My How Far We’ve Gone (Back)

This time eight years ago, I was filled with so much hope and joy. I was expecting the birth of my first baby girl. We had just elected our first black president. Although the economy was tanked due to eight years of failed Republican policies, things were looking up. The stock market had begun to rebound almost immediately at the news of President-Elect Obama, and most people were looking forward to an era of hope and change.

Fast-forward to now. The hope is gone. The change is abhorrent. I feel more fear and dread than I’ve ever felt in my entire life walking around in my brown skin in Texas of all places. The campaign and now election of Donald Trump (AKA “The Rapey Cheeto”) has brought forth so much hate, so much racism, so much xenophobia, homophobia, islamophobic, and every abhorrent phobia related to humanity you can imagine. Almost as immediately as the election results came out, reports started flooding in about the harassment and even assault of racial, ethnic, and religious minorities. Muslim women have had hajibs ripped from their bodies. Black people have been called niggers and told they can’t wait for us to get sent back to Africa or “put in [our] place.”Latinos who were born here and have been here for more generations than most white people are being told to “go back to where [they] came from.” Asian Americans are being harassed more than any time in post-WWII history.

Graffiti found the day after the election.

And white America still has the nerve to say, “I voted for him, but I’m not a racist.” No, you absolutely are. It doesn’t matter if you voted for him because you foolishly believed his claims to be pro-life. It doesn’t matter if you voted for him because of your idiotic belief that someone who has filed bankruptcy four times is a good businessman [as a former bankruptcy attorney, I can assure you that no good business person files bankruptcy four times]. It doesn’t matter that you voted for him because the other option was pretty bad [at least she wasn’t endorsed by the Alt-Right and the KKK]. There wa nothing hidden or ambiguous about Trump’s hatred of the other. It’s well-documented. If you didn’t see it, it is either because you share his beliefs and therefore see nothing wrong with them or because you chose to be willfully ignorant. Neither position is commendable. By being complicit in racism, xenophobia, homophobia, misogyny, and the like, you are by association endorsing hatred. By voting for someone who campaigned on these beliefs, you are by action endorsing hatred. This is on you. You did this.

For people who like to brag that they are pro “family values,” Trump voters cast their ballots with no families in mind except their own. For people who call themselves “pro-life,” their actions in this election show a blatant disrespect for the value of others’ lives. This election wasn’t just about politics; it was about what we as a nation find acceptable in terms of behavior. The message that 50% of you sent on Tuesday is that you will accept bullying and intolerance and that you have no empathy.

If you are disgusted by the harassment being directed at your fellow man right now and you voted for Trump, understand that you are to blame. If you are disgusted by the harassment and didn’t vote for Trump, but stood by silently while people endorsed his ideas of “taking this country back” or “building a wall” or “putting them in their place with law and order” or “grabbing em by the pussy,” you are also to blame. You don’t get to absolve yourself from this because you turned a blind eye to hate speech that wasn’t directed at you.

Spare me the calls to come together or respect the president-elect. Where were your pleas of respect when President Obama was subjected to racial slurs and caricatures and threats of violence? Where were your calls of unity when during the Rapey Cheeto’s acceptance speech someone yelled, “Kill him!” at the mention of President Obama. Where, for that matter, was Trump?

I wish I had time to weep for this nation and what we’ve become (again). Unfortunately, I’m too busy trying to figure out how to protect my three children, my extended family members, my friends and their children, and myself from this onslaught of violence and hatred that has started.

Kudos, “Patriots”! You took your country back… all the way to the 1940s.

Undercover Sistah Day on Suits

On Wednesday night, two of my guilty pleasures came together… well, three, actually. Suits + Pretty Little Liars + two of my favorite undercover sistahs, Meghan Markle and Troian Bellisario.

Claire and Rachel face off (Getty Images)

 

 

picture courtesy of Getty Images

I know I’ve mentioned many times how I enjoy being the “Biracial Whisperer.” PLL‘s Troian Bellisario and Suit‘s Meghan Markle are two of my favorite examples of biracial incognegroes — beautiful biracial women (each has a black mother and white father—like my girls; Troian’s mom is actress Deborah Pratt) who many people are shocked to find out are black [though at least Suits has helped uncover that mystery by revealing in season 3 that Rachel Zane, Meghan Markle’s character, is biracial].

In a Yahoo Entertainment interview this week about Claire’s return to Suits, the interviewer mentions to Troian how much she and Meghan look alike, which adds an interesting layer to the story that Rachel and Claire have dated the same man [“Mike Ross,” Claire’s ex and Rachel Zane’s current fiancé on the show, who is played by Patrick J. Adams, Troian’s fiancé in real life. Wrap your mind around that one]. They kind of do. Observe:

Meghan Markle on Suits (Getty Images)

 

Troian Bellisario

 

It was both awesome and weird seeing these two share screen time together. I was still riding off the high of the Pretty Little Liars summer finale [OMG, was that crazy, or what???], and in waltzes Claire / Spencer / Troian. Wild! Although I would love to see more of them together hanging out, becoming BFFs, braiding each other’s hair, whatever), I won’t hold my breath, seeing how Troian’s a little busy running from some new A every season.

