Thoughts on Fear of a Black President

Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote what I found to be the best encapsulation of the tension that has come with being a Black president. Coates captured it all from the hope and sense of ownership to the disgust and frustration within our community as well as the reception of President Obama and what his blackness means outside of our community.

 

What gripped me most was the theme regarding what do we mean and what should we expect when we say we have a Black President (or really a Black anything, for that matter). As Coates noted in his article, we love President Obama’s employing cultural signals and behaviors, but we also long for that “speak- truth-to-power” defiance. We want that avatar of our anger and rage just as much as the effortless portrayal of who we are culturally by our own in high places. What real good is understanding the finer points of giving dap, a command of Al Greens lyrics, or a child touching his hair in the light of death of young Black men and women in Chicago, extra judicial murders of Black folk in general, and predator drones? For many, especially those of us with immediate survival needs: Federalism, the nature of political process, reelections and the calculus of race ring very hollow as explanations in the face of such an environment.

 

While Obama still has to bear that criticism, I find that I also have to weigh the potency of racism in this country that demands as Coates says,” twice as good and half as black”. A lot of times we discuss authenticity in terms of hair and one’s adherence to different models and I think Coates engagement of this theme injects the nuance of a given person’s situation into the understanding of what authenticity means. It is easier and far sexier for us to view authenticity as this unbending adherence to a particular set of rules rather than sort of struggle to embody what we believe. A journey that is often beset with challenges, experiences, and situations where we stray, modify, or confirm those principles. The philosophies and principles we live by are born of human experience and not the other way around. As such, these philosophies and principles cannot hope to cover every single situation we face. Our lived experience is too complex to be pinned in like that. So what happens when in a situation where you have every intention to do good but must compromise and risk your ability to use your position positively in the future? What happens when such a decision is a matter of survival or ability to provide for one’s family? As Coates discusses, such a calculation is as relevant to the President in his position as it is to us in our day to day lives.

 

In short, intent counts.

Finding Ebooks Online

 

Step 0:

Get virus protection. If you’re downloading anything from the internet you should have virus protection. It goes a long way towards protecting the life of your computer and everything on it.

 

Step 1:

Figure out what you want to read and keep a list. I personally use Amazon’s wishlist to keep track and search based upon what I have there. This will help you organize your study habits by collating like materials.

 

Step 2:

To find ebooks you can go to any place you go to say listen to some music before you decide whether or not to purchase it. It’s important that you use the correct titles and author names when searching for specific books and then good keywords when being general (i.e if I’m looking for books on slavery, ‘slavery’ is a good keyword, ‘black history’ would be a broader search and would probably yield more varied results; but, if you’re looking for books on slavery specifically, it’s not the best way to go). I generally avoid the specific search function tricks like putting quotation marks around my search query as I’ve found that uploaders may not be super precise with their spelling or wording of the title. This is going to be your best bet to find most books.

 

Step 3:

If using a search engine like Google, use the title of the book followed by the extension .pdf or the words ebook or download. Same thing about using searching function tricks applies here.

 

Step 4:

If you like the text support the author and spread knowledge.

 

Things to consider:

 

There are a lot of free ebook directories and sites. Most of them I’ve found through using stumbleupon’s book tag and word of mouth. Finding ebooks is 99% knowing where to look. Try Scribd (though they make you upload or charge a fee now), Knights Of Imhotep Library, Many Books, Project Gutenberg are all good places to start. You may not always find what you’re looking for.

 

Not all Pdfs are created equal. Some copies are great some are look like bad Xeroxes.

 

Consider where you are going to read these ebooks. If you don’t mind sitting front of a computer all day a straight .pdf file may work fine for you. If you’re like me and have an ereader it probably will be better for you to convert the file to a format more compatible to your ereader. Calibre is an excellent free program to organize and convert those files to ereader compatible format. Though once again be reminded results will vary some files convert better than others.

 

I read a lot of philosophy and social science which tends to be pretty available. I’ve found that the more popular and controversial a book or a topic is the higher the chance I’ll find the book or something informative on it. And even if it’s not that popular in your mind, search for it anyway; you might find something.

