It’s Time To Call Out ‘Nice Racists’ And Their White Fragility | Huffington Post

We usually don’t call out our acquaintances and friends about their micro-aggressions towards us — probably because we know they’re fragile, and when we do correct them, there’s a large amount of white tears that fall and hit our shoes, shoes that are now soaked from the previous white person’s tears you just had a work meeting with.

When you think of a racist what pops in your mind? White supremacists? The KKK? You usually think of white people down south right? You know, the ones who have confederate flag bumper stickers, and hurl the N-word at Black people who cut them off while driving, or school districts that ban Black hairstyles. These folks are more of the poster children of racism.

I’m here to let you in on a little secret: You don’t need to write a resume for the new available seat in the Ku Klux Klan to be a racist. We’ve heard many times before that racism is taught, that it starts at home with our parents and caregivers. This is absolutely true, but racism is also in our school systems, the media, it even comes from the mouths of orange men running for president.

I’m sure your parents never actually said that you should cross the street when you see a black person walking on the same side walk as you, but you do it anyway because you’ve witnessed them do it. Or maybe you’ve seen hundreds of movies where the predator character was a black person, and over the years you took that theatrical scene into you’re reality, allowing your mind to swallow it whole.

Racism isn’t always angry and mean. I’s subtle, mild and, at times, friendly. It was your boss in that interview who was amazed at how intellectual you were, so amazed that he even prolonged the interview with concerning inquiries and assumptions:

“How did you manage to succeed in a low-income one parent household? Was it hard growing up without a father?”

It’s hopping on the train and seeing the sweet white lady scoot her belongings over and make room for a white person to sit down. Although five minutes ago you asked if the seat was taken, and she put on a Oscar-worthy performance about how sorry she is that it’s not available for your black body. Or the white friend who laughs and makes fun about racial stereotypes, but they insist its only a joke, to take them at their word, it’s not how they truly feel.

We usually don’t call out our acquaintances and friends about their micro-aggressions towards us — probably because we know they’re fragile, and when we do correct them, there’s a large amount of white tears that fall and hit our shoes, shoes that are now soaked from the previous white person’s tears you just had a work meeting with.

People of color are made to feel wrong and guilty when we voice our pain and correct our white counterparts. We avoid these racial stress related topics because the guilt you feel from hurting us, form into fear and anger. Instead of an apology, you defend your character and explain repeatedly how nice you are, you use your white tears as a weapon. Suddenly, a knife is pointed at me, and I’m the bad guy.

You’ve gone on and on for hours to tell me that I’ve hurt your feelings. Well, you know what? It’s a privilege to only get your feelings hurt after being called a racist, rather than experiencing racism itself.

We’ve been conditioned to think that racism and being a nice person can’t go hand and hand. We have to start realizing that racism is built in this society, it’s a dangerous and violent system that oppresses people of color in more ways than just a white supremacist group. You don’t have to wear a white hood and hate black people to play into stereotypes and racist undertones.

Yes, you’re a kind person — we all love your joyous smile — but one day, you’ll be confronted and have that talk with a black friend about an offensive status you wrote or that comment you made at dinner. Don’t start to defend your character or your intentions. Wipe your tears. You shouldn’t be the one hurting right now.

Don’t make this about you.

Don’t put your fear over my pain.

Don’t make my feelings less important than your anger.

While you’re still here, and still crying, I should also add that I don’t really appreciate your reaction to MY hurt feelings. Quite frankly, I find it to be abusive. To flip the script, shed tears, and make me feel horrible, horrible to the point where I lose focus on myself, (the person who’s truly offended), to comfort you.

My entire existence as a black person is to make white people comfortable, to coddle your feelings and never tell you that you’ve hurt me — the least you can do is apologize, take responsibility and own up to your offense, try harder, learn from this.

We’re not always aware of what we’re taking in from the world, but it influences our behavior and actions, regardless if we’re nice people. It doesn’t matter if the racism you endured was intentional or not, just know that racists don’t always appear as evil and violent. It’s inviting, it’s friendly, it’s simple, and at many times, it’s produced by the nicest of people.

