Monday, August 8, 2016

On Gabby Douglas and Black Hair Politics

Black hair is really complicated. And like so many other complicated things it's rooted in our history, in white supremacy, in white standards of beauty, in respectability politics - but also some positive things like black pride, black innovation, and black entrepreneurs. It's REALLY complicated. (And this isn't just an American issue - this is an issue throughout the African diaspora and even in Africa. All a result of white supremacy.)

In the US, looking presentable, looking your best, presenting yourself well, etc. has historically been so important for black acceptance and even SURVIVAL. Over the years with conks, curls, texturizers, and relaxers, black people (men included, but especially women) have done extreme damage to our hair - and to our self esteem, sense of self, and self knowledge - by attempting to get as far away from our own natural textures as possible, and achieve European looks and standards of beauty.

That's why the natural hair movement has been so big and so important. It's about much more than hair. There are women who never learned how to manage their own hair texture, who never knew what it was because they started getting chemicals treatments at such a young age. Think about that - people who have no idea what their own hair is like, much less how to manage it. Add to the chemicals damaging wigs and weaves.

You have two or three generations in which a lot of people believed that black hair simply couldn't grow, and those who DID grow long hair were admired more. Those who didn't were often ridiculed and picked on, especially as kids and teens. That's why it's so cool to see kids like Willow Smith who will chop their hair off without a thought. On the other hand, that's why so many people from our parents' and grandparents' generations took so long to accept natural hair, and why so many still haven't. There's historically been an obsession with long hair and with curly and straighter hair types ("good hair"). So this thing with Gabby is not new or specific to her, nor is it totally the community's fault. She hasn't been taught to properly care for her hair and the sight of that still makes us cringe.

Someone could easily help her [and Simone Biles] care for her hair, ideally in its natural state, or with neat weaves or extensions, as opposed to people just ridiculing them on the internet. There have been some times when she's not competing when it has looked very nice (as in the picture below). But I'm sure that in some of the areas where they travel to train and compete, and with their circles and schedules, black hairstylists might not be easy to find. But people need to realize that their hair doesn't add to or take away from their value as humans, role models, and athletes, regardless.

There's still a stereotype that black women can't or won't workout or do certain activities because of our hair. But many black women swim, workout, and play sports regularly. A few appointments with a black stylist or even watching Youtube videos can help those who just aren't good with hair and can't figure it out.

But even now black kids are being told they can't wear their natural hair in schools, black women are being told that they can't wear their natural hair at work, black women just had to fight the military to change their policies on hair. Even today - human beings are being told that their hair, as it grows, is not professional, not appropriate, not acceptable. So of course there's a complex.

What bothers me is that people can't seem to stop talking about it and they do so in such a harsh manner, even after Gabby faced this in such a terrible way a few years ago. It's hurtful and publicly it looks very shallow, even though it's quite deep. You don't have to say everything you think. And even when people do criticize her, they act as if they don't LIKE her, as if she's a bad person, as if she's not a CHAMPION, and most importantly as if she's not a human being with feelings. That's where my problem is. Particularly since black athletes already deal with such heavy criticism of their bodies and their skill, even when they dominate a sport like she has done.

I wrote about this in a [very informal] Facebook note back in 2012 during the last Olympics. It's not shocking, but still sad, that we're still talking about this.

It's important to understand the politics of black hair when judging those judging her. That's really why I wrote this. But she has enough to deal with - overt and covert racism and sexism, and just the stress of the sport. People - ESPECIALLY black people - need to be in her corner.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

On homosexuality and religion

Unfortunately, this is a difficult issue. [I realize that many people will read this and immediately think that it's NOT difficult, that it's simple. And all of those people will have different beliefs. THAT'S what makes it difficult.] There are a number of people who, in trying to be understanding and open-minded, probably come off as playing both sides. And when I think about that in relation to my own struggles as a black person and as a woman, I fully understand why those in the LGBTQ community just don't want to accept that anymore.

Many people have always believed - or want to believe - that all people have a right to their beliefs. And there is an attempt to offer that at face value - you have a right to believe homosexuality is wrong - nothing more, nothing less.

The problem with attempting to hold and share that view at face value is that those beliefs are so intricately tied to hate. [And even though that might not be true for every individual, it is absolutely true for the world at large.] Homosexuality is singled out and looked at differently than other behavior that is considered sinful. AND people often hate and show disdain and even DISGUST for gay PEOPLE. As problematic as the phrase "hate the sin not the sinner" is for many reasons, the biggest issue is that it's  simply not truthful. People hate the sin AND the sinner.

