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Today I watched a segment on MSNBC’s Morning Joe where one of the show hosts (Mika) started a discussion about the NFL Ray Rice domestic abuse scandal. There were three other guests who took part in this discussion (Donnie Deutsch, an MSNBC contributor whose name I forgot, and a black man named Steve Stout). Mika started off the discussion with a news report saying the NFL decided to not use Rihanna’s song “Run This Town” during their game broadcast on CBS like they planned to do before the Ray Rice scandal broke out. Mika voiced her opinion that because Rihanna was assaulted by her boyfriend years ago and didn’t become a spokesperson for domestic violence, the NFL shouldn’t use her song. I think that’s pretty ridiculous and here are a few reasons why.
1. Rihanna did not choose to get assaulted by Chris Brown.
2. Rihanna’s song “Run This Town” has no controversial lyrics and it does not speak of abuse or violence.
3. Rihanna was the victim in her assault so she has every right to choose not to become a political spokes person for domestic violence. She’s an entertainer who loves to sing and perform. That is what she’s good at and we should not criticize a victim of domestic violence if they don’t want to talk about it, or if they don’t do what you want them to do.
4. The controversial song Mika was talking about was not the song the NFL was going to use, and it was not even Rihanna’s song. It was an Eminem song that featured Rihanna. It’s appalling that Mika would criticize Rihanna, a victim of domestic violence, for lyrics written by Eminem for a song that was Eminem’s. Not once did she say anything about Eminem. She decided to attack Rihanna instead.
5. In the middle of her attack against Rihanna they show a photo of Rihanna’s beaten and bruised face that was taken after her assault. This victim blaming and slut shaming has got to end. Mika should be ashamed for her behavior in that segment. I think she owe’s Rihanna and all abuse victims an apology.
As if all of that wasn’t enough, Mika and the panel decided to connect hip hop with Ray Rice’s abusive behavior towards his wife. This pissed me off almost as much as their unfair treatment of Rihanna. Mika and Donnie Deutsch must think all young black men are connected and controlled by hip hop. Why else would they bring it into a discussion about Ray Rice? Many people who are not fans of hip hop think they know what the genre and the music is about. They think hip hop music is excessively violent, and promotes violence toward women. That is not what the genre or culture is about. Of course there are songs with violent lyrics, and some are derogatory toward women. But that isn’t a significant part of the music. Hip Hop is extremely diverse. There are rappers like Common, Outkast, Nas, The Roots, Black Eyed Peas, etc who are very popular and are known for their socially conscious lyrics. But Mika and Donnie aren’t listeners of the genre so they don’t have a clue. Just like some racist, they see a black man with baggy clothes and dread locks and immediately think criminal, or mistake normal everyday behavior by a black man as aggression. Like the black man who was walking around Wal-Mart talking on his cell phone while playing with a toy gun. The police are called and kill him before he could even explain the gun was a toy. It’s sad that we as black men are all painted with the same negative brush.
While discussing Ray Rice, Donnie Deutsch proclaims he’s going to end hip hop with lyrics he thinks are bad. He says Jay Z is responsible for young black men committing crimes. The music influences them to do it he says. But he has never called for Martin Scorsese or Quentin Tarantino to stop making violent movies. This double standard is unfair and the racial implications are clear. I bet Donnie isn’t even aware that whites purchase more hip hop albums than all other races combined. Inner city crime has ZERO to do with hip hop music. Before silencing artist and trashing their 1st amendment rights, maybe we should do something about the lack of opportunity in those poor black neighborhoods. Maybe we should improve the schools in those neighborhoods. Maybe we should look at the over-policing of those neighborhoods, maybe we should stop giving tax cuts to people like Donnie and Mika and use that money to spark growth in those neighborhoods. Maybe we should stop locking up black people for things that white people get a pass on. They don’t understand that hip hop music reflects the current conditions in the artist neighborhood. Right now it’s the only outlet that gives them a platform to speak to the world. Killing the messenger will only make things worse.
My closing advice to Mika and Donnie,
1. I know young black men may scare you but every thing we do shouldn’t be viewed as aggression. Listen to some of the artist I referred to in my 2nd paragraph. Instead of watching a hip hop video, listen to the song and read the lyrics. That’s the only way you can dissociate the thug cliché you have in your head from the socially conscious artist who wrote the song.
2. Ray Rice is not a rapper. His skin color may throw you off a bit, but trust me. He’s an ex-football player who abuses women and should be in prison right now.
