Category Archives: Social Commentary

Trayvon, We Love You

I’m not going to post an article. I’m not going to speak his name. I just know I woke up about 3:30 this morning and saw a tweet about the auctioning of a murder weapon used to kill a child the killer was stalking and words about being exonerated and not “cowering.”

I’m not going to go into the depths of my fury. I’m not going to expound on the rage that results from the increasing difficulties in my life because of this brown skin and the triggers that cause it to bubble to the top. I just know when I read that tweet, the kindness and decency instilled in me via my upbringing dissipated – broken down by the status quo of my Blackness.

I’m not going to pontificate on the far reach of racism. I’m not going to talk about the tears I’ve cried because my people are being used for life’s target practice. I just know I’ve BEEN tired, I know others like me suffer the same fatigue, and my full expectation is for all of us to be unyielding in our actions.

I’m not going to talk about praying for peace and understanding in this matter. I’m not going to acquiesce and say all the words we’ve been taught to say about forgiveness and healing. I just know there must be action and that action is about three years past due. What is the hold up?

Praise The Pie, Saints

So, I counted myself among the fortunate last Friday night. I got together with the crew and we sat eating snacks and drinking wine like any good crew will do, but after a couple hours, PIEthings got real. A friend came in with a Patti pie and our dispositions changed immediately. Was this truly the magical pie about which folks had been raving? Was I really going to get the change to treat my palate to a forkful of “If You Asked Me To” goodness? I was beyond excited.

Before we got started, we took a moment to read the back of the box. Mostly, the verbiage just talked about making much with the little one has, taking pride in one’s life, and enjoying life’s moments. I mean, how sweet is that? You know what I didn’t see on the back of that box? I didn’t see anything about Patti claiming her pie was better than anybody else’s mama’s, meemaw, ainie (Yes, “ainie,” not aunt or auntie. If you know anything about Black folks, you know what the hell I mean.), that her pie, when eaten in copious amounts, could never cause a spike in a diabetic’s sugar levels, suggestions one lay prostrate and worship the pie as his/her savior, or that the less than four damn dollars it costs to buy one is all part of her nefarious plot to singlehandedly bleed Black folks all over America dry financially. Nope. There wasn’t any of that. It was just a nice message about being a well-adjusted human damn being. Are you surprised?PIE2

Per the instructions on the box, we heated that thing up and sliced it as much as one can slice a somewhat small pie between six salivating sistas. And boy did we play it up. We took pictures. We sang a bar or two of Patti hits, and we even did a few dances in sheer anticipation of what the future with our forks might hold. I tasted that pie and was immediately impressed. No, it didn’t make me feel like my mother came over and baked my friends and I some pie. No, I didn’t close my eyes and imagine I was in the deep South on somebody’s grandpappy’s farm where fresh sweet potatoes were picked, boiled, mashed, and seasoned to perfection while grandmammy rolled out her homemade dough. But I didn’t need to feel any of those things. I just needed the pie to be good and that is exactly what it was. It was good. It was the very best store bought dessert I have ever had and every ingredient was evident in each bite I took. I can’t say as much for any other store bought dessert I’ve had. Sure, some have been pretty decent, but none of them came close to the experience I had that Friday night.

PIE3So listen, before you try to come off as super savvy in the kitchen (you probably aren’t) or as some sort of potato pie pontiff, just understand you don’t ever have to eat a Patti Potato Pie. Not ever. You don’t have to smell one, warm one up, slice one, or put that fork to your lips and taste one. There is no Patti Potato Pie mandate. There is no requirement to eat one (or several) in the interest of maintaining one’s Black Card. You simply don’t have to indulge. However, in the interest of decency and avoidance of general douchery (yes dammit, it’s a word), shut up about it if you don’t want it. Just keep eating that Sara Lee sadness with a dollop of wack whipped cream because that is what you like and that is wholly ok – just like it’s ok for me to be over here naked – crouched down in a corner – hording Patti Potato Pie straight from the pan. Plate? I don’t need no stinking plate.