Why I’m Now (Probably) an Ulta Customer for Life

When you’re a woman of color, particular if your skin tone skews more brown than beige, shopping for makeup is exhausting, frustrating, and sometimes even humiliating. Even though it is 2015, many makeup companies haven’t attempted to make many shades for us darker ladies. Even those that make darker shades make far less of those hues than they do beige, and they often get the undertones completely wrong. Many beige women of color aren’t completely exempt from the awful makeup-buying experience either. The problem here is, again, undertones. Well, really, the problem is bias.

Just a typical day of buying makeup for women of color. Let's see... there's super light beige, kinda light beige, and beige. Um... is this what passes for diversity these days?

Just a typical day of buying makeup for women of color. Let’s see… there’s super light beige, kinda light beige, and beige. Um… is this what passes for diversity these days?

This isn’t a new problem, really. Ask any brown woman about her experiences with buying makeup or using makeup artists, and you’re bound to get an earful.

Enter Nykhor Paul. She’s a South Sudanese model, and she’s gorg. She’s also dark-skinned. On Monday, she posted this (much warranted) rant on Instagram:

Dear white people in the fashion world! Please don’t take this the wrong way but it’s time you people get your shit right when it comes to our complexion! Why do I have to bring my own makeup to a professional show when all the other white girls don’t have to do anything but show up wtf! Don’t try to make me feel bad because I am blue black its 2015 go to Mac, Bobbi Brown, Makeup forever, Iman cosmetic, black opal, even Lancôme and Clinique carried them plus so much more. there’s so much options our there for dark skin tones today. A good makeup artist would come prepare and do there research before coming to work because often time you know what to expect especially at a show! Stop apologizing it’s insulting and disrespectful to me and my race it doesn’t help, seriously! Make an effort at least! That goes for NYC, London, Milan, Paris and Cape Town plus everywhere else that have issues with black skin tones. Just because you only book a few of us doesn’t mean you have the right to make us look ratchet. I’m tired of complaining about not getting book as a black model and I’m definitely super tired of apologizing for my blackness!!!! Fashion is art, art is never racist it should be inclusive of all not only white people, shit we started fashion in Africa and you modernize and copy it! Why can’t we be part of fashion fully and equally?

A photo posted by nykhor (@nykhor) on Jul 6, 2015 at 9:55am PDT

Her message resonated very deeply with women of color, famous and not so famous alike. My pal from law school, Robinne Lee, expressed similar sentiments on her Facebook page about her frustration of dealing with on-set makeup artists who are not prepared for women of color:

I never ever show up on a set without my own foundation and powder. Never ever. I’ve been in this business for twenty years and you only need a couple of bad experiences to learn a lesson…” (reprinted with permission from Robinne Lee) 

All over Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, black women, celebrities and non-celebrities alike shared stories of makeup artists, hairstylists, and stores that treated our blackness—our black hair, our black skin—as an inconvenience. Like nearly every other brown woman of color in this country, I have been there before. This May, when I was browsing through Ulta, looking at aisle after aisle of “30 shades of beige and two of brown, but not YOUR brown” and “our colors only come in light, light/medium, and medium. ‘MURICA!”, the frustration was just too much for me. I tweeted the following, not really expecting anything to come of it [because nothing ever does]:

So imagine my surprise when Ulta actually responded:

So, I took this open invitation, and I ran with it. Below is the part of the very long e-mail I fired off to Ulta the next day:

In response to your request to me on Twitter …, here is the recurring problem I have in Ulta’s stores … :
 
As is evident by my signature line, I am a woman of color. Now, it’s hard enough being a woman of color and trying to find makeup. Most brands, unless they are minority-owned, simply just don’t make enough colors for women of color. So I’m not going to fault Ulta for not carrying more colors if the brand itself doesn’t carry them. However, if a brand carries a more diverse line of makeup, I would expect that your stores—particularly those in diverse neighborhoods—would. I can’t tell you the exact demographics for … However, just looking at the schools zoned in the areas near this particular Ulta, this neighborhood is about 40% non-white. Looking around, I can tell you that there is a heavy population of black, Hispanic, Indian, Vietnamese, and Filipino. Although there are huge variations of colors within those communities, we tend to have a lot of tan-to-brown people. So I would expect that for brands that actually carry makeup in brownish colors, Ulta in our neighborhood would have them.
 
No, it doesn’t. I have requested several times. I have been in the store when other customers have requested more colors (and have been told, sometimes mistakenly, that the brand doesn’t carry them. I’ve looked online, this isn’t true). I’ve even had people who work in the store complain to me that they can’t find colors for themselves either. So, obviously, this is either a management or corporate problem. And, from what I can see on Ulta.com, this is a corporate problem.
 
Yesterday I was looking for Dermablend. From their color match system, I know that my concealer color is Cocoa. Looking at Ulta.com, “Cedar” and “Cocoa” (the only two brown concealers) are listed as “online only,” which means none of your stores will carry this. Similarly, every brown color of Dermablend’s Cover Creme except for the very darkest brown, which is a good 8 shades or so darker than the darkest beige you carry (which means you’ve missed pretty much every tan or brown woman who isn’t extremely dark with red undertones—a description which actually matches exactly no one I know), is listed as online only. I looked for the color of Smashbox Photo Filter Powder Foundation that matches my tone per Smashbox’s website. That, too, was available online only. You used to carry Iman (a brand for women of color) in stores. Now it’s online only. The Smashbox Try It Kit: BB+Halo comes in a “Dark” variety, and Ulta doesn’t even bother to carry that one online (but Birchbox does, and so does Amazon.com…).
 
