Archive | November 2006

Black Men as Sexist Racists?

Christopher B., who frequently comments with us, has short, interesting piece at his site on sexism. Here’s how it starts:


too many black men
blame black women for
white people’s racism

With all of the talk over recent weeks about various expressions of overt and covert racism, I think he opens the door for an interesting discussion about how racism and sexism play off of one another.

I don’t totally agree that Black men blame Black women as it is suggested. What I do believe is that many of my Black male brethren have become too lazy to try and overcome/work through racism, and have instead retreated to a position of taking their frustration out on our Sisters in the form of sexism. I think it’s less blame and more choosing to victimize Black women as a way to [unhealthily] deal with feelings of victimization.

Black women, do you feel blamed by Black men?
Black men, am I off? Why is it that some people choose to suppress others to make themselves feel better?

To me, the healthy approach is one of unity. Racism effects both Black men and Black women. I’d like to believe that we can use each other as assets to overcome the realities of racism in today’s and tomorrow’s world.

One Love. One II.

Categories
Racism
Black Issues
Black Men
Black Women

The Weekly Dream: Who Do Men Say I Am?

Reputation is the coin of the realm and the cornerstone of power.”
-Robert Greene

A bad conscience is to be beared before a bad reputation
-Nietzche

Question of the Week: Are you a prisoner of your reputation? How did you build your reputation and what is it for?

Growing up, everyone was known for something. You were either popular or you were not. You were cool or you were a square. You were smart or you were dumb. Looking back, we learned to label others and treat them accordingly. However, we were also keenly aware of the effect the opinion of others had upon us. Like gravity, we learned to function under the tremendous weight of conforming to the opinions of others or at least having a desirable reputation. This peer pressure may have relented as we became adults, only to be replaced by the stress of conforming to corporate cultures and the like. Which leads to the question: How do we manage our reputation and what goes into it? In what ways does it empower or shackle us?

The Fat Girl at Prom

I remember a conversation I had with my father when I was in the fifth grade. After months of being teased by the “cool kids” in class, I was complaining to him that I did not want to be smart anymore, I wanted to be popular instead. I was and still am, a bit of a nerd growing up and I knew I was not like my classmates. My dad responded to me that it did not matter what they thought, and just because you are popular now does not mean you stay popular. I thought, that is all fine and good, but how is it gonna keep me from getting teased tomorrow.

Consequently, I grew up not caring what people thought about me, since I knew how fickle public opinion could be. Plus, the expectations of others became more of an annoyance than anything. I watched others who let their lives become dominated by the opinion of others. Yet, what I failed to realize is that even though I did not care, that attitude helped cultivate a reputation of arrogance and insolence. Talk about a Catch 22-can’t win for losing.

The Pin and Fork

Reputation is basically the general opinion and attitude towards a person or organization. Reputation serves as an important signal to others as to how to act, who to associate with and it also sets expectations. Normally, these expectations are set against a backdrop of norms and standards not of our own creation, and our representation is like our report card in carrying out these standards. Like your word, it is one of the bare bone things you have control over. And whether you like it or not, everyone gets one. It is the price you pay for being a social creature in society. If you know someone has a reputation as a gossip that lets you know not to tell them any of your business. In the business world, your credit score is viewed as a signal of your reputation for integrity. Those with good credit have good business reps. Those with bad credit, have bad business reps, and get treated accordingly. Thus, it behooves us to keep one eye on our reputation.

But in a sense, reputation is not fair. As I mentioned, reputation is closely related to expectations and external standards. Take the double standards associated with men and women. It used to be and still kind of is, if a woman messed around with a lot of guys, she was not someone you took home to your mother. But if a guy did it, he was a Ladies Man. As a result, an inordinate amount of stress has been traditionally placed on women to act and behave a certain way.

Furthermore, reputation is often divorced completely from the truth. Like a bad game of Telephone, how you really are is often ovrshadowed by your reputation. And how you see yourself is often different also. Let’s try an experiment. Write down a description of yourself. Then, ask people who hardly know you, those who are acquainted with you and your intimates to describe you and see if it is in line with your description.

