Thursday, May 31, 2018

When Were The "Good Ole Days"?

Contrary to popular belief, American society hasn't devolved. This doesn't mean we should ignore or compartmentalize the barbarism we've witnessed, but we shouldn't pretend like today's evils are inherently different than the evils of yesteryear. America has a 240+ year run of carnage under her belt. The only thing separating today from yesterday is our vantage point.

The idea that American society has devolved is rooted in the false belief that we achieved some utopian state of bliss and then lost it. This collective fetishization- with a period no one can point to on a calendar- is a form of scapegoating that hinders​ our ability to address the very real issues we face.

There are millions of Americans so in love with the past that they fear the future. They have romanticized a history that never existed. Some have been so tricked by their youth, incomplete memories, and the false narratives woven into our cultural identity that they believe the America from country and western songs actually existed. I have some bad news for the adherents of this false doctrine. The "good old days" never existed. They aren't a real period in time. They are a fantasy land where nothing bad ever happened and everything was pure. 

This is a painful realization, so painful, that some choose to avoid it. Instead of engaging and critically examining the myths and lies that underpin this fantasy they repeat them. Anything that challenges​ the narratives​ people believe about America is viewed as a personal attack. People aren't upset that a piece of cloth isn't being recognized, they are upset that people aren't embracing their version of reality. This makes telling the truth about​ America a risky and controversial proposition.

America didn't devolve; Americans just quit pretending to be civilized towards each other. Meaningful discourse was murdered by ego. Our society is so preoccupied with making sure people are respectful to symbols and relics that we've stopped working towards an inclusive future. There are people so invested in their tribes, dogmas, and ideologies that they have become blind to the ways those beliefs harm other people. They are prisoners to the myths they were indoctrinated with.

This is who we are and where we are. We are in this bed together and we have to fix it. There's a better chance of white people returning this land to the ancestors of those it was stolen from than a mass exodus of Black and Brown people. We will learn how to live together or we will be witnesses to the kind of uprisings we see in black and white photos and videos. The choice is ours.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Wynton Wasn't Wrong!

“I don’t think we should have a music talking about ni**ers and b*tches and h*es... I’ve said it. I’ve repeated it. I still repeat it. To me that’s more damaging than a statue of Robert E. Lee.”

Wynton Marsalis

That quote from Wynton Marsalis on Jonathan Capehart’s weekly podcast “Cape Up” put him squarely in the sights of #BlackTwitter. He was absolutely obliterated. His criticisms of rap were dismissed as the rantings of a cane waving old man. The following day Marsalis wrote a 1,074-word Facebook post clarifying his position. This recurring conversation about rap has deeper social consequences than many of the folks attacking him seem willing to admit.

Criticisms of rap, no matter how reasonable, have a way of pitting people from different age groups, races, and socioeconomic backgrounds against each other. Many of Marsalis’s critics chose to attack him instead of the arguments he used to support his position. This is sad. His use of Robert E. Lee and Confederate statues was provocative, but his logic was sound. We should be morally and intellectually honest enough to admit that misogyny, homophobia, drug use, drug distribution, and soft genocide are constitutive themes in a lot of the music produced today. This doesn’t mean all rap.

I say this as a 43-year-old ordained member of clergy who listens to rap every day. I will always love rap: even though I can't stand a majority of the kids making it these days. For me, rap has always been about the beats. Good songs always have great beats, and great songs have great beats and great lyrical content. It’s possible to love a problematic genre of music and tell the truth about it. Rap is awesome, but there are artists and songs I don’t play in front of kids and polite company. This is true for movies as well.

There are so many negative artistic and literary representations of Black people that they seep into the consciousness of a society. This is damaging. Many of today’s rappers have more in common with actors and reality stars than the image they portray. Sadly, many of the kids listening don't always know this. Imitation is a form of flattery, but when Black children mimic the actions of their favorite rappers the consequences can be deadly.