 

 

I’M TIRED, BOSS

I’ve spent the last week or so trying to process my anger and channel it into some sort of creative avenue to keep from cussing random folks out or slapping strangers, but so far, it hasn’t really subsided. Black Rage is real and at certain times recently, mine has given out to Black Exhaustion. I don’t really know if that’s a thing, but if it wasn’t before a sentence ago, it is now. I see Black Exhaustion as that level that kicks in after one is reminded for the umpteenth time about the world she lives in, sees an atrocity acted out against folks who look like her, rails about said atrocity via all the ways she can think of, then sits quietly seething but too tired to say much else. That last part? That’s the exhaustion. That’s when I’ve fussed, cussed, pondered, pontificated, and ended up pooped because it’s all just too damn much to process or work toward fixing in the moment.

Black-woman-sleep-at-workThese days, my anger is multi-layered. I’m angry at institutionalized racism and all its offshoots like police brutality against black and brown folks that too often ends with us on cold slabs in coroner drawers. I’m pissed off at a white racist with beliefs in extremist ideals who walked into a church and killed a group of folks who just wanted to spend an evening praying in what I imagine was the safest place they thought they could be outside their own homes. I’m annoyed about a white woman spending several years pretending to be a black woman like me, complete with my same struggles, my same obstacles, my same knowledge base, my same reality – sans the inconvenient disadvantages being a black woman REALLY has. I’m incensed by folks trying to tell me I should live some sort of color blind/post-racial reality where my people, my culture, my beliefs, our struggle, our pain, our history is erased all in the interest of making everyone more comfortable by not having to have the “race conversation.” I’m disgusted with black folks who cry “construct” regarding race but don’t do the same regarding “black on black crime” when they go into their rants about how black folks shouldn’t be mad about the Charleston church murders because black people kill black people every single day and nobody cares. I probably hate those people the most. All this anger leads to me wanting to just run away and rest, but how does one rest from a reality that will be there just as foreboding as it was before I buried my head in the sand?

black-woman-stressedI often scroll through news sites, the preview guide on my television, and my social media newsfeeds reading headlines and quietly saying, “Nope,” as I scroll on by high level f*ckery with which I am not prepared to deal. It isn’t an aversion to the truth for me. It’s just that exhaustion creeping in. That exhaustion I get from all the gibberish, the backlash, the innate duty I think I have to clue in the clueless, the mandate to fight against the ultimate disrespect to my people, the drive to trail blaze as a black person, a woman, and one who believes in decency among humanity. And in all this I wonder – is there a no doze for Black Exhaustion? Is there some sort of vitamin, energy drink, or exercise regimen for those of us who fuss and fight all in the name of the advancement and equal treatment of our folks? If there is, can I PLEASE get a prescription?pills

Much like I do when it is time to get up and go to work, I’ll keep driving. I will keep running my mouth, challenging untruths, tackling tomfoolery, and raging against all manner of balderdash, hoodwinkery, and poppycock passed off as righteousness. I just have to make sure I catch a few cat naps in between to stay fresh for that fight. ©

 

 

WHO DOES A SISTA HAVE TO SCREW AROUND HERE TO MATTER?

The-Black-Mans-StruggleI love black men, God knows I do (I absolutely said that in my Oprah as Sophia in The Color Purple voice) – but part of my frustration has to do with the fact I had to start off acknowledging my love for them as a disclaimer for what I really want to say. Since I have been old enough to understand the very basic parts of racism against black folks in this country, I have been indoctrinated with the “black man’s struggle.” I think most black folks; girls and women in particular, have heard it since childhood:

  1. The life playing field isn’t level for a black man.
  2. It’s harder for a black man to get a job.
  3. It’s harder for a black man to get a promotion when he does have a job.
  4. It’s harder for a black man to get respect everywhere.
  5. It’s harder for a black man to be acknowledged in the academic world.
  6. You know, you really have to be supportive of black men and boys because after all, it’s harder for them.
    blackwomenmatter

