moving forward with thanks.

i know that i am in a position of privilege. i have a job that i can choose to quit in order to pursue my dreams; i have the time to dedicate my energy to those dreams & map out a way to make them happen. i am privileged, even by comparison to my mother and many of my peers. even when i’m so flat broke that all i can do is pray that i can stay afloat until payday, i am still privileged & living a blessed life. because people sacrificed, people died, people worked so that i wouldn’t have to put myself through more shit to earn less.

i am thankful. i can’t articulate it all. i don’t even have full knowledge of all of the things that add up to my being here, afloat, & capable. there are ancestors, there are strangers, there are secret acts of support by people who know me . . . in short, my life is a blessing. i’m grateful. i know for a fact that i could be a lot worse off (that’s all relative to my own life experiences), but i’m not! i’m here. i’m blessed.

i give thanks for so much, so often. anyone who reads this blog or talks to me with any regularity knows that giving thanks is just the norm for me. even in my blind rage or worry, i seem to find at least one thing (big or small) to be thankful for. so, every thanksgiving when people give their lists of what they are thankful for, i have to ask: what is it about all this food & family drama that pushes you to a point where you feel comfortable giving thanks? is there not something to be thankful for every day? or, are you so caught up in the day-to-day bullshit that is your life that a pause is necessary in order for you to examine gratitude?

whatever it is, i want folks to remember that each day we are here we can give thanks, and should give thanks. venerate your ancestors, if you’d like. hug your mom every chance you get. reminisce with siblings, cousins, aunts & uncles. call your best friend & say “you’re an asshole sometimes, but i’m SO glad you’re my friend.” do something. be thankful, don’t just say you are.

the celebration of thanksgiving is actually based on a celebration by early colonizers who celebrated the slaughter of pequot men, women & children in what’s now called new england. all this talk of popcorn and cranberries and fun and love is a crock of bullshit. that doesn’t mean that we can’t be thankful. that means that we need to share truth with one another and inform honestly what the roots of thanksgiving are. we need to move past the lies & bullshit, the misinformation & passing on of untruths. (i strongly recommend that, if you don’t already know, you click the links i just put up.) who wants to live a lie? haven’t you, if you had the santa thing, ever wished that your folks had just told the truth from the beginning? lying to kids because they’re kids isn’t any different than lying to adults. it’s still stupid and a waste of time. yes, it’s a good idea to find a way to express truth in ways that meet someone on their comprehension level. but, be for real: simplifying the truth and flat out lying with glittery distractions are not the same thing.

so, be thankful. say yes to gratitude. appreciate the beauty & purity of the good things bestowed upon you, the things you’ve drawn to yourself. growing toward all of that beauty & wonder does open you up to the polar opposite. no, baby, you cannot escape the potential of hurt, pain, anguish and ugliness. it’s the balance of the universe.

i choose it willingly, thankfully, becoming more grateful with each step.

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sonic crack.

this is all nezua’s fault. there. i said it. IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT, MAN! i’d shake an angry fist at you but i’m too.busy.dancing.must.stop.dancing.CANNOT.STOP.DANCING.

shit.

i can’t get this song out of my head. i will be dancing to this whenever i get married to whomever is perfect enough to want to wake up to this very song at least once a week (and me, but the song is just as important) . . . holy shit.
i love it.
turn it up LOUD if you’re not at work. or if you have headphones. hell, just turn it up anyway. chair dance, cubicle refugees!
prepare yourself to fall fully in love with the synth of it all.

*ahem*

the knife, “you take my breath away”

(and homegirl on the right? her makeup is killing it. don’t think i won’t do some shit like that. cuz i will.)

the black male privilege checklist.

you read that right.

The Black Male Privileges Checklist
By Jewel Woods
© Renaissance Male Project (2008)

What does “privilege” have to do with Black men? We understand some kinds of privilege. The privilege to call a black man “Boy”, even if that black man happens to be 60 years old or older. The privilege to drive a car and never have to worry that the police will racially profile you. Privileges that have nothing to do with what a person has earned, but rather are based entirely on who a person is, or what color they are.

As African Americans, we have the ability to critique and condemn these types of “unearned assets” because we recognize that these privileges come largely at our expense. We have also learned from social and political movements that have sought to redress these privileges, and academic disciplines that have provided us with the tools to critically examine and explore them.

However, there is another type of privilege that has caused untold harm to both black men and women but has not had the benefit of being challenged by a social and political movement within our community, nor given adequate attention within our own academic community. The privilege that I am referring to is male privilege.

Male privilege is more than just a “double standard”, because it is based on attitudes or actions that come at the expense of women. Just as white privilege comes at the expense of African Americans and other people of color, gender double standards come at the expense of women.

Given the devastating history of racism in this country, it is understandable that getting black men to identify with the concept of male privilege isn’t easy! For many black men, the phrase “black male privilege” seems like an oxymoron — three words that simply do not go together.

While it is understandable that black men are hesitant or reluctant to examine the concept of male privilege, the African American community will never be able to overcome the serious issues that we face if we as black men do not confront our role in promoting and sustaining male supremacist attitudes and actions.

Inviting black men and boys into a conversation about male privilege does not deny centuries of discrimination or the burden of racism that we continue to suffer from today. As long as a black man can be tasered 9 times in 14 minutes, shot at 50 times on the morning of his wedding night, or receive less call-backs for a job than a white man with a felony record, we know that racist sexism that targets black men is alive and kicking.

Examining black male privileges offers black men and boys an opportunity to go beyond old arguments of “personal responsibility” or “blaming the man” to gain a deeper level of insight into how issues of class and race are influenced by gender. Gender is one of the most important tools in the production and reproduction of power because it relies on consent and not just coercion.

The items represented on the Black Male Privileges Checklist reflect aspects of Black men’s lives that we take for granted, which appear to be “double standards,” but in fact are male privileges that come at the expense of women in general and African American women in particular.

I offer this checklist based on years of experience working with men, and with the faith that we as men have far more to gain than we have to lose by challenging the privileges that we take for granted.

