In Honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day… “What Would Martin Do?”

In honor of today’s Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday, I’m sharing the winning essay in the American’s for Democratic Action’s contest: What Would Luther Do? I’m pleased that the winning essay is by my good friend Joy E.

Remember, that even though Dr. King is immortalized for his “I Have a Dream” speech, Dr. King’s legacy is more than one speech, more than one action. Read Letters from a Birmingham Jail, and his other works. See the whole man, not an idealization remembered once a year for stirring words. Remember his actions, his humanity and most of all that the Dream he had is not yet realized, not so long after his assasination and we have a long way to go until it is realized.

To answer the question of How Long? The answer is still Too Long and a Long way to go…

First  Place – Joy E. of Chicago, Illinois

If Martin Luther King, Jr. could visit our country this January, he would see a nation much changed and yet the same. Imagine King catching a bus in downtown Montgomery. Perhaps he would select a seat in the front, next to someone tired from a long day’s work for little pay. Through the bus window, he might see dilapidated schools and foreclosed homes. If he were to open up a newspaper, he would read of another war with no end in sight. If King returned to this country of sweet promise and bitter disappointment, he would once again take up the struggle of the poor. King would organize against the interlocking evils of racism, militarism, and poverty. And he would invite us to join him.

In the 43 years since King’s death, we have not fulfilled his dream of equality. Poverty is rising. Health care is out of reach for too many Americans while our military budget grows. Ours is a political landscape that King understood all too well.

In his speech Beyond Vietnam, King decried the way the war on poverty was abandoned for the war on communism. Today we still choose fighter jets over unemployment benefits. The soldiers who fight and die in our army are still overwhelming our nation’s poor. If he were here today, King would say again, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

King cried out for the poor of Vietnam recounting American’s role in their history. “We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village,” he said. “We have supported the enemies of the peasants of Saigon.” Today, King would similarly mourn the poor people killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. He would point out that we once supported the Taliban, the mujaheddin, and Saddam Hussein – over the protests of Iraqis and Afghanis. We remain the enemy of the poor in Iraq and Afghanistan and everywhere our government supports the rights of corporations over the rights of poor people.

King wrote, “I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values…When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” But that world revolution is still alive today and brings hope even to our country.

In Iraq, Afghanistan, America, and around the world, millions of poor people are building a nonviolent movement for a peaceful, just future. We should not need to Dr. King to entreat us to join the right side of the world revolution. The poor are calling us to join them. Just as King heeded their call, may we see their cause as ours.

repost of Being a Black Woman and Happy with it.

On a happier note, here’s a kick ass post from the awesome Karnythia. Linking you to the ABW post.

So, there’s this thing happening in the black American community (and outside it) where women who look like me are supposed to be grateful for any crumbs that happen to fall into our bleak little lives. Apparently, our lot in life is to be miserable unless some rich educated black man wants us. We’re struggling to survive on our own in a world where we might have to actually be self supporting and self loving, and we don’t even have the good sense to realize that it’s impossible to be happy with ourselves as long as we’re not reflecting the picture society expects. After all, such stellar catches as Kobe Bryant, Tiger Woods, and Michael Jordan have opted to seek out women of a…lighter persuasion rather than black women.

It’s questionable enough that anyone believes that three dudes who wouldn’t understand fidelity if it walked up to them and sat in their laps being unavailable to black women is supposed to be a clear indicator that black women aren’t valuable. Erm, how to put this politely? Oh right, I’m not in a mood to be polite so I’ll just say flat out I wouldn’t touch any of those cats with my worst enemy’s vagina mmkay? I have standards for the men in my life that include things like trust, respect, and at least a vague grasp of human decency. For the record? I’ve been married twice. The first time was a hot mess in that way that can happen when you’re 21 and too dumb to read the big flashing neon signs that say “Leave this dumb bastard alone” but my current marriage? Loving it. He’s black, educated, and has a good relationship with his mother. It wasn’t hard to find him (I wasn’t even done with my divorce when I met him as a matter of fact) and he has never expected me to be someone else. He loves me for me. I love him for him. That’s our big secret. We’re not unique in this respect either. There are plenty of happy black couples (married or not) out here leading their lives without feeling the need to resort to a Stepford process for either partner. That’s before we get into what it means to be LGBT and unable to legally get married in a lot of places. Newsflash: Not every black woman wants a man. And even for the ones that do? Marriage isn’t necessarily their first priority.