Marsalis’s words parallel those of bell hooks and others who have critiqued rap from inside the Black community. No one has to agree or disagree with these criticisms but ridiculing them doesn’t make them go away. I don’t agree with everything he said, but I respect him for the way he explained his feelings. He didn’t go the Fox news route and try to diminish the community while distancing himself from Blackness. He didn’t coon or sellout.

What we are seeing in rap is the logical conclusion to the evolutionary path the genre has been on. I had a mixtape in the 90’s titled: Music To Do Drive-Bys To. It was as cd of freestyles over some of the hardest beats down south producers were making back then. I look back on that album and realize the problems with it. This doesn’t make me better than a kid listening to Lil Pump or Migos. A lot of the kids making music today were raised by people who exposed them to the same music I was listening to. As a community it behooves us to come to grips with the impact rap has had on too many kids. This is an important conversation that more parents and kids need to have.

I love a problematic genre of music. Our society is never giving up materialism or vanity, so those themes will always be reflected in art. Rap isn’t all bad. There have always been people rapping about systemic racism, poverty and the existential angst that comes with living in America. Kendrick Lamar and Future are the progeny of the genre that produced KRS1 and 2 Live Crew. As consumers of the art form and people concerned with our community, we have to he honest about this reality. Wynton Marsalis isn’t our enemy. He’s more of an ally than the record labels benefitting from Black pain and suffering.

Friday, May 25, 2018

America Needs More Steve Kerr!

"I'm proud to be in a league that understands patriotism in America is about free speech. It's about peacefully protesting...They're weren't disrespecting the flag or the military, but our president decided to make it about that and the NFL followed suit and pandered to their fan base by creating this hysteria."

Steve Kerr showed some of "allies" how easy it is to tell the truth.

"Allies" love sharing their obligatory MLK quotes and pictures, but very few have ever wrestled with his words. Dr. King's message was the antithesis of  peacefully suffering injustice. Anyone who believes he would side with Donald Trump and the NFL over the people he was murdered advocating for needs to turn of Fox News and pick up a book.

Here are some Dr. King quotes to get you started:

1. Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

2. In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. 

3. There comes a time when silence is betrayal.

4. There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right.

If you can't tell the truth about peaceful protests and the Black bodies that caused them, keep Dr. King's name out of your mouth. Your silence allows the status quo to continue. We have a legal system that kills more unarmed people of color than armed school shooters. Let me say that again: white mass shooters are treated better than unarmed people of color. In 25 years your grandkids will be ashamed.

If we hadn't put a moratorium on inviting folks to the cookout Steve Kerr would have already received a lifetime achievement award.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

A Few Quick Thoughts

1. Tomi Lahren is a horrible person who has exacerbated, and directly benefited from, racial tensions, but she didn't deserve to have a drink thrown on her.

2. If the NFL was really worried about patriotism and the flag they would give back all of the tax dollars the Department of Defense has paid them since 2009 for "acts of patriotism".

3. Wynton Marsalis is getting a lot more heat than he deserves. He has valid arguments worth wrestling with.

4. The truth doesn't have a political agenda, and it doesn't require our approval to be valid. 6×6=36 no matter your understanding of math.

5. Opinions aren't facts, but they carry weight. Also, all opinions aren't equal. If you don't believe me, take medical advice from an accountant.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Thanks For Your Support!

Thoughtwrestler turned 5 years old today! In its first year my blog got 4,000 page views. These days, I can get that many clicks in a week. My little blog is still a "failure" by society's standards, but I have had my work published and cited across a variety of publications. I have met and interviewed politicians, celebrities, and academicians. I'm not where I want to be, but I can look back and see progress.

The moral of the story: keep pushing. Don't allow the secular myths of popularity, approval, or acceptances limit you. Don't wait for ANYONE to validate your vision. If you see yourself doing something do it. Most people never make it because they are afraid of failing in public. Don't be this kind of failure. Be the kind of failure that can look back at your efforts and be proud. No one can decide how hard you work. No one can make your dreams a reality.

Thanks for your support! I appreciate all of the reads, likes, and shares. This has been a blessing! Salute!


A Royal Shaming

Q: What was the most annoying thing about the royal wedding?

