Archive for October, 2011

Do Looks Influence Who We Elect?

Posted in Uncategorized on October 18, 2011 by beneaththeunderdog
Christopher J. Christie
I was wondering how long it would take, and finally there’s a glut(no pun intended) of pundits coming out of the wood-works to tackle a weighty(pun definitely intended that time) issue.  Writing for Bloomberg on September 29, 2011, Michael Kinsley wrote a column suggesting that Chris Christie can’t be president because “He is just too fat.”  There.  Somebody said it, and someone had to be first and Kinsley jumped on the opportunity and seized the moment.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, center, stops to talk to Mary Wilson, left, of Casper, Wyoming, and her granddaughter Suzanne Wilson, of Mount Laurel, N.J. , Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011, outside a residence in Mount Laurel, N.J. , after Christie addressed a...
I’ll take smart and fat anytime over skinny and stupid.  The fact is Christie is the ultimate outsider.  He doesn’t feel like a politician.  He doesn’t look like a politician. When he opens his mouth though, he sounds like a sensible, caring and sure leader.  He actually feels as if he wants the top job to help Americans and not to push his agenda or legacy.
 As Mount Laurel Mayor Jim Keenan, right, laughs, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie makes a joke while talking about plans for property tax savings as he stands at a residence in Mount Laurel, N.J. , Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011.
Americans have been trapped in a veritable malaise of controversy, war, partisan politics and dwindling money.  Entering the fray is this wunderkind with a personality as big as his possibility.  He’s highly sought after by conservatives who longed for a serious representatives who could speak to and stand up  for the kind of change that a country that’s in a state of flux needs.  He was going to play the part of the savior or hero, but the casting department decided his looks trumped any potential he had to make any viable change.  No matter what his resume said, it was decided his weight was going to keep his presidential balloon from lifting off.
In the past, before televised debates, a man’s resume and his life’s work were the true measure of his potential.  Then, after the much talked about trickles of sweat down the cheeks of Nixon during a televised debate with Kennedy, well as they say, the rest is history.   Nixon lost that election, in part, because standing next to Kennedy he just was not attractive.  Kennedy seemed unflappable and polished while the sweating Nixon looked nervous and unsure.  Advantage Kennedy.  Before this all debates were done on the radio.  Who knows what the outcome would have been if those debates had followed suit.  Instead, a whole new type of industry was born and there was no turning back.
Now, it seems that America is voting on the grounds of likeability and speech making.  Obama proves that a man with great oratory skills and a slight public service record beats a woman who’s lived the entirety of her adult life as a politician and a man with a distinguished military record and over 25 years of congressional experience. If the American political process can produce someone with unshakeable and above reproach manner and history, and talent to resurrect a dying and underperforming economy; ensure that the way of life that I enjoy will remain and possibly increase to better the fortunes of my children; work to lessen the ‘what about me’ programs that are weakening our resolve as a nation ; and defend the nation and its borders without bias or ambiguity, effectively, and unapologetically from all enemies, I for one am willing to look past any physical limitations or faux pas in the interest of the nation.
Do you think overweight people deserve sympathy?
  • Yes: It’s incredibly hard to lose weight and keep it off.
  • Yes: I’m one of them, and people aren’t always nice.
  • No: Most overweight people just need to eat less and move around more.
  • No: They don’t need my sympathy, but I don’t shun them, either.
  • I’ve got lots to say about this; see my comment, below.
Let’s see.   I’m supposed to reject Sarah Palin, because she’s “stupid”.   Christie’s fat.  And Michelle Bachmann belongs to the Tea Party. And Romney is a Mormon. And Perry is a racist. And Cain is an Uncle Tom. Gosh. There’s nobody left except Obama, the Fresh Prince of Bill Ayers.   I think we need to open the election up to everyone, despite their pasts, genes, faux pas, or idiosyncracies.  Career politicians scare the brownies out of me.  I think we’ll regret keeping ‘ugly’ people from sharing their ideas because of some perceived lack of acceptability.  If I’m drowning, and make no mistake…we are drowning people, I’m not going to wait for a skinny wrist to reach below the water to save me, denying the chubby wrist that was available first.  Would you?