Does It Really Matter?

I believe reputation is a tool and should be used as such. It is an imperfect signal. Just as a business card cannot really capture what you do at work, reputation cannot really convey your essence. It can serve as a useful deterrent or attractor, depending upon your purpose, thus saving you a tremendous amount of time, energy and resources.

A story will relay the point. Jesus was alone with His disciples and He asked them a series of questions. He first asked them who did men say He was. The disciples said things like Moses, Elijah, a prophet and all other sorts of stories. Then He asked them who did they think He was, and only Peter said the Christ.

Reputation is just the top layer, although an important layer.

However, it can never capture the real you. So don’t be obsessed with something that is based on something as fickle as public opinion.

Who men say you are is not as important as who you say you are. Define yourself and let the world catch up.

Truth and Peace,
Steven M DeVougas

Categories:
The Weekly Dream

Blackness as an idol?

I remember graduating from the University of Michigan and being a part of Black Celebratory, (a special graduation ceremony for Black graduating students). I was sitting with my fellow graduates from the men of H.E.A.D.S. a Black male support group at the University of Michigan.

As we stood tall and our families looked on, the sounds of the Black National Anthem filled the majestic hall. Then all at once, H.E.A.D.S. members reverently bowed their heads and raised their fists in the air. My eyes were closed and I was humbled almost to the point of tears as I thought about all my ancestors that dreamed of an America where one day Black people would not be denied access to institutions of higher learning. It was a moment I will cherish for the rest of my life.

I can think of countless situations where my Blackness (and all the trappings thereof) has served as a source of pride and inspiration. But as a Christian, I wonder if my love of being Black has served as an idol to the point where it interferes with my relationship with God. (Note: This issue is not unique to Black people. Any ethnicity could be used and the logic would still apply)

But let’s take a step back though. For those of you who are Christian, the Bible says this in Exodus 20:4 regarding idols,

You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.

It is my belief that anything can become an idol and therefore a stumbling block in our Christian walk. To our detriment, there are too many value judgments on would be idols. For example, I play online chess (a lot) and I think it is fair to say that most people would consider this activity to be fairly neutral. However, if I started to play online chess to the point where I neglected praying, reading the Bible, going to church, etc. then it is safe to say that online chess has become an idol in my life.

I think this same logic can be applied to Black people’s love of their Blackness (and all the trappings thereof). Lest I be misunderstood, I know you can love God and love being Black. Let me explain this from a different angle. Let’s assume that Blackness is a crime and you are under surveillance but the Black police you can’t see your skin. Your being convicted is based on what you say, where you go, what you watch, what you read, what you listen to, and how you generally live your life. If you are Black, I think that most of us would be arrested immediately because we wear our Blackness so proudly.

Now let’s assume that Christianity is a crime while we use the same surveillance parameters. How long would it take before you were arrested? Would you be arrested at all?

I think it is safe to say that many of us do a much better job promoting our love for Blackness as opposed to our love for God. Now does this mean that Blackness is an idol for you? I would say not necessarily but that is for you to figure out. So is there anything in your life that prevents you from getting closer to God? If it is TV, then it’s easy to just turn it off, but if it is your Blackness, you can’t turn it off so how do we find the proper balance?

Stay up fam,

Categories:
spirituality
identity
blackissues

The SuperSpade Interview with Chuck D on “On The Real”

I let you all know that I was going to be a guest of Chuck D on his show, “On The Real,” on Air America Radio last night. My piece was short and sweet, but I am always thankful for the opportunity to share my vision with anyone about how I want to change the way that we think about technology and the way that we think about addressing the challenges that we face everyday.

For your listening pleasure, you can here me and Chuck here (3.33).

Big thanks go to Chuck D and Dave at Air America for securing this platform for The SuperSpade. We will definitely be working together again in the future.

One Love. One II.