Basically, everywhere I look in the Ultaverse for colors that might fit me, Ulta has deemed that these colors are “online only” and not fit for store shelves—if it carries them at all. While I love very much to shop online, the one thing I loathe buying online unless I absolutely have to is makeup (foundation and powder, at least). This is for obvious reasons. I mean, how do I know that a foundation or powder is going to actually work for my skin without trying it on? Is it really necessary to have space for 25 shades of beige but only 1 shade of brown (if any)? This is ridiculous and biased. It’s also demoralizing. …. I shouldn’t feel like a second-class citizen when simply trying to buy powder foundation.
 
I’m sure your response will be that these colors just don’t sell and that’s why you can’t stock them in store, but how could they if, based on experience, women of color don’t actually expect to find colors in your store? Honestly, I didn’t even go looking for foundation/powder yesterday …, since every time has been a disappointment. But I looked anyway, and, as expected, I was disappointed.
 
You may not realize this, but blacks have the most purchasing power of any single ethnic group in the United States. Combine us with Hispanics, Indians, and certain Eastern and Southeastern Asian groups, and are you really prepared to say that our purchasing power isn’t worth a little bit of effort to make some room on your physical shelves to make our shopping experience more pleasant? I really like Ulta’s branded products, but I can’t continue this game of purchasing in store and then having to go home to complete my makeup purchases online. And I know a lot of other women who feel the same way.
 
In closing, I would like to add, I would greatly appreciate it if you took the time to give me a thoughtfully crafted response rather than a canned “Thanks for your input. We’re looking into it.” In addition to it being insulting to the intelligence, the fact is, you guys reached out to me after my small 140-character rant on Twitter. I obviously took the time to send you a detailed response of the problem, and I would appreciate some reciprocity.
 
Regards, [Pop Culture Mom]

Honestly, I really expected that all I might get out of this very long, soul-bearing e-mail was a bit of catharsis. So imagine my surprise when the next day, I received a voicemail from the Ulta corporate office.

Now, my phone number was never on the e-mail. However, I’m an Ulta rewards member (and, despite my difficulty finding makeup in-store, a platinum one at that), and the Ulta Guest Services Manager [shout out to Ron!] was able to get my phone number and purchase history from my account. The message let me know that my e-mail had been received and was being taken very seriously and let me know that I could expect a response after the Memorial Day holiday. I was also given a direct phone number in case I wanted to talk before I had gotten a complete response.

After the holiday, Ron and I touched base to schedule a call to discuss his findings in more detail. Honestly, even though Ulta corporate had reached out to me and was clearly making a concerted effort to keep the lines of communication open, I was not expecting much to come from the call. So when Ron started out by telling me that the various corporate heads he had spoken with to inquire as to why there weren’t many products available in store for women of color had responded that they also didn’t understand why that was the case in this day and age and saw it as a problem, I was shocked. But then when the blame shifted to the corporations manufacturing the makeup, my shock waned, and I expected another conversation reciting business as usual. But I shouldn’t have, because Ron continued to surprise me.

Among other things, Ron explained to me that Ulta’s old corporate model could not allow for stores to be diversified, and the result was that every single Ulta store carried what was basically the national average in terms of sales. So the Ulta store in, for example, Sandy, Utah carries exactly the same merchandise as the store in Atlanta, Georgia, even though the demographics of those cities are vastly different [Sandy, Utah is, by the way, 86% non-Hispanic white per Census data; Atlanta, on the other hand, is 36.3% non-Hispanic white and 54% black]. And because this nationwide data is collected based on a country where the vast majority of people are white and where non-white people (particularly those that are either darker than “honey beige” or don’t have pink or blue undertones) don’t actually expect for most cosmetic stores to service them, you can pretty much guess which way the data skews. [And, unless you’re bathing in a sea of privilege, you can also see where the problem lies.] But Ulta is now in a position where it can customize its offerings by region. So in areas like mine where dark people of various ethnicities abound, come early 2016, we should expect to see more of our hues offered not just “online” but also in-store.

Ron also informed me that this “bigger and better” Ulta extends not only to their technology and inventory tracking but also to their ability to court more diverse brands and put some pressure on those brands who haven’t caught up with the times to join the rest of us in the ultra-diverse 21st century. That pressure has apparently worked on some brands, and a few are now expanding their offerings to add several new shades. There were more details, more happiness to share about Ulta’s coming changes to accommodate its customers of color. But the bottom line is that Ulta isn’t just giving lip service; it clearly cares about customer satisfaction—all customers, not just the beige and pink-undertones ones. And as if all of these changes and all of this time spent meaningfully addressing my concerns wasn’t enough, Ron also arranged for the Prestige Manager [since my purchase history is primarily of those cosmetics they consider their “Prestige brands”] at my local Ulta store to meet with me one on one and introduce me to some of their newer lines and colors that might work for me better. The P.M. totally hooked me up, and I have found a new foundation to love. Her name is Becca (one of Ulta’s newer offerings), and, miracle of miracles, there are several shades of brown with various undertones available.

