Thursday, November 29, 2007

Jason Whitlock and the New KKK

Not generally being a fan of professional team sports, I was not familiar until recently with Jason Whitlock, who has become one of the most prominent black sports columnists in the United States. He writes for the Kansas City Star and AOL Sports. Considering the dearth of black people employed in professional journalism in this country this is quite an accomplishment, though Mr. Whitlock’s rise to prominence in the field of sports coverage, where his commentaries focus almost exclusively on black athletes, makes his “success” a little less surprising. It has long been common in the mainstream press for black voices that would otherwise be marginalized and ignored to be provided a prominent platform as long as they are saying what white people want to hear being said, especially about other black people.

Mr. Whitlock has built his career recently on his critiques of DBR behavior among black professional athletes, attacking Pro Basketball in particular for being too “gangsta,” “violent,” and “hip hop.” Mr. Whitlock was especially incensed by the this summer’s NBA All Star weekend in Las Vegas, which he compared to “the yard at a maximum security prison,” dominated by “the Black KKK,” that “Instead of wearing white robes and white hoods . . . has now taken to wearing white Ts and calling themselves gangsta rappers, gangbangers and posse members. Just like the White KKK of the 1940s and ‘50s, we fear them, keep our eyes lowered, shut our mouths and pray they don't bother us.” The recent murder of Washington Redskins player Sean Taylor has only increased the vociferousness of Mr. Whitlock’s attacks on this new “Black KKK.”

Considering his disdain for the vileness of DBR behavior and the violent degrading imagery common to so much of the music and culture that accompanies such behavior, I found Mr. Whitlock’s silence on the Dunbar Village incident absolutely deafening. It also surprised me to hear him defend Don Imus’ employment of that same degrading imagery and language to insult the Rutgers Women’s Basketball, stating simply that “A man who degrades himself wastes his time demanding respect from others.” I found this statement puzzling, since of course, the Rutgers Women are not men, and have done nothing to degrade themselves. Why then is it a “waste of their time” to demand respect? Mr. Whitlock insisted that “Imus isn’t the real bad guy,” and stated without an iota of proof that “I’m sure at least one of the marvelous young women on the Rutgers team is somewhere snapping her fingers to the beat of 50 Cent’s or Snoop Dogg’s or Young Jeezy’s latest ode glorifying nappy headed pimps and hos.”

Of course, this disconnect began to make sense when I learned that Mr. Whitlock had worked with, among other “gangsta rappers,” the 57th Street Rogue Dog Villains, and helped produce a Kansas City Chiefs theme song that’s performed by the very types Mr. Whitlock claims are ruining the black community. It also fit in neatly with his references to himself as “Big Sexy,” a “playa” who’s enjoyed the well-publicized hospitality of Hugh Hefner and the Girls Next Door—apparently, a white woman selling her ass deserves Mr. Whitlock’s grinning approbation, while a black woman scholar-athlete deserves to be freely insulted and scorned by any and all comers, regardless of how she conducts herself.

Mr. Whitlock is a perfect illustration of why DBRBM and the “new Black KKK” are not only to be found in white Ts, riding spinners. All too often, he is the self-described “educated brotha,” who “fears them, keep his eyes lowered, shut his mouths and prays they don't bother us” when confronted by thugs—but has plenty of courageous disdain for black women. He can snicker at other black men who “Bojangle” for a living, while he indulges in the ultimate minstrelsy: demeaning black women, leaving BW and children vulnerable and unprotected before predators, while he sits like a big black puppet mumbling a script for ESPN. Mr. Whitlock has nothing but contempt for “babymamas” but like any good “playa” there appears to be no Mrs. Whitlock on the horizon. Unlike Bill Cosby or Oprah, who have made similar complaints similar to Mr. Whitlock’s, he can point to nothing that he has offered those of our young people who are smart, hard-working, and committed to bettering themselves. Indeed, when a group of such young women were publicly attacked, he supported their attacker. He can attack DBRBM as cardboard cutout stereotypes that embody white fears, but he can’t get to the heart of the damage they inflict on the black community, because that might require that he look at men like himself, and the yawning void they have left in community, which the DBR have happily filled. Physician, heal thyself.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Unpopular Opinions

I've always felt that history is there for us to learn from, NOT, carry as a burden and I'm learning that unfortunately that's the case for many peoples of all backgrounds in the USofA. Saying that, what I'm missing from the black community on a large scale is wholesale acknowledgement of their own duplicity in the problems that are plaguing their communities. What whites think, shouldn't be a focus to excused the attitudes of so many under-achieved black people, but it seems they use this as a measuring stick, give up and, continue the annihilation cycle. Personally, I've been lucky to have had parents who were immigrants and instilled in us the power of education. We spoke standard English with a Caribbean accent and were teased mercilessly by many U.S. born blacks, who "resented" that our level of the English language obviously was higher than theirs and on top of that we were seen as the teacher's favourites. On our way home we were chased if we ever were alone and sometimes beaten, because they assumed we thought we were better. My parents worked hard and finally were able to move out of that neighborhood and it was upward for us from then on. My older siblings are outstanding adults who have moved back to our island home for fear of raising their kids in black communities that were constantly on self destructive trips.

This message was left on Classical One's blog in reference to his recent post discussing Bill Cosby and Alvin Poussaint's recent book about the problems that they recognize in the black American community, and how they believe these problems should be resolved. I would like to extend my congratulations to Cee for being lucky enough to be born to immigrant parents. She is clearly proud of her heritage, and feels blessed that she came from the background that she did.