I believe that there are more similarities between men than there are differences. Therefore, many items on the Black Male Privilege Checklist apply to men generally. However, because of the specific privileges that black men have in relationship to black women; there are specific items that apply only to black men. I will leave it up to you to determine which items apply only to black men, and which items apply to men in general.
The Black Male Privileges Checklist
Leadership & Politics

1. I don’t have to choose my race over my sex in political matters.
2. When I read African American History textbooks, I will learn mainly about black men.
3. When I learn about the Civil Rights Movement & the Black Power Movements, most of the leaders that I will learn about will be black men.
4. I can rely on the fact that in the near 100-year history of national civil rights organizations such as the NAACP and the Urban League, virtually all of the executive directors have been male.
5. I will be taken more seriously as a political leader than black women.
6. Despite the substantial role that black women played in the Civil Rights Movement and Black Power Movement, currently there is no black female that is considered a “race leader”.
7. I can live my life without ever having read black feminist authors, or knowing about black women’s history, or black women’s issues.
8. I can be a part of a black liberation organization like the Black Panther Party where an “out” rapist Eldridge Cleaver can assume leadership position.
9. I will make more money than black women at equal levels of education and occupation.
10. Most of the national “opinion framers” in Black America including talk show hosts and politicians are men.

Beauty
11. I have the ability to define black women’s beauty by European standards in terms of skin tone, hair, and body size. In comparison, black women rarely define me by European standards of beauty in terms of skin tone, hair, or body size.
12. I do not have to worry about the daily hassles of having my hair conforming to any standard image of beauty the way black women do.
13. I do not have to worry about the daily hassles of being terrorized by the fear of gaining weight. In fact, in many instances bigger is better for my sex.
14. My looks will not be the central standard by which my worth is valued by members of the opposite sex.

Sex & Sexuality
15. I can purchase pornography that typically shows men defile women by the common practice of the “money shot.”
16. I can believe that causing pain during sex is connected with a woman’s pleasure without ever asking her.
17. I have the privilege of not wanting to be a virgin, but preferring that my wife or significant other be a virgin.
18. When it comes to sex if I say “No”, chances are that it will not be mistaken for “Yes”.
19. If I am raped, no one will assume that “I should have known better” or suggest that my being raped had something to do with how I was dressed.
20. I can use sexist language like bonin’, laying the pipe, hittin-it, and banging that convey images of sexual acts based on dominance and performance.
21. I can live in a world where polygamy is still an option for men in the United States as well as around the world.
22. In general, I prefer being involved with younger women socially and sexually
23. In general, the more sexual partners that I have the more stature I receive among my peers.
24. I have easy access to pornography that involves virtually any category of sex where men degrade women, often young women.
25. I have the privilege of being a part of a sex where “purity balls” apply to girls but not to boys.
26. When I consume pornography, I can gain pleasure from images and sounds of men causing women pain.

Popular Culture
27. I come from a tradition of humor that is based largely on insulting and disrespecting women; especially mothers.
28. I have the privilege of not having black women, dress up and play funny characters- often overweight- that are supposed to look like me for the entire nation to laugh.
29. When I go to the movies, I know that most of the leads in black films are men. I also know that all of the action heroes in black film are men.
30. I can easily imagine that most of the artists in Hip Hop are members of my sex.
31. I can easily imagine that most of the women that appear in Hip Hop videos are there solely to please men
32. Most of lyrics I listen to in hip-hop perpetuate the ideas of males dominating women, sexually and socially.
33. I have the privilege of consuming and popularizing the word pimp, which is based on the exploitation of women with virtually no opposition from other men.
34. I can hear and use language bitches and hoes that demean women, with virtually no opposition from men.
35. I can wear a shirt that others and I commonly refer to as a “wife beater” and never have the language challenged.
36. Many of my favorite movies include images of strength that do not include members of the opposite sex and often are based on violence.
37. Many of my favorite genres of films, such as martial arts, are based on violence.
38. I have the privilege of popularizing or consuming the idea of a thug, which is based on the violence and victimization of others with virtually no opposition from other men.

Attitudes/Ideology
39. I have the privilege to define black women as having “an attitude” without referencing the range of attitudes that black women have.
40. I have the privilege of defining black women’s attitudes without defining my attitudes as a black man.
41. I can believe that the success of the black family is dependent on returning men to their historical place within the family, rather than in promoting policies that strengthen black women’s independence, or that provide social benefits to black children.
42. I have the privilege of believing that a woman cannot raise a son to be a man.
43. I have the privilege of believing that a woman must submit to her man.
44. I have the privilege of believing that before slavery gender relationships between black men and women were perfect.
45. I have the privilege of believing that feminism is anti-black.
46. I have the privilege of believing that the failure of the black family is due to the black matriarchy.
47. I have the privilege of believing that household responsibilities are women’s roles.
48. I have the privilege of believing that black women are different sexually than other women and judging them negatively based on this belief.

Sports
49. I will make significantly more money as a professional athlete than members of the opposite sex will.
50. In school, girls are cheerleaders for male athletes, but there is no such role for males to cheerlead for women athletes.
51. My financial success or popularity as a professional athlete will not be associated with my looks.
52. I can talk about sports or spend large portions of the day playing video games while women are most likely involved with household or childcare duties.
53. I can spend endless hours watching sports TV and have it considered natural.
54. I can touch, hug, or be emotionally expressive with other men while watching sports without observers perceiving this behavior as sexual.
55. I know that most sports analysts are male.
56. If I am a coach, I can motivate, punish, or embarrass a player by saying that the player plays like a girl.
57. Most sports talk show hosts that are members of my race are men.
58. I can rest assured that most of the coaches -even in predominately-female sports within my race are male.
59. I am able to play sports outside without my shirt on and it not be considered a problem.
60. I am essentially able to do anything inside or outside without my shirt on, whereas women are always required to cover up.