The sad fact is, beauty woes are just one source of the microagressions that daily confront people of color with white privilege in this country. It may not seem like a privilege to buy makeup, but when you’re a person of color denied the simplicity of that experience that others feel, it is evidence what a loss of privilege it is for makeup purchases to become an ordeal. For anyone who would respond, “Well, then don’t buy makeup” (ignoring the flippancy and ignorance of such a comment), the simple fact of the matter is that for many women, buying makeup isn’t really an option. Yes, it would be great if we lived in a perfect world where sexism didn’t make work life easier for women who wear at least natural looking makeup or if women were imbued with so much self-confidence that we didn’t feel the need to wear makeup ever. But this isn’t reality. Additionally, when we live in a world where models and actresses of color feel compelled to bring their own makeup kits to their jobs—a job necessity that is automatically provided for their paler skinned counterparts—or otherwise risk re-inviting the feelings of despair and embarrassment experienced after someone has half-heartedly attempted to do their hair or makeup without putting in any real effort to account for different skin tones or hair textures. It is absolutely galling that someone would think this is equal, fair, or trivial.

This world is diverse. This country is diverse. On most continents on this planet, you can find people ranging from the palest of pale beiges to the darkest of dark browns. There are many different hair types and shades. It shouldn’t be asking too much for professionals be able to do their jobs for every person who might sit in their chairs, and not just the white ones. And it isn’t “baiting” to require that stores selling beauty products be able to service the clientele present in the areas where they chose to setup shop.

Note: Ulta did not ask me to write this post, nor is this an advertisement for Ulta. However, I’d be lying if I said that, given their stated commitment to improve diversity, I’m not interested in ringing the bells and sounding the alarms that Ulta is a store women of color need to add to their rotation. I will always be of the firm belief that the same way we should buycott those brands who have absolutely zero interest in tolerance and diversity [I’m looking at you, Almay, Simply Aryan], we should similarly reward those who do.

Rachel Dolezal and the Problem of Colorism

Like many people, I’ve been fascinated (in horror) watching the Rachel Dolezal “passing” story unfold. I’m not going to rehash the various layers of how what she did was so very wrong or why “transracial,” as it has been used with respect to this story, is not a thing and should not be compared to Caitlyn Jenner or any other transgendered person. Those issues have all been artfully discussed and dissected ad nauseum, and there is little more I could add to them that hasn’t been said before. One thing I have seen very little discussion on, however, is how the discussion regarding Rachel Dolezal’s deception relates to colorism.

“Colorism,” for those who don’t know, is an intraracial form of bigotry, prejudice, discrimination, or supremacy based on the lightness or darkness of skin tone. Colorism does not really exist within the white community as an intraracial issue (as there is not as wide a range of skin tones among whites as there are in other races and ethnicities), though whites may exercise some bit of colorism against other groups, where they prefer the lighter-skinned of those groups to the darker [however, I would still classify that as just “racism,” rather than “colorism”]. Although the roots of colorism in the black community can be traced back to the benefits and status afforded blacks during slavery and Jim Crow, colorism continues to persist to this day. And it is a two-way street.

In 2013, OWN (the Oprah Winfrey Network) ran a documentary called “Dark Girls,” in which dark-skinned black women discussed the ways their skin color has affected the way they have been treated and perceived, largely hurtful. This documentary was followed this January by “Light Girls,” which shared the stories of hurt and rejection experienced by light-skinned black women by questioning the belief that light skin makes for an easier life. Both documentaries have their fair share of acclaim and criticism, both of which is beyond the scope here. My issue is the idea of questioning someone’s “blackness” based on his/her appearance.

Let me make it crystal clear from the outset that I am in no way arguing that Rachel Dolezal can consider herself black. As I have previously stated, self-identification is important, but that self-identification must be rooted in reality. Unless Rachel Dolezal presents a 23andMe or Ancestry.com DNA report verifying some African ancestry [doubtful], there is no reality in which she can be considered a black woman in this country. I am only discussing those people who self identify as black or part-black whose reality and ancestry would support that claim.

Moving on…

One of the things that has disturbed me the most as this story unfolds is watching the amount of colorism spewing forth. From the black men who make comments insinuating Rachel Dolezal “can stay” because she’s hotter than most black women to the comments that people “should have known that she wasn’t black,” because she doesn’t look the part, this story has brought forth my uncomfortable feelings with colorism.

The latter charge feels like an assault on the claims of blackness by those who don’t pass a color check. During slavery and Jim Crow, lighter blacks exercised colorism against darker blacks by way of the “paper bag test” (those whose skin was darker than a paper bag were not allowed to enter) and the “comb test” (you “pass” if a fine-tooth comb can go through your hair without stopping). I don’t know where the color line is allegedly drawn by those asserting Rachel Dolezal doesn’t look black by any reasonable standards of blackness, but it appears that some combination of beige skin + light eyes + fine-ish hair + European features = you fail the Blackness Test. It is not 100% clear to me if, say, Rashida Jones fails because she’s more olive than tan or she passes because her dad is Quincy Jones. Or if she is over the color line, do we get to welcome Catherine Zeta-Jones to the tribe, too? Pete Wentz, yay or nay? How about Mariah Carey? What are black people going to do if we lose Mariah Carey? Does her 20+ year career now become cultural appropriation? And does Amber Rose retain membership to the black community based on that fantastic ass alone?