3. Hip Hop culture is not the same thing as black culture.
4. Hip Hop music is entertainment. Just like movies, tv, and other music genre’s, it’s an art form. Your network (MSNBC & NBC) programming depicts a lot more violence than hip hop music does. It’s incredibly hypocritical to chastise Jay Z and hip hop for its violence while being silent about the violence your network makes millions off of.
5. Football is a very violent sport. You praise them for pulling a Rihanna song because some other song she was on with another artist contained a lyric you thought was promoting violence. Your logic makes no sense and once again you’re BLAMING THE VICTIM. Stop it!
I hope my harsh critique adds some much-needed perspective so these mistakes and misrepresentations do not gain credibility. I’m actually a really big fan of Mika and she usually serves as the voice of reason on “Morning Joe”. I want everyone to understand that I am not calling Mika racist. Her misguided commentary definitely seemed out of character, so I won’t hold it against her. We all make mistakes.
Watching republican led legislatures all over the country advocate and pass harsh new voting restrictions clearly designed to disenfranchise and marginalize the African American vote has brought up personal feelings of dismay and frustration. But the subsequent abject silence on this issue from most notable African American elites has left me feeling puzzled and frustrated even more. Out of that frustration came three questions I’d like to explore and attempt to answer:
1. What happened to the solidarity and sense of duty to each other that made the success of the civil rights movement possible?
2. Why aren’t today’s African Americans with wealth, celebrity, and power as visible and outspoken as African American’s with similar standings were in the 1960’s?
3. What is the biggest issue in 21st century America that directly threatens the gains won by civil rights activist in the 1960’s?
Before we can begin to answer any of those questions we have to define what contemporary Americans consider activism to be. In the 1960’s social activism meant marches, protest, attending lectures and speeches, making personal sacrifices for the greater good, rallies, lobbing friends, neighbors, and family members who may not understand your position or why that particular issue is important, and holding elected officials accountable to the people who elected them.
Taking part in the political process now means being involved in politically biased or partisan media, and/or shouting down friends on social media (like facebook or twitter), and signing online petitions. That is one of the biggest changes in how we participate as citizens in politics. I have even heard some people say they only watch television shows or movies with black people in the cast… as if that does anything to help minority communities. If that is the extent of your activism then you are most definitely wasting your time.
The biggest change in civil rights and how African Americans take part in it and the lack of visibility or urgency in it can not be blamed on laziness, apathy, or resting on the gains already won in the 1960’s. Of course all of that does play a part but it’s a very small part. A lot of it has to do with the social separation between African American’s with wealth or celebrity from everyday working class, middle class, and poor African Americans. Another huge factor has to do with the changes in traditional African American churches. First let me explain the part about African American churches, and I’ll come back to the social separation idea afterward.
African American churches were at the center of the civil rights movement. It’s where MLK and others met to plan rallies, share information, inspire activism, and it was also a place where African Americans felt safe. That has all disappeared from today’s African American churches. Today’s mega church’s seem more concerned with money, power, and a place to network. Once the church was removed from the movement there was nothing there to take its place. A lot of people don’t know this but one of the main reasons African American churches are a lot less politically active has to do with money. In 2001 President George Bush created a new government organization called “The White House Office Of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives”. He created this office to give government grants to churches and religious organizations. Churches were already tax exempt but the 1st amendment to the US Constitution says “government shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”, more commonly known as “separation of church and state”. So because of this constitutional amendment churches were excluded from getting government grants. President Bush and some really smart lawyers came up with a way to give grant money to churches. All the churches had to do is incorporate themselves as a non profit organization and change their church name if it was something overtly religious that could identify what type of religion the church practices. For example, if the church name is “Jesus Is Love Tabernacle” they would have to remove “Jesus” and change it to something like “Love and Worship Tabernacle”. The same pastors and religious folk that were so appalled at prayer being removed from schools jumped at the chance to change their church name to get government grants… how hypocritical is that? But I digress… After they do the name change that church is now eligible for hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of government grants (keep in mind that grants do not have to be paid back aka free money). To stay in compliance and keep their government grants they have a lot more rules to follow. That church can not be involved with politics or back any political candidate. So no church rallies for civil rights, and no telling your congregation which candidate will help the community the most. But with all that money you can build a huge mega church, buy nice buses with the pastor’s face on the side, employ a full time staff and compensate them nicely (most of the time it’s the pastors family), and the pastor’s salary can reach baller levels. I don’t want to make it all sound bad because some of these churches are doing good things with the money. They provide services for the community like free daycare, feeding the homeless, family and marriage counseling, pay medical bills and buy prescriptions for those who are sick and in need etc. But all of this new grant money has crippled the traditional black church’s involvement in civil rights. If not at church, where is the base for civil rights activists? This is a major problem that has not been addressed.