Diaspora/Global
61. I have the privilege of being a part of a sex where the mutilation and disfigurement of a girl’s genitalia is used to deny her sexual sensations or to protect her virginity for males.
62. I have the privilege of not having rape be used as a primary tactic or tool to terrorize my sex during war and times of conflict.
63. I have the privilege of not being able to name one female leader in Africa or Asia, past or present, that I pay homage to the way I do male leaders in Africa and/or Asia.
64. I have the ability to travel around the world and have access to women in developing countries both sexually and socially.
65. I have the privilege of being a part of the sex that starts wars and that wields control of almost all the existing weapons of war and mass destruction.
College
66. In college, I will have the opportunity to date outside of the race at a much higher rate than black women will.
67. I have the privilege of having the phrase “sewing my wild oats” apply to my sex as if it were natural.
68. I know that the further I go in education the more success I will have with women.
69. In college, black male professors will be involved in interracial marriages at much higher rates than members of the opposite sex will.
70. By the time I enter college, and even through college, I have the privilege of not having to worry whether I will be able to marry a black woman.
71. In college, I will experience a level of status and prestige that is not offered to black women even though black women may outnumber me and out perform me academically.
72. If I go to an HBCU, I will have incredible opportunities to exploit black women

Communication/Language
73. What is defined as “News” in Black America is defined by men.
74. I can choose to be emotionally withdrawn and not communicate in a relationships and it be considered unfortunate but normal.
75. I can dismissively refer to another persons grievances as ^*ing.
76. I have the privilege of not knowing what words and concepts like patriarchy, phallocentric, complicity, colluding, and obfuscation mean.

Relationships
77. I have the privilege of marrying outside of the race at a much higher rate than black women marry.
78. My “strength” as a man is never connected with the failure of the black family, whereas the strength of black women is routinely associated with the failure of the black family.
79. If I am considering a divorce, I know that I have substantially more marriage, and cohabitation options than my spouse.
80. Chances are I will be defined as a “good man” by things I do not do as much as what I do. If I don’t beat, cheat, or lie, then I am a considered a “good man”. In comparison, women are rarely defined as “good women” based on what they do not do.
81. I have the privilege of not having to assume most of the household or child-care responsibilities.
82. I have the privilege of having not been raised with domestic responsibilities of cooking, cleaning, and washing that takes up disproportionately more time as adults.

Church & Religious Traditions
83. In the Black Church, the majority of the pastoral leadership is male.
84. In the Black Church Tradition, most of the theology has a male point of view. For example, most will assume that the man is the head of household.

Physical Safety
85. I do not have to worry about being considered a traitor to my race if I call the police on a member of the opposite sex.
86. I have the privilege of knowing men who are physically or sexually abusive to women and yet I still call them friends.
87. I can video tape women in public- often without their consent – with male complicity.
88. I can be courteous to a person of the opposite sex that I do not know and say “Hello” or “Hi” and not fear that it will be taken as a come-on or fear being stalked because of it.
89. I can use physical violence or the threat of physical violence to get what I want when other tactics fail in a relationship.
90. If I get into a physical altercation with a person of the opposite sex, I will most likely be able to impose my will physically on that person
91. I can go to parades or other public events and not worry about being physically and sexually molested by persons of the opposite sex.
92. I can touch and physically grope women’s bodies in public- often without their consent- with male complicity.
93. In general, I have the freedom to travel in the night without fear.
94. I am able to be out in public without fear of being sexually harassed by individuals or groups of the opposite sex.

Background:

The Black Male Privileges Checklist was born out of years of organizing men’s groups and the numerous — often heated — conversations I have had with men while utilizing Barry Deutsch’s The Male Privilege Checklist. In my experiences, most men would object to at least some items on the Male Privilege Checklist. However, “men of color”, and especially African American men, often had the sharpest criticisms of the Male Privilege Checklist and the most problems relating to the idea of male privilege.

There are many reasons why black men would be reluctant to identify with the concept of male privilege. One of the most important reasons is that our experience with privilege is based on a history of political, economic, and military power that whites have historically exercised over black life. This conceptualization of privilege has not allowed us to see ourselves with privilege because the focus has been placed largely on whites. Privilege is not restricted to economic, political, or military areas of life. Privilege is also social, cultural, sexual, institutional, and interpersonal in nature. Our inability to have a more expansive understanding of privilege and power has foreclosed important insights into virtually every aspect of black men’s lives and other “men of color”.

As black men, we have also been skeptical of pro-feminist males, most of whom were white and middle class. Black men who fought for freedom during the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Power Movements were suspicious- to say the least- of the motives of white men who were requesting that black men give up the privilege they never felt they had. Given the timing of the pro-feminist male movement and the demographics of these men, it has not been easy to separate the message from the messenger. Black men had a similar reaction to the voices of black feminists, who we saw as being influenced by white middle class feminists. Alongside this, there has long been a belief among many black men that racism provides privileges to black women that are denied to black men.

In addition, many of the items on The Male Privilege Checklist simply did not to apply to black men and other men of color. As a result, many black men argued that the list should have been called The White Male Privilege Checklist. In light of these considerations, the Black Male Privileges Checklist differs from the Male Privilege Checklist in several respects.

First, It departs from an “either/or” view of privilege that suggests that an individual or a group can only be placed into one category. Therefore, the focus is on privileges and not privilege. It also highlights belief systems that often serve as the basis for justifications and rationalizations of exploitation and discrimination. Second, The Black Male Privilege Checklist takes a Life Course perspective, acknowledging the fact that privilege takes on different forms at various points in men’s lives. Third, it takes a Global perspective to highlight the privilege that black males have as Americans, and the privileges black men share with other men of color. African American men rarely acknowledge the privilege we have in relationship to people in developing countries — especially women. Too often, our conception of privilege is limited to white men and does not lead us to reflect on the power that men of color in Africa, Asia, and Latin America exercise over women. Finally, it calls for action and not just awareness. We need “men of color” to be actively involved in social welfare and social justice movements.