A: Reading hot takes from people hell bent on shaming people for watching it.

Full Disclosure: I didn't watch the royal wedding; however, I'm not completely clueless about the most watched, tweeted, and discussed event this past weekend. I, like everyone else, was witness to the media's 360° coverage. From what I saw it was beautiful. Bishop Michael Curry delivered a timely message a lot of people needed to hear. This was the kind of event little girls playing princess dream of.

I chose not to watch the wedding for one reason: it was too early. By the time I got home Friday night I had already worked 60+ hours and Saturday is, usually, the only morning I get to sleep past 6:30 am.

I logged on Twitter shortly after 8 expecting to see some hateful tweets mixed in with the hashtags relevant to the wedding: that's what Twitter does, but I was surprised by how many people spent the better part of their Saturday bashing others for watching it. Contrarian points of view are social media's life's blood, but this was beneath petty.

#BlackTwitter split along ideological, religious, and gender lines. #WokeTwitter started attacking #BlackFeministTwitter, #HotepTwitter started attacking #NegropeanTwitter, and #SwirlingTwitter had a war amongst themselves.
It was sad.

The social media interactions between Black people over the weekend demonstrated how fragile our unity is. With all of the issues facing us, we let the marriage of a biracial woman to a prince, who is likely to never sit on the throne, come between us.

Watching or not watching the Royal wedding didn't open one school or close a liquor store in any of our communities. Tweet shaming people who watched didn't return any of the wealth looted from Alkebulan. Saturday didn't change anything.

The British Empire was built from the spoils of slavery and colonization. A new duchess can't change that history and doesn't have the power to make amends for it. The majority of people understood this. They just wanted to witness a historical event. There are people inside Black social media communities committed to shaming anyone for attempting to escape the daily rigors of life. Imagine if the NBA Finals or the NFL Draft caused this much chaos in the community? Here's a thought: people are allowed to enjoy something without endorsing or approving of it.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

With Friends Like Rudy

Did Rudy Giuliani really go on Hannity and admit Donald Trump paid Michael Cohen the $130,000 dollars he has been telling his Christian base he knew nothing about?

This should be a pretty big news story in the right-wing world, but it won't budge the needle. I already know how this will play out. Fox news, conservative media, and #Trumpstans on social media will dig even deeper into their bag of deflections and ad hominem fallacies: "America didn't elect Donald Trump to be our priest." "The American people knew who they were voting for." "The president has had to do some orthodox things because of the George Soros funded liberal media's radical socialist agenda?" 

Rudy Giuliani's admission of Donald Trump's knowledge of the Stormy Daniels payment will slide off the moral compass of his Evangelical base faster than the president can tweet no collusion. 

Counting the campaign, we are almost three years into the largest forfeiture of "moral high ground" this county has ever seen. The same folks who made their conception of moral character and Judeo-Christian values a requirement to hold elected office have long given up the right to ever question another politician's past.

Rudy Giuliani will likely have to back track from his statement. Sarah Huckabee Sanders will feign outrage when asked about this, and either lie or dismiss any legitimate questions about this issue. This will dominate the news cycle until the president fires someone else or one of his bigger lies is uncovered. This is what our media cycle has become. 

I've come to accept how wrong I was for calling his Evangelical supporters hypocrites. This isn't hypocritical behavior. For it to be hypocrisy, there would have to be some underlying core principles in place. "Good" people didn't suspend their principles to support a man diametrically opposed to them. "Good" people elected someone who was the physical embodiment of the hatred and anger they work so hard to hide and conceal. They found their champion in an admitted sexual harasser and abuser, a serial philanderer: with a history of misogyny, and an ego driven pathological liar. They can get mad at the media for pointing out his daily stream of lies. They can defend this behavior any way they choose, but they cannot deny they distance between their stated beliefs and their current actions.

There isn't a lie Donald Trump could tell, a porn star he could pay off, or a p*$$y he could grab that will cost him any support. None of this bothers them. Evangelicals have dug in and Rudy Giuliani's admission will be parsed a hundred different ways to drain the truth out of it.