Posted on

Imperfect Martyrs: When Victims of State Violence Are Problematic

Stephon Clark’s execution at the hands of the Sacramento police on March 18th reignited an all too familiar routine in Black America. Police initiate an encounter with a black person. They assume a threat to their lives where there was none. They fire on harmless black person. Black person dies. The police tell the public that they were in fear for their lives.  Black people and allies everywhere are outraged and demand change.

Stephon Clark was the latest black man to be be martyred in this way. In the wake of his death, countless marches and demonstrations testified to his humanity, to his importance to his family and to his community. But something else also emerged in his death–his alleged hatred of and hostility towards black women. His social media pages purportedly attest to his (and his Asian baby mother’s) disdain for black women. I’m not reprinting the offensive comments about black women attributed to Stephon Clark’s Twitter account because I haven’t been able to verify that that was, in fact, his account.

If the misogynoir attributed to him is true, then Clark is not alone as a black victim of state violence who had very problematic views or behavior. The Black Lives Matter Movement, founded by black queer women, worked tirelessly on behalf of Sandra Bland, despite her social media posts that indicated that she may have been homophobic. Black Lives matter also fought for justice for Alton Sterling despite the fact that he was a convicted felon, who had victimized black women and girls. Sterling had been arrested for domestic violence and convicted for impregnating a minor. At the time of his death, he had failed to register with the state of Louisiana as a sex offender.

So what are black women, queer people, black queer women, or other marginalized black people to do when people who hold hostile attitudes to us find themselves victimized by state violence?

In some quarters, the instinct is to simply stay silent in the calls for justice when problematic people are slain in extrajudicial state killings. And to be perfectly honest, I understand the rationale behind withholding your emotional labor and financial contributions on behalf of folks who demonstrated an active contempt for you in life. Fighting for justice is hard enough as it is, without having to advocate for someone who despises you for who you are. Admittedly, I was repulsed at Stephon Clark’s alleged misogynoir, but I’m more disgusted that he’ll never have an opportuity to mature beyond such squalid opinions of black women.

Blackness, as we know, isn’t a monolith. It often intersects with various other marginalized identities–poor, female, HIV positive, disabled, elderly, incarcerated, and otherwise dispossessed. Therefore, when one of these other identities comes under attack by another black person, it can dishearten even the wokest among us. That is a real thing and it must be discussed and unpacked.

However, we cannot simply allow the police or other state actors to kill us with impunity–even if some of us will become imperfect martyrs It plays too closely into the “he’s no angel” trope that white racists use to justify the extrajudicial state killing of black people. This ideology renders the victim responsible for demonstrating they deserved to live rather than holding the state accountable for killing them in the first place.

Because we can never know which of us will have state violence visited upon us next, we must resist the urge to demand that its victims be perfect before we defend them. The police, after all, make no distinction between woke black folks and black folks who have some growing up to do before unloading their weapons into our bodies. Such a demand undermines the core message of Black Lives Matter, which is that ALL Black Lives Matter–even the ones who are imperfect in their martyrdom.

 

Posted on

Responding to the “Shithole”: Why Africans and Haitians Shouldn’t List Their Degrees

After his “shithole” comments, spending a moment’s breath proving that Donald Trump is racist is a waste of time. But so is the prospect of Africans and Haitians rebutting the argument that their respective countries are shitholes by listing their degrees and other academic achievements as evidence to the contrary. The reason is simple. Racists don’t care what black people have done or achieved, or how we have contributed to our societies.

Their hatred of us rests SOLELY on the fact that we’re black. That’s it. Our degrees and accolades won’t change that. It doesn’t matter if we become presidents or paupers, lawyers or landscapers. No degree, no professional achievement, no contribution to society is enough to make them like us. In fact, those things often make them hate us even more. One need look no further than the internet to see racists go crazy when a black person is at the top of our game.

Besides, falling into the respectability politics trap of listing our degrees as evidence of our worth and dignity undermines the core truth of our humanity. We are worthy and dignified all by ourselves. A surgeon is no more worthy than stripper. A professor is no more worthy than a plumber. Our degrees, though many, our achievements though innumerable, and our contributions though undeniable, aren’t the price of admission into human dignity and respect. I humbly submit that we do ourselves a disservice when we offer to jump through hoops to prove that we are worthy, especially to people who aren’t the arbiters of our humanity.

Just as degrees and professional accolades don’t stop bullets and nooses, they don’t stop hate speech either. Rest assured, with or without your Ivy League degree, racists say the same thing about you behind closed doors.  The moral burden falls on them not you. Remember that the next time Donald Trump opens his shithole.

Posted on

We Are Not Your Superwomen: On Black Women Saving America From Itself


In the wake of Democrat Doug Jones’ stunning Senate win in Alabama last night, black women again demonstrated our ability to show up and rescue the country from gross moral turpitude. Exit returns show that over 98% of Alabama’s black women voters cast their votes for Jones, ushering him on to victory by the narrowest of margins. This is similar to black women’s overwhelming support for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, although that election (due to the electoral college) had a very different outcome. The truth is that black women have a very long and storied history of trying to save America from itself.

While the Constitution still declared black people three-fifths human, Harriet Tubman delivered black people into freedom, and sometimes at the muzzle of a gun. When the earliest forms of American feminism centered itself around white women’s desire to vote, it was Sojourner Truth who famously said, “Ain’t I a woman?” and wondered aloud why the female suffrage movement depended on her voice, but would not fight for her vote. Though black men first won the franchise by virtue of the 15th Amendment, it wouldn’t be until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that the right to vote would be extended to black women. Ida B. Wells and Anna Julia Cooper rest among the black women in history who did the intellectual, emotional, and physical labor for American feminism while only white women enjoyed its spoils in their lifetimes.

If you want to know what a mainstream moral opinion will be 50 or 100 years from now, ask a black woman today. Black women are always light years ahead of America’s present moral compass. Consider, for example, the popular “Me’ Too” movement, which puts the spotlight on sexual harassment and sexual assault. While white women like Alyssa Milano, Ashley Judd, and Gretchen Carlson have been credited as heroines of the movement, it was a black woman, Tarana Burke, who first created the hashtag to call awareness to the pervasiveness of sexual abuse in our culture. Yet, per usual, the first beneficiaries of the intellectual or cultural movement first ignited or championed by black women are not black women ourselves.

