Wednesday, January 16, 2019

What Do You Think He Does During A Traffic Stop?

We've all been there. One minute you're driving along and out of your periphery you see those flashing lights. You squeeze the wheel and look at the speedometer to see exactly how fast you are going. Everything was normal until it got real.

This feeling transcends race, class and gender; however, it would be disingenuous not to acknowledge the fact that race, class and gender can all factor into how the rest of the stop goes. This leads me to the brother in the video, What do you think he does when he sees those flashing lights?

For the record, I know the majority of police stops end without incident. I also have heard the "just comply" talking point, and I know "not all cops". I'm talking about the psychological stress that comes with watching an anthology of videos starring people who look like you being choked, beaten and shot for no reason. How do uber-patriotic Black people process these images and deal with these situations?

America means different things to different people. I don't know a lot of Black people who feel as included in the "American family" as this man does. I've asked the few Black people I know who Own MAGA gear if they've noticed any difference in the way they are treated when they wear their hats and t-shirts. For the most part they say Black people stare at them, some white people stare at them, but people who may not normally talk to them give a nod and a smile.

Immigration is a complicated issue. There is no economic incentive for the Black community to support mass immigration. In many cities Blacks compete with legal and illegal immigrants for the few service industry, manufacturing and construction jobs left. This argument doesn't negate the issues at the center of the mass exodus from Central America. I understand why poor and working class people are so emotionally invested in this debate, but I can't, for the life of me, understand how people of color can hear the rhetoric espoused by the America first crowd and believe they are included.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Bird Box, R Kelly and Trash Hot Takes

Here's a hot take I'm tired of: while you were busy watching _____. Did you know such and such was happening?

This trash hot take is usually offered by that overly "woke" person you know trying to overcompensate for their own deficiencies. News flash: neither Bird Box nor Surviving R Kelly changed how people lived their lives. This take is garbage for a few reasons.

1) It's possible to do more than one thing at a time. Most movies are two hours. Most docuseries run 4 to 6 hours. Most books, depending on the length, can be read in a few hours. Watching a movie/docuseries or reading a book doesn't constitute a huge distraction for most people. I watched Bird Box. I didn't watch Surviving R Kelly. Neither of those choices altered the trajectory of my life.

2) Just because something is trending on social media doesn't mean it's truly captured the nation's attention. Most trends, good and/or bad, are caused by an enthusiastic group of people tweeting, subtweeting or retweeting the topic over and over. Once a topic trends on Twitter, people on Facebook figure out they should be part of the craze. This still doesn't constitute a massive distraction. 

3) It's pseudo-elitist. The underlying sentiment is that the person offering this viewpoint should be setting the agenda for the things we think and talk about. This doesn't mean the issue(s) they are attempting to highlight isn't worthy of thought or discussion, but it does assume they are the only ones thinking about or discussing said topic.

4) It's counterculture virtue signaling.  Nothing says I'm trying my hardest not to be like the rest of society than someone waving a flag and pointing out the fact that they didn't participate in a thing that has gained a certain amount of notoriety. You have every right not to get caught up in the moment, but beating people over the head with the fact that you didn't get caught up is just as annoying as being caught up.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Hannity vs. Smith = Entertainment vs. Information

Fox news has made a fortune by giving their viewers what they want: entertainment! The average Fox news opinion show is part Jerry Springer, part WWE, and part Ringling Brothers with a smattering of breaking news and human interests stories. This is their right. They can provide whatever service they choose. It's up to us to know better. 

Fox news has created and disseminated some of the most vitriolic and harmful propaganda on television the last 20 plus years. Sean Hannity is the current leader of the assault on decency and the truth. 

The Fox formula is genius: for 22-23 hours a day "opinion" shows cloud the water. The few non-partisan journalists on staff get about 2 hours to cleanup the mess. This is what passes for a news organization these days. 

Sadly, the few shows on the network  grounded in objective facts are the least watched and most despised by the average Fox news viewer. Sheppard Smith is the most hated person on the network by Donald Trump's base. Smith's propensity for grounding his arguments in facts irks some of Fox's more partisan viewers. Watching side by side video of Smith debunking Hannity's lies is amusing, but also depressing. The fact that Hannity is allowed to be so reckless with the truth proves the network is more concerned with entertainment than information.  

Thursday, January 10, 2019

The Lies Are True We Just Don't Get It!

"If the only trade that occurred between the United States and Mexico was my buying 10 Mexican avocados for $30 and someone there buying a T-shirt from me for $10, the trade deficit would be $20. But if I only bought five avocados, dropping the trade deficit from $20 to $5 ($15 for the avocados minus $10 for the shirt), it is not the case that the U.S. government is suddenly $15 richer. The feds don’t suddenly have $15 more to spend on wall building; the $15 is in my pocket."