Source: It’s Time To Call Out ‘Nice Racists’ And Their White Fragility | Huffington Post

Poverty Has Same Effect On The Brain As Constantly Pulling All Nighters | ThinkProgress

One of the study’s authors, Harvard economist Sandhil Mullainathan, told the Washington Post, “Poverty is the equivalent of pulling an all-nighter. Picture yourself after an all-nighter. Being poor is like that every day.”

Poverty Has Same Effect On The Brain As Constantly Pulling All Nighters

AUG 30, 2013 8:54 AM

The mental strain of living in poverty and thinking constantly about tight finances can drop a person’s IQ by as much as 13 percent, or about the equivalent of losing a night of sleep, according to a new study. It consumes so much mental energy that there is often little room to think about anything else, which leaves low-income people more susceptible to bad decisions.

One of the study’s authors, Harvard economist Sandhil Mullainathan, told the Washington Post, “Poverty is the equivalent of pulling an all-nighter. Picture yourself after an all-nighter. Being poor is like that every day.”

The researchers came to this conclusion after conducting two separate experiments. The first gave low- and moderate-income shoppers at a mall in New Jersey a number of tests that measure IQ and impulse control, but half of the participants were first given a question about finances: what they would do if they needed to make $1,500 worth of repairs on their car, putting financial concerns at the forefront of their minds. They found that it reduced cognitive performance among the poor participants but not those who are well-off.

The second experiment looked at the cognitive functions of farmers in India before the harvest, when they are poor, and after the harvest, when they have much more money. The same farmer performs lower on cognitive ability before than he does after — which researchers say “cannot be explained by differences in time available, nutrition, or work effort” nor by stress. Instead, it appears to be poverty reducing their mental capacity.

A past study came to a similar conclusion: It found that scarcity can sap mental capacity and lead to short-term decision-making over long-term considerations.

Poverty has other negative impacts. The chronic stress of growing up in poverty has been found toimpair children’s brains, particularly in working memory. A study of veterans found that poverty is a bigger risk factor for mental illness than being exposed to warfare. The mental stress of being poor is also a major reason for why low-income people tend to have negative health outcomes like high blood pressure and cholesterol or elevated rates of obesity and diabetes.

Poverty takes its toll on health in a number of other critical ways: It prevents people from buying healthy food, makes people more likely to smoke, means they are more likely to live in areas with poor air quality, and can cause health problems that begin in the womb.

 

Source: Poverty Has Same Effect On The Brain As Constantly Pulling All Nighters | ThinkProgress

This Week on OUR COMMON GROUND φ “40 Years, $1 Trillion, 45 Million Arrests Later: “The Truth About the War Against Us” φ LIVE

OUR COMMON GROUND with Janice Graham

“The Truth About the War Against Us”
09-12-15 War on Drugs4
40 Years, $1 Trillion, 45 Million Arrests – the war still rages against our community. IT WAS NEVER ABOUT DRUGS

 Saturday, September 12, 2015

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This week on OUR COMMON GROUND, we review and examine the truth about the policies and intent of the “War on Drugs”. We need to talk about the money making behind the politics; how the drug war can be considered slow Nazi policy on the poor and the racial profiling used. We look at these destructive and failed policy and manipulation in its historical context and destructive outcomes. We will present audio clips for our discussion which will assist us in understanding just how much the “War on Drugs” was really never about drugs.

For sheer government absurdity, the War on Drugs is hard to beat. After three decades of increasingly punitive policies, illicit drugs are more easily available, drug potencies are greater, drug killings are more common, and drug barons are richer than ever. The War on Drugs costs Washington more than the Commerce, Interior, and State departments combined – and it’s the one budget item whose growth is never questioned. A strangled court system, exploding prisons, and wasted lives push the cost beyond measure. What began as a flourish of campaign rhetoric in 1968 has grown into a monster. And while nobody claims that the War on Drugs is a success, nobody suggests an alternative. Because to do so, as Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders learned, is political suicide.