I’m sure plenty of folks reading this know this unfortunately true rhetoric. Most of my life, I assumed  “white men” were the implied group of privileged folks who had it easier than black men and what I thought totally made sense because the concept of white privilege is real. But these days, I’m not so sure the “white man” is the only one implied to have the lion’s share of privileges. In all this talk of how hard it is to be a black man (or boy), the black majority has forgotten an equally important conversation – the fact black girls and women have it just as hard, if not harder. The playing field isn’t really level for black women either. It’s challenging to be taken seriously in the professional world, despite one’s educational background and body of work that should speak for itself. Promotions are definitely not growing on trees specifically planted and grown for black women. It’s difficult for black girls and women to find respect in the white world, let alone in the black one. Black women graduate from college more often than black men, but we’re often discouraged by professors, administrators, lovers, and family members during our educational pursuits. And we have to rail against sexism outside of, but more importantly, within our race, and shit – it’s just hard being a black woman in this society. And folks thought it was hard out here for a pimp. He should try being a ho and see how that works.

Black girls and women are beaten, raped, and murdered by law enforcement officers just like our beloved black boys and men. We are denied opportunities we earn, just like our beloved black boys and men. We struggle with finding our footing in a society that MUGSHOT2constantly reminds us it doesn’t love us, just like our beloved black men. And from childhood we fight against being told we aren’t worthy, smart, beautiful, relevant, creative, innovative, or worthwhile, just like our beloved black men. But we forge our way anyway. We plot, plan, protest, politic, and prance up and down streets on behalf of our boys and men reminding this world the lives of our counterparts matter.

But who exactly marches for and with us? Who lets folks know when we say, “Black Lives Matter,” Black includes girls and women? Who campaigns for us with photo shoots shown in caps and gowns, posing mug shot style, with a sign in our hands stating our major in which we earned a degree? Who tells our story about how hard it is to be us and about how we really just need support during our struggle? Who surrounds us with love? Who RIDES for us? Who lets the world know we aren’t petty or unaware of the way our gender counterparts suffer just because we point out the fact we suffer too? Unfortunately, the answer to that is usually – US.

thumbI love black men, God knows I do, but I don’t love them or respect their struggle any more than I love and respect that of black girls and women. To succeed, to progress, to exact change in any way, we must support each other. The struggles of black girls and women must be acknowledged and seen as inextricable to the black struggle. I can be about that ride or die life, but I don’t always want to be in the car alone. ©

 

AREA CODES

Tupac saw the same ones everywhere he went, Ludacris had them in every area code, and Snoop never loved them. Yes, people.  I’m talking about hoes – the word often used to describe women and girls from every walk of life. According to urban conversational and social norms, a woman can be a rotten, stank, dirty, useless, or crappy one. But take heart, because a woman can apparently also be a good, down ass, and loyal ho as well.  I mean, balance is important, right?

When I was a whole lot less informed and self-reflective, I subscribed to the existence of hoes. I didn’t see the word as a compliment and was of course careful to only apply it to the women who fit the description – women who gave up “the goods” to too many men, women who screwed too soon, women who were too liberal with blow jobs, women whose dresses and skirts were too tight and/or too short, women who wore too much makeup, women who couldn’t stay away from the club spotlight, etc… See, it was ok for me to think of those women as hoes because they weren’t anything like me – the well-behaved woman. I was close-legged, quiet in public, well-read, and had on clothes that showed just the right amount of skin. In retrospect, I am a little ashamed I bought into the man-dated tomfoolery of what a “real” woman versus a ho should do and be, but I’m glad I learned before it was too late.

The entire intention behind the word, “ho” and all its synonyms is to separate girls and women from one another, stifle their sexuality, and destroy their confidence in who they are and the power they hold. The older I get and the more in tune I become with myself as a multi-faceted woman, the easier it is for me to see the flaw in my young thinking and the 58999724disservice society, mostly at the hands of male and religious dominated thought processes, has done to folks as a result. I know now there are no hoes. Hoes and ho-dom are nothing more than constructs created to keep women in check and within the bounds set for them by men and reinforced by society as a whole. I know what some folks might be thinking while reading this – “What do you mean there are no hoes? Of course there are. I mean, what else are we supposed to call ‘those’ women?” My answer for that is they should simply be called women. Since I can remember, I was programmed to separate myself from other girls and women. I couldn’t hang with so and so because she was “fast,” I couldn’t go to certain places because that was where the “loose” girls hung, and I wasn’t allowed to wear certain clothes lest anyone mistake me for a tramp. The divide started early and I was convinced it must have been warranted. I didn’t want to be seen in a negative light and heaven forbid anyone should see me as any kind of ho. With introspection, information, and maturity, things changed.

