I tend to stray away from labels when it comes to doing what is deemed “the right thing to do.” Being an “ally” or “feminist” are meaningful roles for our society, but I would one day hope to live in a world where one doesn’t need a title when it comes doing something humane. Most likely this won’t be the case anytime soon.
Nonetheless, I have been tackling with a recent dialogue that has been occurring subliminally in the black community when it comes to the role of women. Never really noticed how annoyed I have been when it comes to male-chauvinism until a series of conversations in my social network with fellow peers took place.
I was sitting at a bench with a group of women eating lunch when another one woman passed us. She was wearing high shorts and a tank top. As I had predicted, the construction workers around began taunting her whistles and street talk. She gave them no attention and proceeded to cross the street.
The ladies at my table began to speculate with the statements:
“She knows she is wrong for coming out here looking like that with all her junk nearly out.”
“She will never keep a man wearing those high booty shorts.”
“I didn’t know 2 Chainz had strippers out here on set.”
And then it was this statement that made me think:
“It’s sistas like her that make it hard out here for the rest of us… they are just asking for it.”
For the time being, it was easy to pass this off as common sense. I became accustomed to hearing older black women criticize younger black women for dressing a certain way. At times, I would not even feel any sympathy for the girl at the cookout in the “high booty shorts” because culturally I was taught she “asked for it.”
But just recently I began to actually put myself in her shoes and rationalize it with a different mindset.
Perhaps she might be thinking:
It is hot outside; I don’t want to wear heavy clothing. Contrary to popular belief, I am not actually indecently exposed wearing these shorts or this tank. I only plan to go out and enjoy my day. Construction men going outside of their way to whistle at me or talk to me is unwarranted given that I have no intention of suggesting conversation.
What I am beginning to realize is that there is a level of subconscious sexism in the black community that is misguided and misunderstood. While the women I was sitting with were more focused on the shorts and tank top the younger woman had on, perhaps they should have been noticing the men that were giving her a hard time.
The truth of the matter is that no woman asks for sexual harassment, and no woman (regardless of how short her shorts may be) wants to be a part of rape culture. Wearing short, tight skirts does not automatically authorize a man to make a pass and take advantage. What is even more problematic is how society has given black masculinity this right.
Let’s get real. The more intense, uncut hip-hop music videos we have watched for more than a decade has now brainwashed us no doubt. The fantasy world of unlimited music video strippers and black women wanting to be groped by men religiously has now been a played out pseudo recreation at college parties and night clubs. And even though in some cases, a few women actually desire such attention, the vast majority across the aisle doesn’t and ends up being collateral.
And what has now become an even larger problem thanks to the power of social media, the black female body has now become more objectified than ever. I cannot even count how many times the rear end of a black woman has been placed on memes and gifs and retweeted for endless discussion. What is even worse is how the terms of endearment for such body parts have shifted from “making love” to now “beating” (or worse) “tearing it up.”
The consequences for such actions are now borderline irrevocable. The social constructs of a black male that goes against the objectification of a black women is gay, weak, or a pariah. As a result, young black men that long to go against the grain are silenced as the disrespect continues.
Today, black entertainers, such as Steve Harvey, are now offering women solutions to solving some of their problems by telling them to nonetheless “Think Like a Man.” There are is barely any room for free expression given that anything a black woman chooses to do today have to be reevaluated every second. It annoys me when one of my homegirls ask me if I think she looks like a whore if she puts a certain shirt on when male privilege allows me to go shirtless without a thought.
Recognizing this, I would like to demand my fellow black men to take a step back and check themselves. This has gone too far. It is borderline crazy. The excuse that it is a man’s“natural instinct” to look, whistle, and possibly touch is just as repulsive as suggesting that the sexual harassment you didn’t realize you are doing is as natural as well. We need to raise our daughters to not feel as though she is the sole reason for male disrespect just because she wants to personally express herself harmlessly. We need to raise our sons to know that they don’t have to declare their masculinity by how many girls they strive to “pull” without their consent. And lastly, instead of teaching girls how to avoid rape and abuse, how about simply teaching boys how not to be the culprits.
Black women are exploited in America at a higher rate than their counterparts and the lack of positive influences in our media doesn’t make it any better. The role our own community plays in this is problematic and the issue is not going to get any better if we do not reevaluate our mindsets.
This issue has been on my mind lately and I don’t necessarily want to be considered a black feminist, but just someone who wants to see better treatment for the generation of my mothers, sisters, cousins, and homegirls.
If we so much declare equal rights and respect from others, we need to also expect it among ourselves.
Dear Mr. Will Smith,
I first want to commend you on being a great entertainer whose career has spanned decades. You have starred in numerous box office hits, grabbed a Grammy and some Oscar nominations, and have raised a successful black family with three talented children. Mr. Smith, your hard work paved the way for you to do unorthodox things like travel around the world, act in films with your kids, and allow them the freedom to not necessarily go through some of the adversity you once did.