 

Make backups and don’t hesitate once you find something. It is way too easy to accidentally delete stuff or put it off until later and then end up having a hard time trying to find again because it’s been taken down or the rules of the site it was hosted on have changed.

The Dark Knight: Thoughts On Morality And Ethics

Every so often you come across things that should make you question morality and ethics but also the assumptions that they rest on.

 

The recent set of Batman movies are a good example. Let’s take the Joker. In many ways the Joker is Batman’s foil from his silly personality quirks to his philosophy, morality, and ethic. The Joker views the world and its principles like justice, innocence, basic humanity as largely a farce. A fiction by which an entire world has been constructed held together on. In The Dark Night, Alfred say some just want to watch the world burn. I don’t find this to be all that accurate. I find that the Joker has a point to prove about what he finds to be our own collective self-delusions. To him there is no justice, there is no innocence, there is no basic humanity because they are conditional and will be abandoned when no longer convenient, which is precisely why Batman is so interesting to him. Just the fact that Batman exists signals an inadequate system of justice. It signals the justice along with these other constructions of what is “right” are concepts that must from time to time be renegotiated. How interesting must this have been to the Joker for a man to so perfectly embody the conditional nature justice of that which is right and then risk his life for the preservation of that lie. I find that Batman understands that conditional nature better than most having lost his parents but finds that the idea is worth aspiring to. That the costs to resulting from a failure aspire to the concept of justice as it is defined as too great. To the Joker that which is conditional is false and whatever consequence we bear are just the costs of the truth about ourselves.

 

Bane and the league of shadows on the other hand are about ethics and duty. Bane and Batman both believe in justice in a sense of what is right versus what is wrong and they both have sense of duty unto death to preserve that ideal. Where they differ is the process and procedure by which these things are applied. In the act where Bane begins his revolution and rails against the various injustices rallying the prisoners against the free and the poor against the rich. All the while planning to blow the city up in any way along with himself and his league of shadow compatriots tells us a lot. It tells us the judgment that league of shadows passes on a city they also pass on themselves for being its executioners. It shows that the oppressed and marginalized are not rendered innocent through their oppression. Its shows that according to them fear and death are the only means by which justice can be secured because everybody is guilty. Batman on the other hand whose existence signals failures within this system defends this imperfect deeply flawed process because the alternative is again untenable.

 

It surprised me (mostly because I think myself to be consistent and firm in my moral and ethical commitments) to the extent by which I related to these and how I didn’t so much see them as villain but more as people with a different point a view they didn’t mind making sacrifices for. To a certain extent many of us are bound by these automatic limiters on our behavior we like call guilt. These “villains” were free of the guilt imposed on us by the morality and ethics our society teaches. So when I think about Us and all we go through in this society should we lose our guilt with respect to the morality this society would impose. I’m not talking of self-defense, send them to the cemetery type of not feel guilty but to truly lack a fuck of about the social fabric. I’m reminded of Native Son when Bigger scares his lawyer because though he acknowledges that he shouldn’t have killed but world around offered him no other course and felt no guilt about it. Is such a thing what we want? A better question is that where we need to be to move forward?

Nuance & Anti-patriarchy

bell hooks said that Feminism is for everybody. The idea that every woman has the right to determine her own reality is for all of us to embrace. I’ve spent the time since encountering bell hooks and other feminist/womanist writers in some serious introspection about my own behavior, what I say, how I say, and just the general way in which I go about relating to the world around. However, what I’ve noticed is a lack of a place where the nuances and particulars of being a man –particularly a Black Man — in the struggle against patriarchy on a personal level has the floor. Part of this is because so few of us truly and sincerely engage anti-patriarchy. That lack of participation makes it hard to come together to compare experiences because most of the time when men are engaged with an anti-patriarchal discussion it’s due to a call out where someone is being held responsible for their oppressive behavior; where it then becomes a competition where we are comparing the weight of our respective pain and betrayal on a personal and group level. Such behavior is silencing the very valid voices of feminists and womanists on how we as men are hurting women via our privilege as well as preventing the kind of discussion that needs to happen regarding how we are interpreting behaviors so we can make this unity thing work.