One of the main problems with calling women hoes is the way it suggests a woman should downplay her sexuality and even apologize for it. A woman isn’t allowed to have sex when she wants with the partners she chooses without feeling guilty because it apparently gives her entirely too much control over her body and seemingly – a certain amount of control over her partners.  If that autonomy is stripped from her, she is left to define herself by someone else’s standards and must spend her time trying to reach for an unrealistic and unfair ideal to maintain her decent reputation. If a woman is completely true to herself and does as she sees fit, her full power is in her possession and no one else can convince her she is wrong.

When having this conversation with a friend, he asked how I categorize women who don’t have sex out of a sense of personal sexual liberation, but instead do it to somehow help/heal themselves because of low self-esteem. I told him those women aren’t hoes to me – they’re just hurt. Though most folks are likely having sex out of a sense of enjoyment, many are having sex trying to replace something they lost or compensate for what they may have never had. Those folks are simply damaged. They’ve been banged up by life and think their sexuality is the playing field where they can recoup. To me, women like this are victims who are hurting and misunderstood, not hoes. These are the women and girls who need someone to reach out instead of ridicule.

I realize it’s difficult for some women to look down from their good woman level and go against everything they’ve been taught about what it is to be respectable, but it’s necessary if they are to ever understand the position of women who seem to have broken all the “good girl” rules.  If more women subscribed to the belief that we aren’t all nearly as separated as we are think, the divide would start to close. This undertaking is probably even more difficult for men. They would have to throw out almost everything they’ve been indoctrinated with to make room for the idea that a woman who goes against the good girl grain is still a woman worthy of respect.

Ultimately, I think it simply comes down to girls and women defining themselves and being unapologetic about it. We are not hoes, tricks, and tramps. We are individuals who tank and triumph and who wear sexy dresses and business suits. Women sleep with whom they like, live a committed life of abstinence and everything in between and not a bit of it makes us hoes. Instead, we are human and for that, we should not have to ever feel ashamed.©

A Smattering of Mattering

Unarmed People of Color Killed by Police, 1999-2014
blacklivesmatterAfter far too many deaths of unarmed black men AND women at the hands of law enforcement, the motto of the movement to fight against this enduring injustice  is “BLACK LIVES MATTER.” Folks have seen this phrase on protest signs, t-shirts, hats, Facebook cover photos, as twitter hashtags, etc… Usually, there is some brown person iterating the phrase and trying to convince this disjointed society the sentiment is indeed true, despite all the bloody evidence showing too many folks in positions of authority do not believe it. Though I am saddened by the thought there is even a need for black folks to advise the world of their worthiness to live, I support the campaign wholeheartedly and often repeat the phrase for my benefit and the benefit of those with whom I come in contact. Despite the absolute truthiness in this phrase, there is now an effort to minimize the poignancy of the phrase by simply saying, “ALL LIVES MATTER.”

Look, the value of life has been touted by the majority since the beginning of time. Respect for human, animal, and plant life is always discussed through popular media, activism, and other information avenues. There are sit ins, shut ins, and die ins all focused Riceon informing the public and protesting against “the establishment” in the interest of protecting what matters. People are assaulted, arrested, and vilified in their efforts to protect the sanctity of that which is relevant for the greater good. In all this protest and activism, there is finally a phrase that embodies the sentiments of black and brown folks everywhere – that our lives have meaning, that we are people, not animals, that we live, breathe, and bleed, and that we, like every person, every plant, and every animal- MATTER. Now, there is an effort to detract from that movement by simply reminding the world that ALL lives matter.