All that being said - even if all of that was taken at face value, out of context of the real world, and we pretended that people viewed homosexuality as any other sin and didn't feel hate and disgust for LGBTQ people, I know a lot of the LGBTQ community and their supporters still wouldn't be ok with that view. Why? Because it is still labeling who they believe they are to their core as a lifestyle, and as a lifestyle that is wrong.

Some people sincerely believe being gay is a sin, sincerely believe in hell and sincerely believe people will be "lost" for eternity. Those people who are not religious - especially those who have never been religious - can't understand that. And to a degree I understand why. It's insulting when what you feel is normal and real and right and powerful and loving and beautiful is called wrong. Beyond that,  from a religious standpoint, homosexuality is one of the only things that people disagree about actually being a sin. So in a sense there's a given separation because when we talk about things like adultery or murder or lying those are things that we all generally agree are wrong. So even when people are doing those things generally they're not arguing that it's okay, they're trying to hide it. And even if they do try to justify it, society at-large does not accept it.

It becomes much more difficult when we're dealing with something that not everybody thinks is wrong. Having conversations about hate wouldn't even be necessary if
1.) We could take the "hate the sin not the sinner" claim at face value, or
2.) We could all agree about whether homosexuality is right or wrong.
Without those things being the case - and they aren't and likely never will be - I don't know where the resolution is. The reality is that even if we are able to accomplish number one, a lot of the LGBTQ community wouldn't accept that. A lot of people are simply refusing to accept that kindness or love exists without acceptance. And a major argument - even solution - from religious groups is that there can be kindness and love without acceptance. And that's a sincerely held belief.

People aren't having this conversation honestly. We have to consider all of these things to do that. We have to acknowledge that we are at a point where the biggest solutions from each side are in direct opposition to each other. We have to address the fact that for many people there is no happy compromise. In order to address all of this we have to be honest. And too often, people simply aren't.

Friday, May 27, 2016

The Italian and Chinese Laundry Commercials are RACIST and WRONG! Why? CONTEXT!

Recently a Chinese laundry ad went viral, making it's rounds on social media as viral videos do. Of course it's no normal laundry ad - in the ad, an Asian woman puts a laundry detergent pod into a black man's mouth and throws him in a washing machine. After screaming for a few seconds, he comes out Asian [almost white actually, but we'll get into that later]. The insinuation, of course, is that he was cleaned or made better by the laundry detergent. The ad angered many people - and likely humored many as well - and as it spread many people referenced a similar video from Italy in which a white man was turned into a black man.

The Chinese ad is for Qiaobi-brand laundry detergent and the Italian ad is for Coloreria Italiana. They are more similar than you'd think, but probably not for the reasons you think. And NEITHER is funny.

Let's start here and let's be CLEAR ... both the Italian and Chinese commercials are RACIST and WRONG. Y'all have to stop using the Italian commercial to justify the Chinese one. CONTEXT and HISTORY make them different and we should ALL understand why by now.

Certainly some people see the Italian one as ok while seeing the Chinese one as racist. While I think BOTH are horrible, excusing the Italian one and condemning the Chinese one - for the obvious reasons - is not a double standard. [Although, arguably, it is a double standard for other reasons, which I'll explain later]. It's NOT the same. Why?


Anti-blackness is RAMPANT in Asia and among Asian Americans here in America. Consumption of American culture, which is filled with stereotypical and anti-black images, is heavy is in Asia. Consumption and appropriation of black culture is HEAVY in Asia and yet just like in America so is anti-blackness. People who are mixed with black in Asia face harsh judgment and criticism for not being "pure." Black people around the world still face harsh realities because of anti-blackness. So no - it's not ok.


The worst part is that the anti-blackness among Asians is often cultivated without full context, so explaining why it's wrong is even more difficult. That doesn't excuse them though. They consume the culture and history that they want to. The allusion to whiter skin being better and cleaner than black skin is clear. Whitewashing.


Still, the Italian commercial is a problem. But for reasons people seem to be overlooking. 

The Italian commercial fetishizes and stereotypes black men. The abs, the white woman lusting over a black man. Think about all those stereotypes about black men and sexuality and aggression - mandingo, black men as rapists, SIZE - you can come up with the rest. REAL HISTORY, REAL CONSEQUENCES. Many people died because of these stereotypes. Much of this comes from America, but it has been disseminated worldwide. Keep in mind, racism and anti-blackness are STRONG in Italy. Did we forget about the bananas thrown at Italy's first black minister Cecile Kyenge?

And then there's the rap music in the background. Come on. It's ridiculous.


They're BOTH stupid and wrong. Yes, black men obviously agreed to do the commercials. That doesn't make it ok. It's all rooted in white supremacy - Asians have issues with colorism, whitewashing of culture, etc. as well. Notice that the Asians in that commercial are very fair. Asians with more European features are considered more attractive by western standards, which many people - including Asians - have adopted.