My Struggle With Feminism and The Sexist in Me

Posted in African American Interests, feminism, personal, Uncategorized on October 14, 2011 by beneaththeunderdog

“What the hell is a black male feminist?’ I’m a new convert to the feminist credo.  Being a new recruit in a growing movement I welcome the opportunity to be identified as a “feminist” because it celebrates those of us who are serious about promoting changes in attitudes and policy that allows and cultivates the environments that breed sexist and misogynistic attitudes.  We have to work together to discard the accepted norms within the black community and strive for more unity and diversity.

The work of building a whole community of progressive black men is being done.  Young men who are advanced in politics, business, education, real state, and finance are needed more than ever in the African-American community.  If men, black men, were to unite and form a protective cocoon around our young black males, there might be a noticeable improvement in a relatively short amount of time.  That sounds good for the community: a few men… a few boys… kumbaya.. and then we’re all better.  Sadly, we will not be better.  We won’t be in the same vicinity as ‘better’ if we continue to ignore the festering problem of sexism.  Our women are screaming.  Through their tears, with their heads held high, they are screaming.  Sadly, it seems, their screams are falling on deaf ears.

The United States of Male Privilege

America is what it is.  Mostly it is a land built to maximize an environment of male privilege.  It’s no secret that men rule this nation.  While doing research for this essay I came across this lengthy checklist that illustrates the historical, and somewhat stereotypical/implied advantages that men have enjoyed for as long as America has been and ideal.

The Male Privilege Checklist

1. My odds of being hired for a job, when competing against female applicants, are probably skewed in my favor. The more prestigious the job, the larger the odds are skewed.

2. I can be confident that my co-workers won’t think I got my job because of my sex – even though that might be true.

3. If I am never promoted, it’s not because of my sex.

4. If I fail in my job or career, I can feel sure this won’t be seen as a black mark against my entire sex’s capabilities.

5. I am far less likely to face sexual harassment at work than my female co-workers are.

6. If I do the same task as a woman, and if the measurement is at all subjective, chances are people will think I did a better job.

7. If I’m a teen or adult, and if I can stay out of prison, my odds of being raped are relatively low.

8. On average, I am taught to fear walking alone after dark in average public spaces much less than my female counterparts are.

9. If I choose not to have children, my masculinity will not be called into question.

10. If I have children but do not provide primary care for them, my masculinity will not be called into question.

11. If I have children and provide primary care for them, I’ll be praised for extraordinary parenting if I’m even marginally competent.

12. If I have children and a career, no one will think I’m selfish for not staying at home.

13. If I seek political office, my relationship with my children, or who I hire to take care of them, will probably not be scrutinized by the press.

14. My elected representatives are mostly people of my own sex. The more prestigious and powerful the elected position, the more this is true.

15. When I ask to see “the person in charge,” odds are I will face a person of my own sex. The higher-up in the organization the person is, the surer I can be.

16. As a child, chances are I was encouraged to be more active and outgoing than my sisters.

17. As a child, I could choose from an infinite variety of children’s media featuring positive, active, non-stereotyped heroes of my own sex. I never had to look for it; male protagonists were (and are) the default.

18. As a child, chances are I got more teacher attention than girls who raised their hands just as often.

19. If my day, week or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether or not it has sexist overtones.

20. I can turn on the television or glance at the front page of the newspaper and see people of my own sex widely represented.

21. If I’m careless with my financial affairs it won’t be attributed to my sex.

22. If I’m careless with my driving it won’t be attributed to my sex.

23. I can speak in public to a large group without putting my sex on trial.

24. Even if I sleep with a lot of women, there is no chance that I will be seriously labeled a “slut,” nor is there any male counterpart to “slut-bashing.”

25. I do not have to worry about the message my wardrobe sends about my sexual availability.

26. My clothing is typically less expensive and better-constructed than women’s clothing for the same social status. While I have fewer options, my clothes will probably fit better than a woman’s without tailoring.