 

What my experience has shown is the lack of models and lack of discussion started by us about engaging feminism as well as our hurt and pain in relationship to our solidarity with women. For those of us that are sincere about unity and solidarity it creates this hesitancy to ask questions or bring things up for discussion because of the potential backlash and being labeled unsafe in the communities we frequent. This troubles me because it creates this cycle of silence where we only bring up our experiences in response to when women criticize us because of patriarchy. The fact is that not enough of us are speaking up and out about patriarchy and our pain and so when we make mistakes, they end up being translated as the standard for our behavior rather than the exception.

 

On the other end of that, however, are some folk out there who seem to have already made up their minds about the inadequacy or worthlessness of men especially black men and thus a man’s engagement of anti-patriarchy is them waiting for you to mess up so they can be like,”a-ha! I knew u wont shit.” Granted this is a reaction against the system of patriarchy but if one has been written off from jump there’s no solidarity to grow into. Everything I have experienced in my time and growth in anti-patriarchy shows me that it is very much an act of unlearning and undoing that which has been normalized. Mistakes are apart of the process and at times seems to be very little leeway for that. Sometimes there is the rush to judgment over a sloppily worded thought or poor understanding of a concept.

 

As a practical example, I look to the character Teacake in Zora Neale Hurston’s “Their Eyes Were Watching God”. Looking at how Hurston writes Teacake: how he is, how he sees Janie as an equal partner, how he is willing to talk with her and listen. Hurston could have made TeaCake perfect, could have had him and Janie ride off into the sunset or have him tragically die but have maintain that vision of TeaCake as the prototype. However, in Teacake, Hurston puts in jealousy which causes him to abuse Janie, and his pride which plays a role in his death — culminating when Janie kills Teacake. we are made aware that the rabies has taken over and there is nothing really left of Teacake there. Hurston show us how tragic, murderous and destructive the kind of behavior we define as manly (patriarchal) can be but also that it’s something that even the most exceptional among us struggle with. Whether paragon or pariah we have to look at Teacake in the totality of being.

 

I think this is a lesson we could all use.

Who is “Black”

Discussions of negritude are pretty commonplace in my slice of Black twitter but no discussion is a contentious as the discussion surrounding Hypodescent or as it is more popularly known, The One Drop Rule.

Hypodescent mean that in a place when one group is deemed superior and another is inferior should one from the “superior group” have a child with someone from an “inferior” group the child is deemed to be of the inferior group hence “One drop of black blood” makes you Black (as in noun form denoting a distinct group of the African Diaspora).

Historically this concept was codified into law in the Racial Integrity Act of 1924 and similar laws abounded elsewhere in this nation. White Folk were serious about protecting strict standards of who was white and who was not for the purpose of providing privilege and preserving group power structures. Authenticity was and continues to be essential.

The one drop rule is without a shadow of a doubt is rooted in a legacy of white supremacy. Thus we have to ask the question does the practice of accepting those denoted Black by the one drop rule an act of self hate.

This discussion becomes particularly relevant in the light of Fanon’s comment regarding the necessity of oppressed people defining themselves outside of the logic of their oppressor as the first step of liberation. As a practical example many religious groups or philosophies stress a name change as symbolic of locating oneself out of the logic of one’s oppressor or oppression. Also if we consider the history of Black folk so many of the folks we consider our greats have grappled with the idea of who we are due in no small part to the cultural losses we have sustained, the pieces we retained, the hostility of the society that formed around us, and our creativity in the attempt of making sense of it or least live in spite of it.

The way I was introduced into the Hypodescent discussion was through a discussion regarding confronting Colorism and light skinned privilege. Colorism being the practice of using Light skinned capital “B” Black folk or “mixed” (I put that in quotations b/c its fairly idiomatic given that most people that identify as Black have some non Black heritage and even among our African heritage we are the product of many different ethnic groups) identifying folks to represent all of the different shades that we consider to be Black people. Light skinned privilege being the favorable treatment given to those with fairer skin because of the racist top down color structure that conveys value on how to close to white you are. The problem even though we may see lighter complexioned or mixed folks as kin that darker Black folk are being erased and devalued because of the standardization and pursuit of whiteness.