As a community we need to understand how Drug War fever has been escalated; who has benefited along the way; and how the mounting price in dollars, lives, and liberties has been willfully ignored. Where are the policy maker offices where each new stage was planned and executed? What happened in the streets where policies have produced bloody warfare. This is a tale of the nation run amok – in a way the American people are not yet ready to confront. Are you?

You are invited to bring your thoughts about the pressing issues facing our community. Come listen and learn. SHARE please.

OUR COMMON GROUND where friends come to confer with allies.

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Why Do Millennials Not Understand Racism? φ Jamelle Bouie

Why Do Millennials Not Understand Racism?

They think if we ignore skin color, racism will somehow disappear.

140515_POL_BWMillenials
Millennials see racism as a matter of different treatment, justified by race, that you solve by removing race from the equation.

Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Shutterstock.

When you hear MTV, you don’t think “research.” But, for the last few years, the music television channel has been building a public affairs campaign to address bias called “Look Different.” Aimed at millennials, it seeks to help them deal with prejudice and discrimination in their lives. And as part of the project, MTV has worked with pollsters to survey a nationally representative sample of people ages 14 to 24 to measure how young people are “experiencing, affected by, and responding to issues associated with bias.”  φ

Jamelle BouieJAMELLE BOUIE

Jamelle Bouie is a Slate staff writer covering politics, policy, and race.

Overall, MTV confirms the general view of millennials: Compared with previous generations, they’re more tolerant and diverse and profess a deeper commitment to equality and fairness. At the same time, however, they’re committed to an ideal of colorblindness that leaves them uncomfortable with race, opposed to measures to reduce racial inequality, and a bit confused about what racism is.

All of this is apparent in the findings. Ninety-one percent of respondents “believe in equality” and believe “everyone should be treated equally.” Likewise, 84 percent say their families taught them to treat everyone the same, no matter their race, and 89 percent believe everyone should be treated as equals. With that said, only 37 percent of respondents (30 percent of whites and 46 percent of minorities) say they were raised in families that talk about race.

For this reason, perhaps, a majority of millennials say that their generation is “post-racial.” Seventy-two percent believe their generation believes in equality more than older people, and 58 percent believe that as they get older, racism will become less of an issue. It’s almost certainly true that this view is influenced by the presence of President Obama. Sixty-two percent believe that having a black president shows that minorities have the same opportunities as whites, and 67 percent believe it proves that race is not a “barrier to accomplishments.”

It’s no surprise, then, that most millennials aspire to “colorblindness.” Sixty-eight percent say “focusing on race prevents society from becoming colorblind.” As such, millennials are hostile to race-based affirmative action: 88 percent believe racial preferences are unfair as a matter of course, and 70 percent believe they are unfair regardless of “historical inequalities.” Interestingly, the difference between whites and people of color is nonexistent on the first question and small (74 percent versus 65 percent) on the second. But this might look different if you disaggregated “people of color” by race. There’s a chance that black millennials are more friendly to affirmative action than their Latino or Asian peers.

For all of these aspirations, however, millennials have a hard time talking about race and discrimination. Although 73 percent believe that we should talk “more openly” about bias, only 20 percent say they’re comfortable doing so—despite the fact that a plurality of minorities say that their racial identities shape their views of the world.

What’s more, for all of their unity on tolerance and equality, white and minority millennials have divergent views on the status of whites and minorities in society. Forty-one percent of white millennials say that the government “pays too much attention to the problems of racial minority groups while 65 percent of minorities say that whites have more opportunities.” More jarring is the 48 percent of white millennials who say discrimination against whites is as big a problem as discrimination against racial minorities. With that in mind, it’s worth a quick look at a 2012 poll from the Public Religion Research Institute, where 58 percent of white millennials said that discrimination against whites was as big a problem as discrimination against minorities.

It’s hard to say which is the “true” number, but there’s no doubt that a substantial plurality of young white people believe their race is a disadvantage, which is ludicrous given the small number who say that they’ve felt excluded because of their race (10 percent) or say that they’ve been hurt by racial offenses (25 percent).