First of all, of course they do. One would be hard pressed to find someone within the BLACK LIVES MATTER camp sans respect for life in general, but that isn’t the issue here. The problem is those opting to gloss over the terrorist-like actions of certain law enforcement entities snuffing out the lives of black folks because they do not believe BLACK LIVES MATTER. Those who murder us when our hands are up, when we are on our knees, when we sit in our cars, or when we dare to simply be existing on the street do not believe our lives matter. They look at black folks and see problems instead of people and therefore, it is imperative we remind them the black lives they so cavalierly take MATTER.

Secondly, the world already knows white lives matter. Let’s face it, when folks change BLACK to ALL, it’s really a whitewashing of the belief BLACK LIVES MATTER. It is a reminder of what anyone in this country was raised knowing – white life matters unequivocally. From TV shows to school history books, we all know white is relevant. What isn’t apparent is the equally relevant value of black life. A hundreds of years old history ofhawkins being treated as less than has a way of convincing others black life really isn’t that valuable. BLACK LIVES MATTER exists to chip away at that flawed thinking. Just as we’ve all been told repeatedly how much white life matters, we must ingrain that same thinking in the world when it comes to black lives.

Lastly, black folks do not have to explain why their lives matter. The fact we are humans is reason enough to know we matter. The fact our lives are often disregarded is evident when we are questioned about why we insist on reminding the world we matter. The very fact we need a campaign to spread this very basic and innate fact is evidence our Crawfordexistence is devalued regularly. If going out into the world and launching a campaign to let all people know what they should have always known is required, so be it. I will continue to write, text, tweet, and status update my way through to promote the relevance of black lives and I will do so without apology.

The harassment, assault, and murder of unarmed black folks, the lack of indictments for those murders, and the ensuing claims that we are thugs, criminals, and intimidating figures and therefore deserve to be murdered, armed or not, is indicative of the need to spread the message that BLACK LIVES MATTER and folks should shout this fact until their voices are hoarse and fingertips bloody from typing. No apologies and no take backs. ©

Lupita For the Win…Or Something.

PeopleSo, I was scrolling through Instagram the other day and saw actress, Lupita Nyong’o, made the cover of People Magazine’s Most Beautiful People edition. I glanced at the picture, smiled because I think it definitely bodes well for her, and kept scrolling. The next day, a Facebook acquaintance posted People’s article about Nyong’o with a caption that said, “Black Women FTW (For The Win).” Though I certainly think pulling the cover of People’s famous issue is a wonderful move for her career, I am unable to concede Lupita’s present popularity trickles down to the average black woman like me and I don’t believe I need it.

When Halle Berry “won” the Academy Award for best actress, I sat in my living room clapping confusedly and wondering how and why it happened. She graciously accepted the award, spoke of how honored she was, and called the names of the black women who paved the acting road before her. It was a really historical moment, but the next day at work, nobody cared about Halle’s win. My boss didn’t treat me differently, my coworkers didn’t throw down any rose petals to cover my path, and I still had to do the same work I’d been doing for years. What it boiled down to was  that award was really only a benefit to Halle. It didn’t really work for me despite my black woman status. The same thing applies to Lupita.

A wonderful reminder and living example of black women’s beauty, Lupita’s presence has been a welcome change from the status quo of celebrity black beauty. With her dark skin, short natural hair, and slight frame, she is showing mainstream America a display of beauty black folks have always known existed. I see Lupita every day. In the grocery store, at the hair salon, in my workplace – everywhere there are beautiful black women who live outside the small parameters of the definition of beauty we never created and by which we  should not have to adhere. All heights, body types, skin tones, hair textures and colors,  clothing styles, etc…are represented whenever I leave the house and every last one of these women possesses that same type of unfettered beauty Nyong’o exudes on each red carpet she graces.

So, since I’ve touted the goodness of Lupita and her People Magazine cover, it probably sounds like I think she is helping to expose the mainstream world to the beauty of black women thereby making all our little black lives better, but I don’t think that’s the case and even if it were, I wouldn’t care. Though I believe her presence has sparked some previously uncommon conversations among some, I do not believe her success is a win for black women overall. For me, to concede that would mean black women have just been sitting around for  years waiting for mainstream America (white folks) to think we’re pretty, to value our beauty, and to recognize it in the media and on the runway and I just don’t think that’s true.