Invariably, the Black Male Privileges Checklist will inspire some men to create their own list describing the list of privileges they believe black women benefit from. What men need to understand is that paying attention to male privilege does not mean that women are without faults. Rather, it means that black men cannot be blind to the facts that black men earn more than black women do, black men continue to dominate most of the political, religious, and cultural institutions within the black community, and that black men continue to dominate black women in areas of physical and sexual abuse.

As “men of color”, we have a responsibility to acknowledge that we participate in this system even though it offers us little rewards. Most African Americans, for example, take for granted the system of capitalism that we all participate in, even though we know that it does not offer us the same rewards that it does for whites. The sex-gender system, which privileges men over women, operates in similar way for all men. Black men and other “men of color” can participate in this system even though it does not offer similar rewards.

Finally, the Black Male Privileges Checklist is a tool that can be used by any individual, group, organization, family, or community that is interested in black males having greater insight into their individual lives and the collective lives of black women and girls. It is also a living tool that will grow and be amended as more discussion and dialogue occurs. This is the first edition of the Black Male Privileges Checklist and will be updated regularly. This checklist was created with black men in mind, and does not necessarily capture the experiences and cultural references of other ethnic males. I would welcome dialogue with others who are concerned about these constituencies as well.

Please visit our website at http://renaissancemaleproject.com/ to view our Teen & Male Youth Privileges Checklist. An historic tool for all young males, schools, community organizations, youth groups, sports teams, and families that can be used to assist our young males in becoming the type of adult men we want them to be.

Jewel Woods is a gender analyst specializing in men’s issues and executive director of the Renaissance Male Project . He is also the co-author of ‘Don’t Blame it on Rio: The Real Deal Behind Why Men Go to Brazil for Sex.’

absolute teetotal truth: esthero.

here’s the original blog post. she’s dead on. more ppl need to read this.

on: acting right.

thembi’s lady laws for black women (with my notes in italics):

1. Stay Off Of The Pole. And For That Matter, Out Of Videos. I haven’t decided whether or not I have a real problem with strippers or strip clubs in general – who am I to say that men shouldn’t be allowed to gather in a public place and expose their inability to be fully intimate with their spouses by fondling and ogling some stray woman? What I do know is that YOU shouldn’t be one of said strays. Letting your body be drool-worthy for a room full of men cheapens and degrades you, and in the long run is not at all worth the money (no matter how pressed you are for cash). You never know who will be in that club, and when the “I saw Keisha on the pole!” story is told, your future boss or uncle who was “just in there with his boys” won’t be the shamed one, you will! If you like showing off your sexy side, which all of us should, save it for the right man, who will love enjoying all of the freaknasty you have inside of you without having to pay for it on a dollar-by-dollar basis. Someone will always do it, just don’t let that someone be you. The same goes for being in videos. That is NOT a profession and will not lead to any sort of meaningful career, modeling or otherwise. A ho is a ho, root word whore, meaning sex for sale, and your stuff is priceless. Got it? [my note: this ties directly into lady law #8. if you’re gonna strip, you’re gonna strip. but don’t walk out of the shaky butt feeling like someone has managed to get more out of you than what they’ve paid for. unfortunately, we all know about becoming a sex worker (i include strippers in that) to pay for tuition and to feed babies. in my opinion, there are a few social issues that come into play when it comes to dancing vs. working 3 jobs or whatever. i kinda doubt that most of the women who might need this caveat even read thembi’s blog. but she makes a damn valid point: your future boss might be there with his boys. then what do you do? sometimes, the immediate need outweighs any potential fallout. especially when it comes to maintaining the roof over your head and that of your family. ultimately, though, shame/ embarrassment seem to tie directly into whether or not you fully own your history and present. living with no regrets usually involves being unabashedly yourself, which leads us into lady law #2.]

2. Go Where No Blackgirl Has Gone Before. The obvious interpretation of the title of my blog is that I think that I’m some Jesus figure. Not so. Actually, the very weekend before I started blogging, loyal commenter Aaliyah was at an almost all-white party filled with beefy frat boys and was asked to do a kegstand. At her side were two other friends of mine, one of which said to her “What would Thembi do?” The obvious answer – go where no black girl has gone before and do the freaking keg stand! It really IS ok to be you, whether it’s as trivial as going snowboarding or as major as pursing a PhD in Greek Mythology. Do the most random or ridiculous things you feel like doing even if you’re not technically supposed to do them, and do them at all times. The same goes for rock concerts, tattoo conventions, playing the accordion, or whatever! Being a blackgirl comes with a unique set of baggage – on the one hand, we’re accustomed to being a minority in almost any situation a million times over. On the other hand, we feel like there are certain places and activities that aren’t “ok” for us. Forget all of that, risk ostracization, and trailblaze for us all. We can’t keep saying “But blackgirls don’t _______” or else we’ll never do anything at all. Be YOU, regardless of whatever skin tone, sorority, thickness, neighborhood, or whatever you may be a part of. None of it is as fresh as plain old blackgirl you. [ummmm, BASICALLY. do what you want to do because it makes you feel tingly and warm all over. screw what everyone else thinks your blackness makes you. you’re yourself. period. it feels good to own and love your whole self. there’s nothing like it.]

3. DON’T Get Pregnant, DO Have A Baby. When people say “Life Is Short,” they really mean that life is short – when you’re unencumbered. Life is really, really long when you’re tied down to some dude who seemed great when you were sixteen years old but hasn’t even made it through his baby boy years when it’s time to send junior off to middle school. In fact, it can even seem too long when you start to calculate the potential unpaid child support, the number of times you tried to “make it work for the baby”, and the time you’ll spend child rearin’ instead of actually growing up, getting degrees, and making a name for yourself. Not to say you can’t have a baby early and have it all turn out rosy in the end, but howsabout having children with someone who can actually agree to be with you in a family unit for the long haul whether or not you just happen to get pregnant? Sidenote: It should go without saying, but why even risk diseases by not protecting yourself? A baby is not the only gift that keeps on giving, you know. [again, the women who probably need to at least be exposed to this concept are not reading thembi’s blog. unless thembi is posting her blog for the world on blackplanet or in the back covers of teri woods ‘novels’ so folks can at least impede their hurtling toward disaster. *shrug* you can’t win ’em all.]