Even before Tarana Burke, there was Anita Hill, who famously faced the whitest, most powerful, most testosterone-laden institution in American history–the U.S. Senate–to give her account of the sexual harassment she endured at the hands of now Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. One by one, Senators took turns ripping her reputation to shreds, while Joe Biden, who then chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee, simply let them. It’s important to note that Thomas went on to be seated on the Supreme Court (where he still sits today), Biden went on to become vice president of the United States (and enjoys broad support in the black and feminist communities today). Anita Hill, on the other hand, suffered numerous career setbacks and acts of persecution stemming from her 1991 testimony against Thomas. In the late 90s, political resentment about her Senate testimony forced her from her position at the University of Oklahoma’s College of Law. At the time, David L. Boren served as the University’s president. However, in 1991, he was a senator who sat on the Judiciary Committee and voted to confirm Clarence Thomas. Hill even received a harassing phone call from Thomas’ wife nearly 20 years after her testimony, demanding that she apologize for having testified against him. David Brock authored a book entitled “The Real Anita Hill” that painted Hill in a very critical light. Brock later recanted much of the negative information he had written about her, but the damage to Hill’s reputation had been done. Fastfoward 26 years later, every white  woman who lives to see her abuser held accountable in the “Me Too” movement owes Hill a debt of gratitude, because she said “me, too” before the cultural zeitgeist had shifted to believing women and holding powerful men accountable.

Anita Hill during 1991 Senate testimony

So why do black women repeatedly find ourselves ahead of the curve on cultural and political issues? Why do we continually lay the groundwork that others benefit from long before we do? Is it because we relish living up to the strong black woman trope? Do we enjoy setting tables that others will eat from before us? Of course not. As black women we often find ourselves at the intersection of multiple marginalized identities, so our efforts to reduce the burden of any aspect of our identity is an effort in self-care. If a storm is brewing, we build a shelter for ourselves, even if we are the last ones to enter it.

While America lags behind on issues of social and economic justice, black women continue to be ahead of our time waiting for the rest of the country to catch up to where we were a generation ago. However, let us remind policymakers that our support is not unconditional and automatic. Let us make demands on lawmakers that prioritize our needs. Now, in the wake of Doug Jones’ Democratic victory in a deep red state, black women hold important cards in terms of setting the Democratic Party’s policy agenda.

Though the rest of the country might think so, we are not superwomen. We cannot continue to do the heavy lifting of America’s moral consciousness without equitable recompense.  The empty applause and you go girls that Alabama black women are receiving for rescuing their state (and themselves) from Roy Moore aren’t the same as equitable treatment in terms of public policy. Black women in rural Alabama, for example, have higher food insecurity and higher infant mortality rates than their white counterparts. Their policy needs for better food accessibility and prenatal care are evident, yet continue to go unaddressed. Here’s hoping that Alabama’s black women, and black women in general, leverage our political capital to advance our interests going forward.

 

 

 

 

Posted on

Trump’s Disturbing Trend of Bullying Black Women

It is not controversial to state that Donald Trump is a bully. Dictionary.com defines a bully as a “blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers smaller and weaker people.” Donald Trump amply meets this description. Though no one is immune to being tormented by him, including members of his own cabinet, he and his administration seem to reserve a special level of venom for black women. Whether it’s black women journalists, elected officials, or even a gold star widow, Trump’s treatment of black women reveals a disturbing trend.

Trump’s feuds with other people, though unseemly, had almost always had at least a veneer of parity. Senator John McCain, though currently fighting terminal brain cancer, is a former Republican presidential nominee, and has served in the Senate for over 30 years. Trump’s feuds with Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham, Jeb Bush, and Carly Fiorina began when they were all presidential candidates during the 2016 election. The derisive nicknames and ad hominem attacks he launched at his political foes were unbecoming, to be sure, but at least they were launched at people who had chosen to enter presidential politics. There were times that he allowed the bar to sink even lower, like when he attacked the Khan family, whose son had died serving in the military in Iraq in 2004, but more often than not, his attacks were launched at people who were also wealthy and/or politically well-connected. Typically, when he attacked people who weren’t politicians, he attacked them as an entire group, as he had Mexicans and Muslims.

Then the inauguration happened, and all bets were off. No longer were his tweets and insults reserved for the wealthy and politically powerful or entire ethnic and religious groups. He and his administration set their sights on specific black women to single out for condescension and vituperation. Former press secretary Sean Spicer’s now infamous exchange with April Ryan serves as one of the earliest examples of the Trump administration trying to bully a black woman into silence. While trying to do her job as a White House correspondent, Spicer repeatedly interrupted her and told her to stop shaking her head when he was giving evasive or otherwise unsatisfactory answers. Then there was Jemele Hill, who called Trump a white supremacist on Twitter. She wasn’t the first journalist to have called Trump out for his sympathies towards white supremacy, or even the first black journalist to suggest it. Both Ta-Nehisi Coates and Charles Blow, who are black men, have either stated or implied it, but neither Donald Trump himself, nor anyone in his administration suggested that they be fired for their sentiments the way that Trump dispatched Sarah Huckabee Sanders to suggest for Jemele Hill.


Then the inauguration happened, and all bets were off. No longer were his tweets and insults reserved for the wealthy and politically powerful or entire ethnic and religious groups. He and his administration set their sights on specific black women to single out for condescension and vituperation.


 

Last Monday, in the wake of the Nigerien ambush attack that claimed the lives of four U.S. soldiers in early October, including Sgt. La David Johnson, Trump used the power and prestige of the American presidency to wage a war to impugn the integrity of Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, who was in the car when he called Sgt. Johnson’s widow, Myeshia Johnson, to offer his condolences. In a now infamous and corroborated account of the call (which occurred on speakerphone), Rep. Wilson took umbrage to the clumsy and disrespectful way in which Trump executed the call. Rep. Wilson declared that the president told the grieving Mrs. Johnson that her husband “knew what he signed up for.” These words, whether intentionally or unintentionally, conveyed the sentiment that the family shouldn’t be upset at Sgt. Johnson’s death because he knew the risks and accepted them anyway. Trump responded by taking to Twitter to accuse her of lying.

