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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Is Anyone Else Seeing This?

Perhaps it’s just me.

There is something I noticed during the first Obama presidential campaign. When Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright was, like Jesus, caught up in a witch hunt based on circumstantial evidence, I was approached by a colleague as students were in the hallway changing classes.

“Man, you see this thing about this pastor? Man, why don’t he just shut up? They not gonna let him have it if this fool keep speaking out.”


“Let him get it?” Wow.

For the record I respect the Reverend Wright as a pastor. Usually I found his sermons were historic, honest and relevant.

And damn funny.

This isn’t about Rev. Wright, however.

This is about us.

I have noticed a prevailing condition among Black American folk since before Mr. Obama made that train ride to Washington. Once this former Illinois state senator was confirmed as being on the roller coaster to political glory, the reaction from Black folk has been a bit puzzling.

Sometimes, I feel as if the world as I know it is slowly transforming into ‘Gone with the Wind.”
I have seen people grin wide. I have seen people bustle and shake their heads, Mammy like, talking about changes sure to come on a job. I think I saw someone flash dance backwards up the steps after being asked to fetch something.

I am contemplating investing in the watermelon business.

What is it, since Mr. Obama came close to taking office, with Black folk acting…I don’t know. Like they don’t want people MAD at them. Or something.

When my former colleague made his statement about “they not gonna let him have it”, I shook it off. It was odd, because such a statement from this guy seemed out of character.

After the inauguration, however, I noticed more and more formerly forward thinking  Black folk acting like something out of a Rochester skit. This has gotten progressively worse over the last four years, culminating in a radio interview I heard just after the re-election. A black PR strategist, on a Black owned radio station, basically was pleading the case that “we (Chicagoans) don’t need much substance…just the symbolism…if President Obama the next time he was home could play basketball with some kids from Englewood…”


My grandfather, before he passed two years ago, had every piece of Obama memorabilia in his home. T-shirts. Collectible plates. Coins. Half of that stuff was probably produced and sold by the KKK, but I understood: this was an 82 year old Black man who came North from Mississippi in the 1950s just hoping to make a better living. He endured the kind of discrimination on his job that taught Black employees to work hard, but not be too gung-ho. Your enthusiasm got you the honor of training your next boss, a guy half your age who didn’t look like you and who hailed from the same area and the same mindset you fled many years before.

I understand his unwavering support for Obama. This was a man who figured he’d fly to the moon before seeing a Black man as POTUS. Granddad also understood any real fallout resulting from Mr. Obama’s election would probably occur after his lifetime. Finally, a man who stood tall at a time when shucking and jiving were not buffoonery but good taste or at worst, survival mechanisms, wasn’t going to bow and scrape for anyone. He didn’t do it then when it could have cost him his life. He wasn’t doing it later so folk would like him.

I cannot understand how the Black folk who voted for President Obama posted witty slogans on Facebook touting his reelection but in public act like they are afraid of being the people they were a few years prior. At least when we didn’t have a Black president, Black people offered honest opinions, even in public, about society, the legal system and our lives. We would view a presidential administration with a certain amount of skeptical “What’s in this for us?” and wouldn’t shush each other down for fear that the outspoken opinion of one of us could work to the detriment of us all because we’d look like we had no unity.

This isn’t to the east Blackwards. This is up de stepses and sing Ol’ Smoky Joe, Bawse. Somewhere, Alan Keyes is sitting in a black beret and shades, sparking a fat one reading an autographed copy of “Malcolm X.”

Some of us got mad at Rev. Wright. Not because we thought he was lying. I guess we didn’t want “the peoples” to know some of us find this system broken. We see its potential. We are willing to fix it. But we are also going to call a spade a spade. No pun intended.

We got mad at Jesse Jackson. Lord knows there were times when we shoulda got mad at Jesse, but we chose to get mad at him when he spoke up about this Black candidate chastising Black folk like only we were obese, illiterate or coming from broken families. Keep it real. If he coulda, the Reverend would have LOVED to cut…well, you get my drift. That used to be most of us. Not anymore.

We criticized Black pols and pundits, but except for Al Sharpton, not one of the pundits who supported the president openly has been elevated to a Hannity or Levine status. Forget making them gozillionaires like Limbaugh.

What did we get in return?

Black people are telling people who once fought on their behalf, “Dude, be quiet! You making him look bad.” To hell with the hell we are catching. Huh? We are making it harder for the most protected, most powerful man on the planet. I thought we were making it harder on us.

Pundits who ask, “Hey, shouldn’t we ask for SOMETHING? Everyone else is getting some kind of hookup? Can we get a judgeship? Something? ” are threatened with being called race traitors. That’s like saying the Deacons for Defense were an offshoot of White Citizens’ Councils.

It is open season on Black pols and in exchange for the one at 1600 Pennsylvania the many are being hunted and dealt with like some kind of vermin. With nary a peep from the White House. Blood and claw marks are on the White House front door, left there by seasoned Black pols who tried to find protection from the hordes chasing them.

There is this pervasive attitude across the country where folk are ruder to Black folk than ever before. Things come out of folks’ mouths now that I only thought you could find in books. Old books. About the antebellum south. Great. Thankfully, we are collectively handling it with grace and aplomb. We’re smiling and being quiet so folk don’t take it out on the president.

Pretending the rats do not exist while they behave like rats only emboldens them. The same folk are getting louder and spewing more vitriol. I don’t mean conservative talk show hosts. I mean those folk you thought were your neighbors four years back. Being racist used to be a bad thing. Not anymore. People don’t care. Part of what used to keep folk in check was the idea that “I don’t like these folk, but if I say THIS in public I will get THAT reaction.” Not so anymore. “They got the presidency, I want my country back, and I’ma spew til it happens. Fear? Nah, no fear. Done are the days when these people get mad and react. They just take it.”

If I am wrong, consider this: Mitt Romney was one of those last reasonable Republicans.You know how we know he was reasonable? he was at the back of the room. You’d never heard of the man when the Republicans were a showing out, acting a fool. They wouldn’t let him come through the door, much less sit at the table. Democrats even voted this guy in in for governor because of the health care plan he implemented in Massachusetts. Imagine.