However, when I heard about your interview with Haute Living to discuss your new film After Earth, I found many of your comments about black parenting out of place. When you stated that, “specifically in African American households, the idea coming out of slavery, there’s a concept of your children being property and that was a major part that Jada and I released with our kids. We respect our children the way we would respect any other person,” I was appalled. How could you correlate a gross moment in history to parenting and then generalize an entire race of people of possessing such?
As a fine result of black parenting, I must disagree full heartily with your sentiments. I think you personally have missed the point of what it means to be told to “clean your room” and what it means “to be grounded.” It is not being property or being a slave, it’s called being held responsible for your actions. In many ways, black parenting is no harsh difference from the way most minority families raise their children in general. Have you ever heard of “Tiger Moms?” What is the root of the way they raise their children since it is not slavery? Mr. Smith, slavery has nothing to do with the way black parents raise their children. To be quite frank, being 21-years-old, I am thankful that my mother did instill many values in me that has led to me attending an Ivy League institution where she doesn’t have to pay for my tuition.
What you have failed to realize is that what you consider “property” is actually a misinformed interpretation of responsibility. Growing up, I lived in a community where many parents were not as active in their children’s lives or really taught them a sense of discipline. As a result, those were the same children that were often not on track to graduate high school on time and choose alternative lifestyles that were detrimental to their well-being. I was fortunate to have a strong mother that really stayed on my butt to not fall into traps that many around my age could easily slip into. This was called love, not slavery.
I have learned that my mother made me a priority and even though at times I resented not being able to have my way, I can now look back and understand the rationale. Because what you neither fail to realize in your logic Mr. Smith, is that children and adults are not exactly the same, nor should be treated as such. I am actually happy that I now have the structure and manners that I can now apply into adulthood. Some of my peers lack common decency and self-respect that my mother would say back in the day would not have been as frequent.
As this generation begins to see more issues develop among teens, and even more within minority youth, parents should be expected to intervene more to ensure their child’s success. At the end of the day, parents raising their children and disciplining them is not some old concept. You might feel as though these principles are backwards given your Hollywood lifestyle, but with all due respect Mr. Smith, you don’t have to face much of the heat and pressure of middle-class American life.
You don’t have to worry about your black son walking down the street and getting frequently racial profiled. You don’t have to worry about making sure he has his pants pulled up when he crosses the corner because he is probably most likely hanging with Justin Bieber and thinking stuff like that is “swag.” You don’t have to really get on your children about making good grades and making it out of their communities, because chances are, your superstar status will bring those contracts and gigs they just have to show up to.
That was the world I lived in and if I had a parent with your skills, I would have probably been a brat that wouldn’t have understood the harsh realities of my environment. How you raise your children works for you given the wealth and privilege they have. In recognizing such, it does nothing for you to raise your nose up and condemn the parenting of not just black parents, but minority ones that recognize the inequality and injustice in society for them.
The time outs, the washing dishes, the pops on the butt when I was out of place, actually made me the responsible, respectable person I strive to be today. If some people take it a step too far and go above and beyond the role of a parent, that isn’t called parenting, it is child abuse. Black parenting isn’t child abuse or slavery, Will Smith. It is a more invested interactive experience fostered to prepare children for the world they will face. Perhaps it was the very same parenting that made you the legendary man who you are today.
There is no one way to raise children, but there is no way one should condemn the reasoning behind the way others do. Mr. Smith, you have been fortunate to not have to face some of the social ills of raising your children in middle-class society. Some of the values and ideals the very industry you work in has made things a lot harder for how youth view themselves and treat the rest of the world. Perhaps you would be more useful in scolding them than you try to do black parents.
A young adult who most likely wouldn’t have made it without black parenting
Everyone has that one cousin in the family that never tends to shut up at the dinner table.
They complain about how the world is wicked and how all of us are just pawns in the middle of it. Some of what they say is enlightening, insightful, and makes sense. Yet, a lot of it gets mumbled in between blatant disrespectful rants and overblown ignorance. When it comes to hip-hop and mainstream music, that cousin would be Kanye West.
When I heard that his new single entitled “New Slaves” was being blasted on the screens of 66 walls of major cities around the world, all I could say was “oh, boy.” As talented as Mr. West has been as a producer and recording artist, I find that many of his antics are just a cry out for attention in a state of anger and hysteria. There is no doubt that his lyrics speak various levels of truth, but there is also a level of disconnection I get from the way he goes about it.