Some argue that this is grounds for reorganization in who we call kin. I agree that we need to codify what it means to be us but I do not agree with the idea that the only Black (ethnic group) people are black (skin color) people. I find that the United States African Diaspora is its own ethnic group descended from the many African peoples that were brought here. As we well know those identities were stripped and in favor race terms which I find to be illegitimate and inaccurate and existing within the same logic of white supremacy that we would seek to avoid. So adhering to race identifiers doesn’t make sense to me. So that puts us in the unique position of not only choosing a new name but also trying to find a new answer to the historical question that every generation of us have had to grapple. To me benefitting from colorism doesn’t eliminate one’s negritude and after all not everybody we would identify as “light skinned” or “redbone” are mixed. And of those that are mixed what role should a person’s should a person’s identification play in whether they are a part of us are not? If that’s not a factor what are our standards of negritude? How are these standards communicated from one generation to the next? How do we even begin to implement such a thing? What happens to the folk who are left out?

The more I investigate the issue, the more questions arise that I am not prepared to deal with and yet I am not satisfied with the solutions presented thus far. This is a difficult question that members of the United States African Diaspora must begin to deal and eventually answer.

Politics of Gatekeeping

Gatekeeping is based around creating a model of what is and what is not appropriate. In our white capitalist, Judeo-Christian, patriarchal imperialist society being rich (specifically the ability to buy without care), whiteness, some kind of Christian, and an adherence to hegemonic interpretations of gender are the models that are deemed as acceptable.

 

Our black societies due to the context of our development in America being stripped of our traditional cultures and our subsequent failures at mass re-signification have used the white frameworks in how we view ourselves. Obviously this is hugely problematic but even through these challenges a class Black elites has developed.

 

In preparation for writing this I picked up Our Kind of People: Inside the American Black Upper Class authored by Lawrence Otis Graham. As I look at the organizations like The Links, Jack and Jill, The Early Black Fraternities and Sororities AKA, DST, APA, OPP, and KAP; Prestigious Black Colleges like Howard, Spellman, and Morehouse, Fisk; and activities like Cotillions what these groups aim to do, and their organizational structure there is not a whole lot of substantive difference between organizations that would be classified as elite and organizations that would be classified as street.

 

I think someone would be hard pressed to find an organized group of black people anywhere that doesn’t have prosperity on the agenda. Personally, I admit with some reservations that I can’t get mad at folk doing well through hard work, planning, and foresight. In fact I applaud it. Starting business, pushing education and passing down wealth from one generation to the next makes sense.

 

So we have to ask Graham’s question: What are we mad at the black elite for?

 

For some it boils down to the most basic of political questions. What is the best way to live? But I think I can consider black anti capitalists to be in the vast minority. So the bulk of the problem with the black elite isn’t found there.

 

It is the hypocrisy of promoting a certain example of a particular politic of respectability and not diligently working towards a world where such things are achievable without arbitrary barriers. The lack of help and civic engagement towards that end diminishes exclusivity that functions to maintain the power and position of being the example of what black folk ought to aspire.

 

It ceases to be about an interpretation what black folk ought to do and turns into a caste system where the few are more worthy than the many. It stops being about advocating certain principles instead it becomes about establishing a framework where one can subordinate others.

 

Graham speaks candidly in his book about the exclusionary politics of the black elite social groups while claiming to promote black empowerment. He discusses arbitrary membership limits to create exclusivity, having the right financial ability to gain and maintain membership and the status consumerism expected of members. You have to ask yourself if these groups are about really serious about a model of black excellence why are all the resources going to the folks who have the least need for it?

 

Now obviously gatekeeping is not the sole province of folks within the Black elite, the premise is applied on a variety of levels however the attention is placed where it is because this is the dominant mainstream model we are bombarded with on a daily basis. We are pressured to consume for status purposes. We are pressured to want to achieve that elite status. Before we can confront the gatekeeping and the arbitrary barriers of the caste system it maintains we first have to ask, “Is this the best way to live?” and answer “No.”

An Examination Of Rape Culture

First and foremost I want to give thanks to Owl for once again allowing me the pleasure to contribute to the Asylum.