But while this reaction doesn’t seem to have a basis in reality, it makes perfect sense given what millennials writ large believe about racism. Let’s go back to the results on colorblindness and affirmative action. Seventy-three percent believe that “never considering race would improve society,” and 90 percent say that “everyone should be treated the same regardless of race.”

From these results, it’s clear that—like most Americans—millennials see racism as a matter of different treatment, justified by race, that you solve by removing race from the equation. If we ignore skin color in our decisions, then there can’t be racism.

The problem is that racism isn’t reducible to “different treatment.” Since if it is, measures to ameliorate racial inequality—like the Voting Rights Act—would be as “racist” as the policies that necessitated them. No, racism is better understood as white supremacy—anything that furthers a broad hierarchy of racist inequity, where whites possess the greatest share of power, respect, and resources, and blacks the least.

Millennials have grown up in a world where we talk about race without racism—or don’t talk about it at all—and where “skin color” is the explanation for racial inequality, as if ghettos are ghettos because they are black, and not because they were created. As such, their views on racism—where you fight bias by denying it matters to outcomes—are muddled and confused.

Which gets to the irony of this survey: A generation that hates racism but chooses colorblindness is a generation that, through its neglect, comes to perpetuate it.

Talking about white Privilege is not Profound, its just for profit. φ Dr. Tommy J. Curry

curryvoicesTalking about white Privilege is not Profound, its just for profit.

By: Dr. Tommy J. Curry

There is a growing economy for discussions about white privilege in this country that are employing Black and brown intellectuals and whites who profess anti-racism, to be the missionaries that save white souls. white privilege, or the idea that white individuals are born with unearned benefits and advantages, over others has been making its way through out the public media as well as the classroom. On the face of it, this seems like a radical conversation. Black, brown and some white people calling out white liberals and conservatives for their racism, and starting “real” conversations about race that air on MsNBC,CNN and even the Huffington Post. But conversations about white privilege are not really conversations about race, and certainly not about racism—its a business—WHERE BLACKS MARKET THEMSELVES AS RACIAL THERAPISTS.

See the first discussions of white privilege like W.E.B. DuBois’s Black Reconstruction (1935) or George Lipsitz’s The Possessive Investment in whiteness, or even Cheryl Harris’s “whiteness as property,” came from the radical Black intellectual tradition (race-crits, Black nationalists, Pan-Africanists) that did not believe that whites would simply donate their power and act against their global racial interests to be good people IN THE EYES OF BLACKS, people they owned and still imprison. DuBois, and Lipsitz understood there is an antipathy and power in being against Blacks. Like George Jackson said, regarding the ILLUSION many Black academics have in romanticizing their ability to solve racism, “the white race, the economic elites of America, are not going to let themselves be educated out of existence. But today, you sound radical, progressive and insightful by MARKETING YOURSELF as a therapist for whites, and know nothing about the actual conditions, structures, and ills that concretely affect the lives of Blacks. You can even talk about white privilege and not even know the names of the Black thinkers, the literature, the context, or the history the term comes from, and get acclaim for only citing white celebrities like Peggy McIntosh or Tim Wise.

It’s not genius to say in an oppressive society there are benefits being in the superior class instead of the inferior class. That’s true in any hierarchy, being on the top is better than being on the bottom, but the speaker of white privilege gets to pretend that America is not oppressive, they love America, they just want whites to surrender their privilege so we can be equal. See the revolutionary doesn’t have white friends: the government killed MLK, Assata is called a terrorist, Derrick Bell is erased from a field he started, because they spoke about the actual racial and economic tyranny of corporations, governments, the military and the white public, but the for profit revolutionary wants to be commodified by whites…that Black friend that feels like they cured the racist white, while that same white person gets to point to these very relationships as proof they are healed and show to other whites they are the “white ally.”