Phillip Bump

On December 13, 2018, Donald Trump tweeted the following lie:

Donald Trump has convinced his followers that reducing the trade deficit with Mexico would pay for his wall; this lie, like the 7,000+ other lies he's told since becoming president, has been swallowed up whole and regurgitated by his base.

Phillip Bump's analogy disproving this trade deficit lie is spot on; sadly, it, like basically every known fact, will be ignored and/or explained away. For the better part of three years the truth has been getting its proverbial ass kicked by the constant lying of this administration. The only thing we can do to restore any since of sanity is to let Trump and his base have their version of the truth.

We need to quit arguing with them. We need to quit trying to convince them. Blog posts, newspaper articles, fact checks in real time and scholarly think tank pieces have all failed. We are wasting our time and ruining our relationships. There isn't a better argument.

America has to admit there's a third of the country we have to let go. I know this is a hard pill to swallow for some progressives. Trump's base is their ultimate afterschool special. There are progressives who sincerely believe that the lies, racism, xenophobia and misogyny Trump feeds his base is something other than food for their souls. What we've been witnessing aren't the symptoms of economic anxiety. This is a full on attack on sanity and reason. To paraphrase Lil Duval we have to stop going back and forth with his people.

“When during the campaign, I would say ‘Mexico is going to pay for it,’ obviously, I never said this, and I never meant they’re gonna write out a check, I said they’re going to pay for it. They are.”   Donald Trump

Mexico was never going to pay for the wall. Anyone who believed they would knows absolutely nothing about how sovereign nations operate. The fact that he has wiggled on this so much matters to the Conservative media, but it means very little to his base. There's some nuanced way to understand him that we just don't get. 

Thursday, January 3, 2019

2019 Divided We Stand

It is very appropriate that from this cradle of the Confederacy, this very heart of the great Anglo-Saxon Southland, that today we sound the drum for freedom as have our generations of forebears before us time and again down through history. Let us rise to the call for freedom-loving blood that is in us and send our answer to the tyranny that clanks its chains upon the South… I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever.
George Wallace

George Wallace was right! Not the sick and dying Wallace who apologized at the end of his life for the role he played in spreading racism and bigotry, but the younger, fitter champion of the segregationist and populist movements in the south. As a Black man, it pains me to admit this.

Race relations are better today than when George Wallace was sworn into office as the 45th Governor of Alabama, but in many ways our society is just as segregated. The push for Civil Rights and equal access to resources was the right thing to do, but I’m starting to question the notion of a fully integrated society. I don't understand why some Black people so obsessed with the idea of assimilating into social clubs and organizations that want to remain separate?

Black bodies in predominantly white spaces are almost always scrutinized and policed in ways that make it crystal clear our presence is not welcomed. Over the last calendar year, we have been bombarded with cellphone videos of Black people being detained, forcibly removed and even arrested. These incidents have taken place in coffee houses, gyms, hotels, parks and golf courses. Each of these transgressions was followed by a lawyerly crafted apology and a promise of more diversity/sensitivity training.

At the end of 2018, a story about an all-white rifle club denying membership to a Black medical doctor made the rounds. Dr. Melvin Brown is an accomplished man. He graduated with an engineering degree, served 20 years in the Navy and is a member of the Medical University of South Carolina Board of Trustees. He was nominated for membership by a friend. There were 13 other people up for membership on the night he was denied admittance into the club. He was the only person rejected. He was the only Black person. A lot of people were upset by the blatant racism on display. I didn't care then and I don’t care now. Civil rights leaders didn't march, protest and die so bourgeois Black people could join the good old boys club. The risked their lives for equal treatment under the law.

Dr. Brown's story highlights what’s wrong with an overly assimilationist mentality. In 2019, Black people need to focus more on appreciating ourselves than seeking the acceptance of others. I understand the mystique and allure of navigating what was once forbidden territory. For some Black people, white acceptance is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Internalizing America's lies about Blackness is the psychological equivalent of breathing in poisonous gases. Sadly, too many of our brothers and sisters believe the grass is greener and that water freezes at a lower temperature in the presence of white people.

It would be nice if America took Dr. King's dream and added a dash of Rodney King's dream. We would all be judged on the merits of our character while getting along. There's nothing wrong with closing your eyes (and in the words of John Lennon) imagining, but I would suggest waking up before your wake up call. The last three years have seen a spike in hate crimes. Black people are being surveilled and questioned by people with no legal authority to do so. It's one thing to deal with these issues in every day life, but to put yourself in harm’s way for the sake of “prestige” seems a bit needy.