As the imbroglio ensued, the president then dispatched no less than a four-star marine general, in the form of White House chief of staff John Kelly, to get up and launch a mendacious smear campaign against the congresswoman. General Kelly abdicated any sense of moral authority he may have once felt he had the moment he set in motion a completely fallacious and ad hominem attack against Representative Wilson, repeatedly calling her an “empty barrel.” Though Trump had repeatedly denied Wilson’s characterization of the condolence call, General Kelly confirmed that it was he, in fact, who had inspired the president’s use of the phrase “he knew what he was signing up for.” Of course, this jibes with the congresswoman’s account of what was said, but Kelly used his opportunity to set the record straight as the time to smear the congresswoman. The general falsely claimed that Representative Wilson had taken the occasion of an FBI building ceremony to lavish praise on herself for having obtained the funding for the construction of the building. Video evidence surfaced within 24 hours revealing that Kelly’s characterization of Wilson’s behavior at the event was a complete falsehood.  Wilson never mentioned money. She never praised herself. She never claimed to have been instrumental in getting the funding. Still, the White House, and the president himself maintained their attacks.

When no less than Myeshia Johnson, the gold star widow at the center of the controversy, sat down for an interview yesterday on Good Morning America to give her version of events–a version of events that matches perfectly with the one Congresswoman Wilson described–the president then took swipes at her on Twitter. Let that sink in. The sitting president of the United States attacked the credibility of a gold star widow who had just buried her husband 48 hours ago. Mrs. Johnson said that Trump not only made the “he knew what he was getting into” comments, but he didn’t even know her husband’s name when he called her. There she was–beautiful, dignified, gracious, and poised–giving an explanation she owed no one, and Donald Trump felt that even she was fair game for his vile and odious attacks on Twitter.

 

The question remains as to why the president and his administration pick fights with and single out black women whom they know are less powerful than they are. The Trump administration hates all media, but it was only April Ryan they tried to strong-arm into not shaking her head, in a move that stunned even her journalism colleagues. Jemele Hill wasn’t the first journalist to suggest that Donald Trump was a white supremacist, but she was the first one that the administration called on to be fired for criticism of the president. Congresswoman Wilson was not only the congressional representative from the underserved community of South Florida, she was also a close family friend of the Johnsons who shared in their grief at La David Johnson’s passing, and was therefore uniquely qualified to speak about the family’s dismay. Congresswoman Wilson is certainly not the first elected official who has criticized Trump for his behavior. Yet, it was only Congresswoman Wilson for whom the president recruited the gravitas of his typically camera-shy four star general chief of staff to discredit for her accurate rendering of the disputed condolence phone call. And then we have Myeshia Johnson—a 24 year-old pregnant war widow and mother of two from Miami Gardens. Her husband rode the bike to his job at Walmart every day and laid down his life on the battlefield in Niger. If ever there existed anyone to whom a Commander-in-Chief should grant deference, it would be her, but Trump unaccustomed to the general decency with which most of us are familiar, was unable to offer even that. When asked if she had anything she would like to say to the president, Mrs. Johnson simply replied, “No. I don’t got nothing to say to him.” If only the president showed her level of restraint and grace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on

Singled Out: Black Women Journalists in the Age of Trump

The general point that Donald Trump dislikes the media isn’t lost on anyone. Whether he’s caterwauling about “fake news” or tweeting that the media is the “enemy of the American people,” Trump’s contempt for the fourth estate has been well-documented. What is often lost in that shuffle is the way that black women journalists have been particularly targeted for marginalization or demotion in the age of Trump. Three black women journalists in particular have been casualties of Donald Trump’s caustic attitude towards the media. Tamron Hall, April Ryan, and Jemele Hill have all been directly or indirectly professionally impacted by his hostility towards the media.

Of the three women, Tamron Hall’s Trump-influenced career woes are probably the least obvious to the casual observer. A 10-year veteran of the Today Show, Hall parted ways with NBC in February of this year after the network hired former Fox personality Megyn Kelly to replace her in the 9 o’clock hour of the show. Kelly, though having spent more than a decade at Fox expressing very conservative views and delivering right-leaning political coverage, was shockingly remade into a feminist icon overnight in the wake of Donald Trump’s opprobrious response to her line of questioning during the first Republican presidential debate in August of 2015. Hall was offered millions of dollars to take a reduced role at NBC, but rebuffed that proposition and chose to partner with Harvey Weinstein on a new project. Unfortunately for Hall, this new partnership with Weinstein would be short-lived, due to revelations that Weinstein has serially abused women in Hollywood for decades. There are no indications that Hall had any knowledge of Weinstein’s misdeeds, but her career ironically, again suffered a setback due to another rich, powerful, well-connected, and sexually abusive white man.

Tamron Hall’s career decline during the political ascendance of Donald Trump is particularly ironic when compared to Megyn Kelly’s rise during the same time frame. NBC courted Kelly with the prime 9 a.m. slot on the Today Show, her own Sunday evening news program, and a contract worth $23 million a year to boot. With such a generous compensation package, one would assume that the woman who replaced Tamron Hall would be a ratings juggernaut. One would be wrong in that assumption. Kelly’s tenure at NBC so far has been beset with miscues and dismal ratings. There was her controversial and widely panned interview of right-wing conspiracy theorist and Sandy Hook denier Alex Jones. Then there is her difficulty in booking celebrity guests for her show.  Finally, there are her generally poor ratings. Kelly’s ratings during the 9 a.m. hour of the Today Show are 24% lower than Tamron Hall’s ratings last year in the same hour of the show. Of course, this ratings slide will come as no surprise to any professional black woman who has ever lost her job to a white woman who was less talented, but “more relatable.” While Megyn Kelly reaps millions of dollars a year for underperforming expectations, propped up by NBC’s desire to cash in on her role in the 2016 presidential election, Tamron Hall finds herself bright, talented, and capable, yet underemployed.