Ol’ Mitt decided to run a presidential campaign targeting the loonies of his party rather than any reasonable folk who would listen to him. Why? Because the crazies on the far right had the numbers. Mitt took the temperature of the country and saw Black folk were going backwards past Negroburg to Coloredville and white people were just acting a complete fool in response to there being a Black president. He might have had a chance had he run on, I dunno, being real. He’s got to be kicking himself daily now and remembering his mom’s lesson, “Willard? Everyone will like you honey if you just BE YOURSELF.” 

If I were Mitt’s campaign folk I would have targeted Black folk with ads showing us looking like…well, we ain’t taking it. 

“Aren’t you TIRED of smiling when things ain’t funny? Paid for by Romney for President.”

This whole thing is as crazy as when out of work broke Southern white males steadfastly rallied around W because “He’s one of us!” Not because he wears cowboy boots, too, Bubba.

Black folk? I miss you. When Black Chicagoans elected Harold Washington mayor, HE may have tried to accommodate, but WE were like, “No, you being there doesn’t mean we will give up our self-respect here. You govern but we will demand some respect from you and everyone else while we keep doing us. ”

I believe the president is a good man and has done good things. I am mad at so many of us acting as if his being in office means we have to act like “Pork” from “Gone with the Wind.” I am doubly mad at us as a collective for making a ton of excuses and not demanding anything but a symbol in return. So we take madness because we have to understand folk are pissed he’s the chief executive, and we get nothing from the guy in return?

There has never been a Jewish president, and AIPAC doesn’t care. As long as whomever is in office does right by their constituency, they are happy. I agree with that strategy. No Asian president but as long as their community gets its share of the pie, a Martian can hold office and they don’t care. Middle easterners have a snowball’s chance in hell of holding the land’s highest office but as long as immigration laws allow them to enter the country and qualify for citizenship provided they open a business and employ ten people (who cares if they are relatives?) they don’t care.

Black folk got a bright shiny symbol and nothing to show for it. Like a Bentley sitting in front of a tar paper shack. And we only get mad at each other when someone dares say, “Y’know, that don’t seem quite right…”

I’m wrong? Let’s check in with Alice Palmer, Van Jones, Susan Rice, Jeremiah Wright, Jesse Jackson Jr., and a few others in the know. Let’s look at other communities that seem to keep getting tidbits to keep them happy and loyal. Perhaps we oughta be as mad as some of those folk who think he stole their country.

Ya’ll Know Better

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

It's About the Kids? Really?

It’s that time of year again.

When I was a child, my brother and I were indoctrinated in the ways of Santa Claus. Like all individuals living under a dictatorship, we questioned the propaganda, but sang the party line, loud and clear.

We didn’t believe some 300lb white guy was coming down our chimney on Christmas Eve laden with just the gifts we wanted, but we were survivors. Friends who questioned the belief in the happy elf often received clothes. We got Atari 2600s, musical instruments and gift certificates to McDonalds. Damn easy choice.

Embrace the doctrine and get the goodies. Inform on those who do not and watch them suffer. My brother and I would have fared well in the USSR.

It’s different with my own children. My oldest ceased to believe when he was four, quite by accident. Often, with me, what comes up comes out. So when my son asked innocently, “Daddy is Santa having the elves make our gifts at the North Pole?” my response was typical of a new millennium father.

“Well, son, Santa is having union problems with the elves. Apparently those jokers want a better benefits package, and he couldn’t find enough contractors to break the strike.”

His face fell.

“Don’t worry, Big Man. I’ll stand in for Santa this year.”

He got the holiday equivalent of Fort Knox the next morning. He hasn’t believed since.

The following day, while on the expressway, we spotted many deer along the road.
“Are those Santa’s deer?”


I saw my back window slide down and a little head pop out the window. “Stand in solidarity! Stay on strike! Thanks!”


My youngest was in the annual Christmas musical.

“We’re singing ‘Feliz Navidad!”

Gravely. “Hmmm…”


“Do you know what that means? Feliz Navidad?”

Eager nodding. “Merry Christmas.”

“Well, that’s what they WANT you to believe…” I generally do not do conspiracies, and as a lesson to my children, concoct some way out ones just to show them the sheer silliness of some of what people believe.


"Yeah. It's really bad. It's code...for something else..." I told her.

“It really means that?”

“Yup. Whenever you hear that, it’s an insult.”

Slow 8 year old burn. "But aren't WE Black?"

“Yep. Do you want to hear the REAL song?”

Well, anger turns to laughter as I teach her the words. By the time we get home, the chorus is embedded.

I dropped her at home, headed to the store for eggnog.


“Hey Hon!”

“OK, I sat back and let you lampoon Disney for them, making Gepetto the animated version of Jerry Sandusky. I let you portray Gumby and Pokey as gang bangers. I even turned a blind eye when you completely reconstructed ‘Davey and Goliath’ into something…awful…those poor clay characters.”

Oh, I’m in trouble. Again.

“But when you tell these children ‘Feliz Navidad’ really means ‘Black People S**k… and it’s a secret Spanish code song to eliminate them…”

It was a joke. I mean, who would really believe it? Oh, the 8 year old who thinks I’m the smartest think since SpongeBob? My bad.

Well, eliminate one more supportive vote for Saint Nick. And possibly the entire holiday season. I have created the world’s youngest cynic now who eyes her Latin brethren the way Seoul eyes Pyongyang. Great.

I couldn’t help it, though. Let’s be honest: there are people who say, “Let children be children”, and I concur.

I’m not sure this holiday is about children however.

Materialism? Maybe. Religion? Well, in a pinch, I’ll buy it. Family? Sure, but we all know how much family related anxiety pops up around the holidays.

Face facts: if this was really about maintaining childhood, our society would applaud parents who explain to their children the amount of love and sacrifice that goes into buying and doing things that just makes them smile. As a whole, we would spend less money at Wal Mart and more time out ice skating, or snuggling together by the fireplace, telling each other stories, drinking cocoa and laughing.

