Friday, January 12, 2018

One Exhausting Sh*thole!

“Why are we having all these people from sh*thole countries come here?”

Sh*thole has been uttered on cable news over a dozen times. My only regret is that George Carlin didn’t live long enough to see the barrage of politicians, news anchors and pundits repeat one of the FCC’s seven banned words.

Almost a year into this experiment, the polarization in our country is just as palpable as it was on election night. Our choices are no longer Democrat or Republican. The people who defend Donald Trump’s daily attacks on civility are at war with commonsense and decency. This is bigger than a “poor choice of words”. It’s about a defining principle of this nation. Are we still striving to be the shining city on a hill, or is it time to finally admit the American dream was never meant for everyone?

I’m not going to write 1,000 words about this statement; it doesn’t require critical analysis. Fox news and other conservative media outlets will spin the president’s words in an attempt to drain them of their ignorance and racism. Left leaning blogs and websites will use this latest controversy for clicks. This cycle has no end in sight. Instead of engaging the superficial I want to make some statements that contextualize this moment.

  1. America was created for wealthy white men.
  2. We inherited a country that wrote a Declaration of Independence and a Preamble to the Constitution that willfully excluded everyone who wasn’t a land owning white male.
  3. The past is a great whipping boy for anyone trying to deny structural racism today; The past allows nostalgic Americans to ditch their responsibilities to future generations by pointing out how bad the past was.
  4. Skin color has always been strong enough to unite people of different socioeconomic backgrounds.
  5. Whiteness is not a blessing or a curse.
  6. Donald Trump represented the hopes and wishes of millions of Americans who advocate for a return to authoritarian white hegemony.
  7. Donald Trump’s message of restoring whiteness was electoral gold.
  8. Donald Trump has done everything in his power to make sure his vision for America is crystal clear. He has repeatedly expressed his desire to take us back.
  9. There are scholars and political pundits still trying to convince us that overt racism is a byproduct of economic anxiety.
  10. As America undergoes more racial and cultural shifts we will see more "whites only" populist movements.
  11. I’m not trying to trigger white anger, guilt, or sympathy. I’m suggesting we be honest about what the legacy of Donald Trump will be.
  12. We have all wasted too much time psychoanalyzing this president and his defenders, but we have to keep going.  
Covering Donald Trump is exhausting. I have friends and acquaintances who make a decent living doing so, most are liberal, some are conservative, but almost all of them are worn out. This presidency is turning our beloved vocation into a dreaded occupation. I am tired of expending time and emotional energy cataloging and explaining our president’s racism and white supremacist ideology.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Cult of Consciousness

"I'd rather have a smart enemy than a stupid ally." 

By now, almost everyone knows Oprah Winfrey received the 2018, Golden Globes' Cecil B. DeMille award for lifetime achievement. Her acceptance speech was inspiring. It was one of those moments where the right person was on the right stage saying the right things at the right time. I knew the warm and fuzzy feeling she created would enrage those who hate seeing others enjoying nice things. White supremacists took to social media to do what they do, but they were not alone. Many of the “leaders” inside the Conscious Community also took this opportunity to attack her.

Apparently, Oprah is a “Negro Bed Wench”. I know this because the “leadership” inside the Conscious Community sent out social media decrees that were shared and commented on without any fact checking. From the posts I’ve read, “Oprah has a history of covert transgressions against the Black community”, and, on top of that, “her wealth and fame are rewards for her being a useful tool of white supremacists”. A claim so crazy Alex Jones also leveled it against her once rumors of a potential 2020 presidential run dominated the news cycle.

Oprah’s speech and the attention it garnered was the perfect opportunity for some to point out her latest act of racial treason. Did you know she gave Ron Clark money to build a fake Harry Potter school instead of investing in Dr. Umar Johnson’s school? No, this isn’t a typo. There are Conscious leaders who believe Oprah gave a white man money to build a school where kids can learn spells. This is what happens when people blindly trust the internet postings of people in leadership positions. A Google search could have solved this, but who has time for that?  

This controversy was reborn a few days ago, but it has been swirling beneath the surface for two months now. Here are the facts. On November 3, 2017, Oprah donated $5 million dollars to the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, Georgia. This is a very real school that has educated very real children in grades 5-8 (90% of whom are black) for over a decade. Her donation didn't seem like a controversial gesture. Oprah helped put Ron Clark on the map in 2000 when he was named Disney’s American Teacher of the Year.  She donated her money to a school ran by a person she has known for seventeen years. This is what passes for selling her people out.