photo credit: EURweb.com
Tamron Hall

April Ryan had been a journalist in the White House press corps for twenty years before she became a topic of the news herself in  February.  When she asked Trump if he planned on conferring with the Congressional Black Caucus, he asked her if they were friends of hers and then asked her to set the meeting up–as if just because she is black, she should be the presidential liaison to the CBC. During a now infamous exchange with erstwhile White House press secretary Sean Spicer, Ryan pressed him on the pervasive perception that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government in the 2016 election. Spicer’s response was sexist, racist, and condescending. Telling a grown ass black woman to stop shaking her head while you are clearly bullshitting her and the American people was a new (but not the last) low for the Trump administration. Ryan described that experience as becoming “roadkill.” She also found herself in the position that journalists always try to avoid–becoming part of the news story themselves. Lost in that exchange was Ryan’s serious and substantive inquiry about the Trump campaign and Russian collusion. As time has now revealed, those questions were well-founded, because there are concurrent Senate, Congressional, and a special counsel investigations into just that.

Ryan, like Megyn Kelly, was able to parlay her run-in with a member of the Trump inner circle into another gig. Though she kept her day job as the White House press corps journalist for National Urban Radio, she also became a CNN political contributor in April.  Unlike Megyn Kelly, however, Ryan did not displace anyone more talented to land her new job, nor did her new network back up a Brinks truck to compensate her for her efforts. Lastly, Ryan is not underperforming her compensation package with CNN. The irony and the justice in her run-in with Sean Spicer is that for all his proclamations that legitimate media outlets are fake news, after his firing, Spicer has been unable to land a job with any of the media outlets he spent the better part of six months trying to delegitimize.

photo credit: thegrio.com

When ESPN’s Jemele Hill used Twitter in September to opine that Donald Trump was a white supremacist who surrounded himself with other white supremacists, the Trump administration became apoplectic. From the lectern of the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders implied that the veteran sports journalist should be fired for it. Let’s sit with that for a second. The White House press secretary–a government official–singled a journalist, suggesting she be fired for criticizing the president of the United States. Though such an action is par for the course in repressive governments like Russia, Uzbekistan, and Cuba, the United States and by extension, the office of the president, hold themselves out as the arbiters of justice and moral rectitude–except when a black woman journalist exercises her 1st Amendment rights, apparently. Though Trump and his administration have been incredibly hostile to media in general, up to that point they had never singled out a reporter to be fired for criticizing the president. There is a first time for every new low in Trump’s America, and the administration reached it there.

Hill’s initial Twitter comments followed Donald Trump’s abysmal reaction to the deadly violence that erupted at a Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August.  ESPN responded by warning her about her comments on Twitter. As the NFL season began in September, and numerous players emulated Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling protest, Donald Trump inserted himself into the fray, insisting that a player who would dare kneel in protest is a “son of a bitch” who should be dragged off the field. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones joined many of his fellow NFL owners in kneeling with his team in a self-serving act of “solidarity” designed to protect his product. Only weeks later, Jones was singing a different tune, insisting that players who knelt would be benched. “The policy and my actions are going to be if you don’t honor and stand for the flag in a way that a lot of our fans feel that you should, if that’s not the case, then you won’t play,” he told a Dallas sports radio station. Hill responded by tweeting that if fans were upset by Jones’ stance, they could boycott Dallas Cowboys’ advertisers:

 

ESPN suspended Hill for two weeks after her October 8th tweets in a move that upset many African-Americans and 1st Amendment enthusiasts. Even though Hill was definitely not the first journalist to criticize this president, she was the first one to be sanctioned by her employer for her journalistic conduct stemming from a complaint from the White House. Hill will be back on the air at ESPN this Monday, and today issued a statement indicating that she had deserved her suspension. Whether this sentiment is reflects her actual attitude towards suspension or represents a chilling effect of a black woman journalist criticizing the government in the age of Trump, we may never know.

photo credit: citizenjour.com
Jemele Hill

The profession of journalism itself is under fire from the Trump administration, and with precious few black women in it, we can ill-afford to have their voices silenced as the fourth estate is attacked on all sides. Tamron Hall’s journalistic perspective was jettisoned for Megyn Kelly, who is currently struggling to attract new viewers and maintain old ones. April Ryan was demeaned and condescended to by a man who served as Trump’s chief propagandist, and the seriousness of the questions she was asking was obfuscated in the process. Jemele Hill called out Donald Trump’s platform of white supremacy and was ultimately sanctioned by her employer for doing so. Despite these threats to their livelihood, I suspect that journalists in general, and black women journalists in particular, will continue to be on the front lines to speak truth to power and hold the powers that be accountable for their actions.

 

 

 

Posted on

Sunken Place Saturday–Tina Campbell

This Sunken Place Saturday, it’s hard to think of a more deserving “honoree” than Tina Campbell, member of gospel music duo Mary Mary. Tina Campbell is many things–wife, mother, alto–and a mythical black woman Trump voter. Yes, it’s true.  While black women tried to save the country from the Orange Doom by voting overwhelming for someone other than Donald Trump, Tina Campbell helped usher in the Long Night by voting Joffrey Baratheon in as president.

 

 

The woman who ironically came to fame with a song called “Shackles,” took to the airwaves this week to say that she voted for Donald Trump because he “appealed to my Christian values more than the other candidate.” Ah, yes. Because the thrice-married, pussy-grabbing, thieving adulterer who settled multiple racial discrimination law suits and was the most prolific crusader of the birther lie spoke to her Christian values.

The problem with Campbell and the Great Value brand of Christians in general, but black Christians in particular, is that they see Christianity as only a set of beliefs to be articulated (and to seem righteous for articulating), rather than a set of practices that line up with those beliefs. So for her, it’s enough for Trump to simply say that he believes in the sanctity of marriage, for example, but not such a big deal that he falls woefully short of honoring that sanctity in his own several marriages.