Beauty among black women is not new or rare. It is a staple of our makeup. We were beautiful as rulers of nations, as slaves oppressed by the indecent and hateful, as maids and nannies caring for white children while sending our own to babysitters, as teachers, attorneys, lawmakers, cooks, and any other profession. That beauty did not need, and still doesn’t need to be validated by white folks. It is real and always will be. So, to me, Lupita’s popularity and visibility on the red carpet and runway isn’t a win for black women, though I love seeing here there. It is a win for everyone else who refused to see our beauty and is now faced with its reality. Now they know what we always did.  You’re welcome. ©

 

 

That’s Really How You Phil?

So, this happened –>http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/19/showbiz/duck-dynasty-suspension/ . Phil Robertson, a pivotal member of the Duck Dynasty show, did an interview with GQ during which he was really candid about his thoughts on gay folks, folks who whore, folks who cheat, folks who steal, folks who don’t worship properly, and, of course, black folks.  Because no tirade would be complete without some sort of out of pocket statement about the blacks.  Now, a bunch of folks are upset.

A&E is upset about Phil’s disparaging comments about gays, The NAACP and The Human FieldworkRights campaign were upset about the comments on gays AND black folks. Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal, and Sarah Palin are upset because of what they see as hypocrisy from political leftists and intolerance of expressed opinions that do not seem to go with the mainstream. Well, I figure, why let these folks be upset alone? I think I will join them and take my ire up a notch as well.

As a black woman, I suppose most people will think I am upset with Phil for his comments about black folks and how growing up in the Jim Crow south, he never “with his own eyes” saw black folks mistreated (maybe he was using loaner eyes while his eyes were out for repair). After all, those black folks had no time to be angry because they were far too busy hoeing the fields while singing and being happy. And, to be honest, what black folks don’t like to do back breaking work all day as indentured servants while crooning a little ditty? I mean, I can hardly write this without jumping up from my chair, dancing a quick jig, and singing about how great it is to be black, female, and equal. But, I digress. No, I am not upset about Phil’s comments. I haven’t ever watched Duck Dynasty, but the commercials alone let me know he is someone whose opinion is completely irrelevant, though I know there are many folks who probably share his sentiments. What has me a little annoyed are folks like Jindal and Palin who think those who are offended, A&E included, are unfair and hypocritical in their offense. To that, I have to say there is a reality with which folks have to deal when it comes to the First Amendment.

Freedom of speech DOES NOT mean freedom from consequences. Sure, everyone can say what she likes, but what makes one think she does not have to deal with the repercussions of her words? This Duck Dynasty nonsense and the conservatives referring to  the pushback as “intolerance” haven’t a clue. Then again, if folks who think like Phil had their way, this little brown woman wouldn’t even be able to read so I could make this point. I have had a few jobs in my day and not even on the most menial of them was I free from parameters on what I could and could not say at work. I didn’t always like it, but I ultimately understood the job was not mine, but simply an offer extended to me by the business that owned the job. That idea made it easy to choose my words carefully because the thought of damaging my pockets just for the right to say something rude, disrespectul, or incendiary for incendiary’s sake just never seemed worth it to me. Technically, I can always say what I like, but I know I can also be fired if what I say appears to veer away from the ethics I agreed to uphold as an employee. There has to be some accountability in there somewhere.

I am also a tad miffed at A&E for stating they were “bothered” by Phil’s statements about gay folks but seemingly not bothered by his statements about blacks and how “godly” and chipper we were before all that equality gobbledegook came into play. Really, A&E? You all couldn’t even pretend to care? I mean, it’s what everyone else does. Come on and get with the politically correct program and make a tiny effort to shine us on. Sometimes, we appreciate that kind of thing.

I tell you who I am not upset with at all – PHIL. He is exactly who I would expect him to be, he spoke his mind, what little of it there is, and he was just being honest. Phil does not seem like the brightest bulb, but I will always support his right to make idiotic statements because the minute I protest about what Phil cannot say is the minute I start to lose my right to speak my mind. However, just as much as I support Phil,s rights, I equally support the rights of every viewer, offended party, TV network, media outlet, sponsor, and special interest group to protest Phil’s foolery verbally and in writing, pull their money from his show, write to the network, and suspend him for the words his employer felt misrepresented them. It is simply the way accountability works.