When I finally heard the new track, I was pissed to say the very least. Sure, Kanye points out the issues that take root with modern-day racism. Sure, being a black man in America myself, I can resonate with some of his lyrics in that song. However, when I think about the concept of “New Slaves” and the larger audience of listeners that will hear it, there comes a new profound hypocrisy that Mr. West is responsible for.
For starters, Mr. West will profit from a song about how many of his fellow black peers are suffering in America. And how much of that money is actually going into something that strives to help eradicate the problem? If not financially, will Kanye actually go out and start an activist movement to help fix some of these ills? Probably not, because he will most likely be on tour to collect residuals and proceeds off of us “connecting” with an artist who lives a life most of us don’t.
And on the topic of racism, Kanye rants “Fu*k you and your corporation/Y’all ni**as can’t control me.” Yes, the self proclaimed “Louis Vuiton Don” uses the same derogatory racist term as a reference to the very people he wants to define as the controllers. If this isn’t backwards thinking, I don’t know what is. It is hypocritical to speak on the very ills of racism when at the same time appealing to the very non-black audience you later criticize as being such. Anyone remember “Ni**as in Paris”? When going on the Watch the Throne tour and performing before crowds that were predominately non-black, how could Kanye promote the usage of the n-word and later complain about how modern-day racism still exists? If anything, Kanye is perpetuating the false idea that the n-word does not contain the same level of racism as it did back in the days when “they wouldn’t be satisfied unless I picked the cotton myself.”
Furthermore, this idea of black materialistic adoration is fueled by Kanye West’s very own efforts as well. Just as much as Mr. West speaks on issues such as racism and the paparazzi, he also does not hesitate to remind the rest of the world of his flashy accessories and massive wealth. And yet that is “rich ni**a racism”…the ability to feel the need to go in the store and be told “What you want a Bentley, fur coat and diamond chain?/All you blacks want all the same things”? However, these are the very same things the hip-hop industry continues to perpetuate as “The Good Life.”
And to further the lack of respect to race, Kanye belabors us to remember “an era when/Clean water was only served to the fairer skin.” Yet, Kanye himself continues to perpetuate the mentality of self-inflicted racial colorism in his lyrics. In “Power,” Kayne couldn’t help but take notice that there were some “light skinned girls and some Kelly Rowlands” further continuing the demotion of darker skinned women of color. And it does not help to add that he continues to exercise the exploitation of the black female body and use misogynist lyrics in his songs. Referring to the future mother of your child as “My Perfect B**ch” does not help the cause.
And why do I resent Kanye’s music? For some of the various reasons why I find it at times enlightening, he is smart. Unlike many rappers in hip-hop who are obvious industry pinheads just trying to cash into the bank, Kanye West knows more. Yet, that is perhaps the very problem: he knows more and yet does nothing to actually fix the problem. As much as my cousin would complain about the streets he lived on, he actually did nothing in actually helping. What is worse on Kanye’s part is that he has a massive influential audience and yet he does nothing but continue to perpetuate the same negative stereotypes and misfortunes that he complains about.
What is even more alarming is that when it is all said and done, Kanye West will not probably realize that he helped play a role in the very “new slaves” he tries to connect with us as. The common black American cannot relate to Kanye West as much as he would like us to think. Sure, we face racism, but obviously there is a class disparity that separates us. One cannot divorce race from class no matter how much hip-hop artists such as Mr. West would like us to do so. As many of us would like to think we share similar struggles, Kanye have the benefit of profiting from it while we just live in it.
When you know better, it is expected you do better. Kanye West no longer gets the pass of having me buy his albums and hear him rant about how messed up the society I live in is. I’d rather instead invest the time and money I once spent on him flashing his wealth in front of me into bettering my community.
If one of the most successful black men in music cannot step up to the plate, perhaps the very people who helped put him there can.
Check out my exclusive one on one interview with the Dr. Vibe Show on my Huffington Post article “Beyonce, Colorism, and Why All of this Should End in 2013.”
During our conversation, I will talk about:
- My background
- How I became a writer for The Huffington Post
- Some of articles that I has written for The Huffington Post
- How has his parents divorce affected his views on family and relationships
- Where does his love for the media come from
- Some of his thoughts on Oprah
- Why did he write the article
- Is Beyonce becoming lighter?
- Why is color is still an issue in Black culture?
- Should we hold Black entertainers to a high standard?
I think the word “ratchet” might be on my top five lists of most hated words (the N-word and “YOLO” are among my highest).
I was at a bar one night in Philadelphia when I constantly heard a girl across from me mimicking a colloquial country accent. Every time she found it relevant to use, she kept saying “ain’t nobody got time for that,” and each time her group of friends laughed in volumes.
It happened again later that week at Penn. This time with a group of my fellow black peers. They too laughed when someone put on the same dialogue. When our teacher’s assistant asked what was going on, one of them said boldly: “we’re being ratchet.”