And before somebody says it - the Italian commercial isn't anti-white and there is no racism against white people. White people have too much power for that commercial to affect them collectively. That is very important in distinguishing why in these commercials, "cleaning" a black man to a lighter color is NOT the same as changing a white man to a darker color. They simply don't hold the same weight. While the Italian commercial is tasteless and tacky -  it's not racist against white people. On the contrary, it actually perpetuates anti-black stereotypes, even in making the black man desireable. Why? You got it ...


Monday, May 9, 2016

Does NAfME C.E.O. Michael Butera Need To Go?: Why the National Association for Music Education MUST engage in true dialogue about diversity, NOW.

 Michael Butera - NCfME C.E.O.

Recently at a meeting hosted by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) C.E.O., Michael Butera, [allegedly] made some uneducated, distasteful, and frankly racist comments about diversity and minority musicians.

An account of the comments Mr. Butera made can be found here, in a blog post written by Keryl McCord, the Operations Director of Alternate ROOTS, an organization founded in 1976 whose mission is "to support the creation and presentation of original art, in all its forms, which is rooted in a particular community or place, tradition or spirit."

A few quotes from Ms. McCord's account of the incident:

"...Each of the organizations at the table articulated how we were attempting to deal with issues of equity, inclusion, and diversity within our boards, staff, membership, and our fields.
Mr. Butera told us that his board was all white and that he couldn’t diversify his board because they aren’t appointed but, rather, they are elected by the membership. Further, his membership isn’t diverse because, ‘Blacks and Latinos lack the keyboard skills needed for this field.’ He also intimated that music theory is too difficult for them as an area of study..."
"...When another member of our table, who said that her organization is struggling with this issue but that they are working on it, pushed back to ask him, again, why he wouldn’t even entertain the idea of trying to diversify his board and membership, Mr. Butera got extremely defensive. So much so that he refused to engage any further and said, 'I don’t have to take this. Yes, my board is all white, and they are one of the most diverse boards of any organization – more than any arts organization at this table.' Then he stormed out of the room."

Keryl McCord - Operations Director, Alternate ROOTS

After some public outcry, the organization and then Mr. Butera responded.
The statement from NAfME as well as Mr. Butera's statement in response to the concerns of musicians across the country regarding Mr. Butera's encounter with Ms. McCord and other artists fall WOEFULLY short of addressing the problems with what he said, his lack of ability to constructively engage in these conversations, and the fact that these attitudes are pervasive in our field. How can you be trusted to deal with issues you aren't even comfortable discussing?

Immediately, I found some of the comments on the organization's Facebook page and Mr. Butera's Facebook page to be dismissive and disconcerting. The attack on Ms. McCord and questioning of HER credibility in the wake of these kinds of comments is ridiculous, but very telling. When a person conveys their experiences, with clarity and with nothing to gain, comments only attempting to discredit that person or to absolve the organization of responsibility are at best naive, certainly tone deaf, and at worst self serving and ill-intentioned. Of course, these comments do not necessarily represent the leadership of NAfME. But they do illustrate the much larger problem at the root of all of this. I think these attitudes speak to much larger issues in our field, in our country, and in our world. And as musicians and music educators we can’t solve ALL of those problems, but we CAN be leaders and problem solvers in many ways.

While Mr. Butera’s supporters may want to discard Ms. McCord’s account as hearsay, biased, unlike him, or simply untrue - the fact that he did not categorically deny these accusations, or provide an in depth response to them is also very telling. In this internet age, one has to be very careful about crafting these types of responses. Nuance in writing, particularly on social media, takes thought, time, and talent. But those people who are already well educated, well versed, and engaged in work involving diversity can articulate their thoughts, even on the spot, and certainly when given time to craft a response. Mr. Butera’s inability to do so makes him unqualified to be a leader in an organization dedicated to education.

Here is the reality, both the initial statements and responses show not only his inability to articulate a well crafted response to these widespread and important issues, but that he holds stereotypes and ignorant prejudices that the organization he represents should be fighting against. How can the organization claim to be committed to diversity when it is clear that the C.E.O. hasn't even considered these issues? It would be problematic if he only believed that diversity (in his board and in his field were not an issue), but his views are even more concerning - he believes that there is an inherent lack of ability in black and Hispanic students to grasp and execute certain concepts. It would take an entire post - maybe an entire book - to explain how problematic that is. But ALL music educators should understand that when you internalize these kinds of ideas [baises], it DOES affect how you teach, how you give out opportunities, how you interpret behavior and much more. Whether you realize it or not.