This is the other issue that needs to be dealt with. African American celebrities and those with wealth or political power aren’t subjected to the same treatment as poor and middle class African Americans. During the civil rights movement all African Americans were subjected to Jim Crow and separate but equal. Black performers and entertainers could not stay in the hotels they performed in. Couldn’t eat at the restaurants that their fellow white entertainers ate in. This created a solidarity among all African Americans. Performers like Harry Belafonte, Sammy Davis Jr., Muhammad Ali, etc championed the fight for civil rights because they had a personal steak in it in addition to doing it just because it was the right thing to do. They were all willing to put their carers on the line to help all Blacks. Today it’s hard to find true civil rights activist among Black entertainers and Blacks with wealth such as Jay Z, Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry, Sean Combs (P. Diddy), Bob Johnson, Bishop TD Jakes and even President Obama. The wealth and power these people have gained totally insulates them from the discrimination, pains, and issues felt by middle class, poor, and impoverished African Americans. Jay Z doesn’t get stopped and frisked every time he leaves his lavish penthouse apartment in New York. Oprah doesn’t have to worry about her polling location being removed just because she lives in a district that’s predominately African American. P Diddy doesn’t have to worry about his voting rights being revoked because of a petty drug charge he plead guilty to when he was 15 years old. Tyler Perry doesn’t have to worry about predatory lenders that target his neighborhood because it’s inhabited by poor African Americans who can not get traditional loans from traditional banks or credit unions. Bishop TD Jakes isn’t effected by republicans harsh and brutal cuts to social programs like medicaid, wic, social security, disability, food stamps, head-start, planned parenthood, etc. Bob Johnson doesn’t have to worry about his children not being able to attend college because government grants have dried up.
All of the people I named have huge visibility and enormous resources which they could use to effect change and improve the lives of all minorities while making our finical, educational, and criminal justice systems treat all citizens equally. Instead of doing this they have chosen to enrich themselves with more power and more wealth. I hate to point specific people out because there are thousands just like them who I haven’t named. I would also like to acknowledge that these people have donated to charities and are good well-meaning people for the most part. But they have a greater responsibility to the people that made their wealth and power possible. What if Harry Belafonte or Muhammad Ali hadn’t fought for civil rights? The lush charmed lives of Oprah and Jay Z wouldn’t be possible. So in turn they should do the same for those who are currently being victimized by racial intolerance and inequality. What good is making it to the “top” if you don’t reach back and pull your brother up with you? For rappers like Jay Z and Lil Wayne it’s not enough to just rap about the harsh conditions of the inner city and make people aware of the inequality in our justice system. Hip Hop has done an amazing job of that over the years (which was no small feat). But if you continue to rap about inner city problems, gain enormous wealth from it and not involve yourself in creating a movement to change it, then you’ve turned one of the most sui generis and innovative art forms ever created into egregious exploitation.
I know my critique of the African American elite is a bit harsh, but I can’t assign 100% of the blame on them. We as a whole have allowed them to behave that way. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating success or acknowledging those with special abilities. But when all you do is congratulate and celebrate without demanding something in return you are giving them permission to obtain more wealth and power at your expense. Tyler Perry, TD Jakes, and Jay Z owe a huge part of their success to the poor and working class African Americans who support them. There are people who live far below the poverty line who will scrape up a few dollars to see Tyler Perry’s latest movie, or attend one of TD Jakes conferences, or buy Jay Z’s newest album. That fact alone should be enough to move them and make them want to be more vocal. Building a bigger super mega church doesn’t help our community. Buying a basketball team doesn’t help our community. Buying a private island doesn’t help our community, and now we have this new phenomenon where anyone who questions the elite are shunned and labeled “haters”. Somehow our entertainers and those of us who support them have lost our way. We’ve lost the will to fight. We’ve accepted the status quo and have become complacent or (in my case) cynical. Yes I’ll admit I have become a bit cynical. When the problems are so huge and the solution seems so very apparent it drives me crazy to see those with unlimited resources doing nothing.
How can we remind these people of their responsibility? How can we show the elite they still have a steak in civil rights? Obviously empathy and “doing the right thing” aren’t viable motivations anymore. Maybe we should play to their vanity and start praising any and all (no matter how small) charitable work they do, or anytime they call for criminal justice reform in an interview, or anytime they campaign for candidates who are pro civil rights, and ignore the trivial vapidness and superficial self importance of inconsequential celebrity gossip.