Like Cee, I am also lucky. I was blessed to be born to black American parents in the United States in the post-Civil Rights era. Thus, I have enjoyed the benefits of the struggles of my black American ancestors: living in a country with a black population that collectively enjoys the greatest wealth, highest average annual income, and highest average educational attainment of any significant black population on the planet. Because of my black American heritage and the struggles of my black American ancestors, I have had the opportunity to attend private schools, travel all over the world, have access to the best health care, clean drinking water, indoor plumbing, electric lights, and the millions of other advantages that I and other Americans simply take for granted. Because of my ancestry above all, I have had the drive and ambition to pursue those opportunities to the fullest, and have had a whole cavalcade of role models, from Dr. King and Malcolm X, to Bill Cosby himself, who are not only known to me and other black Americans, but are universally admired, from Thailand to Uruguay to Finland. I have a precious legacy like no other, and my gratitude for it is fathomless.

That I am proud of who I am and where I come from should really go without saying--shouldn't everyone be? But, inevitably, there will be people who respond to this post as if I have written something obscene. Black Americans are the one group who are supposed to never, ever, express pride. Inevitably, someone will bring up crime statistics, marriage statistics, and out-of-wedlock birth statistics. They will likely point to other groups that have "succeeded" where black Americans have "failed." If I dare point out similar "failures" among those groups, I will be soundly admonished, even called a "bigot," and soberly reminded of the history of imperialism, colonialism, racism and oppression that these people have suffered that have contributed to the conditions in their home countries that they have often compelled them to come to the U.S. for higher education, jobs, and quite often, citizenship. On the other hand, black Americans must never mention history in discussing any problems that may persist in our community--history is history for others, but for us it is simply an "excuse."

Also relevant is the expectation that, as Americans, we will share in America's "guilty conscience" about U.S. economic colonialism and cultural imperialism--that we will cower in shame as many white Americans do when confronted with America's history of bad acts across the world. However, I'm not ashamed of being a black American--as I said, I am proud of it. Black Americans didn't engineer "Manifest Destiny" or plop a McDonalds on every street corner in the universe. We opened the doors that allowed freer entry to this country for more diverse populations, and allowed them to access greater opportunities once they got here as well. While it has always been a rite of passage to "Americanhood" to participate in the all-American pastime of distancing oneself from American blacks, that has never stopped us from continuing to progress, even in the face of those among us who embrace DBR behavior.

Yes, black American pride has become an unpopular opinion, and I imagine there are some, if not many, who will be offended that I dared to express it. But proud I am. I can only hope the same for all of you, whoever or whatever you may be.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Childless by Choice?

For most of my life, I have assumed that I would be a mother one day. I have a wonderful mother, and wonderful grandmothers, one of whom I was particularly close to. Virtually all the women I admire most are mothers, and for well-educated and "successful" BW, there is always the implicit message that it is especially important that we reproduce: that not only our own families, but our community and our people NEED the children that we would rear.

Certainly, too many black children grow up in poverty and with a lack of opportunity; and when one has been blessed with both material good fortune, and a loving, healthy, and supportive family background, it seems that all the crucial ingredients are there to provide a perfect foundation for successful parenting. Indeed at our wedding, both sides of our families cheerfully prodded us for information on when they could expect to see a baby--when my husband stoutly suggested no time soon, everyone laughed and assured him that it wasn't up to him. The assumption was that (1) it was up to me, and (2) I, of course, wanted a baby.

Except, I don't. One of the biggest obstacles I had to overcome in seriously dating before I met my husband was the number of men that I met who were committed to being fathers. This is perfectly natural and to be expected--I certainly don't fault the marriage-minded men I met whose own biological clocks were ticking. It's just that my clock never started. And there is a part of me that will always feel a little guilty for that.

It's not just the "Talented Tenth" pressure to have babies for the Race. It's not just the generalized assumption that all normal women want to be mothers, and that there is something wrong with any woman who doesn't. It's not even that I am an only child, and I know that my mother would love to have grandchildren. It is also the part of me that sees so much need among the young, and realizes that I have much to offer a child(ren) as a mother, including all the wonderful qualities in my husband that our child won't have the chance to experience. I wonder, are we simply selfish?

But then I have to remember that no matter what you have to offer a child, materially or emotionally, what children need above all is to be wanted--passionately. I like kids, but I've never been one of the women at the office who drops everything to coo at a co-worker's baby. They make me smile, in the same way that I prefer cute kittens and cats, and even dogs, to their grown human owners--they're usually so much more pleasant. But that intense, overwhelming longing for a baby that so many women describe--that I have never experienced. Meeting a man that I was compatible with who felt pretty much the same way felt like a miracle for me.

Selfishness, in our eyes, would be to have children simply because we can and because it is expected of us. I see enough children around me being raised almost indifferently by au pairs and nannies because their fathers work 100 hours a week and their mothers, who supposedly "stay home," spend most of their time tanning and shopping, to know that a child can be an accessory, and that money can't make such a childhood "good." I assume that the people I describe "love" their children, just as reporters always insist that Britney Spears "loves" her children. But in my mind, love is action, not just something you feel or don't feel. If I can't know, right now, before I even contemplate pregnancy, that I deeply want to be a mother, then I have no right to bring a child into the world.

To be childless by choice, especially in the black community, feels like the last taboo. The last thing I want is to retreat into a bubble of self-interest, to ignore all those young faces in need. But I've had to recognize that what I have to give must be shared in a role other than mother. And I think that facing that fact honestly, with myself and others, is probably the greatest gift I could give any potential child.