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.
“Reputation is the coin of the realm and the cornerstone of power.”
“A bad conscience is to be beared before a bad reputation”
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?