27. The grooming regimen expected of me is relatively cheap and consumes little time.

28. If I buy a new car, chances are I’ll be offered a better price than a woman buying the same car.

29. If I’m not conventionally attractive, the disadvantages are relatively small and easy to ignore.

30. I can be loud with no fear of being called a shrew. I can be aggressive with no fear of being called a bitch.

31. I can ask for legal protection from violence that happens mostly to men without being seen as a selfish special interest, since that kind of violence is called “crime” and is a general social concern. (Violence that happens mostly to women is usually called “domestic violence” or “acquaintance rape,” and is seen as a special interest issue.)

32. I can be confident that the ordinary language of day-to-day existence will always include my sex. “All men are created equal,” mailman, chairman, freshman, he.

33. My ability to make important decisions and my capability in general will never be questioned depending on what time of the month it is.

34. I will never be expected to change my name upon marriage or questioned if I don’t change my name.

35. The decision to hire me will not be based on assumptions about whether or not I might choose to have a family sometime soon.

36. Every major religion in the world is led primarily by people of my own sex. Even God, in most major religions, is pictured as male.

37. Most major religions argue that I should be the head of my household, while my wife and children should be subservient to me.

38. If I have a wife or live-in girlfriend, chances are we’ll divide up household chores so that she does most of the labor, and in particular the most repetitive and unrewarding tasks.

39. If I have children with my girlfriend or wife, I can expect her to do most of the basic childcare such as changing diapers and feeding.

40. If I have children with my wife or girlfriend, and it turns out that one of us needs to make career sacrifices to raise the kids, chances are we’ll both assume the career sacrificed should be hers.

41. Assuming I am heterosexual, magazines, billboards, television, movies, pornography, and virtually all of media is filled with images of scantily clad women intended to appeal to me sexually.  Such images of men exist, but are rarer.

42. In general, I am under much less pressure to be thin than my female counterparts are. If I am fat, I probably suffer fewer social and economic consequences for being fat than fat women do.

43. If I am heterosexual, it’s incredibly unlikely that I’ll ever be beaten up by a spouse or lover.

44. Complete strangers generally do not walk up to me on the street and tell me to “smile.”

45. Sexual harassment on the street virtually never happens to me. I do not need to plot my movements through public space in order to avoid being sexually harassed, or to mitigate sexual harassment.

45. On average, I am not interrupted by women as often as women are interrupted by men.

46. I have the privilege of being unaware of my male privilege.

My Own Personal War

I’m not going to lie, until recently, I enjoyed the complete anonymity of the assumed power of  being a man.  That is, privilege and power are invisible but it’s plain to see in everything that surrounds us.    It is also plain to see the impact that my given rights have on the females that surround me.  Whether it’s in the news (Topeka voting to stop prosecuting domestic violence cases), in the music (Dr. Dre attempting to  throw Dee Barnes down a flight of stairs or Chris Brown beating Rihanna), or in the news (the recent case of the Norfolk police captain who killed his wife and himself), women are more vulnerable than ever.

As a man… no … as a human being, it is my duty to give these advantages up in the name of sincere fairness so that the women, who already give up so much, might have a chance to have at least a little more.  The idea, male feminism, in itself is strangely heroic but is not without its pitfalls.  There are going to be some of  who question my masculinity, sexuality, and sanity.  Some are going to read this and think I’m ignorant or under-valuing the war that women have been waging in this country from its very beginning.  I’m at the beginning of this journey and I intend to see it through.  We all have mothers and each of us posesses a unique opportunity to replicate ourselves in the lives of others.  I just want to make sure that the influence I have is one that changes things and makes the world a better place to exist… for everyone.

This is part one of a series of posts on Feminism.  Please leave comments/stories of how the movement affects you.

Conveniently Black…Conveniently Outraged

Posted in African American Interests on October 7, 2011 by beneaththeunderdog

Niggerhead.  It is a word that has been injected into this cycle’s election debate.  Apparently, Rick Perry and his family leased a property in  West Texas that unofficially held the infamous moniker.  Unofficially, in the sense the ranch’s name was scrawled across a huge rock in block lettering.  As soon as this story broke in the Washington Post the usual vultures came out to pick their pound of flesh from Perry’s exposed political body.

What struck me as odd was not the responses from people like Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson Jr. who are far too often conveniently black and outraged during the latest cause celebre, it was their utter silence on issues that threaten to effect the African-American community in a more adverse way than a few racists playing Deliverance in the backwoods of Texas.