Martin Luther King, Bayard Rustin, President Kennedy, and all of the other great civil rights activists from the 1960’s would be astonished at the lack of diligence that has taken hold since their great gains at the height of the movement. Most notably the Supreme Court decision to strike down parts of the voting rights act earlier this year which led to a number of harsh new voting restrictions put in place by republican governors to disenfranchise the minority vote. I believe Martin Luther King would also be shocked and disappointed at the lack of support from the black community for marriage equality and gay rights. I say this with a great deal of confidence because one of MLK’s most trusted advisers was an out gay African American man named Bayard Rustin (who I just referenced at the beginning of this paragraph). A few of MLK’s other advisers tried to talk him into firing Bayard because of his sexuality and MLK would not do it. Without Bayard the historic march on Washington may not have happened. He was the top organizer for the event. I feel I have to acknowledge that the black community is moving in the right direction on this issue. The NAACP publicly announced support for gay marriage last year sometime right after President Obama announced his support. So there is progress and hope on this issue…. but hope enough to assuage my cynicism?… the jury is still out on that one.
2013 CIVIL RIGHTS ISSUES TO ADDRESS:
END STOP AND FRISK!
END RACIAL PROFILING!
RESTORE THE ORIGINAL VOTING RIGHTS ACT!
GET RID OF ALL “STAND YOUR GROUND” LAWS!
REFORM THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM!
ALLOW ALL CITIZENS TO VOTE, EVEN THOSE WITH A FELONY!
END THE COSTLY INEFFECTIVE WAR ON DRUGS!
CLOSE ALL PRIVATE PRISONS
ENACT A MORATORIUM ON BUILDING NEW PRISONS
LEGALIZE GAY MARRIAGE IN ALL 50 STATES!
MAKE THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT SUCCESSFUL!
Read “The New Jim Crow” by: Michelle Alexander (if you can’t find or afford a copy please let me know and I will purchase one and send it to you. It’s a must read for anyone who cares about civil rights and how mass incarceration became the solution for dealing with African American men.)
I’ve noticed something very strange and troubling going on in African American social media and entertainment blogs. I’ve watched it grow over the past year hoping it would die down and people would come to their senses but surprisingly it has only grown bigger and it’s beginning to cross over into mainstream media. I’m talking about the myth of the Illuminati. Somehow rumors began to spread online that certain famous, powerful and wealthy African American’s all were a part of and owed their success to the Illuminati. Some nutcase African American bloggers began to analyze lyrics by people like Jay Z, Kayne West, Beyonce, 50 Cent, and P Diddy (among others) and use random words and lines from their songs as proof of their affiliation with the occult, and a lot of their African American readers fell for it. They’ve come up with all kinds of crazy conspiracy theories about Oprah, Sam Jackson, and Lebron James which in a way robs them of their success. It feeds into a long-held racist notion that successful African Americans aren’t responsible for their success. Not their intelligence, nor their talent or hard work. Those pathways to success are never questioned with whites. I challenge readers to do a quick google search for any famous or successful African American and attach the word “illuminati” behind it. You’ll have pages and pages of nonsensical conspiracy theories about all of them (please hold all searches until after you’ve finished reading my blog lol).
Here’s why this frustrates me so much. We have enough obstacles & real issues to deal with. There’s no need to add an imaginary one to that list. The Illuminati and satan aren’t the one’s making laws that are designed to lock up as many Black men as possible. They aren’t trying to disenfranchise minority voters to keep them from the polls. They aren’t keeping your wages low while rewarding a few at the top with the profit from your blood sweat & tears. They aren’t destroying our neighborhoods with liquor stores & fast food joints at every corner. They aren’t killing our youth for wearing hoodies & racially profiling them because of race. The people doing all this are real. When we’re not focused on reality the real life villain’s get away while injustice not only survives, it flourishes. People like Roger Ailes, Charles & David Koch, Michael Bloomberg, Art Pope, Rush Limbaugh are real people causing unimaginable problems for our community. Not satan Not the Illuminati. It’s time to be adults and stop believing in the boogie man. So the next time you hear one of your friends repeating some dumb rumor about the illuminati being involved in the struggles in the African American community, please please please try to educate them. Can you imagine what might happen if the entire community started to focus their attention on something real?… exactly, so WAKE UP!!!