Neither the girl from the bar or the black peers from my college are illiterate. Neither of them appeared to have come from a background that would suggest that they are not capable of speaking correct grammar. They were acting as if they were the now exploited web star Sweet Brown, who became a viral social media sensation after surviving a fire in her lower-income apartment complex in Oklahoma City.
This is nothing new. Over the past few days, I continue to see my Facebook and Twitter pages gust with many of my Caucasian peers sharing YouTube links of Charles Ramsey. The black Cleveland dishwasher, who helped rescue Amanda Berry, has made headlines for his outspoken and frank account of that fateful day. His infamous quote, “Bro, I knew that something was wrong when a pretty little white girl ran into a black man’s arms. Something is wrong here. Dead giveaway,” is mocked and laughed at by some of my snobbier black peers.
And while I see the viral boom of Sweet Brown and Charles Ramsey take place in recent memory, I am also reminded of Antoine Dodson. Yes, the man known for his “Hide your kids, hide your wife,” rant initiated his unexpected claim to fame by reporting the attempted house intrusion and rape of his sister in his Lincoln Park housing project in Huntsville, Alabama. And while the incident eventually led to a high selling iTunes single, the rest of the public laughed at this man rather than emphasize with the unfortunate circumstances.
There tends to be a disgusting trend starting in our society, across all races, of teasing and exploiting the disadvantages and misfortunes of the black lower class. Even beyond blacks, one can see such nastiness take place with the increasing celebrity of Honey Boo-Boo. However, one may also suggest that the attention is warranted given that they signed on to a reality show on TLC.
The experiences of Charles Ramsey, Sweet Brown and Antoine Dodson are unique in a sense that the public is making fun of their sincere demeanor. None of them ever imagined that they would be in the spotlight for their responses on local television news stations. None of them ever thought that they would profit from what many would deem as societal flaws and mishaps. And none of them also expected that they would be under the same scrutiny of a public figure who actually asks for it.
These “social media sensations” represent many of the black lower class. They are oftentimes the non-college educated, minimum wage, government-assisted people who live just to survive another day on their limited resources.
And while many of us think that it is hilarious to hear them speak broken English, or share candidly their experiences in poverty, this is a harsh reality for them. And why do we find this funny?
The unfortunate conclusion that can be drawn from all of this is that many of the spectators in the higher bracket of society are looking for a remedy for their own personal insecurities with privilege. The grand old fashion “kick a person when they are already down” mentality is revived when we see Ivy League students mock the consequences of economic hardships: poverty and illiteracy. It’s an even larger telling of our society’s ill intentions when we find it more interesting to commentate on the mannerisms of a victim rather than be disappointed in the crime itself.
An attempted rape/burglary, an apartment complex fire, and a kidnap rescue are not a laughing matter. A showing of black poverty is nothing to joke about. Hardships and broken English due to the disparities of social inequality are not as well. Do we even know what we are laughing at?
Oh, it’s ratchet right? Anytime we see a black person in the street poorly clothed and communicating in a dialect we know all too well to avoid is ratchet. What does that even say about us to create such a word to classify them?
When I heard Charles Ramsey speak on CNN, I did not see a new man… I saw the face of thousands. Growing up in Chicago and moving to Houston, I have seen men like him work at my school as janitors. I have seen men like him have a rap sheet but strive to overcome it. Men like Charles Ramsey exist and while much of the media rather exploit his shortcomings and laugh at his imperfections, this does nothing to solve the problem at hand.
So, coming from a background that has seen economic inequality and disadvantage, I will explain people like Ramsey, Brown, and Dodson. First, they do not choose to talk in “that accent.” It is a result of a failed education system somewhere in a below poverty environment or lower class community. Second, that “ratchet” you speak of is a product of their experience. As a result of poverty-stricken areas, crime is a negative response to the lack of jobs and resources flowing in the community. Consequently, such misfortunes as you saw with Brown and Dodson do happen frequently. And third, making them “heroes” because of the manner that they speak on their misfortune is as backhanded and slighted as the crime itself. Yes, it takes a lot of humility to share such horrific tales. But perhaps much of their intent was initially intended to bring awareness to the issue than just mere humor. Did anyone ever go back to those communities and see what can be done to stop these issues? Even though Dodson, Brown and possibly Ramsey will make it out, what about the rest?
As social media unites various levels of class, the racial exploitation that occurs needs to be re-evaluated. What makes everyone across different privileged settings find it funny to mock the dialogue of a poor, middle-aged black woman surviving a fire? Why does it make any sense to trivialize and now demoralize a man who saved a young woman who has been missing for many years?
If you have the answer, then stop it. If you are still pondering, perhaps you should visit the various neighborhoods these people come from instead.