I’m no theologian, but the Bible makes kind of a big deal about insisting that followers of Christ should look out for the vulnerable, the marginalized, the poor, women and children. Let’s look around. Who is poorer, more vulnerable, and marginalized than black people? Let’s take it a step further. Who is poorer, more vulnerable, and marginalized than black women and children?

You know, those same black women he was referring to when he called kneeling NFL players sons of bitches? What about black women journalists like April Ryan or Jemele Hill that he and his administration singled out for racist assumptions about who they know, condescension, or calls to be fired?

What about black and Latino children like the Central Park Five, who were falsely accused and convicted of rape, but whom Trump continued to malign as recently as last year, even after DNA evidence exonerated them? A rich white man can falsely accuse and lambaste poor black and brown children for political ends, but he supposedly speaks to her “Christian values?”

What about Deandre Harris, who was beaten within an inch of his life by Nazis and white supremacists this summer in Charlottesville? Yep, the same Nazis and white supremacists that Trump called “very fine people?” Which of your “Christian values” does that appeal to?

Oh, Tina. I know you’re a singer, but justifying your vote for Trump under the guise of Christianity is simply tone-deaf. The man who spoke to your “Christian values” can’t even say the phrase “Second Corinthians:”

Donald Trump has consistently placed himself on the wrong side of issues that are of great interest to black people. Whether it’s police brutality, poverty, affordable housing, white supremacy, the legitimacy of the Obama presidency, etc, Foolius Caesar has always chosen the position that most disadvantages/enrages black people. And you’re up here on TV pretending that you shouldn’t get all the side eyes for supporting this trash? Girl, please.

For being willfully ignorant of how Donald Trump has treated black people in the most un-Christlike ways possible, Tina Campbell has earned her spot in the Sunken Place.

THE ONLY TINAS WE RECOGNIZE ARE TURNER AND KNOWLES | made w/ Imgflip meme maker

Posted on

Protests, Patriotism, and Profit–Why the NFL’s Owners Turned on Trump

Trump comments on NFL

Colin Kaepernick set off a firestorm of controversy when he decided to begin his silent protest during last year’s NFL’s season. The decision to kneel cost him his football career, but earned him a place in the cultural zeitgeist as a hero or a villain depending on whom you speak to. At a campaign rally for an Alabama senatorial candidate who is now a footnote at his own campaign event, Donald Trump unloaded a heap of opprobrium upon NFL players who kneel in protest during the national anthem. Though the invective was directed at all kneeling players in general, it was a thinly veiled reference to Colin Kaepernick. The president of the United States spewed, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag, to say ‘Get that son of a bitch off of the field right now! He’s fired!” He went on to say, “When people like yourselves turn on television, and you see those people taking the knee when they’re playing our great national anthem, the only thing you can do better, is if you see it, even if it’s one player, leave the stadium. I guarantee things will stop. Things will stop. Just pick up and leave.” Beyond that, Trump also suggested that the efforts to improve player safety have ruined the game: “Today, if you hit too hard, 15 yards, throw him out of the game…They’re ruining the game, right? They’re ruining the game. It’s hurting the game.”

The entire league now thrown into a maelstrom, the NFL response at the commissioner and ownership levels was swift and severe in their condemnation of Trump’s comments. What’s important to note is that most owners as well as NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, made Trump’s insults towards players the focus of their responses. However, I would argue that the motivation behind their strong responses wasn’t the “son of a bitch” comment or the veiled swipe at Kaepernick. Rather, it was the “leave the stadium…pick up and leave” comments. Therein lies the source of their discontent. After all, it’s not as if this was the first time that Donald Trump had singled out Colin Kaepernick for criticism over his protest. However, this was the first time that he called for a boycott of  the NFL because of the protests, and if the Wu-Tang Clan is to be beleived, the NFL’s philosphy is C.R.E.A.M.

The League finds itself in a very vulnerable place right now. Though Kaepernick is not currently on anyone’s team, his actions inspired dozens of other players to take a knee during the national anthem this season. Television ratings and stadium attendence were down even before Trump’s comments this weekend. Amidst continuing controversy over the League’s handling of CTE, it was revealed that disgraced former New England Patriot and convicted murderer Aaron Hernandez, had one of the most severe cases of the disease ever recorded.  The NFL is a business first and foremost. And as any business facing countervailing winds in rough seas, the first instinct is to stop taking on water and right the ship.

The NFL is an organization in which 70% of the players are black. From an owner’s perspective, it would have been untenable to remain silent after Trump’s comments when so many players were already taking a knee during the national anthem and concerned that the league was apathetic (or even hostile) to racial inequalities and the impact of CTE on the brain. It would have been conceivable that players who were already angry enough to kneel or raise a fist during the playing of the national anthem, would have become angry enough to refuse to play at all. And as we’ve seen with Kaepernick’s protest, these things tend to spread.

If I were an NFL owner in charge of a 53-man roster in which a majority of the players were black, I would be more inclined to placate my workforce with solidarity (or at least the appearance of it), than to risk their general malaise mushrooming into a strike. Is this a cynical view? Perhaps. But the deafening silence of team owners during Kaepernick’s free agency leads me to believe that their recent conversion to free speech advocates may not have the purest motivations now that the man with the bully pulpit of the White House has weighed in on their business. Make no mistake. NFL owners are not just suddenly seeing the value of protest. Nor are they even asserting the lofty idea that protest can be a form of patriotism. They don’t dislike the president either. In fact, several NFL owners are either Donald Trump’s friends or politial benefactors. What the owners responded to en masse was a potential interruption of their profits. And that’s something that even Donald Trump understands.

Posted on 8 Comments

Unbalanced–This poem blew my mind!