Categories:
Speech
SuperSpade
Technology

The SuperSpade on Air America Radio

As I let you all know, I had an amazing time in Boston a couple of weeks ago.  While I was there, I met a lot of phenomenal people who are doing great things in media.  One such person was Chuck D, who you may know from his Public Enemy days a little while back.

Well, you can here me and Chuck on his radio show, “On the Real,” on XM Satellite Radio tonight around 1230 AM EST.  If you don’t have access to an XM Radio, you can click here to listen live online.  We will be talking about The SuperSpade and other ways that myself and others are affecting the offline world online.

Enjoy.

One Love. One II.

Categories
Speech
SuperSpade
Technology

Student tasered at UCLA

If you haven’t heard already, an Arab American of Iranian descent studying at UCLA was tasered by campus police for not being able to produce student ID. This incident happened at 3:00am in the library and was caught on tape by a fellow student using the camera on their cell phone. If you ever needed a reason to be called to do something about anything, please watch this video.

According to an article in the Los Angeles Times,

Senior Mostafa Tabatabainejad, 23, was asked by Duren and other university police officers for his ID as part of a routine nightly procedure to make sure that everyone using the library after 11 p.m. is a student or otherwise authorized to be there.

Tabatabainejad’s attorney, Stephen Yagman, said his client was shocked five times with the Taser after he refused to show his ID because he thought he was being singled out for his Middle Eastern appearance. Tabatabainejad is of Iranian descent but is a U.S. citizen by birth and a resident of Los Angeles.

Why should you care? Admittedly, I and no one else are privy to all of the facts in this case, but there a few things I know for sure and why you should care.

Racial Profiling
You should care because Martin Luther King Jr. pointed out to us in Letter from a Birmingham Jail, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” This is especially poignant because since 9/11, the long standing understated joke in the Black community is that racial profiling directed towards Blacks was now being directed towards Arab-Americans. But this joke really isn’t funny because if you really think that we have come so far that Black peI am sure it was not just a coincidence that of all the students in the library, the police singled out Mostafa. Just think about all the times you were pulled over or otherwise questioned for no other apparent reason then your being a person of color? Racial fault lines are saturated within the smile lines across people’s faces. If it can happen to Mostafa, it can happen to Tyrone.

Surveillance
The sad part of this story is that I doubt if there would be nearly as much attention paid to this story were it not caught on camera. This is indicative of the powerful impact of media priming. Try this thought experiement. How was it so many people were convinced that Iraq had WMDs when there was (and still is) no evidence to support this view but the public at large doesn’t think racism/racial profiling exists unless there is some indisputable proof via video. (e.g. Kramer from Seinfield, Rodney King, Blacks being hosed down in the streets and having dogs sicked on them, etc.) You know that there is injustice in this world so don’t wait until you get an email where the subject reads, “You won’t believe this!” Seek it out, spread the word, and take actions to make sure that perpetrators of injustice know they are not safe from accountability.

Taser
I have had conversations with people that tried to argue being tasered once was OK but the multiple uses of the taser were unacceptable. I wish you could have seen the steam rising from the top of my head. First off, there were four officers. Let me repeat that, there were four officers! This shows me that even if the student refused arrest, (which he didn’t) you can’t tell me that four officers could not have carried the student out of the library. If you noticed from the video, officers kept screaming, “Stand up!” My hunch is that the student went limp as a form of non violent protest and was summarily tasered repeatedly for doing so. Either way, the student didn’t do anything that warranted being tasered…period.

Racial Symbolism
The other problem I have is a matter of racial symbolism. The cop who used the taser is a Black man and an 18-year old veteran of the UCLA campus police. Now I know that from the days of Kid n’ Play, there is widespread disrespect for so-called rent-a-cops, but this is besides the point. Now if anyone should be sensitive to racial profiling, I would expect a Black man to say something before the team went out.

The other problem I have is that it feels like White-dominated power structures are directing conflicts between Black and Brown people. Let me know what you think.

Stay up fam,

Categories:
racialprofiling
discrimination

Where was Kwame Kilpatrick?