4. Know Your Own Hair. Black women have more hair options than almost anyone else, and we exercise them to the fullest. But even those of use who switch from weave to ponytail and from blonde to red would never dare to wear our natural hair in public. I can spend the whole day running errands and not see one blackgirl without a perm, and the same goes for watching television or opening a magazine. What is up with that? Granted, I went natural the easy way with the Philly soul thing being at my heart and a head of naps that never really took a perm quite right, but what pains me is when another blackgirl says to me “I love your hair! How long did it take to grow? I could never get my hair to be that texture. How did you do it?” The reality of it is, most of us don’t even know what is growing out of our own heads, and its very sad. Not one other group of people on this planet can say the same. It’s fine if you settle on a perm or some braids or even a Jheri curl after exploring your options, just get to the point where you can say that you know what your natural hair even looks and feels like before you aspire to be Beyonce by default. [it is IMPORTANT to know what your hair is really about. it is really important to style, care for, manage, and possibly even cut your own hair YOURSELF. dependency on a stylist is kinda, like, not cute. no matter what your choice of hair is. if you’ve got a natural and only ever wear microbraids or wigs or weaves because your hair is ‘ugly underneath that’ SOMETHING IS WRONG. love yourself enough to know how to do specifically what you want for yourself at all times. it’s a liberating feeling.]

5. Get Out Of Town. I’ve met young women who have never left their cities, seen the ocean, or even set foot in another zip code. It’s not always cheap, and it’s not always fun, but the sooner you start traveling the better. In fact, this Lady Law applies to almost everyone of every race and gender. Make a list of dream locations and get started as soon as possible. The more time you spend in the same surroundings the less you understand about the world, and for that matter, what the world thinks of you – you’ll learn that you’re not trapped after all. Besides, you can’t conquer the world if you don’t know what’s out there, and it should be your goal to conquer it! Let the trailer trash of West Virginia confuse Mexicans with Spaniards and believe that Africa is a country and not a continent. Learn your world because it is yours to learn, even if you have to do so only an inch at a time. [i used to feel bad about not having hit every country i’ve wanted to by age 25. but then i met someone who’s never spent a night in a hotel (even in his own city, which can still be fun and eye opening depending on where you stay), never even been to the airport (cuz his ppl never go anywhere or do shit), and was so amazed at my proclivity toward traveling to nyc on a whim that he nearly pissed his pants at the chance to go himself. i got over that feeling of inadequacy. i am gonna go where i wanna go at every given chance. this year: a conference in harlem, caribana in toronto, quality time w/ the fam at the jersey shore (you aren’t a philadelphian without it), and a good girlfriend of mine is moving to atlantic city. it doesn’t take a lot, except maybe a plan or at the very least the real genuine true desire. things happen for us all at the right time, when they need to happen. no need to rush to be amelia earhart, but you most certainly need to get out of your zip code. not not just to go to court.]

6. Don’t Get Called Out of Your Name. I’m not on this whole “we were queens” tip, but I know that none of us should be called or let ourselves be called any of the following: bitch, ho, trick, and on and on and on. Don’t sing along with songs about “makin’ it rain” unless it’s for the sake of irony. Don’t even participate in anything misogynistic unless you know it’s only a joke to you, and even then don’t ever pay for it. Recognize that just like when he talks about selling crack you’re not selling crack, that when some rapper talks about his hoes he doesn’t mean you, download that song from Limewire, and keep it moving. And lastly, never, EVER call yourself anyone’s “baby’s momma.” My first encounter with an ex’s grown BM involved her introducing herself to someone as such, and as much evidence as I may have already had that she was feeble-minded, giving herself that label sealed the deal. Don’t be that broad. [context means everything, y’all. formal introductions should not ever in your life or your former partner’s life include the words ‘baby’s mama’ or any variant. that shit’s not cute. my mom occasionally refers to my estranged father as her baby daddy because she thinks it’s funny. she generally refers to him as her ex. big difference. also, the context within which we use the words bitch, ho, trick, etc. means a lot. a lot. if you’re at a drag ball, bitch is thrown around liberally. it’s culture. it’s context. watch yourself.]

7. Act White. I won’t bother justifying this term because you all know just what I mean. Talk white by speaking the King’s English, using full sentences, and the most intricate vocabulary you can muster. Act white by doing well in school, participating in any activity that suits you, and playing musical instruments. Don’t worry, you will never, ever actually BE white. If it were possible, don’t you think that all of those people who were lynched and beaten back in the day would have white-acted their way out of it? [i am a second-generation ‘oreo’. my mom said they used to call her white girl for being so precise with her english, and it’s definitely managed to rub off on me and my two sisters. it’s so serious that i have charged myself with the task of learning perfect, unaffected spanish so that i sound the best i possibly can to native speakers. i’m not playing. i know my vernacular, i have my moments where i’m like ‘you ain’t shit!’ or whatever. but when it comes time for that good code-switching i learned in my school days (penn charter and project learn STAND UP!), i go toe to toe with the best. furthermore, i’ve always believed that excellent grades are the ultimate smack in the face to the very white ppl whom your brown/ black/ red/ yellow peers can’t stand. fuck what the other black kids are telling you. strive to get that perfect score on the SAT’s. i took AP art history senior year. it was liberating, despite being the only black student in the class. again: be unafraid of your whole self.]