 

Owl asked me to write this article after a bit of a tangent I had on twitter regarding the lack of critical focus displayed by some over a video on WorldStarHipHop.com (WSHH) referenced on twitter by the hashtag #HerschelwoodBustdown. The video depicted some men running a train on a woman (please note I have not actually watched the video so I am going the reports on my twitter timeline. I will refer to the participants as adults for the purpose of writing this post however if they are in fact not adults WSHH is liable for child porn distribution and should be reported).

 

As I watched my twitter timeline and the hashtag, there was this consistent chorus of disgust
surrounding the events in the video for all the wrong reasons. People were speaking on their distaste for the particular form of group sex depicted, for the woman’s sexual choices (slut shaming, misogynist), or they were questioning the sexuality of the men involved for having their dicks out around each other (heterosexist, and considering that being gay requires there to be some same sex attraction, quite stupid). The men involved utilized some very derogatory misogynistic language in reference to the woman they were having sex with. That reality transforms this scene of indiscretion, (which is misogynistic in its own right- due to the betrayal of that woman’s trust), into a scene of Rape Culture.

 

Now when I say Rape Culture I refer to the violent regime of sexual violence perpetrated primarily against women.

 

We arrive at what is called Rape Culture through the patriarchal masculine hegemonic imperative that demands men exist as dominators and controllers applied to the sexual sphere. Patriarchy makes sex a place where power and domination are expressed as the basis of the act, where pleasure is only a factor with respect to the man involved and thereby reinforcing the potency of one’s manhood. To groups of men who may find themselves oppressed by a particular social order, finding themselves locked out of political, economic, and social spheres of power as well as the sites of domination and control within those spheres the imperative for control and domination become concentrated in the body especially sex. The function of the body because it is the last site left where one can validate the potency of their manhood lest ego collapse or a rearranging of the concept of manhood occur.

 

I can’t recall, whether it is bell hooks or Patricia Hill Collins that illustrates this point by examining prison rape. Men in prison fit the description of being lock out of places of power perhaps better than any other group. Given the abysmal soul murdering conditions one is force to exist in while incarcerated acting out a patriarchal rubric is condensed into the body. In prison settings often the less violent, less aggressive “weaker” men are preyed upon and victimized by the more violent, more aggressive “stronger” men for a variety of purposes including the sexual. In a space where there is no access to women, “women” are created; objects to be dominated controlled and used at the whim of the strong men.

 

To return to the #HershelwoodBustdown, the misogynistic denigration of the woman involved by the men involved make this act not about a wild sexual escapade that should have never made it to the internet, but about trashing women as pleasure on the level of if not superseding that of penetration.

 

Take a moment and think about what it means for a man to vocalize his misogyny as a part of a sexual act with a woman. To do such a thing is to say that as a man, “sex is a site of power for me and you, the woman are merely the masturbatory tool that I use to assert my dominance and because of it you are trash. You are nothing to me. You are utterly disposable. You are and object for me and my friends to treat as we will. You are not human.”

 

This is sexual violence, and because this mindset of sex as power is systemic and based upon a desire to express domination and control it forms a culture of rape.

 

According to The New York Times a recently concluded study shows that 1 out of every 5 women reports being raped. According to Most Estimate 80-90% of rapes go unreported. 50% of the time the victim knows her rapist and that people from marginalized communities are at higher risk for rape due to their societal vulnerability. One would think with such disturbing numbers people would be vigilant and aware of preventing rape. However, the lack of critical thought on this event and the subsequent failure to link it to patriarchy and its culture of rape provides the consent for sexual violence in all of its forms to continue. Not to mention how the seriousness of rape is devalued by victim blaming and the casual usage of the term rape in indicated a level of intensity or to make joke. Even the strategies that are employed to combat rape are tainted by our rape culture as they teach women how to avoid rapes(implying that they bring it on themselves) rather than teaching men to not be rapists. The fact of the matter is that our patriarchal rape culture and its adherence created the men in this video it created the impetus for their misogynistic actions, and the environment that sanctions it. This is how rapists are made and our failure to recognize it means only more victims down the road.