Conversations about white privilege are simply moral appeals to the conscience of whites who have shown themselves to be committed to racism and social inequity IN THE IDLE HOPE THAT THEY change their mind. The implication of talking about privilege suffers from a childlike naiveity, it suggests that simply exposing racism and the privilege of whiteness to the white mind motivates whites to no longer act in their own self interest. See like the liberal utopia born out of integration, there is an unjustifiable assumption that telling whites about their social position means they are willing to surrender their power to appease a pop culture account of oppression. Think about the dishonesty of this approach. Black people, oppressed people, know there is a fundamental difference between being oppressed/Black and not oppressed, a citizen, white. We call for “national conversations on race,” where these public intellectuals get credit for starting conversations that amount to little more than allowing white America the opportunity to deny the actual realities Black America suffer from. And regardless of the outcome they come out LOOKING LIKE PROPHETS. This issue is white supremacy, and anti-Black death…trying discussing that…and see if your oppressor recognizes you then.

I remember at a recent APA I sat next to a feminist of color trying to get her white male student who couldn’t get a job in the white figures he studied and wrote a book on, and never studied race, racism, or Black philosophy, a job. This professor felt comfortable telling him if you start talking about white privilege, where she claimed the field was going, he could land a race job easily. Think about this. So all the Black, Brown, and Indigenous scholars who study the raw histories of oppression and resistance lose out because they don’t want to give white liberals and conservatives a guilt trip. This is a powerful example of how as an academic discussion white privilege distracts the oppressed, and empowers the oppressor class to be employed in discussing systems they have no real interest in dismantling.

Dr. Tommy J. Curry, The Nationist

9-14-13 Curry4

 

Jordan Davis, Another Victim of a Murderous Historical Continuum | Politic365

Jordan Davis, Another Victim of a Murderous Historical Continuum 

Dr. Wilmer Leon, Producer/ Host of the Sirius/XM Satellite radio radio program “Inside the Issues”

Can a Negro, whose ancestors were imported into this country, and sold as slaves, become a member of the political community formed into existence by the constitution of the United States…they are not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word “citizens” in the constitution, and can therefore claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for…” Chief Justice Roger Taney – Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857)

The verdict is in.  Michael Dunn was found guilty on three counts of attempted second-degree murder but the jury failed to reach a verdict on the most significant charge of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Jordan Davis.

Instead of celebrating what would have been his 19th birthday, Jordan Davis’ parents continue to mourn the legally unrecognized murder of their son. I can only imagine that this verdict is analogous to killing him again.  Jordan Davis has become another victim of a murderous historical American continuum.

In the wake of the Trayvon Martin murder, the killings of Oscar Grant on New Year’s Day 2009, Sean Bell on November 26, 2006, Police Sgt. Cornel Young, Jr. on January 28, 2000, Police Officer Willie Wilkins on January 11, 2001, Amadou Diallo on February 4, 1999 and so many others we find ourselves coming to the same conclusion, by focusing on their color; people failed to see theirhumanity.

The subtext to all of these untimely deaths remains race.  The subtext to the inability of juries to convict the George Zimmerman’s and Michael Dunn’s of the world of murder is tied to race as well. They are the most recent victims of a murderous historical American continuum.  Tolnay and Beck in their book A Festival ofViolence, “identified 2,805 victims of lynch mobs killed between 1882 and 1930 in ten southern states.  Although mobs murdered almost 300 white men and women, the vast majority-almost 2,500-of lynch victims were African-American.  The scale of this carnage means that, on average, a black man, woman, or child was murdered nearly once a week, every week, between 1882 and 1930 by a hate driven white mob.”  Today, lynch mobs have been replaced by Zimmerman’s and Dunn’s and sanctioned by “Stand Your Ground” and “juries of their peers”.

As Africans in America and later African Americans, we have been engaged in a struggle for a very long time. Too many of us have forgotten what’s at the crux of the issue.  Many believe it’s economic, others believe its civil rights.  Both of those are important and play a significant role in improving our circumstance but what we’ve been  fighting to have recognized since those first 20 and some odd “African indentured servants” disembarked from the Dutch Man O War off the shores of Jamestown, VA in 1619 (395 years ago)is to be considered human.