8. Get What You Deserve Without Worrying About What He Deserves. This is a weird one. All too often women say “I’m not giving it up to him, he doesn’t deserve it!” But what do YOU want? While it’s not smart to just go giving it up to any old body, getting caught up in the idea that your sexual desires should be based on what men deserve is the exact opposite of feminism. If we only had sex when men deserved it we would be a bunch of bitter, mean, deprived wenches. Learning and maintaining the balance between withstanding pressure from dudes and getting yours is part of becoming a real woman. [get yours, boo. GET IT. you want to fuck the guy or gal who delivers the milk to your supermarket? does she or he meet or exceed your standards for an acceptable fuck buddy? nobody said you had to marry the motherfucker. go on and make it happen. if you make everyone jump through a bunch of hoops when you aren’t trying to go far with their ass to begin with, you may find yourself bothered with the lack of good sex in your life. the key: having and maintaining real standards. truuuuust me. i had a dope boy as a fuck buddy. i never let him talk much, cuz he wasn’t the smartest. but he met the standards: ready, willing, able, clean penis, proximity to my home, a deep love for cunnilingus. my standards have since changed, as have i. but y’all get the point. there’s a difference between sleeping with someone who’s a total waste of your time/ energy and getting yours from someone who simply isn’t the boo of your dreams while still being a great sex partner. really.]

9. Don’t Eat That Mess. Our country is facing an obesity epidemic, yadda yadda blah blah. But it’s all so very real, ladies, and I’m as guilty as the next chick. The thing is, you can get fat and out of shape eating regular food and that’s damning enough. It’s the Chinese Store chicken wings and fries (saltpepperketchup or no), grape soda, chips, quarter water, or other mess. If you can believe for one second that AIDS or crack was planted in the black community to kill us, what do you think Crown Fried Chicken is here for? And your body may be able to metabolize it before you hit 25, but after that it’s just a quick ride to Lane Bryant once you get addicted, so don’t do it. [she is NOT LYING. ‘regular’ to most ppl is hyperprocessed foolishness that comes wrapped in plastics and wax paper and shit, then goes in the microwave. and that’s just what you eat at home. not a good look. i live in a walking city, yet we used to be the fattest city in the nation. the problem: most of us are walking to get junk food. i have a warm(er) weather routine: walk at least 1 mile each weekday, whether it’s on lunch hour or on the way to work or on the way home. it’s at least a weight maintenance measure. the next issue is making sure i don’t get high and wander about in search of wings and cookies at midnight when my ass needs to (a) be asleep or (b) eat a damn apple and go to sleep. the munchies are real shit. i think this city is also full of potheads who will eat anything that isn’t nailed down. it’s unfortunate, but true. if you have a crazy work schedule like mine, it’s super easy to do takeout instead of cooking. it’s pricey, though. and depending on where you live, you may only be able to get junk. the key is balance.]

10. Be A Lady. I have never been the most ladylike of blackgirls and most women like me can trace that to our upbringings, but it’s really very simple. It’s very natural for us to speak loudly, but it’s more powerful when used in small doses, just like hot sauce. Making that lip smack before you start speaking is not cute either, especially if it’s followed by a “weeeeeeeeaaaaal,” twist of your neck, and then whatever it is that you have to say. By doing that, not only have you butchered the word “well,” but whatever you have to say is eclipsed by that attempt to get attention and gear up like you need prep time just to speak your mind. Swearing every other word may be cute to around-the-way boys but if you ever want to get off of the block (see Lady Law #5), it won’t do you any good. Although every once in a while another female may make your blood boil, fighting is not cute – just think, aren’t you way too pretty to get into a fight and get some gash across your face? I don’t think I need to caution young blackgirls on good grooming because we’re good at that, but do you really need to let all of that unravel just because some girl is talking about you? What does that even really mean? Like Katt Williams says, if you’ve got fourteen haters, you need to find a way to get sixteen! [i’ve never fought someone who didn’t hit me first. i’ll never be the one who advises a friend to go slap the shit out of someone — that just is not my style. i believe in maintaining my relative freedom by not getting locked up. i also think it’s lame to fight someone when you have a job, or rent to pay, or kids to feed. then again, anyone who needs to consider this probably isn’t reading my blog. next up: lenée’s life skills classes. after doula training/ certification and a bit more day jobbing.]

if you’re churchy, don’t get mad.

i think he‘s onto something. it’s a 3 year old article but it really resonated with me. especially considering creflo dollar’s recent senate probe situation, it seems as relevant as ever . . .

Everyone from Harold Bloom to George Will to Cornel West has publicly lamented the moral status of the hip-hop generation. Now it’s the ‘New Black Church’ insulting us — but why?
In a desperate attempt to fend off boredom, I found myself at home on a recent Saturday afternoon flipping through television channels in search of a diversion. After a few minutes, I stopped at one of the local public access stations, which was re-broadcasting a Sunday service from one of the area’s largest and most popular churches.

By the time I tuned in, a middle-aged preacher was nearing the climax of his sermon entitled “The Lost Generation.” “Kids growing up today don’t care about nothin’ and nobody,” he insisted while dabbing a silk handkerchief against his chin to save his Armani suit from his own sweat, “All they want to do is party and have fun.”

In spite of my instincts, I continued to listen as he enumerated the faults of the current generation of “hip-hoppers” who have apparently cornered the market on sin. “Hedonistic,” “selfish,” “materialistic,” and “lazy” were just a few of the labels that the preacher assigned to my generational cohorts. After a few minutes, I could no longer suffer his rhetorical assault and changed the channel.

Still, I continued to replay the comments in my mind throughout the ensuing week, struggling to figure out why I was so unsettled. After all, everyone from Harold Bloom to George Will to Cornel West to my own momma has publicly lamented the moral status of youth culture. Why would I care so much about a random preacher? After a few days of reflection, the answer hit me.

According to much of America’s ostensible moral leadership — both religious and secular — the hip-hop generation (those born between 1965 and 1984) is no longer in possession of the values, beliefs, and traditions that have sustained our predecessors. In its place, it is argued, stands a selfish and hedonistic individualism that prevents our moral and social development.

Unlike many of my peers, I can accept that analysis on its face, although I tend to resist the romantic version of the past in which it is often grounded. What troubled me, however, was that the stance was articulated by a preacher, who was representing the perspectives and interests of the “New Black Church.”