I’m not writing this to defend Oprah Winfrey. I’m certain there are very well compensated lawyers and P.R. experts who could do a better job than I can. This is a defense of commonsense. There are people who claim to love the community who are constantly pumping their followers’ heads with bad information. The same folks defending Dr. Umar Johnson from attacks they believe to be illegitimate are using illegitimate attacks against Oprah Winfrey.

Thankfully, some tried to add some truth to the conversation.

Social media might be the best and worst thing that happened to social activism. It's an almost perfect weapon for circumventing the media's ability to craft or distort narratives; it's also great for connecting with like-minded individuals, but it has succeeded in elevating too many people above their calling. Some of these movements are starting to resemble cults. There isn't enough critical thinking or questioning taking place. 

A leader is more than someone with followers, money and/or power. True leadership requires integrity and credibility. People need to know that the people they are following can be trusted. Quality leadership never leaves the people following them worse off. The comments sections of these posts are depressing. There are people spreading misinformation because someone they trust said it was true. This diminishes the movement and is indefensible. This has to be called out for what it is: Ignorance.

Friday, November 24, 2017

The Conscious Pharisees: Don't Let Them Steal Your Joy

Dear Family,

Happy Thanksgiving weekend. I wanted to drop you a few lines before you get too far into your plans. I know we are supposed to shun all Thanksgiving related activities, but I hope you didn't allow the Pharisees in the "Conscious" Community to talk you out of spending time with your family. There's a qualitative difference between celebrating colonialism and being with loved ones. I hope you didn't let people more interested in your money than you convince you that eating a meal in a predominantly Black space somehow contributes to racism/white supremacy. I hope you didn't fall for someone's narrow conception of being Black or woke.

The Conscious Community has 20/20 vision when it comes to pointing out the crooks and hypocrites in the church and Mosque- and there are plenty, but they go Stevie Wonder when it comes to seeing the nefarious actions some in their movement engage in. There are prominent Conscious leaders who have a history of "swirling," engaging in some of the worst forms of misogyny, ripping off charitable donations, selling curricula available through open access courses and charging you to participate in the kind of marches civil rights activists use to do for free.

There are some strong brothers and sisters in the Conscious Community and there are some snakes. It may take some time to distinguish the real from the fake. Some have honed their craft for decades.

Here are three easily identifiable traits in false leadership you should lookout for:

1.   Anyone who is unnecessarily condescending or tries to come off as your intellectual superior. Charlatans rely on the gimmick of possessing some esoteric knowledge that the rest of us aren't privy to. They will reference a book or thinker you aren't likely to have read or heard of any time you challenge an assertion they make. Last year B.o.B. and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson had a public spat over whether the earth is flat: the earth is not flat. It ended with Dr. Tyson publicly humiliating his young woke adversary with hard science, “It’s a fundamental fact of calculus and non-Euclidean geometry. Small sections of large curved surfaces will always look flat little creatures that crawl upon it."

2.   Anyone who habitually engages in personal attacks against people in the Black community who question their logic, motives or actions. Pharisees in the Conscious Community don't suffer challenges to their authority well. If someone refers to Black women as "Negro bed wenches" and you call them on their misogyny, watch how quickly they redirect their anger. If someone solicits money from the community and you ask them about oversight you will feel their wrath.

3.   Anyone who has too many obvious double standards in their words and actions. False leaders are experts at what everyone else should be doing. They excel in finding fault in the actions of others while ignoring their own problematic behavior. They preach ad nauseam about unity inside the Black community, but they will be the first to attack a Black woman who doesn't conform to their narrow conception of what it means to be a woman, anyone who holds beliefs different from theirs and the entire gay and lesbian community. We are all kings and queens until we step out of line. 

Pharisees inside the Conscious Community are no different than their Biblical counterparts; they crave attention, approval and money. You don't have to give them any of the three. There will always be Black people who have convinced themselves they have transcended the psychological effects of racism/white supremacy in America. Some are genuine and want to help others overcome its crippling effects. Some are stuck in that sunken place they are trying to deliver you from. The truly lost souls believe their way is the only way to advance our people. Their inability to confront ideas and opinions different than their own is only topped by their inability to confront white supremacy in the world. Sadly, this has caused too many within our community to create hierarchies that give them a false sense of status.

Hypocrites will tell you not to celebrate Thanksgiving while they eat at their in-laws; they will call someone a coon or a Negro bed wench for shopping on Black Friday, but they won't return anything someone buys them; they will tell you not to bow down to the government, and then go pay their personal property taxes. Don't listen to them. They are hiding their short comings and failures behind empty rhetoric. Their opinions don't matter. Your family is more important than their approval. When it comes down to it they need you more than you need them. 


Danny Cardwell