Now, let’s take a second to be real on the topic of marriage. The institution grants certain legal protections and rights, but it doesn’t guarantee a happy couple or even a long lasting relationship. For further proof on that topic feel free to check out the relationship history of the three celebs I’ve already mentioned along with Swizz Beatz, everyone on Basketball Wives, and most of the rest of the modern world. That 50% divorce rate has nothing to do with the flaws of black women and everything to do with the reality that people get married for the wrong reasons to the wrong people everyday. As societal panaceas go, marriage has never really been all that effective despite the hype about the good old days. In the good old days, women got stuck in horrible relationships, men brought home social diseases, and everyone wished they had way out that was socially acceptable and didn’t result in life long poverty. So, let’s drop this idea that marriage has ever been the institution to grant us a stable society. It can’t even grant a stable relationship. And really, if we’re going to harp on the value of marriage? Let’s make it available to everyone instead of offering up expensive substitutes and insisting marriage only has one meaning. If some pop star can get married for 56 hours and the institution still have meaning in the aftermath of that quickie divorce? It’ll be just fine.

This phenomenon doesn’t just rear its ugly head around our love lives though, we’re also supposed to hate our hair, our skin, even the shape of our bodies, and we’re supposed to strive to achieve behavior patterns that are in direct contradiction to our personalities as soon as someone hints that they find us too strong/abrasive/angry/loud or whatever other bullshit excuse they can trot out as part of the effort to denigrate and demean every facet of our existence. After all, we do insist on wearing our hair the way it grows out of our heads, and choosing colors and styles that highlight our skin tones as well as displaying our bodies in ways that we find flattering. I mean, whoever heard of someone wearing a sleeveless top indoors in the winter? Oh wait, I lift weights (and kids) on a regular basis and I also wear short sleeved or sleeveless tops most of the year too. Because they’re comfortable and I like them. And really, what gives anyone the right to police our bodies as though they don’t belong to us? Whoops, I forgot I’m supposed to be begging everyone else for their approval as part and parcel of my experience right? Right.

Except that’s not ever going to happen and the fact that a lot of people are assholes isn’t a reason for black women to turn themselves inside out. It is a good reason to ignore the assholes and keep going about the business of life. Yes, even with “nappy” hair, my natural eye color, and an ass that makes skinny jeans self-destruct I am happy to be a black woman. I love myself, and I love my life even if someone says I’m living it wrong. Instead of finding new ways to insist that to be a black woman is to be miserable, how about celebrating all those unique qualities that are inherent in our shared existence? Oh right, that would require putting down all those ‘ism’s people love to cling to wouldn’t it? I guess if you can’t give up the sexism, racism, and classism then we’ll just have to learn to live with the hate and keep doing our own thing.

Fat shaming and concern trolling in Why are black women so big?

So there is an article out there called Why are Black women so Big!? The author of this little gem wrote a piss poor piece, basically saying all black women are fat asses that simply eat too much. She does not take into account the various factors of weight gain, and the struggle to lose the weight. Initially the picture that accompanied the article was Eddie Murphy in a fat black woman suit, in Norbit.

I called this out, in the following comment:

You know, the fact that you used a picture of a man in a black woman fat suit as some caricature and lame attempt at sensationalism immediately invalidated any point you thought you were making. The next time you decide to fat shame and concern troll, actually find a picture of a fat black woman to make your point.

Oh, that’s right you really didn’t have one to begin with so you used lazy writing to get people’s attention to a shoddily written “article” and then began the bashing. Next time, try some actual writing instead of trotting out the same old tropes used to shame women into being, or damn near killing themselves trying to become the “ideal”.

I go back to the article later and the photo has been changed to a photo of Jill Scott in Why did I get Married?  The fact that the author of this “article” changed the picture without so much as an acknowledgment of her invalid attempt at caricaturization of fat black women into a cartoon villain, something to be feared possibly and definitely made fun of I could have at least given the article a once over without the side-eye. Instead, anything this person could have said fell on deaf ears, her feeble attempt at a point lost in the winds of lazy writing and sensationalism. I looked over the comments, now totaling over 350 and I was appalled that the author was resorting to attacking people in comments, further destroying any shred of credibility she could have had.

I found the following response to many of the comments by the editor of this online publication, the FreshXpress. Editor Sean Walton Jr. puts forth the following statement:

I posted this on Twitter earlier:

“No disrespect was intended… it was one writer’s opinion and attempt to start a conversation on a subject that does warrant attention. We’re a community built upon a foundation of open dialogue and debate. The thoughts expressed represent thought in the community. While we dont take a stance on too many topics as a website, our writers do. Through the dialogue sparked, we hope to promote understanding. So no disrespect was intended, and hopefully the resulting conversation was productive and people grow from the discourse. We’re not into too much censorship. You can censor the message, but that doesn’t stop people from thinking the way they do. We’d rather tackle the topic head on, and see what comes from it.”