According to the Virginia Statutes on Slavery, Act 1, October 1669; what should be done about the casual killing of slaves?  “If any slave resist his master and by the extremity of the correction should chance to die, that his death shall not considered a felony, and the master should be acquitted from the molestation, since it cannot be presumed that prepense malice should induce any man to destroy his own estate.”  We were property, not human – part of the estate.

In Dred Scott Chief Justice Taney wrote, “…they (Negro’s) were at that time an considered as a subordinate and inferior class of beings, who had been subjugated by the dominant race, and, whether emancipated or not, yet remained subject to their authority, and had no rights or privileges but such as those who held the power and the government might choose to grant them.”  Unfortunately, Taney’s perspective remains prevalent in the minds of too many Americans.

For decades, the law recognized the value of life over property.  In many jurisdictions, before a person could use deadly force they had a duty to retreat.  They had to prove that the use of deadly force wasjustified. This is often taken to mean that if the defendant had first avoided conflict and secondly, had taken reasonable steps to retreat and so demonstrated an intention not to fight before eventuallyusing force, then the taking of a life could be considered justified.

Today, Stand Your Ground has turned this long held principal on its head.  Today it provides individuals (seemingly mostly European American’s) the right to use deadly force (seemingly against African American’s) to “defend” themselves without any requirement to evade or retreat from a circumstance of their own creation.

One cannot stress enough, in both the Treyvon Martin murder and the murder of Jordan Davis, both victims were in public space, engaged in legal activity, and at the time they were confronted were not a threat to anyone. George Zimmerman and Michael Dunn initiated the confrontations, put themselves in harm’s way, and thentook matters into their own hands, choosing to use deadly force against unarmed and non-threatening innocent victims.  Neither Martin nor Davis was given the opportunity to stand their ground.

What ties the death of all of the individuals listed above together is the culturally accepted stereotype of the threatening Black male. Defense counsels in the murder of Treyvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Amadou Diallo and so many others rationalized these irrationalshootings by tapping into the oftentimes unspoken but clearly recognized and understood fear of the Black male.

Even though no weapon and nothing resembling a weapon was found in the vehicle Jordan Davis was riding in, at least one member of the Dunn jury understood his claim that he was in fear of his life.  Even though Treyvon Martin was unarmed, members of the Zimmerman jury understood on a gut level his claim that he was in fear of his life.  Amadou Diallo was armed with only his wallet when NYPD unleashed a barrage of 41 bullets striking him 19 times.

Since those first 20 and some odd “African indentured servants” disembarked from the Dutch Man O War off the shores of Jamestown, VA in 1619 African’s in America and now African Americans have been victimized by a murderous American historical continuum.

Dr. Wilmer Leon is the Producer/ Host of the Sirius/XM Satellite radio channel 110 call-in talk radio program “Inside the Issues with Wilmer Leon” Go to http://www.wilmerleon.com or email:wjl3us@yahoo.com. http://www.twitter.com/drwleon and Dr. Leon’s Prescription at Facebook.com  © 2014 InfoWave Communications, LLC

 

 

Jordan Davis, Another Victim of a Murderous Historical Continuum | Politic365.

When Bad Things Happen to Beautiful Minds

Sister of the Yam

POLITICS. HIP HOP. AND THE OCCASIONAL LOVE POEM.

When Bad Things Happen to Beautiful Minds

 kanye-west-808s-heartbreak-kaws-1[1]

For lack of a better reference, the moment felt like Lauryn Hill circa 2000: Kanye West spitting his characteristically impulsive but nod-worthy truths–my favorite that night was his deft critique of “rap beef” –riddled by the painfully familiar feeling that what we were also witnessing was a beautiful mind unraveling.

Some who watched the Kanye West-Jimmy Kimmel interview this past Thursday, who had been keeping close watch of the many other interviewstweetspaparazzi attacks, and fashion statements that brought Kanye to Kimmel’s desk that night, and who were perhaps also nostalgic for the pre-kilt, pre-Kim, College Dropout Kanye that used to croon about family dinners and the graveshift of dead-end jobs, observed in Kanye a dangerously heightened mix of mania and megalomania; heard a wired, rambling incoherence; and chronicled those twenty plus minutes as exhibit Z that Kanye West is indeed battling some sort of mental health crises.