You see where I’m going with this. The possibilities are endless, numerous, and utterly ridiculous. It’s also hurtful. How dare someone else decide that your black isn’t “black enough.” If someone (rightfully) self-identifies as black or part-black, how messed up is it to say that they just don’t look the part enough to be who they were raised to be? And how ironic is it that the same people who would deny membership in Club Black because someone’s hair or nose is too straight or eyes are too light usually flock to those articles and blog posts about “people you didn’t know are black.” I guess now some of us are ready to kick them all out until we can further investigate their claims of blackness. Oh… We are…

Look, I’m not denying that someone who appears white to most white people is enjoying a great deal of white privilege that darker people of color will never share; but that doesn’t mean we throw away someone’s ancestry, their culture, their life experience, or their identity, simply because they have those privileges. Does it mean there are certain discussions to which they can’t relate because they have never and will never have those experiences? Of course. Does that make them any less black? No.

I guess the only solution here is we’re just going to have to start issuing Black Cards. If your children, siblings, or other loved ones are too light to pass the Black Test, make sure they know to carry their cards at all times when they are not with you until we can get this whole thing sorted out.


Never leave home without it
 
Or, you know, we can stop telling other black people that they are too white-looking to sit with us.

Originally posted on Blogger (http:/www.popculturemom.com) http://ift.tt/1G9TMzd

Graduation photo shows ‘Black Women Do Breastfeed’

I support ALL women breastfeeding, but there’s a special place in my heart when I see other black mamas proudly nursing their babies.

Yes, Black women DO breastfeed, and I’m glad that this picture taken to encourage other WOC has garnered so much attention, even if some of it is ignorant.

http://ift.tt/1plYveb

[green_message]Source: http://ift.tt/1plYveb [/green_message] If you like more things like this, follow me on Facebook at http://ift.tt/1plYy9z

People Will Apparently Believe Anything (Odd Baby Names)

I was listening to a replay of an earlier episode of Lance Bass’s Dirty Pop the other day, and Lance and his co-hosts were talking about the Tennessee judge who changed a child’s name from “Messiah” to “Martin.” This topic lead into a discussion of weird baby names people have heard, and several people called in with some whoppers. And when I mean whoppers, I mean these were outright lies.

What is it about you teachers and nurses (the biggest offenders) that you apparently think your job isn’t interest enough on its own that you have to make up names of students? I’m not saying teachers and nurses don’t have interesting jobs. In fact, most of the teachers and nurses I know have much better war stories (assuming any of them are true) than pretty much any other profession I’ve met. But either you people are so greedy that you want to have a lock on “In addition to all the crazy stories I can tell you about my day, let me tell you this name I heard!” or you for some reason think that the rest of the world finds your job so boring that you’re just making up stuff. Either that, or you’re pathological liars. I dunno. But nearly everyone of these obviously fake “baby names” that are easily debunked by anyone who wants to spend 10 seconds on Google come from a nurse, a teacher, or a person who heard the name from a nurse or teacher. Heck, even my own mother used to make up these, “There’s a child at my school named [insert name that’s never appeared in the U.S. birth records ever]. Her mom is so uneducated she didn’t know what it meant!”

So what were the baby names (and how they were pronounced) reported by teachers, nurses, and friends of teachers/nurses to the Dirty Pop crew? Shithead (shah-threed), La-a (lah-dash-ah), twins named Lemonjello and Orangejello (lu-mon-jah-lo and oh-ron-jah-lo), Placenta (play-ceen-tah), and Meconium (mek-oh-nam). Seriously?! Not only have everybody and their grandmothers heard these urban legend child names before, but Snopes has debunked Every. Single. One. Of. Them. The only name missing from this “common urban legend” list was Female (fem-uh-lee; rhymes with “Emily”).

There were a couple of reported names that were probably real, like Dick Wiener (Richard Wiener is easy to believe. Not to mention, there was once a mayor in Indiana named Harry Baals, and the “First Lady” of my home state of Texas was named Ima Hogg). And there was at least one name that I completely called bullshit on, which turns out is actually real… because people suck [that name, in case you were wondering is Abcde (ab-sa-duh), which, while apparently a real name, is claimed to belong to someone actually known to the reporter more often than the vital records would support. That’s just lazy, people! (and stupid)].

Overwhelmingly, though, these names were clearly and lazily made up. Just the fact that Snopes has two articles on them, and I’ve heard no less than a dozen comedy routines using a number of these names is proof positive that people need to find new material. If you’re going to make things up, at least be original! Though, really, I would prefer people just didn’t make these things up. There are enough people in the world with unbelievably horrible names because of their parents’ stupidity, that you really shouldn’t even need to make up names. Not to mention, as the Snopes writer points out, many of these names have their origins in racism. Even if these urban legends aren’t thought of as racist in today’s times, they are, at best, classist. Personally, I don’t find it particularly amusing to make fun of people because they are poor and have low education.

Now, a note about Messiah:
Look, it’s no secret that I loathe kr8v names. But that judge was way over the line. In addition to the complete overstepping of her bounds [the only issue before her was the baby’s last name, not his first], her reasoning for the name change really bothers me. “There’s only one Messiah” smacks the legal system stepping its bounds into religion. Since the government shall establish no religion, and there’s only one religion that believes there has been the one Messiah, it sure looks like that judge was establishing a religion in violation of the First Amendment. I don’t foresee this withstanding appeal. I’m not a fan of naming a kid Messiah, but that wasn’t this judge’s call to make.

(Heidi Wigdahl / Associated Press)
Sorry, little guy. Whatever your name is, you sure are cute.

 

Don Lemon and the False-Causation Problem

As you may have already heard, CNN newsman Don Lemon caused quite an uproar in the black community this week when he went on the air to say that he not only agreed with Bill O’Reilly’s racist, repugnant views on what’s wrong, he thinks Papa Bear O’Reilly didn’t go far enough. Saywhatnow?