Y’all, every now and again your run into someone who so cleanly and clearly articulates the tangled mess of emotions we feel inside. Let me introduce you to Unruly Spoken a.k.a Jashonia McQuin (pictured above). In her piece “Unbalanced,” she captures the anguish, anger, resilience, and the suffering that comes with mental illness. It’s something we’re taught not to discuss as black women, but she goes there. Read and absorb…

 

UNBALANCED

by Unruly Spoken

Unseen wounds and scars make the battle invisible to those who remain clueless. Internal turmoil that comes with a beautiful smile and pep in her step leads all who see her to believe she is on top of the world. Little do they know that the demons she battles daily make the villains in comic books seem like pound puppies waiting to be adopted. The Dreaded words MENTAL ILLNESS, oh no…HELL NO. Black women are NOT mentally ill, they’re just crazy and controlling. Kiss my ass. We raise your children, clean your homes, suck your dick and stand by you on the front lines while “THE MAN” tries to take it all. White women, we clean your homes, care for your children, do your work while climbing the corporate ladder and you took the elevator. Think that doesn’t stick pins in my psyche? Think again Becky, you and Megan took what I earned and flaunted it in my face. Watch me blow up in my car on the drive home. Oh, Brad asked if chocolate tastes greater with milk deep inside of it, gather your man before I do. I will not fall…..I will not fall. I will not fall for the suck it up and smile line to appease the masses any longer. I will not prance around pretending to be stronger than I am to make the world comfortable around this angry black woman who could have torn this plant to shreds ages ago had she chosen to. How easily one forgets that without us…none of you exists. We fight this war daily and are told to get over it, we think we are weak once we do finally seek help and we hid it from others. We are like beautiful stained glass that has been shattered but can be repaired when the right hands and minds come together to take the time to put us back together again.

Posted on

Sunken Place Saturday: Omarosa

Sunken Place Saturday

This week’s nominee for Sunken Place Saturday is Omarosa. Sigh…just her name alone is enough to make us roll our eyes. Ever since she first stepped on the scene as a cast member on the first season of the Apprentice, she has been an attention-seeking opportunist. However, ever since she threw herself into Trump’s halo of conciliatory Negroes, she has firmly ensconced herself in the Sunken Place. Her support of this wretched administration and its orange overlord have been disgusting to watch. She parlayed said support into a White House staffer position in which she does what exactly? Is she in charge of teaching the Caucasian White House Staffers the electric slide? Does she provide the seasoning for White House potluck events? Perhaps she’s just there to convince Trump that one day, everyone will “bow down” to him as their massa/lord and savior/Supreme Leader?

 

During a disastrous appearance at the National Association of Black Journalists conference earlier this summer, she seemed unbothered by the administration’s support for police brutality. The NABJ was having NONE OF IT. There two things I swear fo God, you cannot do in a room full of black people. One of them is clapping on one and three.

 clapping GIF

The other one is look like you are defending police brutality. What was a dumpster fire of an appearance promptly had gasoline thrown on it after that.

Maybe if she retreated back to friendlier territory at the White House, things would go better for her? No go. She had worn out her welcome with Massa’s overseer, John Kelly. Her access to Trump has been severely restricted, and word on the street is, that she ain’t long for this job. While it seems to be true that the White Pride Piper himself still likes her, don’t get it twisted. She ain’t kin to him. Her name isn’t Ivanka or Jared, therefore her black ass is expendable. The funny thing is, that when she’s eventually fired, she will have no problem complaining about racism on the job then (as she’s done in the past when working for Donald Trump.) The racism and white supremacy of the Trump administration are okay so long as she can be on the payroll. For that, Omarosa needs to have an eternity of seats in the Sunken Place.

Posted on 1 Comment

Losing Kenneka: How the Death of Kenneka Jenkins Highlights that Black Girls and Women aren’t Valued

Kenneka Jenkins. Photo credit: tvone.tv

The death of Kenneka Jenkins, the Chicago-area teen whose body was found in a freezer earlier this week, hit me hard. Oh, no. Not another one, I thought. I scrolled through various news feeds, and each time was struck by the image of the precious young lady with the dimpled smile. She had an entire life ahead of her and was snatched away from the world in circumstances that are still unclear, but very suspicious.

What we do know is that Kenneka was last seen at the Crowne Plaza Chicago O’Hare Hotel and Conference Center last Saturday night. She had gone there with some friends for a party. We also know that she had gotten there in her mother Tereasa Martin’s vehicle.  According to Martin, Kenneka’s friends called Martin at 4 o’clock in the morning to advise her that they had lost track of Kenneka, but had her phone and were in Martin’s car. These details are enough to make any parent’s heart sink. Martin said that she headed over to the hotel, and after being given the runaround by both the hotel staff and the police, Kenneka’s body was found in the freezer nearly 24 hours after she had first disappeared.

What’s more is that there is a very disturbing Facebook Live video that seems to show Kenneka’s reflection in the sunglasses of the young lady filming the video. Some say that you can distinctly hear someone yelling “Help me!” before the music is abruptly turned up to drown out the sound. The most stomach-churning suspicion being bandied about is that Kenneka’s friends set her up to be sexually assaulted, and for a paltry sum of $200.

Martin says that in the immediate aftermath of the discovery of her daughter’s body, her friends kept changing their stories about the sequence of events that led to Kenneka’s disappearance. Martin further states that neither the hotel staff, nor the police initially took her concerns about her daughter’s safety seriously. Media coverage of Kenneka’s disappearance and subsequent death has been scant.

Unfortunately, this is a painfully familiar scenario when a black girl or woman disappears. The assumption often made is that she’s a criminal, a runaway, or a sex worker. Thousands of disgusting social media comments that lay the blame at the feet of Kenneka herself for her own disappearance and death have made the rounds. “She should have known better,” they say. “She should have picked better friends.”

Contrast that with what happens when young white girls and women disappear from anywhere. Their disappearances and murders become national headlines and we remember their names for years, even decades after they’ve disappeared or died. Natalee Holloway, Jon Benet Ramsey, Elizabeth Smart, etc.–the list goes on and on for white female victims of kidnapping, and murders, with only scant attention ever paid to a young black girl or woman who disappears. Based on the news coverage, you would think that white girls and women are the only ones targeted for kidnappings and murders. Think about it: how many names of black female murder/kidnapping victims can you name that have become national media stories? (I didn’t think so.) The reality is that there are more than 75000 missing black women and girls in the country, but you would never know it based on public perceptions about whose disappearances matter.