The Part About The Music:  The Billboard Top 10 for R&B/Hip Hop features songs that pose an immediate and damaging effect on young, impressionable black minds.  Marvin and Chardonnay features  the word ‘nigga’ prominently, calls women ‘bitches’, and Kanye exclaims that his girl is cool because she gives him head while wearing her sunglasses.  Speaking of Kanye, on his highly anticipated collaboration with Jay Z, Watch the Throne, the word nigga is used on every song in aggressive and damaging ways.  There is even a song that features that very word; Niggas in Paris. 

Where’s the outrage from Sharpton and Jackson?  Jesse Jackson Jr. sponsored a resolution condemning Perry’s leasing of the Niggerhead compound during the eighties when he, Perry, was a Democrat to host fundraisers.  Where is the Congressional resolution to condemn these ‘artists’ who put this poison out weekly, pumping it into the brains of our kids; weakening their view of themselves and cheapening the value of young, black women?   Don’t even get me started on the reinvention, and acceptance by women, of the label of being a bitch, or their man’s bitch. 

The Part About AIDS:  At the end of 2007, African-Americans accounted for almost half (46%) of people living with a diagnosis of HIV infection in the 37 states and 5 US dependent areas with long-term, confidential, name-based HIV reporting. In 2006, blacks accounted for nearly half (45%) of new infections in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.  In 2010, 300 new HIV/AIDS cases came up in the St. Louis area.  Almost two-thirds of those cases were among African-Americans.  But among women, African-Americans accounted for 86 percent of new cases. 

So if one looks at the data black women are dying in packs to a very preventable disease with nary a mention on Capitol Hill.  No marches planned by Sharpton or the NAACP.  No speeches from either one of the Jesse Jacksons.

The Part About Access to Education:  A post-slavery century in America, where unequal access to education is prominent, has left African-Americans lagging every other racial group in terms of resume building and vulnerable to discrimination in a world that decreasingly values on-the-job experience.  This is the biggest roadblock to the ascendancy of African-Americans.  If white children in Norfolk were graduating at the rate that black kids are there would be riots in the streets. 

As it stands, there are no protests, and the only ones suffering are the 53% of eligible graduates who fell by the wayside last year.  Yes, 6 out of every ten black seniors failed to graduate from Norfolk’s high schools last year.  Paul Fraim… Paul Riddick… Anthony Burfoot where are the mandates?  Where are the hearings?  Where are the firings and recalls?

The Part About Having Solutions:  A black kid gets shot on a street corner, cue the news cameras and the ‘local black leader.’   A black kid gets shot on a street corner by a white person, cue the national news cameras and the ‘national black leader.’  Either way, the story usually dies within a few days with no guidance or plan for eradicating the problem in the future.  Wealth, as defined by the Institute on Assets and Policy, is ‘what you own minus what you owe, allows people to start a business, buy a home, send children to college, and to ensure an economically secure retirement.  Without wealth, families and communities can not become or remain economically secure.’  Well, African-American wealth is zero, because we don’t own any solutions  to our own problems, we don’t have anyone willing to lay their lives on the line to push our agenda on a national level in a militant way,  and the legacy we’re leaving  our kids does not  give our prosperity a chance to be.  If this continues there will be no wealth.  There will be no communities.

What are the solutions? 

Where are the leaders, and do they seek publicity or progress? 

From left: Deborah Wilson of the Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League, Michelle Taylor of the United Way, Tony Allen of the Wilmington HOPE Commission, educator Maurice Pritchett of Pritchett Associates, and Raye Jones Avery of Christina Cultural Arts Center and Kuumba Academy. Photograph by Jared Castaldi

Why are the most iconic images of protest and uprising in black and white?


Where is the revolution? 

Black Protestors 1

How many more kids have to die… how many more women have to  contract HIV/AIDS… how many more studies have to come out that show black kids are being diagnosed as mentally retarded before someone sees a need to turn off Marvin and Chardonnay and get to work saving a nation of people?  In my 890 word essay I didn’t offer one solution.  That is something that will have to come from a national debate/symposium akin to Tavis Smiley’s The State of the Black Union(which died due to the corporatization of that movement.).  What do you think the solutions are?  An entire movement is waiting on your suggestions.