That being said the author had an opinion she wanted to share with her community, and get your thoughts on it as well. While her opinion was not well received, she articulated her view and why she felt that way. Was it “well-written and thought out”, etc.? That is for you to decide (as many of you already have). What is “well-written”? An article written at a level where only graduate school educated folks can read? Or an article written where everyone can understand her message, read through it, and provide feedback? Point being its all relative.

The bottom line is that our thoughts in the black community are diverse, as are our approaches to expressing those thoughts. You may not like the author’s approach to tackling this subject, nor her words used, nor her message. But that doesn’t stop her from feeling the way she does, and clearly there are many others who feel the way that she does. To NOT post this article, which was not blatantly offensive on the surface, would be to censor true thoughts and feelings in our community. But to post it… thats tackling the issue head on, bringing the debate to your face, in all its uncomfortable glory, and allowing you to “school” the author (and commenters) on your perspective, and hopefully everyone can grow from the entire process. If nothing else, you at least understand how other people feel. Because the reality is that clearly some people do feel this way.

To say we’re “better than this post” is appreciated, and duly noted as we continue to grow as a publication. At the same time, it alludes to us being “better” than the author’s opinion, and thats just not the case. For all we know, her opinion could be the majority in her community, amongst her friends, or even in our community as a whole. The fact remains that only an elite few actually speak out and voice how they feel. So the 100+ commenters on this blog who disagreed with it… for all we know there were 500 people who agreed. And maybe 300 of them had their opinions changed by the resulting conversation. Or maybe they didn’t. We don’t know. But what we do know is that while this post may have been very uncomfortable it forced us to address issues that wouldn’t have been previously addressed and discussed on this level, whether it be the problem of obesity in the black community, the lack of empathy we hold on issues affecting each other, or just the general attitudes we bring to each other.

Avoid it if you want to. But the author and people who feel like the author aren’t going anywhere unless we confront these beliefs and discuss them head on. Or, you can refrain from it. Either way, if we’re not an open forum and community (both as an online community and black community in general) we’re not doing each other any favors.

I left the following in response to his comment above. I think I’m done with this conversation, as it’s gaining me nothing and just aggravating the hell out of me after a long day of work. As Karnythia often warns, don’t read the comments! You’ll just get angry.

You know, if the article had been written higher than a 5th grade reading level, and if the author had not used a caricature of “the fat black woman” by using a picture of Eddie Murphy in a fat suit, I could have possibly taken her article seriously. If the author had not responded to comments in such a base and ghetto way, insulting women, calling them hippos etc then perhaps her article could have been taken seriously.

Any author postulating that ALL FAT BLACK WOMEN ARE THAT WAY BECAUSE THEY OVEREAT apparently  failed to pay attention in the community, to the fact that many folks are obese because good food costs money and often in our communities we can access the liquor store, Walgreens and fast food before we can access grocery stores, and are able to learn healthy eating habits.

There are many factors as to why women are obese. It’s lazy writing to point fingers, shame women and drop every single fat black woman into the bucket of you’re a lazy cow that over eats. This publication does not service the community by promoting articles like this that read more like a slam letter because the author had a bad day, is mad at someone or they just didn’t feel like doing the research required to cover this topic.

It pains me to see anyone get paid to write such drivel, and for the publication to instead of copping to its mistake, defend the authors lackadaisical writing and tell people that this issue won’t go away. Trust me, as one of the women the author oh so eloquently calls a “hippo”, I know I’m fat and I also know what I can do to change that, and it’s not as simple as putting down the chicken leg and going for a walk. That sounds like the privileged knucklehead I had the misfortune of taking a class with last year who kept spouting such idiocy, but they were barely 20 and hadn’t really been out in the world so I could forgive them more easily than I could forgive the author of this “article”.

In closing, I think its pretty telling that the author changed the photo associated with this “article” but does not even acknowledge that she’s done so. Good luck to this publication, as it seems you’re going to need it with such quality authors on your staff.

My smiles are not for you, random man on the street

I’ve had the issue of women being treated as property, as if (some) men think we are here for their pleasure only, as if we are to be honored by your hey baby, how you doin’s as we go about our daily lives, but instead when we ignore you, tell you to fuck off or just keep walking the insults flow freely.

Instead of understanding that women are not chattel, we do not exist to please you… you revert to mental infancy and call us sluts, whores, bitches… ask if we think we’re too good for you, or won’t we just FUCKING SMILE, after all it was a compliment I paid you, damn why you have to be like that. The litany could go on forever but you get my point.