Could a more motivated hotel staff or police force have prevented what happened to Kenneka? I don’t know. But when casual observers, trained police agencies, and national media outlets seem resigned to the notion that the disappearances of black girls and women is “normal” and therefore not worthy of diligent followup or news coverage, it doesn’t bode well for women who look like me and my sisters. Kenneka deserved so much better than how her life ended. And in death she deserves even more still. For our own sakes, we all do.

Posted on 1 Comment

Sunken Place Saturday Double Issue: Ray Lewis and Steve Harvey

This edition of Sunken Place Saturday is a double issue for two reasons: Ray Lewis and Steve Harvey. These two have never missed an opportunity to coon for ingratiate themselves with wealthy, powerful white men.

First up, everyone’s second favorite football Hall of Fame accused double murderer, Ray Lewis:

Ray Lewis has really been diving head-first into the Sunken Place these days. The former double murder defendant/Ravens football great has gone out of his way to criticize Colin Kaepernick and his national anthem protest. Ever the faithful manservant to white supremacy, Lewis has articulated and “yassuh-ed” every stupid rationalization coming out of the mouths of Kaepernick’s detractors. Lewis’ latest verbal buck and shuffle is a complaint that Kaep’s girlfriend, Nessa Diab kept him from getting signed to the Ravens. Diab very famously posted the photo of Lewis and Raven’s owner Steve Bisciotti embracing à la Stephen and Mr. Candy. The picture didn’t have a caption, but it definitely spoke volumes, nonetheless.

Ray-Ray complained the photo comparison was a “racist gesture”, and I’m not sure why. The comparison was pretty apt if you ask me. Bisciotti is an owner. Mr. Candy was an owner. Stephen worked for Mr. Candy for decades. Ray-Ray worked for Massa Mr. Bisciotti for 17 years. Stephen frequently and loudly criticized Django. Ray-Ray frequently and loudly criticized Kaepernick. Stephen was Mr. Candy’s emissary and cosigned everything he did. Ray-Ray was Bisciotti’s emissary and cosigned everything he did.  Both white men have used their faithful black manservants as their personal Negro whisperers. Ray Lewis seems committed to the notion that Mr. Bisciotti is “good white folks” whose sensibilities Diab and Kaepernick shouldn’t upset.

I don’t know what to make of guys like Ray Lewis. He doesn’t see the ridiculousness of pretending that Bisciotti didn’t blink twice about having a former double murder defendant signed to his roster, but somehow really struggled with whether or not to sign Kaepernick (who has committed no crime whatsoever).  For that idiocy and more, Ray Lewis has earned his place in the Sunken Place.

 

Next up, we have everyone’s favorite oversized porcelain veneer enthusiast, Steve Harvey.

Image result for steve harvey smile gif

When he’s not busy giving women bad information in his books and in beauty pageants, he is a full-time white supremacy apologist and opportunist. Whether it’s allowing disgraced racist Paula Deen to participate in his mentorship program for black boys, or agreeing to sit down with Donald Trump to discuss the needs of the black community, Harvey is a willing flag-bearer for white supremacy if he thinks it can get him some press or earn him a coin or two. This week, he lamented that he should have listened to his wife and not taken the meeting with Trump, and that he was “surprised” at all the backlash he received for meeting Foolius Caesar in January.

Image result for trump as caesar

However, Harvey still defended his decision to take the meeting saying:

“I have an obligation to take a seat at the table when invited.” He continued, “Change can only happen if you sit at the table. If you’re not at the table you can’t even… suggest what we should be doing. Therefore, it was very important for me to take the meeting. The only way we can heal the divide in this country is through conversation…If I’m going to keep getting stabbed at, then at least while you’re stabbing me, you should understand my intent for taking the meeting in the first place.”

I call bullshit. Why on earth, with all the talented academics, politicians, and civil rights leaders in the black community, would a newly elected president think that the host of Family Feud is the best person to reach out to in that community? Harvey knew he was being used as window dressing and he was okay with it. He figured that the meeting would ingratiate him with people who only watched Fox News and Family Feud on TV. Now, I’m not saying that those people are Trump voters, but if the Cracker Barrel fits, Steve Harvey’s going to shuck and jive in it. That’s why Steve Harvey has earned his spot in this weekend’s edition of Sunken Place Saturday.

Posted on

Why Have All The Post-Weinstein Apologies Been So Bad?

The only thing more shocking and appalling than the number of high-profile men exposed as sexual harassers, assaulters, or rapists in the post Harvey Weinstein era, is how dreadfully inadequate the apologies are.  One would assume that given the sheer volume of revelations coming to light, the subsequent apologies would get better and better. After all, it’s not often that life gives you so many examples in quick succession of what not to do when responding to allegations of sexual harassment or assault. Sadly, the pitiful list of half-hearted and wrong-headed apologies issued so far prove that such an assumption would be wrong.

Some, like Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore refuse to apologize at all, and instead have taken the Donald Trump/Bill O’Reilly route of denying all the allegations made against them by multiple accusers. Trump, O’Reilly, Moore and their ilk deny any wrongdoing whatsoever and instead pretend that they have all been victims of elaborate smear campaigns that have lasted decades.  A bombshell article in the Washington Post featured four women who accused Moore of sexual molestation and other forms of impropriety on the record.  Since then, more women have come forward with similar accusations. Leigh Corfman, one of the accusers, alleges that Moore molested her when she was 14 and he was 32. Moore responded to Corfman’s allegations in this way: “These allegations are completely false and are a desperate political attack by the National Democrat Party and the Washington Post on this campaign.” Leigh, by the way, voted for Donald Trump.

Others, like Senator Al Franken from Minnesota have immediately issued acknowledgements and apologies, but with enormous caveats and equivocations. Last week, kabc.com radio personality Leeann Tweeden accused Franken of kissing her without her consent and groping her in her sleep while the two worked together on a USO tour in 2006. They were set to perform in a skit together when Tweeden says the unwanted advances began. She released a photo of the groping incident as well. For his part, Franken initially responded with the following underwhelming apology: “I certainly don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann. As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn’t. I shouldn’t have done it.”