There is NO way Mr. Butera's comments can be separated from the organization he leads. And they should not be. We would be in denial and irresponsible to allow them to be. In order to be honest and to be professionals, we MUST acknowledge that Mr. Butera's comments represent a larger issue within the classical music community, within the field of education, and at the point where those areas meet. And we must use this as a catalyst for a larger conversation.

I am a graduate of and deeply involved with the Peabody Conservatory, an institution that is confronting challenging and complicated issues surrounding diversity, inclusion, inequality, access and many other issues that must be addressed in order for our art forms to survive and in order for us to be artists who not only enrich the world, but who lead in areas of humanity. None of this would be possible without an intelligent, open, fearless, leader who is willing to have conversations, confront issues, invest in people and create a sense of community both within and outside of our doors.

Dean Fred Bronstein - Peabody Conservatory, Johns Hopkins University

Like other institutions, Peabody faces hefty challenges in dealing with diversity and inclusion and doesn't have a great history of adequately addressing these issues. (Ask me how I know.) Since his arrival, Dean Fred Bronstein has worked tirelessly to create connections with and among the varied communities within and outside of our gates, to understand the experiences and world views of other people, to seek the counsel and input of a diverse group of people in all areas of growth at Peabody, to create an environment in which ALL people can be comfortable, and - when necessary [in order to make progress and to change the status quo] - to make people uncomfortable. Peabody has a LONG way to go, but Dean Bronstein is proof that this this kind of leadership can, and should, exist.

Mr. Butera's words, attitude, and actions make it clear that he is not ready to be this kind of leader - not at the National Association for Music Education or any other organization. He should seek counsel and training to widen and challenge his worldview, but not as C.E.O of NAfME. Simultaneously, educators, educational institutions, and all organizations involved in this work, nationwide, must be willing to engage in the same practices.

So what now?

We must be involved in demanding that NAfME do more to seriously address what is much deeper than a few flustered statements. It seems that they are just trying to make this go away. Beyond a regurgitation of their mission statement from the organization and a general accusation that his comments were inaccurately portrayed from Mr. Butera - NOT a denial - there doesn’t seem to be any more attention (or intention) surrounding this. That is a PROBLEM!

Mr. Butera's words, actions, and defensiveness represent what many of us already know to be a huge problem in our field. The fact that he was not even well VERSED enough on the subject to give an intelligent response makes it clear that he is not ready to lead an organization that should be at the forefront of these important conversations with intelligent conversations and ideas. How can a man who doesn't seem to understand the meaning of the word diversity (based on his purported comments about his board) head an organization that is responsible for leading music educators across the nation? When questioned by a [presumably white] colleague dealing with the same issues, he refused to acknowledge her concerns. How can you engage WITH people of diverse backgrounds if you're unable and unwilling to even engage ABOUT people from diverse backgrounds.

As noted by a friend and fellow musician and educator, "there's literally no way the organization can claim to be all for diversity when the C.E.O. clearly hasn't even considered the concept. His only actual response was to insult the musicianship of two groups, and blame them for their lack of representation."

Mr. Butera's comments perpetuate false stereotypes that ignore very real issues such as racial and economic inequality, lack of access, prejudice, and the fact that there ARE many Black and Latino students who are thriving in music. It also diminishes the MANY contributions that Black and Latino artists have made to all genres of music.

It is the responsibility of ALL musicians and educators to speak up about this. One encouraging aspect of this situation is the number of people of all backgrounds demanding that NAfME address this further and committing to canceling their membership if this is not addressed with more clarity and/or a change in leadership. Members should demand conversation and action, not only about this incident, but about the original questions surrounding a lack of diversity in the organization's administration. Non members can begin to engage in these conversation in their own institutions and organizations, while simultaneously keeping the conversation around this incident going and using social media and other platforms to keep the pressure on NAfME to further address this.

It is very much worth noting that Mr. Butera's comments are also an indictment of the NAfME leadership and the entire membership. Essentially he is saying that the body of members has voted for the leadership that they want - meaning that they are responsible for, and possibly even desiring of, the lack of diversity. [Whether or not that is accurate is subjective, but it is the insinuation and simply another way to dodge responsibility for the organization’s current lack of diversity and his inability to explain it.] What he doesn't seem to realize is that as a leader it was and is his responsibility to not only represent the body, but to LEAD them towards growth and progress in the field. To open their eyes to things that are wrong, intentional or unintentional, and to things they may not have considered. He is obviously unable AND unwilling to do so.