What’s up fam, I am still smarting from the passage of Proposal 2, a ballot initiative that bans affirmative action programs in Michigan in higher education, public employment, and contracting. However, I am deeply troubled by the eerie silence I noticed from Detroit Mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick. As Detroit’s representative, of a populace that is overwhelmingly in support of affirmative action, I expected Kilpatrick to be more integrated in the campaign to keep affirmative action.

Now I am under no illusions that Kilpatrick’s increased visibility would have turned the electoral tides but his silence I think is indicative of a widespread feeling that was whispered throughout the progressive community before the election; “I think Proposal 2 is going to pass so what’s the point of going all out to defeat it?”

In fact, the only commercial I heard featuring Kwame was his speaking in support of the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Jennifer Granholm. Kilpatrick was not up for reelection and just recently accomplished one of the greatest political comebacks in Detroit political history. So if anyone can help inspire hope in the face of insurmountable odds, Kilpatrick is the man.

Kilpatrick’s lack of leadership pains me because while I don’t have any sources, my hunch is that there was some political blackmail that silenced his efforts to speak out against Proposal 2.

While I was preparing to write this piece, Garlin sent me an article that highlighted Kilpatrick’s stance on affirmative action. The article states that at a Kilpatrick said at a fundraiser, “We will affirm to the world that affirmative action will be here today, it will be here tomorrow, and there will be affirmative action in the state forever.” And as Garlin pointed out to me, this quote was said in the spirit of, “at least I am on record.” Being a proponent of affirmative action is not effective at a fundraiser. It needs to be explained to folks that can’t afford to make political donations.

My discontent stems from the fact that Kilpatrick is an amazing campaigner and I think his presence would have really inspired people to get off the sidelines. I could just imagine the impact of having the TV cameras follow Kilpatrick going door-to-door explaining to Detroit citizens why they should vote no on Proposal 2. Seeing that would be considerably more helpful to our efforts than some watered down statement made at a political fundraiser.

So where was Kwame?

Stay up fam,

Categories:
detroit
politics
affirmativeaction

Offline Problems, Online Solutions – NBPC Black Technology Now! Summit Wrap Up

As I alluded to before, I had an amazing experience at the National Black Programming Consortium‘s (NBPC) Black Technology Now! Summit (BTN) in Boston, MA on November 8-9, 2006. I would like to thank NBPC and WGBH Boston for hosting this phenomenal event and giving me a platform upon which I could share my ideas.

As you may remember, I was invited to be a member of a panel called NEW FUNKY: Virtual Communities of Color & More. The subject of my presentation was Offline Problems, Online Solutions (audio in WMA format, PowerPoint slides). In this presentation, I presented my ideas for creating communities online to address real, tangible social issues. My main point was that it is not interesting to create anything online if it does not solve a problem in the offline world. I profiled The SuperSpade, and another venture that I am a part of called Detroit Intern. I also talked about future plans for these and other ventures I am dreaming about :-).

Here, I’ll include pointers to the audio [in WMA format] of my presentation, my slides, as well as my answers to some of the discussion questions that were interesting. Enjoy, and feel free to leave/give feedback.

Presentation
Offline Problems, Online Solutions Audio (9.39)
Offline Problems, Online Solutions PowerPoint Presentation

Q&A
Answer to a question about finding and developing audiences (1.51)
Answer to a question about engaging people who are hesitant to participate in online forums (1.49)
Answer to a question about blogging ethics (1.33)
Answer to another question about blogging ethics (1.33)

One Love. One II.

Categories:
Speech
Technology

For Richer and For Poorer (No Romance Without Finance)

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this piece are not necessarily the views of all members of The Superspade. It may be simply the nonsensical rantings of a frustrated twenty-something.

You Know What Really Grinds My Gears?

Whitney and Bobby. Reese and Ryan. Britney and K-Fed. Eddie Murphy and his wife. Babyface and Tracy. Kimora and Russell. What do all these lost souls have in common? They are no longer in marital bliss. Technically, theses people have enough money where all they have to do is be in love and live. But yet, more and more celebrities are breaking up. Why?