Others picked up on a mouth racing to keep up with a mind in constant overdrive; they tuned into Kanye’s fearless, biting critique; and cheered along the self-proclaimed Genius-Underdog sparring with the lovable Everyman type that always seems to win these kinds of debates.

Both interpretations of that night–that Kanye was emitting his last fumes before meltdown or that he is deep beyond reproach–are freighted with their own particular dangers. On one hand, we risk participating in a rich tradition of silencing and managing rightfully angry people of color who dare to speak up by calling them crazy. On the other hand, fawning hero-worship can doom us to pulling up a chair and whipping out the popcorn to shit shows that could very well be prevented; Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston hang heavy in my mind as the parables for how fatal that kind of spectatorship can truly be.

Positioning oneself in the gray is often indicia of cowardice, but here I am in this whack limboland of hedge and no answers: neither hypotheses fully work for me.

 

That night I saw a man who was wounded. Who never expected his naked struggle for legitimacy would become fodder for late-night mockery or that it would hurt that much–that he, as an adult man with serious indictments against an industry that made and now mangles him, would be infantalized into a whiny, ranting child. I saw a man deeply frustrated by an industry that has smugly siloed bright black and brown men into the white noise of hip-hop so that it can exoticize, imitate, appropriate, and snub them safely from afar. I saw a man who was lonely and misunderstood, who had had been stripped of his support system and now floats about unmoored. I saw a man who thought his creativity and hard word would somehow immunize him from the garden variety isms that topple heroes and unmentionables alike. I saw a man who, like many talented men of color, whether they hide out in Ivy League institutions or behind mics, has never been held accountable for the gaps in his logic and the tangles in his heart strings–for the materialism, misogyny and violence that hobbles his otherwise brave and sophisticated wisdom about race and class in this country. (But that goes for Common, Nas, Tupac and Kendrick Lamar too). I saw a man who wears his vanity like a XXL T-shirt as armor for the much smaller, more vulnerable man underneath. I saw a man who is so transfixed by needing affirmation from White America, so obsessed with his worthiness and seriousness as an artist, an intellectual and a man that he can’t quite calibrate, stake out terms for himself, laugh at the jokes that will surely come, or brave the insults that will never end. And I saw a man who can’t help but still be, many albums and awards later, the creative boy in the back of classrooms, saving up for Gucci loafers, standing up against gangster bullies and inventing those self-survival myths and mechanisms that get you out but never quite set you free.

 

Black America is mad at Kanye because he didn’t properly learn the lesson that every person of color must learn to remain sane in an insanely racist world–how not to offer your neck to the guillotine. Quite frankly, we’re confused: did Kanye think his art, his name, his stuff, his women-as-props would exempt him from blackness? Did he think his laying out of dreams, the unbridled honesty and that faux Little Engine That Could confidence could be the brave preemptive moves that would keep him safe? Further, we’re exhausted by his lack of groundedness . Kanye cannot seem to locate himself in a long history of great people doing great things while hearing as many–if not more and more serious–no’s than he. Lack of perspective is a male privilege and also the white privilege Kanye will never have and should never fight for.

Terrifyingly, Kanye’s sins for White America are much simpler: he dared to call himself great without their permission. For that, he is an asshole.  For that, he is dangerous. For that, he is crazy.

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Deciding what Kanye is–”crazy”, genius, or troubled–is important because this is, of course, much bigger than Kanye. He stands next to Lauryn Hill, Dave Chapelle, and others with beautiful minds and broken spirits. I do not think it is coincidence that all three–Kanye, Lauryn, Dave and we can even throw Michael Jackson in–have been accused of “craziness” at the height of critiquing the ugliness and the isms of the industries and audiences that have propelled them to fame. I think we should understand that “crazy” is the Atomic Bomb of the English language, that it’s a no-return obliteration of personhood and credibility. And we should also remember that ”crazy” has been a way of managing female sexual desirequeer eroticism and political ideology; yesterday’s history is today’s wet paint. As Dave once said, “the worst thing to call somebody is crazy. It’s dismissive. ‘I don’t understand this person. So they’re crazy.’ That’s bullshit.”