NAfME's own website inadvertently displays the organizations failure in understanding and addressing diversity. Alyssa San Pedro, a graduate student majoring in music education at Boston University, wrote in a Facebook post, "systemic racism exists in music education, regardless of whether or not Mr. Butera actually made those statements. The lack of diversity among NAfME's membership is a symptom of that racism. The fact that NAfME's page on 'Inclusivity in Music Education' says it is working to provide support for music educators to 'deal with' diversity reveals the role NAfME plays as an institution...I am a Latina graduating with a Master of Music in Music Education and on Monday I will be at work teaching music. I am not part of a problem to be 'dealt with' and neither are my students. I am a member of NAfME and I refuse to remain silent."

A swift apology to silence the conversation and return to business as usual is only beneficial to those who do not seek to grow and make this field better. Mr. Butera's words and actions were uninformed, dismissive, and defensive, but we must acknowledge that they represent the viewpoints of many people, and open the door for a necessary conversation that leads to necessary action. And this charge doesn't end with the end of Mr. Butera's term, whether he resigns or completes it. Any incoming leadership, at every level, needs to be challenged to consider these issues as well.

The most healthy and promising response from Mr. Butera would have been to consider Ms. McCord’s statements and the numerous comments and questions that have been presented since it came to light. To show a real commitment to diversity he would have connected with leaders in this field who have thrived in this area and asked for their advice on actions and words, not simply to smooth over this incident, but to address the real shortcomings and lack of understanding demonstrated by himself through his words, and by his organization through past decisions. He would have offered a sincere apology, even if he believed the encounter to be a misunderstanding, not a denial and defense. He has shown not only through his initial statements, but through his response, that he truly does not understand the gravity and intricacies surrounding diversity, inclusion, access, stereotypes, prejudices and similar concepts.

Even this blog is not enough - because it isn’t specific. It doesn’t begin to address the specific words and actions that are prevalent and problematic in the field. It doesn’t give resources and direction to action - ACTION - that changes these realities we fight. And obviously, for the sake of length that’s not possible in this post. BUT - it is my hope that it does help people to understand why these comments are so problematic coming from a leader of what COULD be an organization that really leads in this area. And that is not to diminish the work already being done by music educators who are a part of this organization. But this has shown us that both leadership and members might have taken the understanding of and commitment to diversity by colleagues for granted, and this is an area in which improvements are both needed and very possible.

All of this has highlighted an ongoing conversation surrounding racism, diversity, access, and prejudice in the arts. And I want to add a term to the conversation: Unconscious bias. The arguments by those supporting Mr. Butera are based not on his behavior in this situation, but instead are based on who people perceive him to be. His reputation. But I often say, even the most progressive people can have strong prejudices and lack understanding of people and things that are different than them. Having a general belief in diversity and having an understanding of what prejudices are and how they actually affect people are VERY different things. You don't have to be a blatant racist to hold onto prejudices that affect how you view the world or how you make decisions. For instance, you can be a proponent of diversity but not recognize why it's a problem that the board for the National Association of Music Education is all white. See how that works? :-)

Here’s a short video giving a little more insight to Unconscious Bias, used in training by Caroline Laguerre-Brown, Vice Provost and Chief Diversity Officer in the Office of Institutional Equity at Johns Hopkins University. Incentive to watch: It’s hosted by Alan Alda! A HUGE takeaway from this - it might not actually be very difficult to CHANGE our implicit biases. has to be WILLING to confront them.

Mr. Butera and his supporters should understand that these conversations aren’t some attempt to tarnish a man’s reputation. Nobody wins in this situation. But many people lose when attitudes and ideas like those Mr. Butera expressed are not challenged and redirected. And we can do something about that. Mr. Butera should categorically deny all of these comments and explain what he said in full context OR he should apologize, explain that he still has a lot of learning to do, but wasn't intentionally dismissive or prejudiced, and resign. And not as a PR move or to quiet criticism or assuage members. But as a genuine demonstration that he understands his wrongs, the problems with his comments, and how much he needs to learn. And to show that he is committed to doing that work. That is what a REAL leader would do. Being a good leader means acknowledging not only your strengths, but also your weaknesses and knowing when it appropriate to step back and seek counsel.

This incident highlights the need for us to to ensure that people elected or hired into leadership positions in our educational and professional institutions and organizations have a genuine and overwhelming understanding of these conversations that includes a grasp of the issues and the language. They must be willing and able to understand and engage. And moving forward - again, no matter who the NAfME C.E.O. is - this incident needs to be used to continue a MUCH needed conversation focused on the attitudes and ideas of classically trained musicians and music educators about minorities, diversity, and access in this field.

UPDATE: HERE is the link to an update from Ms. McCord [that was published during the time that I was writing/publishing this post] that I read after writing this post, in which she explains in more detail what transpired that day. It should be noted that Ms. McCord was the only person of color at her table and she wrote, "it wasn’t his interaction with me that was the flashpoint for his departure. I wasn’t the one he stood and yelled at before leaving. That came about because another member of our group basically asked him to not just accept that his organization couldn’t change to become more diverse or inclusive."