There are so many things wrong with Lemon’s position. Sooo many things. First, let me make it clear from the outset that I’m not saying that any criticism of the black community is 100% unwarranted or unfounded. What I AM saying is that this criticism is wrong. Lemon’s basic problem boils down to the fact that he doesn’t seem to fully grasp the issues of cause and effect.
So what did Don Lemon actually say?:
[playing clip]
BILL O’REILLY, FOX NEWS HOST: The reason there is so much violence and chaos in the black precincts is the disintegration of the African- American family. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: He’s got a point. In fact, he’s got more than a point. Bill?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O’REILLY: Raised without much structure, young black men often reject education and gravitate towards the street culture, drugs, hustling, gangs. Nobody forces them to do that, again, it is a personal decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: He is right about that, too. But in my estimation, he doesn’t go far enough. Because black people, if you really want to fix the problem, here’s just five things that you should think about doing. Here’s number five, and if this doesn’t apply to you, if you’re not doing this, then it doesn’t apply to you, I’m not talking to you.

Here’s number five. Pull up your pants. Some people, a lot of them black, gave me flak for saying that recently on “The Wendy Williams Show.”

If you’re sagging, I mean — I think it’s your self-esteem that is sagging and who you are as a person it’s sagging. Young people need to be taught respect and there are rules.

LEMON: Sagging pants, whether Justin Bieber or No-name Derek around the way, walking around with your ass and your underwear showing is not OK. In fact, it comes from prison when they take away belts from the prisoners so that they can’t make a weapon. And then it evolved into which role a prisoner would have during male-on-male prison sex. The one with the really low pants is the submissive one. You get my point?

Number four now is the n-word. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY-Z, RAPPER: For our generation what we did was we took the word and we took the power out of that word.

CHRIS ROCK, COMEDIAN/ACTOR: We took this word, and we made it into poetry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: I understand poetic license, but consider this: I hosted a special on the n-word, suggesting that black people stop using it and that entertainers stop deluding yourselves or themselves and others that you’re somehow taking the word back.

By promoting the use of that word when it’s not germane to the conversation, have you ever considered that you may be just perpetuating the stereotype the master intended acting like a nigger?

A lot of African-Americans took offense to that, too. I wonder if I gave the right advice, I really did. But confirmation came the very next day on my way home when I exited the subway in 125th Street in Harlem. This little kid in a school uniform no older than seven years old, he was crying his eyes out as he walked down the sidewalk with his mother.

I’m going to be honest here, she turned to me, and she said “I’m sick of you. You act like an old ass man, stop all that crying, nigger.” Is that taking the word back? Think about that.

Now number three. Respect where you live. Start small by not dropping trash, littering in your own communities. I’ve lived in several predominantly white neighborhoods in my life, I rarely, if ever, witnessed people littering. I live in Harlem now, it’s an historically black neighborhood, every single day I see adults and children dropping their trash on the ground when a garbage can is just feet away. Just being honest here.

Number two, finish school. You want to break the cycle of poverty? Stop telling kids they’re acting white because they go to school or they speak proper English. A high school dropout makes on average $19,000 a year, a high school graduate makes $28,000 a year, a college graduate makes $51,000 a year. Over the course of a career, a college grad will make nearly $1 million more than a high school graduate. That’s a lot of money.

And number one, and probably the most important, just because you can have a baby, it doesn’t mean you should. Especially without planning for one or getting married first. More than 72 percent of children in the African-American community are born out of wedlock. That means absent fathers. And the studies show that lack of a male role model is an express train right to prison and the cycle continues. So, please, black folks, as I said if this doesn’t apply to you, I’m not talking to you. Pay attention to and think about what has been presented in recent history as acceptable behavior. Pay close attention to the hip-hop and rap culture that many of you embrace. A culture that glorifies everything I just mentioned, thug and reprehensible behavior, a culture that is making a lot of people rich, just not you. And it’s not going to. That said, though, the political right is not off the hook.

So some of that doesn’t sound so bad, right? I mean, who thinks neighborhoods full of litter or fatherless kids or dropping out of high school is a good thing? However, here’s my problem with what Don Lemon said: blame and causation. Welcome to my four-part analysis of what’s wrong with Don Lemon’s thinking. Grab a drink and get comfortable. This is going to be long.
 
Problem Number 1: Lemon/O’Reilly Appear to Believe That These Factors Are the Root Cause of Discrimination
 
Bill O’Reilly’s point was discussing why white people fear black men and why Trayvon Martin was shot (and, prsumably, why he served to die). Don Lemon’s point was, similarly, related to thoughts that had been plaguing him since the Zimmerman trial. Both men are essentially saying, “If black people weren’t like this, white people wouldn’t treat you differently or poorly.” BEEEEEEEP! Wrong!
 
Even assuming that all blacks were daddyless gangbanger high school dropouts with horrible grammar and poor sartorial choices, discrimination and oppression of blacks is not a modern American construct. Heck, it didn’t even begin just with slavery. If you don’t believe me, pick up your Bible or even just read Othello. Fear of dark-skinned men goes back a long way. This has nothing to do with clothes, family structure, language, or status, and everything to do with skin color. Jim Crow laws did not come into existence because of hip-hop culture (a creation of the 1980s).
 