By “New Black Church,” I am referring to the current configuration of mainline black Christianity. The New Black Church, which has taken its current shape over the past two decades, is the progeny of civil rights-era movements, but can be distinguished by its increased materialism, questionable theology, and dubious politics.

While this description is certainly not exhaustive — the erasure of denominational boundaries and resurgence of neo-Pentecostalism (spirit-filled charismatic worship) are also critical features of the New Black Church — it speaks directly to the contradictions between the New Black Church’s own practices and its critiques of the hip-hop generation, which have been used to fuel the current moral panic.

As a full-fledged member of the hip-hop generation, the shibboleth of “keepin’ it real” that informs my worldview made it difficult for me to accept the preacher’s commentary, because I knew that it was coming from a profoundly hypocritical place. Who was he, or anyone from the New Black Church for that matter, to diss us for having strayed from the supposed path?

Of course, I am not suggesting that the truth-value of the New Black Church’s critiques is necessarily compromised by its own contradictions. To do so would not only be a logical fallacy, but also ignores the fact that Christian faith is grounded in the belief that flawed messengers can send right and exact messages.

Although the New Black Church’s claims to moral authority are certainly betrayed by these contradictions, the larger issue is about its role in replicating, reiterating, and resonating the same ideologies and practices that its critiques are intended to disrupt.

This suggests that the hip-hop generation is not as directionless as others would have us believe. Rather, we are following the flawed moral compass of the very people waging generational war against us.

Money Ain’t a Thing

Since the beginning of hip-hop’s “ice age,” circa 1994, showboating has been a linchpin of the culture. In today’s industry, no commercial rapper worth his salt appears in a video without the necessary accoutrements: shiny jewelry, expensive cars, designer clothes and large homes.

Hip-hop’s baller elite have even graduated to mainstream commerce, selling everything from sneakers to energy drinks. To be sure, such decadence lends legitimacy to claims of wanton materialism and consumerism among the hip-hop generation. Yet, a brief survey of the New Black Church’s leadership would yield a remarkably similar conclusion.

Hip-hop’s obsession with “flossing” and “stunting” (showing off) is matched only by the New Black Church’s flair for the ostentatious. Many of today’s superstar preachers are similarly lavish in their public appearances. For example, televangelist Creflo Dollar (real name!) drives a Bentley and owns a private jet worth $5 million. T.D. Jakes, the Russell Simmons of the New Black Church, owns several multimillion-dollar estates.

While this is certainly not a new phenomenon — preachers have been driving Cadillacs and wearing expensive clothes since the first amen corner was built — the stakes have grown considerably higher given the increased amount of revenue generated by the New Black Church. Best-selling books, tapes, seminars and mainstream films have all created new sources of wealth for today’s preachers by turning them into household names.

The most profitable project for the New Black Church has been the development of the “mega-church.” Founded on corporate business models, these super-sized sanctuaries draw tens of thousands of parishioners per week and hundreds of millions of dollars per year. Additionally, mega-churches create huge stages for superstar preachers to perform for their congregations, which include politicians, athletes, actors, and rappers.

Despite the remarkable wealth of mega-church congregations (or perhaps because of it), it is no surprise that the most bedazzling “Jesus pieces” in the building can often be found around the necks of the people giving the Sunday sermon.

Thou Shalt Not Be Poor

Few would argue that hip-hop’s hedonistic impulses aren’t at least partially rooted in the belief that financial prosperity is the ultimate measure of success. Given this market-driven logic, it is no wonder that hip-hop narratives abound with rags to riches stories that celebrate the individual over the collective and the material over the spiritual.

Artists such as Notorious B.I.G., who once rapped that “God meant me to drive a Bentley,” argue that their enormous wealth is a divine reward, or what Jay-Z has termed “pro-jetic justice” for their impoverished pasts. And where would they get such convoluted values? A look at the New Black Church, whose good news has been reduced to “God wants you to be rich,” provides a good answer.

Through their curious readings of Bible scriptures, depictions of Jesus as wealthy and belief that people are poor because they “ain’t living right,” the New Black Church reinforces the tired conservative argument that the problems of the disadvantaged are self-inflicted.

While gospels of prosperity have always been commonplace within the black religious tradition — leaders from Sweet Daddy Grace to Elijah Muhammad have, to varying degrees, promised wealth as a consequence of religious devotion — “name it and claim it” mantras have moved from the margins to the center of the New Black Church community.

Word-faith pastors no longer preach the virtues of struggle, sacrifice, or redemptive suffering, instead exhorting the poor to “get right” with God by accumulating capital for themselves. As word-faith preacher Creflo Dollar explains on his website, “When you find out how to live your life according to the word of God you will become a money magnet.”

Of course, becoming a money magnet requires the congregant to share their bounty with the church. Dollar tells his congregation, “God is not coming back to a church in debt. [T]hat would be against his word” (“Changing Your World,” 27 March, 2000). In other words, salvation comes with a price.

To ensure that the people pay it, many New Black Church pastors are beginning to ask their members to bring in tax returns to guarantee appropriate tithing. Others request that members submit their entire checks and allow the church to manage their finances in order to certify that they are appropriately sharing God’s grace with their spiritual shepherds. Can anyone say Suge Knight?

The connection between New Black Church theology and hip-hop’s materialism became no more apparent than when rapper Mase staged his 2004 comeback. As one of the pioneers of the shiny suit era, Mase was the poster child for hip-hop’s bling-bling agenda. Disillusioned with the immoral underside of the music industry after becoming born-again, Mase retired from music to devote his entire life to the ministry that he built and modeled after his mentor and pastor, Creflo Dollar.

After being called back to the game (by God or his accountant, depending on who you ask), Mase dropped the disappointing Welcome Back LP. While the album was devoid of profanity, violence and sex, it remained chock full of pro forma references to his wealth of money, cars, homes, and jewelry. Although it was a commercial flop, the album was celebrated by the gospel community for its “positive message,” which can be summed up by the final line to his verse on Kanye West’s “Jesus Walks” remix: “I’m healed, I’m delivered, I’m rich. And it’s all because of Him.”