So again I ask, how can you engage WITH people of diverse backgrounds if you're unable and unwilling to even engage ABOUT people from diverse backgrounds?

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Artist, The Teacher: What Prince taught us about sexiness and [black] masculinity.

Prince did something special for all people. But especially for black people. Something I think we fully acknowledge, through our love and admiration for him just as he was -- indeed, BECAUSE of who he was -- but something we also simultaneously ignore, or at least often overlook. Prince SUCCESSFULLY challenged all stereotypical ideas of manhood and masculinity.

He was a beautiful man. I read a piece written just a few months ago that called him "almost unnecessarily handsome." There was no question that he was sexy. Whether he was wearing platform shoes or flared sleeves or skin tight pants. When he whispered in that deep voice or sang in that falsetto, EVERYBODY, gender and sexuality aside, was mesmerized. The most hypermasculine men loved him. And of course, women loved him. Even women who preferred hypermasculine men loved him.

Hypermasculinity describes the exaggeration of male stereotypical behavior, such as an emphasis on physical strength, aggression, and sexuality. that last part...and Prince...ok yeah...

22 Incredibly Sexy Prince GIFs For All Your Sexual Situations

Anyway, hypermasculinity permeates every aspect of American culture, and is a problem worldwide. But as with every societal ill, it affects the oppressed and impoverished in more harsh, dangerous, and damaging ways. Black people had hypermasculinity forced on us. It's now been with us for a long time. It arrived with us on this continent. But it didn't necessarily come from our ancestors. It came from white supremacy. It was ingrained through slavery, through poverty, through the street, gang, and drug cultures [that were a result of oppression, segregation, and poverty]. It was a result of always needing to be the biggest, the strongest, a result of stereotypes as old as this nation, a result of the fear and conditioning of white people. And it forced us into thinking that toughness and hardness = manliness. That anything else was gay and that, of course, gay was bad.

There were other pop stars who refused to be defined by gender and racial norms or stereotypes and who broke barriers. But nobody was like Prince. And he did it as a straight man. He was admired by men and desired by women [and vice versa of course].

22 Incredibly Sexy Prince GIFs For All Your Sexual Situations

Not only did he always have a woman - but he always had a baaaaddd [read: good] woman. He always had a fly girl. Multiple women claim him as their one true love. He was somehow still a stereotypical man's man. Yet his style, his music, his persona, even his words challenged society's ideas about what that meant.

We know that. We see that. We feel that. Yet simultaneously we forget that. We ignore that. We refuse that.

Prince made space for black boys and men to challenge the confining roles placed upon them by society -- particularly the negative ones. And not just LGBTQ black boys and men. What Prince did was just as, if not more important, for men who like him, are heterosexual.

22 Incredibly Sexy Prince GIFs For All Your Sexual Situations

He showed and taught so many something we need to remember. There's not one way to be a man. Even a straight man. There's not one way to be sexy. Men can be creative, wild, even flamboyant. Men can be sensitive, thoughtful, and introspective. Men can be artsy, loving, and happy. Men - especially BLACK boys and men - can be FREE. And black girls and women can respect those men, love those men, and at an appropriate age desire those men. Prince taught us that. And that lesson was - and IS - as important as every bit of the amazing music he left us.

Prince with his protege - who for a time was also his girlfriend - Vanity (AKA Denise Matthews).

May we acknowledge that. 
May we teach our sons and our daughters.
May we never forget.

Thank you to The Artist who was also The Teacher.

We will never forget you Prince. Rest in Power.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Bill Cosby isn't the [only] problem! Here's the CRAZY that's making your arguments about Bill Cosby sound foolish!

I have tried so hard to stay away from this Bill Cosby stuff. But the ignorance I see today in the wake of the charges filed against's too much. So here goes...

I get all the chatter. For those that are Bill Cosby fans (especially black fans), who have an emotional connection to his work and his legacy, it's HARD to see him like this. Personally, his many years of respectability politics soured me on him a bit as a person. BUT, I was still fiercely defensive of his contributions and legacy (if you know me, you know how I feel about A Different World) and I was hoping against all hope that we would find out that he was at most an adulterer that dabbled in recreational drugs--I mean, most of the celebrities we love fit that description, after all, so we could handle that--and that it would all go away. Unfortunately-for all involved personally and those of us watching from afar-it didn't end there.

I said on Facebook a while ago, 
"My view on the Bill Cosby situation: It's sad that people are so quick to believe these women's accusations with no real evidence. It's sad that people are so quick to dismiss these women's accusations with no real investigation."
This was my only commentary on the situation (outside of sharing the article written by Beverly Johnson), and I was referring to the public's knowledge when this first blew up, not to what had been presented in a courtroom. And for the most part, I still feel that way.