As this story gets bigger, I really hope Phil won’t become dishonest and pretend he is sorry for what he said. I think he should absolutely stick to his convictions because it is his truth and I appreciate knowing where I stand with folks from jump. However, as long as Phil opts to share those views with the public, he will have to accept the results. So, during this time of rest, reflection, and relaxation, I hope Phil takes a moment to draw some conclusions over a nice plate filled with his own well-seasoned foot.

 

Here She Is – Miss. (Real) America…

http://www.buzzfeed.com/ryanhatesthis/a-lot-of-people-are-very-upset-that-an-indian-american-woman

Growing up, I would always let my grandmother sucker me into watching corny “beauty” pageants, or as they are now called, “scholarship programs”. Back then, all I saw were  young, blonde, long-haired white women with super white teeth, skinny bodies, and random “talents”, like bell ringing, competing to win money for college, free travel, minor prestige, a car, and whatever other prizes were offered. As a five or six year old, I even found myself in a pageant. But things were not quite so complicated then.

Back in the day, when I watched those pageants, it was a given the contestants would be white and mostly blonde. Sure, there were a few women of color and some brunettes sprinkled through the group, but one always knew the winner would look like America’s myopic standard of beauty despite the occasional anomalies like Vanessa Williams. NinaDavuluri

Over twenty five years after the days I would sit and watch those pageants, I can see not much has changed. If anything, the short-sighted perpetuation of one way to be beautiful has gotten worse. This was evident by the racist rantings of tweeters upset the 2014 Miss. America winner, Nina Davuluri, has the nerve to be brown-skinned and dark-haired. Of course, her Indian roots have made her the victim of all sorts of stupid allegations and insults, including the one that says she isn’t American and is probably a terrorist of some kind because she is Indian. I wish I could be surprised by these responses, but sadly, they are par for the course for most black and brown folks in America. In this faux post-racial society, racists are emboldened and have taken their attacks to another level. The more people insist we live in a colorblind society, the more racist bigots rear their heads via social media sites like Twitter to let everyone know they are still very much alive.

I suppose I could get all self-righteous and start talking about how there is only one true race; the human race, how we should all see each other for what’s on the inside, how we all bleed red, and how we are all Americans despite our skin color, but I’m not really into that stuff. As a tackler of life’s tomfoolery, I feel inclined to just speak the truth as I see it without any sort of sugary coating to make people feel better about swallowing it. I actually like folks to know what I’m giving them is medicine. SO, what I really think is Americans need to stop closing their eyes to our ugly parts and start a dialog based in truth about race and citizenship in this country.

Brown and born and raised in America? You’re an American. It is just that simple and those wrapped in a blanket of ignorance and intolerance need to be shamed in much the same way they tried to shame Miss. Davuluri for being born too dark and with ancestry in a country dummies clearly cannot locate on a map. I do not wish to live in a colorblind society. I actually enjoy the idea of many races inhabiting one world and coexisting in the most amazing way. I love and respect the idea of different races, ethnicities, and cultures. That’s what makes the world in general, and America, in particular, so wonderful. However, there is always that subset of douches aiming to homgenize the world to suit their narrowminded ideals. My advice is for Miss. Davuluri to put up her figurative middle finger and keep it moving. She is gorgeous, she is talented, and she won that pageant fair and square without tattoos, military fatigues, blonde hair, or a penchant for hunting wildlife. If she isn’t proof there is more than one way to be an American, I don’t know what is.

Early in life, I realized beauty pageants…CORRECTION: scholarship programs were kinda wack and corny and seemed to imply looking good in a swimsuit or being good at tapping glasses of water with a stick made a woman well-rounded and smart. I don’t knock the hustle, but it isn’t my thing. Nonetheless, any woman who wins fairlydeserves the respect that accompanies the title, so today, I salute Miss. Nina Davuluri for trailblazing through the manure and staking her claim to the Miss. America title. Congratulations and don’t forget that middle finger, Nina.