Fine, let’s say you concede that discrimination against blacks has a long pervasive history around the globe, but you still posit for whatever reason that modern American racism against blacks has absolutely nothing to do with any holdovers from historical racism, and is purely a construct of the presentation of some modern blacks, that still leads to…
 
Problem Number 2: Lemon/O’Reilly Would Have You Believe That Discrimination Against Blacks Only Applies or Is Felt by Those Blacks Who Fit This “Profile” They Describe
 
I am an Ivy League-educated lawyer with a (tested) genius IQ. I wear suits or business-appropriate clothes during the work week and otherwise am appropriately dressed for the occasion (sorry, I wear yoga pants to The Little Gym and the grocery store; I didn’t realize my skin required me to be dressed to the Nines at all hours and in all situations). I don’t use the N-word, except in an academic sense, or maybe on the rare occasion when I say something like, “I’m tired of this House Nigger mentality perpetrated by people like Don Lemon.” [though, I suppose, that’s in an academic context as well]. My parents were married when I was born, and I’ve only ever been pregnant (and thus had children) while married. Heck, my husband is white. I speak English better than many people I know, regardless of color, and I have several grammar books on my bookshelves at home and work. I’m that chick who takes a red pen to Facebook. Most of my friends of any color are quite similar to me in these respects. In fact, most of my black friends in particular fit this mold. Yet, despite the fact that none of us fit any of this Lemon/O’Reilly profile, another thing we all have in common is that we’ve experienced discrimination and racism in our lifetimes–usually quite often.
 
Our “preferred” statuses has not prevented us from experiencing discrimination in the workplace, being followed or racially profiled while shopping, denied service, having women clutch their purses when we walk by [can’t tell you how much that especially pisses me off when the woman clutching her purse in my presence is carrying a purse much cheaper than mine], treated as hostile when speaking in a calm voice, handled aggressively by law enforcement etc. Having a “preferred” status doesn’t prevent racial gerrymandering and won’t prevent us from feeling the effects of the now-gutted Voting Rights Act. Most racial profiling and discrimination applies equally to “hoodrats” and Rhodes Scholars.
 
Even if you were to somehow argue that those of us who don’t fit, support, or even like this Lemon/O’Reilly profile must somehow answer for the crimes of our brethren, that gets us to…
 
Problem Number 3: Why Must Blacks Be Held to a Standard That No One Would Dare to Apply to Any Other Race or Group?
 
Just like any other social or racial group, there are many types of black people with varying backgrounds, beliefs, and opinions. Why are blacks the only group held to this crazy standard where every single apple from Macintosh to Fuji in this gigantic barrel must bear the rot of a few of the rotting Granny Smiths on the bottom?
 
I will give Don Lemon his statistic (verified by Poitifact as the ONLY fact he stated in his long monologue) that 72% of black children are born out of wedlock. However, this does not mean [and Politifact called Lemon’s conclusion a stretch] that this also correlates to 72% of black children having no male influence in their lives and/or no morals. But what about the 68% of Native American children born under the same circumstances? Minus some extreme racists, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone, Native American or otherwise, argue that Native American children deserve any discrimination they receive because most of their moms weren’t married to their dads when they were born. Heck, when’s the last time you’ve even heard of anyone racially profiling our tribal brothers and sisters?
 
Don Lemon also makes a huge stink about blacks glorifying hip-hop gangsta culture through dress and use of the N-word. But who is it that really glorifies gangsta culture? Suburban white kids. A May 2005 statistic from the Wall Street Journal stated that 60% of all hip-hop music was purchased by whites. A 2009 Times article regarding the decline in sales of hip-hop music interviewed industry insiders who opined that a huge part of the decline was attributable to the fact that the suburban whites who made up the majority of hip-hop consumers were “no longer fooled” by artists claiming street cred while flashing obvious signs of wealth.
 
Truly, for many white teens, black gangsta culture is the fantasy. However, for many (not all, and not even certainly most) black teens, the gangsta elements of hip-hop [which, by the way, one would have to be completely ignorant to argue is the entirety of hip-hop] are a reality.
 
Blaming Trayvon Martin’s clothes or taste in music for his death is absolutely ridiculous. My sister-in-law and I have had many conversations about this since the verdict. The sad reality, which we both realize, is that had Trayvon instead been my white nephew, dressed in the same outfit, displaying the same behaviors, he would still be alive. He never would have been profiled. He never would have been shot. And if, by chance, he had been shot (ha!), his taste in music or any behavioral issues never would have been on trial. My nephew, the victim, would not have been tested for the presence in marijuana in his system, nor would that or become the main focus of the MURDER trial of the man who killed him [while, ironically, the aggressive behaviors and legal problems–all related to aggression–of his accuser were ruled inadmissible]. Meanwhile, my hypothetical son–despite his biracial heritage and accomplished parents–would be exactly in the same position as Trayvon Martin. THIS is what President Obama meant when he said that he could have been Trayvon. And anyone who acts as though that statement isn’t true is living in a fantasy world. My family members and friends experience this every day, regardless of how they are dressed. Well, my black family members do anyway. My white family members have never been called “thugs” when wearing hoodies in the rain.
 
But I digress… where are the white leaders calling for their suburban youth to stop glorifying hip-hop gangsta culture? Minus when the NRA tries to point fingers in other directions, where are the white leaders blaming music and clothing for the Aurora shooter? Oh wait… I forgot… whites don’t need “leaders” to speak for a community. They ARE the community. Something else that Lemon/O’Reilly seem to forget.
 