I go HARD for black people. HAARRDDD! EVERY DAY. Anybody who knows me knows that. And I have no problem with people who want due process for Bill Cosby or who are suspicious of the system. We all are suspicious of the system if we have sense.

BUT, I have a HUGE problem with the arguments I'm seeing-especially from black men-about why he shouldn't be charged. That's not arguing that he should have due process. That's arguing that there should be no process.

There's also a large number of white people-mostly conservatives-defending him. Their logic is ridiculous as well. Most centering around really nasty, sexist comments. and arguments about political correctness. (Basically what they say about everything.) And if you're agreeing with them that should automatically make you question your judgment.

So here's a quick run down of all the CRAZY that's making your arguments about Bill Cosby sound foolish:

--Yes, there is history here. The justice system isn't fair when it comes to black men. But it ain't fair when it comes to black women either. Do y'all understand that black women are very likely to be the victims of an unreported rape? Did you know that approximately 1 in 5 Black women in the U.S. experience rape at some point in their lives? When you make misogynistic comments about rape and rape victims, WE LOSE. Because those attitudes go far beyond Bill Cosby.

Black men lose too. Hyper-masculinity is stealing our boys' innocence AND their lives. Whether it's losing lives to gang violence or stereotypes and fear causing police to shoot unarmed men down in the streets. And think about all the black boys who are victims of sexual predators, who hide their abuse for years or don't speak up at all because they are afraid of being labeled as gay. Y'all, NOBODY wins when we protect predators, except predators. You're not protecting black people by protecting black predators-whether it's Bill Cosby or your Uncle Bill.

But then can we expect some of y'all to question Bill Cosby when Uncle Bill was sitting at Christmas dinner? ..........


--Yes, Woody Allen should be in jail. So should R. Kelly (though if you're wholeheartedly defending Bill, you might be defending Robert too). So should the cops that killed Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, John Crawford, and many others. So should half the folks in politics and on wall street. So should your cousin that ain't up to no good. That doesn't mean Bill Cosby shouldn't.

--Charlie Sheen is irrelevant. Period.

--This ain't a distraction. And when you keep arguing that about everything, you're saying we're not intelligent enough to deal with more than one issue, which simply isn't true. It might be for you. But I ain't distracted. I've been posting and reading about Tamir and many other things all day. Why can't you multitask? You don't have a problem keeping up with all the housewives and sports wives and everything that's happening in ShondaLand and on Empire at the same damn time. You can handle two conversations about real life matters.

--Don't assume that because a lot of time has passed that these women are lying. And don't assume that the time lapse means they never spoke up. Some rape victims are dissuaded from pursuing their case, some pursued cases that were dropped, some may have been afraid to speak up. We all know that rape victims are abused all over again in the court system. Don't be a part of that. 

We were just celebrating the conviction of Daniel HotlzclawDo you know why those women didn't come forward sooner-they didn't think anyone would believe them. There was an imbalance of POWER. That's important y'all. And once one went public, others felt more confident and safe. How can we champion women in one case and be so quick to disparage them in another? And remember, there were a LOT of people who championed Holtzclaw, and a lot of people who DIDN'T believe those women. Some of you are treating Cosby's accusers the same way.

--Bill Cosby did not start preaching respectability because his son was killed. He started preaching respectability because that's what [many] people of his generation do. That's what they were taught. That's what they felt was necessary. And you know what-when you come from a generation in which the perception of your behavior could easily turn into a life or death situation, preaching about behavior comes partially from an attempt at self preservation. It also comes from a lack of understanding of systemic racism and oppression. But it didn't come from a hit on his son to keep him from standing up for us. He believed the stuff he said. And he's not the only one. And there are plenty of people that preach respectability and still believe they are fighting for us. Stop believing every meme you read. 

--Understand that Bill Cosby is not Cliff Huxtable. Bill Cosby wasn't the lovable TV dad we all wished lived in our homes. That's not him. GET THAT. These women aren't the only people who made accusations about his arrogance. That doesn't make him guilty. But folks, we have to see him outside of his most famous TV persona. 

--Nothing erases the good he's done. His work is brilliant. His contributions to American culture-especially black culture-is invaluable. They can take his name off of endowments or cut ties at universities or take honorary degrees or whatever. Millions have benefited from his work and contributions-both on television and in the real world. Thousands, maybe millions of black students have gone to college because of his work and financial contributions. He is a comedy legend. His television shows changed lives. That doesn't mean he is innocent. He is Bill y'all. Not Cliff. 