I have been having this ongoing dialogue with my female friends that circles around men and finance. It is my belief that women and money are a lot like fire: They can either help you or hurt you. With that said, as women begin to outpace men in the areas of education and high paying jobs, we come to a fork in the road as I perceive it. Women want men to be men. A significant portion of this traditional gender role is that a man should provide and furnish comfort and security. Or they want him to have at least the same level education/money as they have. On the surface, this seems fair. You don’t want any deadweight in your relationship. However, do these kind of expectations reinforce class in American society, especially in the area of romance? If I drive a bus or work at the post office, is it unlikely that I can date a lawyer or a doctor?

Think about it. Education, in theory, affords you access to more resources. It is an economic truism that people will buy as much lifestyle comfort as their paycheck will give them. Hence, if a woman is making top dollar, then how does this affect the dating expectations? Along with more income, comes a different environment. When you come home from a long day of work, who is more likely to understand what you are talking about if you are a doctor/lawyer/engineer? And how does this affect the power dynamic? I know some women who try to rule over their man because they hold the purse strings. Or on the other end, the man tries to over-compensate because he feels inadequate about his lady making more change. It is a real obstacle.

Perhaps this belief is only prevalent in the young adult demographic, but I have encountered frequently. However, this is like having your cake and eating it to. If a woman today is likely to rise more quickly, especially a minority woman, is it fair to put all the weight on the man?

A lot of women in my age group want the men they deal with to be a “high roller”. They are more concerned with status than character. And as men, we feed into it. I would venture to say that 75% of what we do is to please a woman somewhere.

I had a conversation not too long ago with a certain young woman and she expressed to me that she was afraid she was going to be poor if she stayed with this certain young man. She came from a little money and he was more blue collar. She continued to go on about the lifestyle she was accustomed to and the like. So I asked her, what did comfort look like to her? She replied it was paying the bills, saving, taking trips on occasion. I then asked her, how much did she need a year to feel and do those things, and she said a quarter million.

This is just one of the many conversations I have had with a variety of women. I am not saying anything is wrong with it, however, when pressed, they could not quantify these abstract wants and desires. If you cannot quantify it, then you will never be happy. Because it will never be enough. And while that man is out trying to stack, these will be the same individuals that will complain about him not helping around the house or with the kids or spending time with them. You can’t win for losing.

In Other Words

Maybe I am tripping. But I know for most people in their twenties, you don’t have a dime. You just finished school and you got bills. You have not made any real money and you just trying to get by and adjust to the “Real World”. Yet, when you go out, all the shorties is checkin for the dudes with the rims. Where do the real women hang out at? The ones who see your potential and love you for you? What happened to finding a good dude with some goals and who treats you like a queen? What happened to working as a team and making it together? By making the profit motive supreme, you miss out on some really good people. But like they say in the mob, “Nobody wants to work for it anymore.”

What people do not realize is that when you struggle and come up with somebody, it brings you closer. It is not predicated on a business transaction, it is based on some real, hell or high water type stuff. Then we wonder why the number of unmarried couples outnumber the married couples. Whether it comes to money or relationships, you have to have teamwork. A woman cannot expect to sit around while a man is working, or vice versa. Both people need to play their position. The money will come. It is more important that you share the same goals and values. And anyway, everyone needs to focus on getting their own in this world and stop waiting for someone to give it to them. As my mama says, “If you waitin for somebody to do something for you, you gonna be waitin a long time.”

I could just be voicing my insecurities, because I was never the dude with money. I have lived on a budget for as long as I can remember and I had to work for everything I have. Yet, I am a decent dude. I might not be able to “cake” a woman off now, but I am resourceful and she will never have to guess where she stands with me. And by the way, I am going to be rich. But you do not want someone who is going to fold on you as soon as money is tight. Every man needs a Hilary-stand-by-your man-ride-or die chick. I want to know that the woman in my corner is loyal and she is real. And fortunately for me, I have found that one. ;).