After a post by karnythia on creepy ass man following her and try8ing to intimidate her, and the story of the MTA passenger who just needed some help but instead was asked out for a date by an employee, this topic has boiled over in my head and needs to be let out.

I know men don’t understand that life is different for women, in that alot of us are raised to be leery of unknown men, especially ones that approach us on the street. It’s something that keeps you safe and can save your life, because you never know when a dude is just trying to be a harmless flirt or a serial killer or rapist. I know its harsh, but you (men who think you’re doing us a favor by hollering on the street)don’t know our lives, our stories, what kind of baggage we’re carrying around.

That woman whose arm you try to grab so you can “talk to her” could be a rape survivor, she could be on the way home after being laid off from a job, or getting some other bad news. She could not be smiling because she just found out her grandmother died or she failed a test, or for any number of reasons. You never know what a person has going on in their head, and presuming that she should give you the gift of her smile, her time just because you’re a man is pretty damn arrogant.

Thinking that women should be honored because you deign to throw some two bit line our way on the street, or talk about us as if we’re nothing more than walking tits, ass and vagina’s put on display for your approval and usage speaks volumes about how little you know about women or the real world. I don’t speak for all women, but I think anyone with a shred of self-respect wouldn’t bother with a trifling ass man who thinks the way into a womans heart is to talk about that ass, and how you’d give her what for.

Men, at least the men who think that this is a GOOD IDEA and women should be grateful for your attention… realize we don’t owe you a motherfucking thing. We don’t owe you our time, our energy, our bodies or our smiles.

Lastly, posted this in a comment to an earlier post of mine and it needs to be seen, and reposted far and wide.

A note to those who want to claim.. but I didn’t know it was racist!

racism-101-for-cartoonists

For the edification of the few dumbasses who still want to claim.. but I didn’t know (insert phrase/imagery/well known historical fact) had a racist connotation! Really!!!! Here’s some facts for you:

1. Watermelons + black folks = RACIST IMAGERY Saying you had no idea? Makes you out to be a dumbass racist, or at the very least a total dumbass who doesn’t know any history.

2. Monkeys + black folks = RACIST IMAGERY For example.. the now infamous Delonas cartoon in that rag the NY Post

3. Calling a grown man or woman boy, gal, or anything other than their names… racist you fuckwads. Example: McCain calling Obama “That One” during the 2nd debate

4. Wearing blackface… NOT OK, NOT OK, NOT FUCKING OK. It wasn’t ok when it was an accepted form of “entertainment” and it sure as fuck isn’t OK now. Just don’t do it (I’m looking at you JAPAN)

5. Tossing around images of Nooses, bonus points for throwing in the words lynch, lynching, lynchmob. In case you need an example.. the photoshopped piece that went around suggesting a “solution” to the Obama problem.

6. Lots of verbiage that should just stop being used. Nigger obviously, porchmonkey and its variants… coon, coon dog, and the phrase knowing your place. Doing it for a laugh or trying to say well black say it why can’t I will get you a bitchslap for your troubles.

Anything I’m missing?

Meeks is totally missing the fucking point… AGAIN

Why doesn’t someone stop his idiocy? He’s making IL a laughing stock and making himself out to be a total nuisance to the City and State.

I don’t understand the point of protesting the Cubs game, or any other sporting event because I’m missing the tie between the local sports teams and his dog and pony, poor us show he’s dragging hither and yon.

Good Gods, I wish he’d just shut the fuck up and DO something other than being a media whore.

Meeks misses the point again by taking his protest to the Cubs game tonight

Meeks takes school funding reform to Cubs game

By KAREN HAWKINS

Associated Press Writer

9:03 PM CDT, October 1, 2008

CHICAGO

State Sen. James Meeks brought his message of school funding reform to the Friendly Confines.

One month after leading a two-day boycott of Chicago Public Schools, Meeks and his supporters protested outside Wednesday’s playoff game between the Chicago Cubs and the Los Angeles Dodgers at Wrigley Field.

“We do not want the city of Chicago to pay more attention to the Cubs and the White Sox than they do to fixing our schools,” Meeks said in Wrigleyville, surrounded by hundreds of protesters wearing orange T-shirts that said “Save Our Schools.” “Our schools should be number one.” Continue reading

What do whites fear about blacks?

This is an old forum inquiry on the Tribunes’s Exploring Race forum. The link to the actual question post is MIA (probably too old to find online) but the comments are there.

Here’s a link to the comments.

So, tell me what do you think whites fear about blacks if anything? But for my own sanity, stop using that PC bullshit African American terminology.