Statistically, most meth users are white men between the ages of 18 and 25, and in terms of percentage, the group holding the biggest percentage of meth users are Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders. A November 7, 2011 Times article details research and statistics proving that, despite the higher incarceration rates for blacks, whites are more likely to abuse drugs. In fact, blacks were less likely than any group to develop substance abuse disorders. Yet, despite these statistics, Lemon/O’Reilly would have you believe that blacks and blacks alone are treated differently because of drugs [yes, I realize O’Reilly made this point, not Lemon; but since Lemon endorsed everything O’Reilly said and even argued he should have gone further, he has, by inference, also adopted this position].
 
Okay, well what about the drop-out rates for blacks? Well, a January 2013 study published by the Department of Education, focusing on the 2010-11 school year  showed that while whites and Asians graduated at a higher rate than blacks, Hispanics, and Natives, in most states (and overall nationally), the disparity in graduation (on time) rates was approximately 20%. The actual dropout rate is closer. Whites have a dropout rate of 2.3%, blacks 5.5%, Hispanics 5.0%, Asians 0.9%, and Natives 6.7%. Native American/American Eskimos have a higher dropout rate than blacks, and the Hispanic dropout rate is fairly close to that of blacks, yet I hear no one (who isn’t completely racist) making an argument in favor of sanctioned discrimination against those groups.
 
And why, Lemon/O’Reilly, must the 94.5% of blacks who do not drop out of school suffer discrimination because some white people (are entitled to?) assume that we are all in that 5.5%? And if this is somehow okay in your world, then why can we not similarly hold the 97.7% of whites accountable for the 2.3% who dropout?
 
Even if you don’t like the education statistic, let’s look at another circumstance where one might draw statistical (bigoted) assumptions about whites. White men are overwhelmingly (almost, but not quite, exclusively) more likely than any other group to be serial killers. Am I then allowed to treat every white man I meet as though he’s a potential serial killer [sorry, Pop Culture Dad! I’m sleeping with one eye open tonight!]? Oh, I’m not? Then why is it okay to treat every black man as a potential criminal, just because black men are more likely to be incarcerated?
 
Which leads us back to…
 
Problem Number 4: Causation, Causation, Causation
 
I’m not saying there aren’t problems within the black community that need to be addressed. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t encourage the best of our youth. What I am saying is that even if every point raised by Lemon/O’Reilly somehow magically *poof* disappeared tomorrow, discrimination against and racial profiling of blacks would not go away. Mainly, because these symptoms of a larger societal problem are by no means the cause. Neither Lemon nor O’Reilly has actually addressed the real changes we need.
 
Instead of focusing on the high school dropout rate or the lesser percentage of black students who graduate on time, why not focus on the disparity in the quality of public school education? Is anyone really surprised that less students graduate in an environment where there are more students per teacher, the books are old and outdated, and there are fewer computers to be found? Are we really blaming the victims for not operating well within a broken system? Oh… apparently we are.
 
Instead of focusing on teaching our sons and brothers that is is not okay for him to dress down EVER, even though it’s perfectly fine for all of his white friends, why don’t we instead focus on teaching white people not to judge young black boys by a different standard? Why view one boy as a physical threat when the only thing different about him is the color of his skin/coarseness of his hair?
 
Instead of deciding for our entire community whether and when it is appropriate to use the N-word [which, by the way, most of us do not], why not just make it clear from the outset that it is NOT up to anyone outside of the group to determine what labels people within a group choose to call each other in a non-hostile way? As a friend pointed out the other day, there are some friends she can call “bitch” like its their first name, and others who, maybe if you did that even once a month in the most loving way, would want to cut you. If you aren’t close enough to someone that you know where and when to draw certain lines with them, then perhaps you should maybe…. um… I don’t know… don’t call them anything without their permission? Don’t worry about what some black people decide to call themselves or each other. Just know that you can’t say it–just like I know there are some “reclaimed” words of groups of which I am not a member, which I would NEVER say without permission, and even then only to and around the person who gave me permission. Why do you need that word anyway? Do you not realize what is seriously wrong with a person who claims some sort of hurt at not being able use a derogatory name for a group to which s/he does not belong??
 
Similarly, why the hell is Don Lemon giving Bill O’Reilly to say anything about the black community? As Sherri Shepherd said today:
I don’t want to give Bill O’Reilly a license to say anything, because he’s never been a young black man growing up in the situations that a lot of them grow up in.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of whites (Bill O’Reilly especially) who refuse to have an honest look at their own behaviors, fears, and prejudices and deal with them in a meaningful way that does not involve blaming the victims. And there are far too many blacks like Don Lemon and Charles Barkley who are all too happy to give them that pass.
 
Here’s the problem, though: We can’t make any systematic changes without the majority/ruling class. Women’s rights didn’t happen simply because women wanted it. It happened because there were men who supported us. Slavery wasn’t abolished simply because blacks wanted to be free; it happened because there were whites who were also willing to fight for our right to freedom. We are in a new Civil Rights Era. People like Bill O’Reilly and Don Lemon can continue to be on the wrong side of history, or they can get off their asses and take a look at the REAL causes of discrimination and what needs to be done to fix it.
Black people can clean our own house, sure. But first, we need white people to clean theirs. We can’t be in this together, if the blame for centuries of prejudice falls on us alone.