Good god. Maybe it’s my tiny lady brain making me stupid, but what part of groping an unconscious woman is supposed to be funny? Why does this apology include the word “but?”

Franken has since released a more carefully worded, but still underwhelming statement, after his first one was almost universally scorned.

Just today, veteran journalists Charlie Rose and Glenn Thrush were outed as harassers. For his part, Rose released the following statement on Twitter:

“I accept responsibility for that, though I do not believe that all of these allegations are accurate.” Why is there always a “but” with these “apologies?” It is unacceptable that despite a veritable deluge of revelations and admissions, that powerful men are still issuing qualified apologies to the victims of their unwanted advances and assaults.

Since it seems that it’s only a matter a time before all of our favorite journalists, captains of industry, politicians and entertainers are revealed to be sex offenders, I would suggest that all of these powerful men utilize their well-paid publicists to pre-emptively out themselves as abusers and issue thoughtful, meaningful apologies, if for no other reason than to spare their careers.

Such an apology should go something like this: “I recognized at the time that there was a power imbalance between me and the women I hurt with my actions. I knew that said power imbalance would either coerce women into acquiescing to my advances under duress or would keep them from reporting me to people who could do something about it if they refused. I exploited that power imbalance because I felt that my wealth/stature/influence entitled me to sexual access to these women. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I used my power/influence/status to exploit women and for that I’m sorry.”

Let’s be clear. The reason that these apologies fall miserably short is because these men really don’t appreciate that what they did was wrong. Senator Franken in his initial statement thought it should have been obvious that grabbing a sleeping woman’s breasts was an attempt at humor. Charlie Rose felt that despite admitting he was mistaken in thinking that he was pursuing mutual attraction with his accusers, he still insisted that not all the allegations were correct. In other words, these men felt that their intentions were more important than the actual effect of their actions. It was the women who misinterpreted the situation, not them.

We are witnessing only the tip of the iceberg so far. In the coming weeks and months, many more men will be outed as harassers and abusers, and if the current trend continues, they will all issue outright denials or qualified apologies.

Posted on

Sunken Place Saturday–Diamond and Silk

diamondandsilk.com

This Sunken Place Saturday, I find myself again perplexed by the plastic-haired, shuck-and-jive duo of Diamond and Silk. These biological sisters from North Carolina comport themselves more like Plantation Cubic Zirconia and Polyester, but more on that later. By now, everyone has heard rapper Eminem’s “freestyle” in response to the Flamin’ Hot Cheeto abomination that is the Trump presidency. For better or worse, Em articulated many people’s frustration with the divisiveness, racism, sexism, and rank stupidity exemplified by the Orange Overlord. But, like many idiots before him, he has followers that are aggressively and blindly devoted to him. Among these devotees are Diamond and Silk, two black women who share Donald Trump’s affinity for absurd hairpieces.

One might wonder what Diamond and Silk have to do with Eminem. Well, these two ladies have made their own hippity-hop video–a self-styled “clapback” to the diss track Eminem levied against their lord and savior Donald Trump. Rapped in the key of slave major, and heavy on buck and shuffle dance moves, their low-budget response to Eminem’s performance was um, interesting. See for yourself:

 

Yes, friends. This is real life right now. Someone’s crooked-wigged aunties have decided that they needed to rap and coonwalk in this “rap video” to reassert their devotion to Donald Trump. I’m not sure how much they are being paid for this modern-day minstrel show they continue to perform, but I suspect that they get paid in Crown Royal and wig glue.

The sisters claim that they support Donald Trump because they are “deeply concerned about political corruption and the unethical tactics of special interest groups and lobbyists.” Yes, friends. Again, I remind you that this is real life right now.

Of course these women, though revolting, are not uncommon. Black history is replete with individuals who aligned themselves with oppressors and their interests. There were slaves who alerted slave masters about escape attempts. There were black people who infiltrated the inner circles of MLK and Malcolm X to curry favor with the government that conspired to kill both men. There were black women who intentionally wanted to become impregnated by white men, so they could breed out their black features.

So the question remains. What’s in it for Diamond and Silk and their Sunken Place shenanigans? Do they get a seat at the policymaking table? Do they get awarded cushy government appointments? Do they get White House visits to get audience with the president? The answer to all of these questions is of course, no. I think all they get for their efforts is being the black friend that racists always refer to when trying to prove that they aren’t racist.

So  in the end, for co-signing white supremacy by co-signing Trump (and not to mention for wearing wigs that look like Mrs. Potato Head attachments), Cubic Zirconia and Polyester Diamond and Silk find themselves in the Sunken Place this week. 

Posted on

Why can’t we be friends?

Why can’t we be friends?

Was the level of intimacy so deep that you fell into the pit of me and fear climbing out would take too long to escape once more?

Can you still feel all of the painful sin worthy lies that you painted down my spine when we twined our bodies into one more than a million and one times?

Could it be the inescapable scent of my pussy on your top lip from moments of hip writhing Harvard worthy brain?

You are very educated in that sense aren’t you?

Why can’t we be friends?

Does it have anything to do with your homies lusting after me like you lust after those random chics whose ponytail holders and bras I found stuffed down my throat late nights so tight that I should have spoken up but I was dickmatized and couldn’t speak?

BTW….you need better hiding spots because where I put my shit but deep in the back is DUMB.

Why can’t we be friends?

Is it because after 4 Crown on the rocks you tell me you love me during deep pulsating strokes and passionate kisses but roll over in the morning and look at me like a stranger and dap me out in the afternoon ya boy?

Why can’t we be friends?

We can’t be friends because…..when he says my name…he… lets every letter fall like raindrops.

He kisses my lips like he’ll never see me again….he holds me tight like my favorite sweater on a cold winter’s day and he can make my body shake with just his breath in my ear and most of all….he means it and is sincere.

We can’t be friends because you’re no longer wanted here.