We have celebrated the art of Nazi sympathizers and racists and other horrible people. IF he is guilty, we can recognize his greatness and entertain the idea that there is another part of him that is horrible. Because he's human. And humans are complex. 

But these ignorant comments completely absolving him and condemning these women-so many women-has to STOP. We have too much to lose.

Some of y'all need to understand how patriarchy is intertwined with white supremacy. It's nothing to perpetrate or celebrate. I truly hope Bill gets due process. Even though I don't trust the process. But I can't just sit here and say he shouldn't have to deal with this. And you shouldn't either. It's HARD to watch. I would get no pleasure from watching him die in jail. But for those of you who are angry and blaming these women and spouting conspiracy theories...what if he did do it? To even ONE person? What if he did? Does time mean that goes away? Does a settlement mean they just wanted money (or does it mean he paid for silence)? Are you so blinded by the fantasy of what happened in that Brooklyn Heights brownstone that real world pain doesn't matter?

Listen, I'm not saying you have to hate Bill Cosby or even that you HAVE to believe all the accusations against him. This is an image that nobody who loved Heathcliff Huxtable EVER wanted to see! But again, the man in this picture is Bill. Not Cliff.

And to be honest, I grieve for all that I loved about Bill AND Cliff. Looking at this picture brings heaviness to my heart. I stared at it for about 10 seconds and it brought tears to my eyes. And I don't even know this man. I'd be lying if I said that his legacy and his current physical frailness don't make this difficult. But this foolishness that's floating around has to stop. And we have to stop these conversation that deter victims from coming forward, particularly when they have to battle an abuser who has power. These women are old enough to be mothers and grandmothers. Many have not accepted money and are not asking for any. We at least owe it to them-to OURSELVES-to consider their stories.

Whether it's Bill Cosby, or R. Kelly, or somebody you know--if there are predators among us, we can't protect them. No matter how much we love or admire them. 

Friday, December 11, 2015

I love my people, but - about this misogyny ish...

Black people I love y'all. I mean I LOVE y'all. I LOVE US. Unashamedly and without apology. I LOVE MY PEOPLE. So much so that the weight of that love almost feels physical. I have so much love for those who came before us, and those who live now, who fight, strive, create, contribute, shape, and conquer, in spite of very deliberate oppression.

We HAVE to do better when it comes to dealing with patriarchy, misogyny and sexism--and all the hypocrisy, abuse and respectability that comes with these things--in our community.

Here are some VERY basic definitions:
Patriarchy: a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it
Misogyny: dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women
Sexism: prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex

We have to identify these things, call them out, and squash them. Black women are entirely too vulnerable and we need the protection of our community-men and women alike. We need to be afforded innocence as girls and support as women. We need to be given space to be free and grow and live and love--and even DRESS--as we see fit. We need to be cherished and understood and respected and LOVED.

We are the BACKBONE of our people. We take up the slack that black men leave behind whether due to being incarcerated, disenfranchised, or killed due to systemic racism and white supremacy or simply due to selfishness, disrespect and immaturity. Whatever the case, we are always here. And we are THRIVING. We are pursuing degrees at a higher rate than ANY other group. But we're women, so of course we're not getting fair promotion or equal pay. Still, in spite of the individual and intertwined challenges we face as both black people and women, WE ARE HERE.

The way we as a people allow misogyny, patriarchy, and sexism to run rampant in our communities is akin to us hating our blackness and not seeing our worth as people. And giving in to those things to police our clothes, activities, friends, and our lives in general is not ok. When you unfairly criticize or disregard us because we don't fit a certain mold or type, you leave us vulnerable and open to a society that already stereotypes us and judges us harshly. (Not to mention, it's extremely hypocritical.) 

We don't have to be perfect people to deserve recognition and respect. We don't have to be perfect people to deserve to be seen outside of generalizations and stereotypes. We don't have to be perfect people to be allowed to make choices and live freely, and be respected even if those choices don't match up to some societal idea of what is good or right or classy or ladylike. We don't have to be perfect people to be worthy of treatment as human beings and respect as women. We have been taught to hate black women just as we have been taught to hate ourselves as black people. But we are not making progress in dealing with the former as we are making in dealing with the latter. And that has to CHANGE.

Challenge yourself black man, challenge yourself black women, to do better for and be better to US. We are all striving to be better as individuals. To grow and learn and build. But even NOW, in the absence of perfection, we deserve respect and protection. And black men-you are a huge part of that. Daddies and uncles and grandfathers and brothers and cousins--how girls and women see themselves in this male dominated society starts with YOU. Whether we view ourselves beyond the way our bodies are received is greatly influenced by whether YOU do. Whether we think we are strong, smart, and worthy is largely influenced by whether YOU do. DO BETTER. We deserve that.