Poli-what? Poli-who?

When the Wu-Tang Clan released the single “C.R.E.A.M. (Cash Rules Everything Around Me),” the song reflected the hip-hop generation’s developing profit-driven consciousness. It is this belief system that substantiates many critiques of the hip-hop generation with regard to its lack of political focus and activity. Despite the culture’s ability to galvanize millions of youth, American hip-hop has become increasingly divorced from concrete political action.

With the exception of the intriguing but shortsighted “Vote or Die” campaign, the hip-hop generation has failed to live up to its political potential and muster a legitimate large-scale movement in the interest of social justice. Of course, comparable claims can be made about the New Black Church, which has grown increasingly detached from politics except under very opportunistic circumstances.

Since the days of slavery, the black church has been a fecund site for political organization and mobilization. Although its politics have never been radical, particularly with regard to issues of gender and sexuality, the church has always been a counter-public space committed to spotlighting and allaying the worst forms of social misery.

Over the past few decades, however, the church has grown increasingly unresponsive to the social conditions of its members. With annual revenues skyrocketing but less than 10 percent of the nation’s black churches considered activist in nature, the New Black Church seems to have gained the whole world and lost its soul.

The development of the mega-church has created enormous possibilities for large-scale forms of social activism. Unfortunately, mega-church leadership often deliberately sidesteps controversial politics by not organizing rallies and marches or publicly supporting political candidates. Such moves, clearly done in order to avoid alienating particular segments of their congregations and losing revenue, are reminiscent of the notorious political coward Michael Jordan, who once refused to support a presidential candidate because both Democrats and Republicans buy his sneakers.

One of the more disappointing examples of the New Black Church’s profit-driven cowardice came in January 2005 when President George W. Bush spoke to the First Baptist Church of Glenarden, a mega-church in Maryland. Pastor John Jenkins, an affirmative action advocate, refused to publicly challenge the President’s stance on the subject because he considered it inappropriate to take a political stand against the President’s policy from the pulpit.

Bishop Eddie Long, who pastors a 25,000 member mega-church in Lithonia, Georgia, encourages his members to “forgive, forbear, and forget” racism on the grounds that “we’re already in the promised land” (Atlanta Journal & Constitution, 15 February 2005). By eliminating political protest from the church’s agenda, these leaders effectively strip the church of its transformative potential while enhancing their own earning capacity.

While some observers have attributed the New Black Church’s political passivity to the neo-Pentecostal focus on individual spiritual connectedness, the New Black Church has demonstrated that it is willing to join the political fray when the economic stakes are sufficiently high.

The best example of this came in light of the faith-based initiatives introduced by the Bush administration in 2000. In order to better position themselves to grab the money dangled in front of them, these churches have moved too close for comfort to white evangelicals on ostensible “moral issues,” while endorsing horrific public policy initiatives, such as privatization of Social Security and the No Child Left Behind Act.

This proved particularly disastrous during the 2004 elections, when President Bush wooed several mega-church leaders with extremely slippery faith-based funds, ultimately convincing them to support his successful re-election bid. At least “hip-hoppers” have sold on their own terms.

Don’t hate the playa

My point here is not to excuse the troubling condition of the hip-hop generation. Clearly, we have moral and ethical issues that must be resolved in order to approximate the level of service rendered by our forebears. I also do not intend to isolate or vilify the New Black Church, as they are not the first nor the only institution that fails to fully practice what it preaches.

Rather, I am responding to a pressing need to protect my generation from the feelings of moral alienation and historical exceptionalism that inevitably accompany the New Black Church’s self-righteous onslaught. Hopefully, this defense will inspire the type of self-criticism and humility necessary for social change.

ain’t no future in frontin.

( from too sense, swiped from postbourgie)

I’m sure you’ve seen the video of Obama denoucning Wright yesterday, and the emerging narrative seems to be that Obama wasn’t forceful enough when he said this:

You know, I have been a member of Trinity United Church of Christ since 1992. I have known Reverend Wright for almost 20 years. The person I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago. His comments were not only divisive and destructive, but I believe that they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate and I believe that they do not portray accurately the perspective of the black church.

They certainly don’t portray accurately my values and beliefs. And if Reverend Wright thinks that that’s political posturing, as he put it, then he doesn’t know me very well. And based on his remarks yesterday, well, I may not know him as well as I thought, either.

Of course he wasn’t. What people want is not for Obama to denounce Wright, but to denounce black people everywhere who have the gall to be angry at America for how they are and have been treated. What they wanted Obama to say was that racism is uneqivocally a black problem, that white people have moved past it but that black people cling to greivances as an excuse for out of wedlock births, unemployment, or incarceration.

It doesn’t matter that rhetorically and policy-wise, Obama has struck the right balance between personal and governmental responsibility. It doesn’t matter that he’s confronted black anti-Semitism, black homophobia, black apathy. When Obama dared to mention that white people might harbor irrational prejudices of their own–he was pilloried by conservatives and liberals everywhere who don’t want to feel guilty suspecting every black teenager of being a drug dealer for “throwing his grandmother under the bus.”

They didn’t want him to condemn Wright, they wanted him to condemn black people. So of course they’re not satisfied. For all the talk of how white people are attracted to Obama and the alleged “absolution” he could offer them, what they really want is for him to publicly shift the blame for the racial divide squarely on the shoulders of the black community, so white people can stop thinking about it.

And he didn’t do that, so they’re not happy.

Being biracial, I know the feeling of searching for that “older brother” or father figure to help you make sense of the world in terms of racial and gender identity.

Obama had the added burden of his father being absent–and so he was looking to fill both a personal void and find someone to help wade through all the self-destructive bullshit black men are told to be. Though Wright was surely not the only one of these father figures, he was clearly an important one. And the idea that Wright would betray him so fully and completely is both heartbreaking and infuriating.

And anything Obama did or said in response was completely justified.

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