self-hating and stupid. As far Blacks in the United States go, I hope more of us come to realize that there's a lot of dark(and light) skin people dead and gone and forgotten who sacrificed themselves for us all because of what it meant to be Black, not just dark skinned.

Even if you in a Benz, you still a nigga in a coupe...” -Kanye West

For what it's worth, I honestly don't care what color a person is. And I've never found a legitimate reason to arbitrarily reaffirm and broadcast mine, especially when it's obvious.

-P. Maestro

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

And Let the Schools Say…AMEN?!

"One nation, _____ ___, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all" right? Modifications to our once standard school day's morning routine reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance have now moved to the back burners to ensure that no groups in our schools are excluded. But why? Our kids today (and a vast majority of adults) are profoundly illiterate when it comes to religious knowledge. As a nation, we need to stand up and bring some religious unity into our hearts and back on our playgrounds.

     Separation of Church and State has been a hot button issue for years, but few people actually take the time out to develop the tolerance needed to comfortably accept the idea of religion wrapped in our public school teachings. According to the Nationwide Survey of American Religious Knowledge, conducted circa 2008, non-believers of religion scored higher than religious followers on basic questions ranging from "What is the holy book of the Muslim faith?" to "How many candles does a Menorah hold?". There's really no surprise here that those who claim no faith are more tolerant and understanding of other people's faiths and doctrines then those that swear by one faith and express disdain towards everyone else's beliefs.

     Now while it is true that public schools shouldn't promote any particular religious set of beliefs, religious based extracurricular groups must be allowed, by law, in public schools. According to the Equal Access Act of 1984, any publicly funded school that allows extracurricular clubs must also allow religious clubs and groups. So having faith based groups in our school after school programs is only half the battle. We just have to finish the fight against our own internal ignorance 

     So what should we do? I suggest we introduce the history of religions as a part of our school's core curriculum and see how fast the ignorance dissipates. Only thirty-six percent of the people who participated in the religious knowledge survey were aware that public schools can lawfully teach religion courses at a comparative level. And while religion isn't necessarily required to maintain good behavior in our classrooms, children in today's societies could take away some positive outlooks on life from lectures on other religions around the world.

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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

"They're animals anyway, so let them lose their souls..."

Yesterday, a 16 year old African-American male was shot seventeen times in Chicago.

If you find the previous statement striking, you're either out of touch or have set your expectations for black people entirely too high.

 The 16 year old in question is rapper "Lil Jojo", who was riding his bike when a vehicle pulled beside him and shots poured out. He apparently was at odds with fellow Chicago rapper, "Lil Reese" (who is 19 years old and associated with rapper Chief Keef, a recent Interscope signee). While I won't deem Reese the assailant in this murder, he is recorded on video telling his rival, "Imma kill you".

As ironic as it might seem, I didn't decide to do this post to whine about black on black crime or youth violence in our community (though I would recommend you check out Lupe Fiasco's thoughts of Keef).  We're more or less desensitized to that at this point. I wanted to occupy your time with another aspect in this whole situation- the response on social networks. Feast your eyes:

                                       The the final two tweets are courtesy Chief Keef, himself only 17 years of age.

I don't blame Hip-Hop for this young man's death...but the more prominent members of the rap community (read: the ones with significant influence) never seem to discourage our youth away from killing one another. And those of you who do blame Hip-Hop, know that there are some pretty successful, affluent, and intelligent young black people who listen to nothing but Hip-Hop. The problem is bigger than a genre of music...I'm just having trouble pinpointing what it is... *sighs*

...but at any rate, you should check out some more of the big things coming out of Chicago:

-P. Maestro