So tonight was the night, Tracy Morgan in the hallowed halls of the Ryman Auditorium. The show was your typical hysterical dick, cum and pussy humor… I have to say it was hilarious and well worth at least 40% of the $86 we spent per ticket to see him. I figured at some point the gay jokes would fly and I’m well prepared for a good ribbing of straight gay humor. I have very thick skin when it comes to humor; I can dish and I can take. What I can’t take is when Mr. Morgan took it upon himself to mention about how he feels all this gay shit was crazy and that women are a gift from God and that “Born this Way” is bullshit, gay is a choice, and the reason he knows this is exactly because “God don’t make no mistakes” (referring to God not making someone gay cause that would be a mistake). He said that there is no way a woman could love and have sexual desire for another woman, that’s just a woman pretending because she hates a fucking man. He took time to visit the bullshit of this bullying stuff and informed us that the gays needed to quit being pussies and not be whining about something as insignificant as bullying. He mentioned that gay was something kids learn from the media and programming, and that bullied kids should just bust some ass and beat those other little fuckers that bully them, not whine about it. He said if his son that was gay he better come home and talk to him like a man and not [he mimicked a gay, high pitched voice] or he would pull out a knife and stab that little N (one word I refuse to use) to death. He mentioned that Barack Obama needed to man up and quit being all down with this just because he has a wife and two daughters. All of this being followed by thunderous cheer and “You go Tracys”. Tracy then said he didn’t fucking care if he pissed off some gays, because if they can take a fucking dick up their ass… they can take a fucking joke. The sad thing is that none of this rant was a joke. His entire demeanor changed during that portion of the night. He was truly filled with some hate towards us.
Kevin Rogers story was SHOCKING to me. Out of all the stories I read about this incident, none of them actually quoted anything that Tracy Morgan said. So because of this, I felt like maybe it was something small that got blown up by the press. But after reading this, I do not see how any journalist could write an honest and truthful piece about this without letting the reader know exactly what was said. His actual words were far beyond anything I had imagined. This has totally changed my opinion of Tracy Morgan. I was fan, but now I’ll never watch or listen to anything he puts out ever again. What he said can’t be brushed over with an apology. His apology means nothing to me because I know it will only be about him trying to save his career. He’s a sad little hate filled man, and I hope people will see him for what he is and stop supporting anything that he is a part of. Why would anyone want to support someone like this? I hope that gay rights organizations are not trying to solicit any kind of public apology from him. It would be insulting. Someone that says the kind of things he said doesn’t change the way they think overnight, or go to some weekend siminar and magically become a changed man. That kind of ignorance and hatred comes from a very deep dark and disturbed place, and any proclamations of change should be met with extreme skepticism. As long as he’s on 30 Rock, I’ll NEVER watch that show EVER again. The sad part of it all was the reaction Tracy got from the audience. A large majority of them were cheering him on during his homophobic rant. To me that’s a confirmation of the long and treacherous road ahead we have yet to travel to reach total equality for our community.
STORY UPDATE AND TRACY’S “APOLOGY”:
Morgan has agreed to go to Nashville with GLAAD to protest the state’s controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill, according to E! Online. He spoke to E!’s Marc Malkin about his regrets over his rant, emphasizing his belief that all children should be loved, regardless of sexuality. “I know how bad bullying can hurt,” Morgan said. “I was bullied when I was a kid. I’m sorry for what I said. I didn’t mean it. I never want to use my comedy to hurt anyone. My family knew what it was like to feel different. My brother was disabled and I lost my father to AIDS in 1987…. Parents should support and love their kids no matter what. Gay people deserve the same right to be happy in this country as everyone else. Our laws should support that.” In an interview with Russell Simmons at Global Grind, Morgan apologized again for his verbal tirade that sparked national outrage, swore off his hate speech and came out for marriage equality. “Of all the sicknesses, there is probably none more abusive than homophobia. My heart is committed to giving everyone the same rights that I deserve for myself,” Morgan said. “I don’t care if you love the same sex as long as you have the ability to love someone I am deeply sorry for the comments I made. What I am most sad about is the comments I made about kids and bullying.”
Was Tracy’s apology sincere? Is he serious about making amends? Does he understand how hurtful and dangerous his gay bashing tirade was? I wish I had the answer to those questions, but only time will tell. When I began to write this blog, I kept thinking about something Mya Angelou said in an interview with Oprah. It seemed to fit this situation perfectly, and I’ve found it to be true in my life as well. This very wise woman said “When someone shows you who they are, believe them”.JULY 4 2011 UPDATE
To view free streaming episodes of 30 Rock or Saturday NIght Live, visit the links below.
30 Rock seasons 1 through 5:
Saturday NIght Live seasons 1 through 36: