The comedian tells whites that the president isn't that black. Hilarious or problematic?
(The Root) -- Chris Rock sent a message to white voters on the Jimmy Kimmel Show recently.
Hilarity ensued, right?! I watched the clip with a few friends, and they laughed! I, on the other hand, crossed my arms and looked toward the ground. I felt really weird and didn't want to comment at all. My friends noticed my silence and lack of gut-busting laughter and asked what was wrong. I almost said nothing because I didn't want to be that guy. I didn't want to throw water on the fire of fun that everyone was having. And come on! Chris Rock is hitting his comedy dougie! This is great, right?
The whole gag here is based on the idea that Barack Obama doesn't have a stereotypically black background. His nickname was Barry. He was born in Hawaii. He went to Ivy League schools. The joke is based on the idea that Obama's blackness scares some folks so much, but when you compare his life experience with that of the "average" black person in America, he's way more similar to whites.
I get it.
My issue with the gag is that it plays into the stereotypes that have plagued black Americans for decades. There are blacks right now being told how white they are because they're doing something like hiking, skiing, brunching, studying, etc. Within the black community, people are "black checked" for not living up to some sort of predetermined idea of what black folks do. They're mocked and shunned for not being what others have decided they should be. And the reason is the thought process that says "golfing is what white people do."
Comments like "Barack Obama supports gay marriage; most black men don't support straight marriage" are problematic. Not because Chris Rock dictates what blackness is -- but because of his fame and notoriety, in addition to the ignorant ideas that some whites already believe and some blacks already internalize.
I can hear the furious typing already telling me "But he's a comedian!" Yes, I'm aware of that. I'm not currently boycotting Chris Rock. I get what he's doing. I'm a comedian myself! But I personally believe in a certain responsibility that comes with inhabiting the public sphere in society. Once your words are read and listened to by the masses, I would argue that you owe it to society itself to choose words that would do the least harm.
Rock is one of the most talented comedians alive. Do you think he couldn't have written something equally funny that didn't play into the stereotypes of what blackness is and isn't?
I realize how this sounds. I've already told myself to shut up a couple of times. But whether or not you think I'm being "annoying" isn't the point. There are reasons that certain language and jokes are problematic. When they play into problematic preconceived notions without challenging them directly, they implicitly co-sign the problematic preconception.
If I make a joke about how we need to be careful about leaving young boys in front of gay men, I've added to the problem of how homosexuality is viewed in our society: that gay men are pedophiles and shouldn't be allowed to adopt. I can make the argument that I'm not homophobic and that I didn't mean any harm by the statement. "It was just a joke!" But the joke plays into dangerous themes. As someone with a public space, I have to take responsibility for my words.
Words matter. The end.
Republicans are finally figuring out that America is changing.
(The Root) -- Republicans are claiming that they're confident of a Mitt Romney win on Tuesday. However, some are already coming up with their excuses for losing to the most horrible, terrible, incompetent, dictating tyrant the country has ever seen. Example: "If we lose this election, there is only one explanation," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told Politico: "Demographics."
Uh-oh. Are you telling me that the Republican Party could lose this election simply because it's only been talking to middle-aged white men and that's finally catching up with the GOP? That's absolutely shocking. I can't believe such things. Since when did ignoring minorities cause a problem in American society! You mean that if a political party suggests that poor black kids should become janitors, embraces racists and actively ignores the historical impact of a society's wrongdoings toward a group within that society, it may start to lose political ground?
Will wonders never cease?
The writing has been on the wall for years. You can tell by the way that freaked-out certain sections of white America have yelled about wanting their country back and returning to a better time in our history. You know, when the women acted right and the people of color knew their place. Oh, those were the days.
But now we have uppity folks desiring equal treatment and equal pay. Now we have folks causing trouble if good Americans just so happen to point out how white men built the United States. Our society has gone to the dogs!
Mitt Romney, save us. Save us from this mulitcultural nightmare. If anyone can make sure America can be as ignorant as it used to be, it's you.
The much-needed Black Weblog Awards just announced the 2012 winners.
(The Root) -- People have often shared with me how they came to know who I am.
“I was searching on iTunes for “Black podcasts” and i came across yours!”
“I was talking with a friend about reading more people of color and they pointed me to your site!”
The way some folks talk about finding black media online you’d think there was a serious lack of content and content creators. This couldn’t be further from the truth. If you don’t believe me take a look at the Black Weblog Awards -- an annual group of awards given out to the best and most popular sites within the the black blog community. With tons of blogs vying for the top spots, the BWAs, which had a full-on award ceremony last year hosted by comedian and actress Kim Coles as part of the Blogging While Brown conference, today announced the 2012 winners on sites specializing in science and technology (winner: ShareefJackson.com) to LGBT (winner: Ken Like Barbie) to political and news (winner: Angryblackladychronicles.com). No matter what you might be interested in you can find award winning sites or sites of award winning caliber.
Now some folks love to scream about how this is self-segregation. “Why does it have to be the ‘black’ weblog awards? Why do you separate yourselves?” And to these people I politely say, "Please, shut the hell up." It’s an annoying conversation to keep having across every possible platform known to man about every possible topic. Why does it have to be black music awards? Why does it have to be black history month? Why does it have to be black...
The reason is that a lot of these sites would be ignored otherwise. Not because they aren’t full of great content, but because when you speak from a marginalized perspective--whether your content is about supposedly marginalized things or not--you’re ignored by many. Many people don’t want a "black" perspective. They don’t want to be reminded that life isn’t the same for all of us and so they will continually and consistently ignore great work, artist and writers because they didn’t speak directly to them. Should amazing work and talented people be ignored because some one didn’t like when they said “growing up in the black church...”?
One of the first acknowledgements I ever received as a writer, blogger, and vlogger was from the Black Weblog Awards. So many people told me they were nervous about checking out my work because of the title "This Week in Blackness" yet there was no issues at the BWA's. Years later I work in bigger spaces but I always appreciated the acknowledgement when there weren’t any to be found anywhere else. It let me know that people out there appreciated my work. And it’s the same reason why I’m happy for the 3 awards my team and I walked away with this year. Things like this are not about self-segregation.
It’s about self-celebration.
Are you receiving unsolicited anti-Obama text messages? You're not alone, and apparently it's not illegal.
(The Root) -- It's one thing when political campaigns are lying to you through social media, TV ads and directly from their candidates' mouths -- but how do you feel about it when it's directly to your phone?
The preceding text screen grab was sent to me from the Twitter account @Lyrikkmashairi with the message:
"I shouldn't be recieving texts like this. This is illegal!!!"
Sadly, it's not. While automated text messages are illegal, email isn't. As reported in the Los Angeles Times:
Although the Federal Communications Commission has clearly stated that unsolicited automated text messages are against the law, some political advertising firms have found a way around the ban.
Instead of sending text messages the traditional way -- from one phone number to another -- these firms send emails to people's cellphones, which produce messages that appear much like text messages.
As someone who has received unsolicited text messages while I was going through a rough period (read: dead broke), I remember freaking out because I was charged for them! Not everyone has unlimited texts. Then imagine getting these ridiculous messages.
ITWorld.com reports that the company that's behind the text spam is ccAdvertising:
According to GoDaddy, these domains belong to a Centreville, Virginia, company called ccAdvertising. According to its Web site, “ccAdvertising uses unique interactive technology to conduct personalized telephone surveys and messages with great results and service.”
What's magical about all of this is that the text message we've posted here isn't simply anti-Obama -- it's anti-truth. Obama did not steal $716 billion from Medicare. Obama cut spending on Medicare by $716 billion and extended Medicare's lifespan overall. But who needs facts?!?! Who's going to take time to fact-check a random text message?
I'd like to say that I appreciate the GOP coming up with new and interesting ways to do things that are illegal and get away with it. Obviously, this is the party that needs to be in power.
We can't talk about the disaster without mentioning climate change or FEMA.
(The Root) -- So MSNBC's Chris Jansing highlighted this tweet as the "Tweet of the Day":
And only minutes before the MSNBC declaration, I had tweeted this, about Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's praise of President Obama's disaster response:
Wow. Chris Christie is seeming caring & empathetic. That's how bad this #Sandy 'ish is. Im praising Christie and Christie is praising Obama.
Also -- there have been tons of conversations concerning the politicizing of a national tragedy. I often agree with calls for putting politics aside to allow for mourning and the tackling of issues that are bigger than simple party ideology. But when it comes to Sandy and its aftermath, I find it hard to see a position where this isn't completely political.
Two major points make this entire disaster very political. The first is the amazing amount of silence during this election cycle on the subject of global warming. While most weather watchers and scientists have said you can't quite pin hurricanes on global warming, what can be directly attributed to the storm and its damage is the ocean levels.
Global sea level is now about 8 inches higher, on average, than it was in 1900, in connection with global warming. Sinking land has added several inches more of local sea level rise in the Mid-Atlantic. That means the storm tides from Sandy are that much higher than they would have been if the identical storm had come along back then.
So global warming is back on the table. And although President Obama shares some blame for not highlighting this more during this campaign season, it's a known fact that this particular issue is one of "the left's" big causes, and it's normally mocked by many of the leading voices on the right. Taking this into consideration, this tragedy becomes drenched (pun intended) in the politics of regulations, clean energy and more.
Then we have Mitt Romney and his comments on FEMA, which I wrote about yesterday. Whether or not you believe that Romney would ax FEMA completelyisn't important -- what's not arguable is his desire to strip the power of the agency and hand it to states or privatize it. This is what he said.
The problem with that is he seems not to understand how FEMA works. Just because a tree fell doesn't mean FEMA jumps into a state and starts controlling things. The agency is called when local, city and state emergency help can't handle the situation. When they're overloaded, FEMA comes in. It's obviously necessary. Don't believe me? Ask avid Romney supporter Christie.
Indeed, Christie has, today, gone on record making it very clear that he not only wants FEMA aid, he wants it now and he is in no mood to see New Jersey residents get caught in the political cross-fire as Republicans in Congress look to find offsetting budget cuts to pay for the huge amount of aid that FEMA will be expected to provide in the face of what looks to be a $100 billion dollar financial catastrophe.
"Nobody was asking about offsetting budget cuts in Joplin," Christie said, referring to the tornado-ravaged town in Missouri town, "and I don't want to hear about the fact that offsetting budget cuts have to come first before New Jersey citizens are taken care of."
And that's what this all comes down to. Are American citizens in harm's way? And if they are, are they being taken care of? The tragedy of Sandy is a stern wake-up call for us all. This election and the thought process of our elected officials are incredibly important. And at the moment it's conservatives who don't want to deal with our role in climate change and the necessity of government's role in our lives. The Republicans' constant need to limit government unless its something they care about (like a woman's uterus or two people they don't think should get married) is problematic at best and catastrophic at worst.
So for those who fear the politicizing of Sandy, fear not. Sandy was political before she hit land.