That’s not how it works. Parents are ridiculed for not allowing their children to believe some mythical third party cares so much about them he brings them gifts, as opposed to the folk who raise them. The people who make this splurge happen in spite of mounting bills, risk of unemployment and the other realities we all deal with while trying to raise our kids.

There's something culturally exclusive about this myth,a s well. Say what you want: there is no way mainstream America would allow their children to think happy thoughts about a Black dude (think Chef on South Park) invading their homes once a year and bringing their children gifts the parents worked to acquire.

It wouldn't happen.

If this was really about religion, we would discuss that although there is no shred of evidence that Jesus being born this late in the year. A time that corresponds with the pagan holiday practiced by the Romans who co-opted Christianity. Heck, we’d at least mention that Jesus never asked for an iPhone and there is no Biblical record of his parents celebrating his birthday once he arrived here on earth. There also would be more acceptance of the fact this person, the one whose momma took him to Black Egypt to hide when he was a baby, the one who a Black man helped carry his tool of execution(he was in the crowd, maybe he had something in common with the condemned?) and the one with hair like wool...if this was about the children, we'd at least acknowledge this time of the year that he did not resemble one of the Bee Gees.

Family? Wonderful. This is a time of year when we all gather. If this was really about childhood, however, we wouldn’t dread going to relatives’ houses, hoping no one says anything out of line. If this was really about childhood, that aunt who always gets lit and starts talking about how they weren’t favored as a child would remember there are kids present and stick to chamomile tea.

If this was about the children we'd really work harder on teaching our offspring the real value of this day is about giving, not receiving.

I am all in favor of my kids remaining kids. When my 11 year old had to buy pants in the men’s section this year, as opposed to the little boys’ section where the sizes are 12, 14 and 16, I made a conscious effort to not let his experiences catch up with his growing body until the time was right for him to handle both.

Spare me, however, “The holidays are for children. Kids should be allowed to believe in the fantasies and remain kids.”

As retailers sell more liquor than any other time of year besides Super Bowl Sunday.

As parents get children gifts that are more and more “grown” and less and less age appropriate every year.

As kids who were suspended for telling teachers “That’s why you had a baby wit’ yo’ daddy!” brag about the X Box systems they are guaranteed to receive for the holiday.

As ministers glide by members standing on bus stops Christmas morning, never slowing their speed in their holiday gift Bimmer 740s.

The holidays are what they are. Those who long for the good old days should have heard my grandfather share tales of getting an orange for Christmas in Depression era Eufala, Alabama, and being happy they would be able to eat all they wanted that night. If the harvest was good.

This Christmas, let’s forget the politics of the holiday and really try our best to make it about those basics, many of which are free.

Happiness, Family Cheer and Goodwill towards all.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Reclaim Your Holiday

My conversation started with innocent enough intentions.

“Holiday plans?”

Few short phrases in the English language are as loaded. Perhaps “Are you late?” and “Did they convict?” come close to being as charged.

My friend’s answer was honest, if impolitic.

“My bad... was I supposed to have those?”

Ever the optimist, I pressed on.

“I was asking if in fact you DID. I can infer, using my acute powers of deduction, that you do NOT. Ah Ha!”

“Have 'em? That was the point. I didn't know that was supposed to happen.”

“Oh, yeah. Some folk house hop. Some have dinner at their home. Some are going out of town to be with family, some have family coming to town to be with them.”

“Wow. That must come from the Latin roots Holi- which must mean ‘tolerating ghetto/bourgeois-ass relatives’ and -dare which means ‘Oh GOD, not this time of year again.’"


You know what? For as long as I remember, this has been my least favorite time of year.

My favorite holiday memories, if I recall, are of one Thanksgiving where my small family and I travelled north of the border, where, at that time, it was not a holiday at all.

The other was a Christmas day when I was single, living in downtown Chicago. I spent half of the day alone in bed, reading. That evening, I went to my grandmother’s home on the South side, gave relatives their gifts, and after an hour or so of conversation (no, I did not eat), I returned downtown, treating myself to the late night premiere of “Jackie Brown.”

My aversion to the winter holidays isn’t because I have recently come across the origins of said days find myself appalled. In my family, we did history. We acknowledged early on the true meaning and histories behind these days of celebration. After gnashing our teeth in anger at both the facts and folks’ ignorance of them, we assuaged ourselves with the idea that family coming together was the real beauty of such times, not the historical ugliness and frauds that created them.

My mother wrote stories for my brother and me as children, detailing her own childhood holidays. Relatives would caravan from down south to Chicago, hordes of kids would be stuck on sofas and floors in sleeping bags, food cooking from 4am and fun until people fell asleep from turkey induced torpor. Love was thicker than turkey aroma in the air.

Those are just not my memories. I do not begrudge my mama hers. Growing up Black in Chicago during that era, those holidays and other family gatherings offset coming of age through an ugly period in our history. I am happy she has a fondness for days that could matter less to me.

I spent years thinking it was just me.

Time has taught me, however, many people my age don’t have those stereotypical memories of the Black holiday season, replete with “Soul Food” type dinner gatherings and hearty laughter and joy to spare.

They have the “Ohmylawd I’m stressed I gotta make this dish for dinner at my people’s house it’s taking forever I made it I dropped it off and lo and behold I get there and my sister is talking mess now I wanna fight her who does she think she is she does this every holiday…”

“My Uncle Pete and my cousin are in there at 2pm clearing out a fifth of Hennesy and come dinner time we are gonna have to pretend we don’t know they blasted as my uncle takes any opportunity (say, when served dark meat instead of white) to tell my grandma she never loved him because he was the darkest in the family. My cousin will start crying midway through because his wife/girlfriend/baby mama took the baby to her mama’s house for the holiday. No one wants to tell my uncle to grow up and repeat to my cousin he shoulda married that girl, so now dinner is ruined...”

“I can do my people, crazy as they are. My husband’s people are from planet Ignant, however. They come in trying to make you feel you’re nothing, with they trifling selves. They just nasty. Never bring anything, mind you, just show up ready to eat us outta house and home and then complain after they inhaled everything on the table…They leave ashes all over my furniture and I swear one a them babies was conceived in my coat closet...”

“My wife’s family bougie as all get out. You’d think, to hear them talk, this was a family on something. Please. They come in like Black royalty or something. Pulling up in a 15 year old Mercedes they bought used four years ago. They like to look down on folk cuz they so “educated”. Three of ‘em got associates degrees and the one boy who been working on his PhD FOREVER ain’t never held no job, and he’s pushing 40, and we know the one they keep saying is a minister is really the choir director, and you KNOW what THAT means…”

“We had just said grace when there was a knock at the door Pookie answered it and was told he had a warrant…they took him then with the turkey leg still in his mouth…”
“My brother and his perfect family come to my folks’ every year and love to rub how much better they are in our faces…”

Drunken relatives. Outside kids. Substance abuse issues. Infidelity. Abuse. Memories of a close relative who passed away during a holiday season. Angry recountings of someone who was hospitalized during same season for self destructive behavior. Someone can’t cook. All of this stuff has people dreading November 24th-January 1st.

For the record? These are associates sharing these tales with me. Such candor from people not really in my circle prohibits me from asking close friends what they think of this season.

What gives?

I acknowledge the holidays are not my favorite time of year, but I was recently reminded I will have to endure said period annually for the rest of my life. We all will.

So what are we going to do?

My friend made it clear. He is going to do his own thing, without family, without distraction and without drams.

Thanksgiving may as well be some Saturday in March, in that case.

A lot of folk, however, agree with his take on things. Lord knows that I do.

The only suggestion that I can make is not an easy one to implement.

Assess your holiday ritual. If it works for you, then follow it. Some of us have the patience and love to tolerate situations others want to avoid like the plague. Fair enough.

If your ritual does not work for you, however, it may be time to create a new one.

It may be time to have a small dinner with friends, as opposed to family. It may be time to quietly announce to Grandma you won’t make it for the holiday because you are going to try to start your own tradition. Bear in mind, the one your family has practiced for eons began somewhere. Call and offer your wishes for a nice holiday, and then try something, anything new, that may make for better memories. If you feel stuck because you live far from family and this is one of a few times yearly when you get to see them, make slight changes. Opt for staying at a hotel instead of with family. Buy something prepared as opposed to cooking. Set a time when, regardless of how the night is going, that you intend to leave, and make it clear throughout that you need to be back at the NoFamilyAllowed Arms & Suites by that time.

I think a lot of us have come to dread the holidays because they are excuses for having to endure behavior that is anything but celebratory. You can’t do anything about how others act. You can, however, control your exposure to them.

Times are hard. We all have challenges. Let’s try to find, at the very least, relaxation over the next over commercialized, food and drink sodden month or so.

Ending the holidays on a good, or different, note may very well set the stage for a happier more peaceful new year.

Is it really that time if year again?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Press Conference

“Next question?”

“Sir, what is your response to allegations that you have sexually harassed at least four women who were once in your employ? One of whom has come forward recently?”

Shaking of head. Then, that smirk. The one that closes the commercial where the white guy is puffing his cigarette.

“Are you for real?”

“I am. While your poll numbers have not taken much of a hit, some conservative pundits have expressed displeasure with you over this situation.”

That smirk again.

“What does your wife think of this?”

“Is it true that all of the women are white?”

The smirk stops.

“’Scuse me?”

“Reports indicate that all of the women are Caucasian. The one who ahs come forward definitely is. Do you favor white women, sir?”

Slow burn. Wait. Be easy. They got Clarence like this, kind of. Kobe. That damned fool, O.J.

Clear throat.

Smirk. Again.

“Yeah,” gliding chuckle. “It was me.”

Silence. Pens can be heard dropping.

“I mean, shoot. What ya’ll expect? I’m not exactly some school teacher here. I’m pretty much,” loosening of tie, “a self made man. In America, the true ballers are CEOs. WE tell Black kids they have slim pickin’s of being pro ball players, almost all of whom exclusively chase white booty. Or lack thereof. Have you any idea how hard it is to get to be CEO? I mean, even of a fast food chain. That’s some work. Hell. Kissinger said it best. Power corrupts. Ya’ll never give him a hard time over the white women.”

Someone is choking.

“Now, this gal outta Chicago? Mutual. I’m coming clean, no need to lie. I mean, had she NOT been into me, wouldn’t SHE have gotten paid, TOO? That damn pillow talk. You say things you shouldn’t in the afterglow. Like how the last couple who failed to come across got big paydays, but how all this one got was, well, hey, I got mine, you know?

“You all DO realize when I was in the Chi at a Tea Party event a bit back, she came up to me and gave me a big hug? Tried to suggest we hook up for old times sake, but those days are behind me, so I wished her well and kept it moving. Hell, someone in the media caught the whole exchange. Naw, she’s out to get paid. By the way, don’t think I’m stupid. No secret the only one to come public, aside from being a fake, is from the Windy. Who else is from the Windy? I think the new mayor there is someone’s dirty tricks expert, but I won’t name any names…heh…heh…heh…”

“Sir, aren’t you married?”

“Shoot, so is Bill Clinton. Look, I was on the road a lot. My wife and I were having problems. I’m a man. I’m alone, nice hotel rooms, money, power…I was pretty young, all things considered. Hell, I stepped out. It was wrong. Why you think I became a minister after all that? I was wrong, but I ain’t unique…

“Let’s call a spade a spade, no pun intended. If these were Black women, ya’ll wouldn’t even consider this news. I’m surprised.”

“But why white women, sir?”

“Dunno. Revenge for slavery? There are no Black women in pizza chain upper management? All Black women at that time were on the Democratic plantation and won’t give up any squishy goodness to a brotha like me? I dunno. Let’s keep it real. I was born in the south. I’m a Morehouse man. You don’t think I’ve had my share of Black women? Hell, I got one at home. I wanted to try something different. See what the fuss was all about…”

“Was it worth it, sir?”

“Kinda. Just expensive as hell, but it’s one of the CEO perks, y’know? They got insurance for that kind of thing. Pay your deductible and move on. Company picks up the premiums. Part of your compensation package.

"I will say this, however: I realized just how down sistas are. Moving forward, I'ma reserve my "plantation" comments for those chucklehead Black MALES. My wife is in my corner. Do you know Black female newscasters in Chicago are looking at this chick like, ' 'Why she come out now?' Nothing rallies Balck women like hatred of white women they think have dogged a Black man."

“But WHY white women?”

“Shoot, boy, you hard of hearing? Cuz they was THERE! Next question.”

“Does this have anything to do with 9-9-9?”

“I could comment, but I won’t. That one’s too easy.”

“Do you think this will affect you with voters?”

“Maybe, but I dunno. I mean, we’ve come a long way in this country. Some of the staunchest rednecks cheer for colored ballplayers who have white trash wives. Hell, some of the staunchest rednecks got sisters married to those colored ballplayers…”

“Rush Limbaugh defended you…”

“He should. Again, any powerful man who acts like what I done was a crime is a hypocrite, or same sex oriented. Don’t get me started on that.”

“But sir: WHITE WOMEN?”

“You never saw ‘Mandingo’? Been part of the plan since the beginning. Shoot. I’m an old school Republican. Before Condi or that cute Holmes gal, if you weren’t Lynn Swan and you wanted some off the reservation action, where did you go?”

“Do you think this hurts your chances to be President of the United States?”

“I never had any chance. We all know that. Well, anything is possible. Excepting that political Jackie Robinson you got residing there now, man, some real questionable characters have inhabited the executive mansion for the last decade and a half. Keep it real.”

“Do you think this was leaked now to cover up something that may damage another candidate?”

“You’re smarter than you look. But now that I’ve admitted it…my fallout is over. Let’s see how a certain other candidate deals with some mortgage issue fallout.”

“Like who, sir?”

“Is this good for the Democrats, sir?”

“Hell, I’M good for the Democrats. More people of color made sure their voter registrations were up to date once I started tying with Whasisface. The Democrats needed me to be popular just before the mid term elections. Remember, in politics, nothing is as it seems. We are all on smoke and mirrors. Also, this whole thing got real hot where? In Chicago. Hmmm…”

“Will the Koch brothers drop you after this?”

“My brothers from another mother? Naw. Please. With all of their money, you think they didn’t know about this way back? I’m a candidate, ya’ll. We walk the streets and lay like we’re told to lay. The money people know all there is to know about us. Hell, who do you think sent me some of those women?”

“But white women…”

“Get off it. The last time I was with a sista half my age I got two hernias and SHE blew MY back out. Uh uh. Plus, all of that is behind me. Things happen in marriage all the time. We work it out. Ya’ll the ones foaming at the mouth cuz they white. I just saw a chance to score.”

“Any closing remarks?”

“Keep your eye on the ball. None of this is what it seems.”

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Herman Cain May Be Right...Not That It Will Help

OK, the field of national politics has me alert and paying attention.

Usually, I reserve my alertness for local politics. Which is a redundant phrase. In Chicago, we have done what no other local politics was capable of doing: we gave the United States a Black president. Well, and openly Black one. Not one of those few that may have had a drop or two of Black blood so, by law, they would have been Black, just never racially profiled while trying to get in their own house in Cambridge…

I digress.

We have a black president. National politics. We have a Black man from the opposing party running for the nomination for president, and making a strong show of it.

Herman Cain.

Herman Cain reminds me a lot of my grandfather. Black men who grew up with nothing. In the south. Saw unfairness and racial evil that would have made Al Sharpton’s perm nap back. They learned early on that people who oppress you do not like you, and people who do not like you are not likely to give you anything. What you get, you get on your own. Getting on your own under those circumstances tends to make you view those who knuckled under as weak. Those who seek the approval of the oppressor are subhuman. Those who feel they cannot make it without the oppressor’s help, well, they may as well be dead.

It has to be a hoot to look at the very people who gave you hell coming up and saying, “I beat you at your own game. Now, I am on the national stage, making you look stupid.”

I get Herman Cain. I do.

I dig the fact that he is truly an American success story. I like that like my grandfather and other Black men of that generation, Mr. Cain has the cojones to call it like he sees it. Right or wrong. Do you ever remember your grandfather telling you and your cousins something you knew was crazy, but he didn’t give a hoot? He stuck to his guns and called it as he saw it? You’d be thinking, “That’s a crazy old man,” he’d be steady going on, “I’m right on this. Ya’ll see.”

That’s Herman Cain.

It’s not just his “Let Me Walk All Over Those Weaker than Me” attitude. When Cain disses Black folk who didn’t have the gumption to make it through hard work and whatnot, he is dissing those white folks who haven’t reached his pinnacle, too.

“What? I’m 'sposed to be scared a YOU? Didn’t you inherit your money, BOY? And YOU? Wasn’t your DADDY the GOVERNOR or something? How is it I made millions coming from nothing, and ya’ll can’t hold ya own against ME? I mean, haven’t ALL of you people had a bunch of advantages I could NEVER dream of having, yet I have bested YOU? Hell…weren’t YOU born WHITE?”

I get it, Rev. Cain. I do.

Which is why, when publishers of urban newspapers say, “Well, he has said he won’t allow any Muslims on his cabinet!”, I am forced to think, “Are there any Muslims there now? What about under Bush 43? Or Slick Willie? I mean, heck, just as Judaism is passed on through the mother, Islam passes from the dad, making the president the only person with any Islamic affiliation, and hey, he converted as soon as he knew what religion was. Man. Mr. Obama wouldn’t even stick with his own Black nationalist pastor that performed his wedding. You really think he’s gonna hire some Muslims?”

I get it, Mr. Cain. I do. When you suggest your 999 plan, and Black folk jump on it because they think its racist (I mean, c’mon…it’s a Republican plan, it HAS to be), I think, “Hey, wasn’t Congressman Chaka Fattah, a Democrat, trying to push transaction taxes as a way to invigorate the economy?” Racist? With a name like Chaka, I don’t think he has a Klan application on file.

Chairman Cain, I understand you are just calling it like you see it. When you say, “Black folk are just using racism as a reason to not achieve. Racism can not hold ya back if you don’t let it!” What do they expect you to say? You endured worse racism than most Black folk can imagine, and you are now giving it to white folk in spades. You defied a bunch of the silly stereotypes that have become synonymous with modern day Black folk. Things like having no respect for marriage. Expecting much for working little. Complaining about how people don’t like you but expecting those same folk to provide you with jobs, housing, etc. Making excuses at every turn. Not understanding business. None of that is you. Your success, your money and frankly, your lifestyle is bothering more white people than it is Black folk. You’re probably grinning inside the whole while.

I understand all of that. Hey, I agree with it.

I just can’t vote for him.


Well, for one, Cain isn’t going to win. I like to roll with winners.

Two, while the whole dump Rev. Wright thing bothers me, and while folk haven’t figured out Mr. Obama is a Chicago Democrat, which means talk blue but acts red, and while Black folk haven’t figured out POTUS # 44 has been dissing them worse than Cain ever could…

President Obama is a homeboy. I mean, we Chicagoans stick together. Period. Dot. Even when you let the Daley machine pull your strings. As a Black man, hey, I understand. We all work jobs where we gotta do what we told. Sometimes, working that job as best you can does nothing for your patience with people who won’t work at all. Especially those you risk your job trying to help.

I have admitted to some social conservatism in my writings. I do believe Black folk need to stop this overwhelming support of the Democrats simply on the basis that they are, well, Democrats. All Democrats are not good. All Republicans are not inherently evil. Many voting Black folk are quite conservative, regardless of what party they choose to support.

My issue with the GOP, Mr. Cain, is this: some pretty decent Black folk have allowed themselves to be poster children for this organization, only to be tossed aside like old charcoal that is no longer needed to cue anything when the party is over.

You disagree?

Remember Richie? The architect of the recent Republican electoral victory. His own party was so grateful that from minute one they let some entertainer with a penchant for prescription painkillers pimp slap him silly, thus forcing him to become both the party’s whipping boy and savior.

What about the young man from Oklahoma? Boy, they trotted you out to refute the claims of our “First Black President” (insert laugh track here) and let you take on anybody Black the party had no use for. I mean, look: we know these people love their sports heroes. They loved you, their Black token paragon of equality.

Where ya at, Son? Haven’t seen you in Congress lately. Party didn’t have your back, huh?

General? I still hold you in the highest regard. An old lion like you, however, should have seen in coming. Do they even allow you to cross the threshold of the United Nations anymore, sir?

So while, as a Chicagoan, I can quickly admit the Democratic Party isn’t a host of angels, I have to say, at least, if it suits their needs, they will offer some person of color to shine. Dick Daley used to brag that in his Chicago, there were Negro police captains, fire lieutenants, and elected officials. Sure, they had to toe his racist line, but it was better than down south, where they had the same racist thinking and wouldn’t even let you drink out of a fountain, much less run your own area. Democrats are the good party. Don’t forget it.

Is that foolish of me? Sure. It was foolish for a bunch of rednecks to vote for George W. Bush, thinking that because he liked cowboy boots they had so much in common. He still got eight years out of it. My loyalty to Obama can’t leave the country in as bad of a bind as their loyalty to Bush did.

Plus, again, I like to be on the winning side. Here in Chicago, if we want our guy to win, he wins. We will steal the election if we have to. Sadly, we won’t have to.

The Grand Old Party’s track record is pretty abysmal on their Black wunderkinds. I can see them congratulating themselves on their egalitarianism for inviting Cain to the dance. Then trying to lynch him for doing the slow grind with their sisters.

Regardless, after I cast my ballot, I will hear my maternal grandfather, his voice firm, saying, “This old fast food these companies are pushing will be the death of a once healthy country, mark my words…These prisons will one day be like a return to slavery, people with no rights collected together to do work for pennies and make others millions…One day, these projects here in Chicago will all come down, and only the wealthy will be able to live in those areas…That professional wrestling is really fake…I’m right on this, ya’ll see.”

Monday, August 22, 2011

My Dictatorship...An Ongoing Conversation (co-authored by F. Christopher King)

JD: OK SO the press has Ghadaffi on the run. Why are we not there?
Sent at 11:37 AM on Monday

Mark: “cause this is not a smart time to try to take over. Trading out one dictator for another? That only works in North Korea.
Sent at 12:03 PM on Monday

JD: And you think Mubarak's successors in Egypt are not gonna be dictatorial?
Sent at 12:13 PM on Monday

Mark: Not the point.
Sent at 1:04 PM on Monday

Mark: Mubarak's successors will be implanted by the US because they have oil. We didn't mess with N.K. because they have nothing that we want.
Well, oil and someone friendly to the US can exert considerable influence there. We still have to get someone to start the Palestinian Israeli war to further the agenda of the NWO.
Naah, you want a country where you can be a real dictator and not a puppet of the Infidel.
Sent at 1:07 PM on Monday

JD: Puppetry pays too. And the Infidel, as you call him, is paying right now. His credit is good with me. Plus, we got a Black infidel now. We can trust him. He knows the handshake. This is business. LOL. China keeps NK on a string to get us rattled at times, and then they step in and appear sane
Sent at 1:11 PM on Monday

Mark: But puppetry doesn't pay like we want it to. We need to control the figurehead leader. We still looking at Irwin for that? He has political background now. It's a logical choice. With Flatbush as his second in command... no real power for him - provide him with a harem and some Hennessy and he'll stay out of the way.
Sent at 1:14 PM on Monday

JD: I want Flatbush kept on a REAL tight string. Saif Ghadafi he ain’t. He's more like Mobutu. You gotta watch them. The Hennessy is fine, all he wants. But no harem. Women make a man feel ambitious. Allow him to impregnate several goat ranchers' daughters, thus forcing him to marry or face disgrace. Nothing like a wife to keep a man busy. We’ll give him several.

Mark: I like it.
Sent at 1:24 PM on Monday

Mark: And we can make a deal with the US to start exporting some the Indian casino business to us in exchange for "migrant workers" (i.e.- indentured servants) that can be used to further undermine the economy and help further their agenda.

JD: Oh yeah. We will be SO in bed with the US government. I mean, they are the only game in town. The doggone Chinese are investing in Africa and (gasp) offering the Africans infrastructure and profits after the fact, not money up front. How does one get to build a dictatorship with back end money? Dumb dummies. Hey, Ghaddafi's daughter Ayesha is fine. I want her as general counsel. She may be unemployed soon.
Sent at 1:27 PM on Monday

Mark: "Foine" is not a qualification... and what do we need general counsel for? We're a DICTATORSHIP! Needing general counsel would imply a rule of law and fair trials and all that nonsense.
So unless you plan on hitting that, we need better "qualifications."
Sent at 1:30 PM on Monday

Mark: And if you did plan on hitting that, what we gonna do with #1 wife? That could be an issue.

JD: Dude, she was Saddaam's defense lawyer. Well, maybe that’s not much of a qualification. Like letting Kobe be Ben Roethlisberger’s mouthpiece. Plus, I had the pics mixed up. Ayesha just aiight. That was one of his female bodyguards who looked like a sista from 39th street. I'm married. I won't be hitting anything outside the homestead. "Stable family man" looks good on asylum applications when it is time to flee with my loot and let Flat and Irwin take the fall.

Mark: No doubt.
I just plan on becoming invisible.
Got a new identity set up and everything.
Sent at 1:32 PM on Monday

JD: Yeah, that's the problem. People don't think ahead. I've got all of that worked out NOW. In fact, I am having copies of my Archie comics sent to my safe house under my new identity, where they will stack up for years, waiting for me until I flee in exile. Hey, does that mean we can't come to Irwin's state funeral? Cuz they're gonna kill him. I think Flat may be dragged through the streets, and that's OK.
Sent at 1:33 PM on Monday

Mark: yeah, and Win will try to seek asylum in the US, and they will try him for war crimes. Since Johnnie Cochran is dead, you think that we could just set him up with Casey Anthony’s lawyer? I would feel kinda bad if we just left him completely hanging.....
Sent at 1:35 PM on Monday

JD: No, sorry, someone has to die, and not even the Americans will be dumb enough to buy Flat having any real power. I say let Irwin take his chances. Saudi Arabia might take him. They take everybody.

Mark: Damn. Well, if someone has to go, so be it.
Better him than me.

JD: I know, right? Don't feel bad. We're letting him be a head of state for a number of years. I mean, damn, what's the most he could be here? President? We're gonna let him be like Emperor King al Sheik or something. Take the good with the bad. Shoot. If he plays it right, he can be an international arbiter of style. You ever see those badass shades Ghadaffi wears? Remember Mobutu’s hats? Or Duvalier’s suits? We are offering him a chance at more style than he has ever had in his life. Good for the ladies.

Mark: Oh. I’m not sure women are a perk of the job Irwin wants. You DO realize that WE are going to have to be the ones that kill him, right?
Sent at 1:57 PM on Monday

Mark: I mean, he may be a tad slow on the upswing, but he still knows how to throw people under the bus. Once they start coming after him, how long until he dimes us out and says that we are the ones really in power? Lying and saying that he can lead the rebels to us?
Sent at 1:58 PM on Monday

JD: I can't kill him. I've known the guy over twenty years. Almost as long as I've known you.

Mark: We're gonna have to.
It’s an imperative.
I'm gonna have to.

JD: No, we gotta get Flat to kill him. I'll steal from the treasury and send my kids to boarding schools in hostile countries and I'll quickly sing like Mariah to the US government on whatever they want. I'll set Flatbush up to kill Irwin. Think about it. It's FAIR.

Mark: How can Flat kill Irwin if Flat is dead?
Oh. Never mind. I misread it.
We’ll make it look like a crime of passion.
Win was sleeping with Flat's goat-herding wife on a bed of yarn-cats.

JD: TOLJA it'd work

Mark: But GOOD yarn cats. Like cashmere
And then those loyal to Win would drag flat through the streets once he is declared dead.
That is just too perfect.
Sent at 2:07 PM on Monday

JD: Yeah, I have my moments. That was the plan. Then we can REALLY cash in. Make Irwin a martyr. We can get the t-shirt concession and everything. I'm working on the made for TV movie, of course which will not include us as anything but loyal friends he did so wrong.

Mark: And I am starting a book titled "Under My Thumb: how one humanitarian survived in an oppressive dictatorial regime - An autobiography."
Sent at 2:11 PM on Monday

JD: I'm gonna head up the university and write from exile about intellectual repression. Boy what a prick that Irwin is gonna be.
JD: They say success makes you who you really are. Think I'll be able to get my Bentley collection out of his repressive hellhole? That damn Irwin.
Sent at 2:17 PM on Monday

Mark: Sure we can! Just put them in freight containers marked diplomatic cargo.
That'll get them past customs.

JD: When the US overthrows him, y'know, I'ma be glad to see him go.
Sent at 2:23 PM on Monday

JD: I kinda wanted Libya. But you're right. I'll hold out for somewhere the seasons change. Oh, let me call Irwin and see if he wants to play golf...And I need to borrow $50 from Flat. I’m good for it…

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I Can't Believe It

I was going to write about my recent field trip to the Brookfield Zoo. Embarrassing one’s children is always a worthwhile part of the parenting process.

Something happened at work, however, that I had to write down.

By and large, the country’s perception of Black men is not a flattering one. The most favorable is that of an oversexed musician or a young athlete who has problems with the police, baby mommas or drugs. Or a combination of three.

The least favorable is that skinny guy with the curl bag and gold teeth the evening news always seeks to interview after something crazy happens in our community. Or some heavyset guy who reminds me of Big Worm in Friday.

These caricatures do their damage, but my concern isn’t that the rest of the world will view me as Pookie or some baller named Kashawnanon.

I saw something at work yesterday that showed me the true danger of stereotypes.

A guest at my place of business requested a late check out. During the week, this is the type of courtesy hotels happily extend regulars, but some folk take advantage. This person stays with us regularly but has tried every trick in the book to get a discount, a free room or attention above and beyond what a good property should offer. When people throw ketchup on their sheets and say you rented them a room with a bloody mattress, hoteliers start looking for what other scams such an individual may pull. These are people who will scream to high heaven how much they hate your establishment and then demand free nights.

If I’m that dissatisfied with a hotel, it would have to pay me to stay there. I’m not trying to spend any more time in a hellhole than necessary. Not even for free.

Those of you who’ve read YNB for a while remember my tales of Bad Guests # 1 & 2? This person tops them.

This gentleman keeps getting over, however. He asked for a late check out, after already wheedling a steep discount for his room from a new desk agent and after having tried to pull a fast one with paying his bill once before. As a member of management, I share the blame in this. Why keep doing business with this guy? Well, there’s a recession, and the hotel industry is hurting, and frankly, he’s not a violent or destructive guest.

He’s just slick.

So yesterday when the desk agent pops her head into our office and asks if we can extend this guy yet another break, the desk manager says, emphatically, “No!” Minutes later the agent is back with the usual request from this guest to see someone in management.

I have little patience for such people, and as the desk manager rises from her seat, I shrug into my jacket to lend some managerial support. I’ma big guy.

We go up front and I look around. All that I see is an elderly Caucasian guy and a man who reminds me of Carlton from “Fresh Prince of Bell Air”.

Carlton waits his turn then politely requests his late check out, along with other freebies. Not seeking to override the authority of the desk manager, I stand silently behind her, confused as she grants his request.

“What gives?” I said when we are back in our office. “I thought we were gonna put this guy out once and for all!”

“I know,” she sighed. “I can’t explain…”

I can.

Stereotypes like Pookie, Junebug and Man Man have conditioned a lot of folk to be prepared to instantly say “No!” when a Black man even asks for the time of day.

So most of us aren’t ready for the well spoken Black guy. And there are slicksters who have used that to their advantage for decades.

If you don’t speak like Magic Johnson, you’re in.

Think I’m lying?

Who’s living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?

It’s happened to me, and I use these powers for good. I go into places where people are ready to call the police until I open my mouth. Suddenly, people are looking at me like I’m a damn unicorn, and they start GIVING me things. It gets so bad to where they will lean over and make disparaging comments about other customers to me, as if I were part of some select club.

It’s not often I will say this, but white people, this is your fault. You spent years isolated in your own environment that you figured any of us who dresses and talks like Bryant Gumbel is some kind of Super Negro. Like Michael, Eddie and Magic, we’re not Black. We’re something else. Since we’re not Black, however, we must be OK. Here, JD-wanna borrow my Mercedes? I’m not using it. No. It’s OK. Take it. I got some money for gas. Just don’t drive on the low end. THOSE PEOPLE live there, and you might not be safe…

I walk into stores talking to my wife and white guys pull me aside, asking if it’s exotic being married to “one of them”.

As a result, shysters who know how to pronounce their ts, and rs are making a killing.

I had a boss once, a Black small business owner, whose business was a phenomenal business to business concept. The problem? Dude could not manage a kid’s play date. He ran through money like crazy. Do you know why he stayed in business?

Because he had Caucasian business partners, savvy businessmen themselves, who kept throwing money at him. Tens of thousands of dollars. He’d bankrupt one business, and these same folk would be back on board for the next go round.

“Man, when these folks see one of us who can speak well, the sky is the limit!”

I was young at the time, so I thought he was crazy. Like I said, I was young.

It’s ridiculous. Barack Obama is a bright man who has pushed through a lot of beneficial legislation that will benefit Americans for years to come. Black people didn’t put him in the White House, however. We just don’t have the number.

I’m sure in those crowds were tons of folk who didn’t give one whit about his platform. “What’s his stance on gun control?” “Dunno. Have ya heard him TALK?” They saw his skin color and listened when he opened his mouth, and the rest was history. To this day, only the Republicans stand against him, probably because they have enough coloreds who talk right in their own party, so they’re inoculated.

I had a disagreement with another boss once over a different deadbeat guest whose balance was getting bigger and bigger.

“You gotta take action,” I begged. “This guy is soaking us!”

“Nonsense, he’s not that type,” came the reply. “For Pete’s sakes, James, he talks like you! He’s just having a tough go of it. Let’s float him til July…”

It was December.

There are exceptions. If you talk like a lot of sportscasters, like speaking correct English requires thought, so you are obviously speaking minutes after deciding just WHAT to say, and you over do it? Un uh. Dead giveaway. Or if you sound too much like Carlton. It’s weird. You have to be articulate but with some bass in your voice. You’re not TRYING to sound like anything other than what you ARE is the trick, I guess. Those are the guys who appear to get over the most.

I think this is limited to guys, as well. Our society is perfectly accepting and aware of Black women who speak like Oprah does and still accepts them “going black” and neck rolling and cutting someone down as if they were their mommas.

A Black man, however? Shoot. Sky’s the limit. It’s mind boggling.

I don’t know whether it is one of the twisted nuances of racism or it says something about how Americans really do have it in them to look past color. “I like Will Smith. He raps happy!”

No, Dummy. He pronounces polysyllabic words as if he’s been speaking the language most of his life, and as if his parents raised him with some sense. As a result, ya’ll made a billionaire out of him.

All of those years as a kid that I spent getting beaten up for not “talking Black” suddenly come into perspective.

There’s a market out here. I don’t think it’s fair. I was taught to speak correct English because my mother would pop me out of annoyance if I didn’t. Now some fools have turned this into a cottage industry? I feel like Eddie Murphy the time he put on make up and infiltrated the other side...