I believe in considering Dave’s follow up to that thought: “These people are not crazy. They’re strong people. Maybe their environment is a little sick.”drwdx-pw5_ru-deyv-shapell-aktery-dave-chappelle[1]

And that–the sick environment–is the one thing that never, ever gets enough play: if, as we speculate, all these beautiful, beautiful minds are breaking, undoing themselves, unfurling like tightly wound string, we owe it to ourselves to at least ask if something drives them to it. Certainly, mental illness is complex and at times turns on with no external switch, but we have testimony from artists we respect and admire, that something is rotten in Hollywood.

As Lauryn said after her hiatus from music, “When artists experience danger and crises…everyone easily accepts that there was something either dysfunctional or defective with the artist, rather than look at, and fully examine, the system and its means and its policies of exploiting/’doing business’.”

Over the course of a short decade, so many celebrities have fallen apart before my eyes: shaving their heads, ripping apart cameras, tearing off clothes, eating themselves into bloated existence or not eating themselves into invisible non-existence, drinking and drugging fast lives and slow deaths, basically begging us to listen in the most literal, primal languages possible, and we still keep diagnosing symptoms instead of curing the disease and the whole thing seems wild to me.

If mental illness is a dialectic between the person and the space,  then its source is not wholly the artist nor Hollywood, but I know that what Kanye and so many others deserve is the clean slate and the fighting chance Kanye kept quoting Richard Pryor to talk about.

LaurynHill[1]

If this past Thursday was only an open-aired breakdown of mental health, then we need better language. Because though we complain mental health in this country and for black folks in particular isn’t talked about, that’s not entirely true: we talk about it all the time; we just talk about it poorly. If finding oneself on the edge deserves a life-sentence of being called “crazy,” of being dismissed, written off, and laughed at, of not being heard, then no wonder the shame and the silence. Particularly for artists, whose whole careers and identities are based on being experienced, interpreted, listened to and gazed upon: mattering.  Truth is, there are those who are dying from, but more curiously living with, mental illness in our midst; they are flying our planes, shaking our hands, watching our kids, loving us, and staring back at us from mirrors. And some of the great mindswe most admire produced art, theories, and inventions despite and because of battles with mental illness. Furthermore, achieving mental health is often a lifetime of strenuously and intentionally maintaining the balance; there is not one discrete day you are sick and one discrete day you are well. Given the enormity, pervasiveness, and constantly looming threat of mental illness, we have to figure out a way for people to matter even if they have not sought or successfully phased out of treatment. We can’t just keep calling people “crazy” as the lever we pull to extradite them into irrelevance. The balance is hard but important: how to hear folks when they need help, how to hear folks even if they need help, how to empower them to seek help, how to be the help they seek, and how to know when we can’t be.

If this Thursday was also about something bad happening to a beautiful mind and that something bad is, as Lauryn puts it, “a machine that overlook[s] the need to to take care of the people who produce the sounds that have a lot to do with the health and well-being of society,” then we still need transformation.  We not only need to imagine and create a celebrity culture that does not drive the talented, the strong, and the brave into hiding but we also need to collectively figure out how to survive that heartless, breathless machine in the meantime. For Kanye, the machine is the fashion and the music industries, but for any one of us, it could be the university or the office or the political regime. If we become as angry as we deserve to be, then the isms we fight will rob us of our life joy. We have to somehow figure out how to resist and dissent without allowing that enterprise to swallow us whole and turn us stale and I have faith we can win this war without quotable tweets or serving as the one-person congregation of the Church of our own self-proclaimed Godliness. Kanye once said that he, like Dave Chapelle, has to laugh to keep from crying and I suggest that he works harder on that laugh–not for the Kimmels but for Kanye.