Final Thought…For Now

Ladies, I am not saying that you are gold diggers for having standards. But make sure your expectations are reasonable. You should hold yourself higher than any dollar amount a man could give you. Demand more than his money, demand his heart and his time. If you have that, you wont ever have to worry about finances.

Fellas, if we want to demand the ladies step it up, we have to make sure we are real men. I am Old School, and it is my belief that the man should set the tone for the relationship. We must lead by example. Prove to the ladies that you are worth the risk and that by hooking up with you, she is joining something great. If all you have to offer is that same ghetto-mentality and lame duck excuses, do us all a favor and just turn your wallet over now. Many a good woman has been ruined because she was under “bad management”, ya dig?

I could go on for pages, and I got a little off topic. But this is just how I see it being played out in my neck of the woods. I will revisit this issue from time to time and report my findings.

But in the meantime, you, the SuperSpade community, let me know what you think. What is the role that class plays in romance? How important is money really? How are prevailing attitudes affecting our relationships? Sound off.

Truth and Peace,
Steven M DeVougas

Categories:

Love
Friendships & Relationships
Money

The Weekly Dream: The Matrix Has You…

Life is but a dream”

“The theory or idea of a Centre begins with the observation of man’s chaotic reality, his confusion, his sorrows. These are attributed to his ignorance, which renders him easy prey to inessential phenomena, to “shadows” which, eventually, turn him against himself, against his fellowman, against the world. In an effort to counteract the effects of man’s deadening and enslaving dependency upon the multiple and confusing variety of existential phenomena, the men of wisdom in Asia had sought to perceive the substance or essential Centre of existence–the Centre where…dazed and pained blindness became calm clarity, the unintelligible became intelligible.” (from Secrets of the Samurai)

Life, what can I say about it that has not already been said? One of my closest friends suffered a terrible loss recently, and it has had quite an affect on me. The suddenness and finality of it all. It made me realize that most of what we see and care about is not real. And death and other trauma has a way of bringing that into focus. But why does it take something like tragedy to help us remember how limited our time is here?

Most people spend their time not thinking about death and dying, but to me, that is like the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about. The ancient samurai would meditate on death daily. By doing so, they confronted their greatest fear and consequently, found the freedom to live and do their duty.

In my short time in adulthood, I have learned that you must ultimately learn to do two things: take responsibility and take losses. Every year, there is no shortage of things that I am responsible for, things that I “must” do. Responsibility is the price of freedom and comfort. But more importantly, we must learn to take losses. Whether it be personal or professional: we must learn to come out of the corner swinging after suffering failure and disappointment.

Ashes to Ashes

Sometimes, life is a dream that can seem like a nightmare. Situations sometimes seem to continue to stack up and they seem insurmountable. At times, you don’t know where you get the strength to put one foot in front of the other. However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. When you realize that what is in front of you is not necessarily what is real, then there is no reason to fear or lose your head. Once you realize that this life and everything in it will fade, then you will live every day as your last. You will not take your loved ones for granted. You will not hold grudges. You will not worry. You will not procrastinate. You will begin to truly live. You will begin to live the truth.

However, everything is designed to help you forget that. Life is full of so much distraction and so many things that do not matter. We waste so much time and energy on frivolity. But that is the nature of the Matrix. You spend so much time putting out fires until one day, you wake up, you are old and you realize you never really lived the life you wanted. Don’t let it happen to you. Don’t get sidetracked. Because tomorrow truly is not promised. We would like to live a long life, but there is no guarantee. And when your number is called, you have no choice but to get in line.

However, that should not worry you, it should free you. As I once heard someone say, “You only scared to die when you know you not living right.”

Gone but Not Forgotten

I am sorry if the tone of this is not as upbeat as usual, but I owe it you and all of us to be real with what is going on. I wasn’t even going to write on this, but after thinking about it, nothing else seemed as important.

Take heart, life is just beneath the surface.

I pray to God we all make the best use of the time He has allotted us and teach us to number our days.

R.I.P.: Ms. Davis, You were still needed down here, but God needed you more. You will be missed.

Truth and Peace,
Steven M DeVougas

Categories
The Weekly Dream

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