Have a Seat, Miley

So, yeah, it happened. Little Miley Hannah Cyrus Montana got on an international stage, put her nonexistent ass on a married man’s crotch and proceeded to bounce her would-be hind parts. Ugh, just thinking about this long enough to write something makes me cranky and acknowledging it even happened makes me feel like I am giving credence to it on some level, but I believe I have to speak my mind.

Nope, Miley was not the first young woman to ever get on a stage and behave like a two dollar crack ho. Sadly, she will not be the last, though she may be the worst. Gyrating for a crowd is nothing new. I mean, one would be hard pressed to find a male or female pop/rock/r and b/rap, etc… artist who has not resorted to dry humping the air or shaking his/her ass for viewers, followers, and “likes”. So, for me, it wasn’t really the movement of her pre-pubescent boy body or the foam hand she used to simulate masturbation. It wasn’t even the fact she disrespected her upbringing,  fan base (whoever they are), Robin Thicke, or his wife and child that have my dander up, though all of those are pretty legitimate reasons to be disgusted. The source of my irritation comes from a much different and far more personal place.

For me, it is not just Miley. It is also that white woman in line behind me at Walmart with her slicked back ponytail, extra dark Wet N’ Wild lipstick, and hoop earrings calling me “girl”  in that extra familiar way because she thinks her trips to the hood, her black boyfriend, and that lipstick make her able to relate to me. It is Robin Thicke stealing from the legacy of Marvin Gaye, one of the most amazing musicians in the history of soul music. then suing his estate to protect his right to thievery. It is the taking of the worst parts of us and using them in a way to tell their white followers that this is indeed the way to “be black”.

People say imitation is the highest form of flattery, so I suppose one could opt to view Miley’s fledgling efforts at “onstage hood rat appeal” as some sort of compliment for all the other crass women who came before her. I, however, do not choose to see it that way. Instead of a compliment, I see Miley’s actions as yet another example of the way non-blacks (read that to mean mostly white folks) like to take the most dire parts of some black cultures and subcultures, bastardize it just a little bit more, and use it as a blanketed expression to describe ALL black folks for a profit. It really turns my stomach. Miley can tell you how she learned to twerk, but she probably doesn’t know who Madam C.J. Walker is, what the Voter’s Rights Act of 1965 meant and still means to black Americans, or even the significance of commemorating the March on Washington this week. Naw, Miley does not care or know about any of that because she is more interested in repeatedly presenting her skewed view of what “black” is as if there is only one tried and true way.

Truthfully, I have no issue with anyone adopting certain aspects of black culture and subcultures because they are fascinated by it, feel connected to it in some way, or just respect the artistry, construction, or thought process behind it. The problem I have is when one pretends to adopt it out of genuine interest, profits from it as if it is their own creation, then denigrates it and throws it away when it gets old. Taking a tiny section of a population and relegating an entire race to that small group’s set of behaviors is the ultimate form of racial stereotyping.

Cyrus said she wanted to make music that “sounds black”, but I keep wondering what black sounds like. In my world, black sounds like B.B. King, Marvin Gaye, Nina Simone, and Leontyne Price. It also sounds like Darius Rucker, Trinidad James, and Talib Kweli. Black folks are as broad in our musical stylings as we are in our politics, religious views, thoughts on relationships, and fashion. Black folks are not all one way. We do not follow The Black Handbook that provides us guidance on what to wear, what slang terms to use, and how to shake our behinds for the masses, but for some reason, a group of non-black people seem to have gotten together and written it without our knowledge.

As far as I am concerned, Miley can faux-twerk until her heart is content, but those sad little gyrations will never define who I am, no matter how hard and fast she tries to twerk it. I will not continue to be objectified and pigeonholed by a group of people who are just arrogant enough to believe they have the right to say who I am without my input. I will never understand how the need to make a mockery out of black folks’ legacy of creativity is acceptable as a marketing ploy so more teenage white girls with vivid imaginings of life in the hood will buy more records and concert tickets. This imitation is not flattery, it is foolery of the very worst kind.