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Things Black Women Can’t Do Without Being Criticized #5945: Be Traumatized by A Natural Disaster

By now we’ve all seen the viral video–a woman named Danielle with her scared kids clinging to her while interviewed by CNN reporter, Rosa Flores. Cold, disheveled, and utterly traumatized, Danielle’s composure finally breaks when the reporter asks her to recount dragging her kids through rushing floodwaters to save them. She lashes out. “People are really breaking down and y’all sitting here with cameras and microphones trying to ask us what the fuck is wrong with us!” She went on:  “And you really trying to understand with the microphone still in my face! With me shivering cold, with my kids wet! And you’re still putting a microphone in my face!”

 

As someone who was personally impacted by Hurricane Katrina, I recognized those familiar survivors’ tics–the wild eyes, the trembling from fear and cold, the disorientation, frustration and sheer amazement of still being alive. Before she had even said a word on camera, I knew this poor woman was in no condition to be giving live interviews. This woman and her kids had just survived possibly the most terrifying event of their lives. What we witnessed was raw and unfiltered human emotion spilling over after trauma. You’d think that her reaction would be met by understanding and compassion, but she’s a black woman, so nope. She doesn’t get to be human. She doesn’t get to process her trauma. She has to perform respectability.  

 

Social media was merciless.

Here’s a snippet from Facebook:

 

And  a couple on Youtube:

FRUITxN1NJ4
Ungrateful bitch⚡?
I can understand why she felt so frustrated. She shouldn’t have agreed to the interview. The lady was incredibly rude and who would want to help someone so nasty. People were told to evacuate. The lady is taking out her frustrations on the reporter who is letting the rest of us know how dire it is so we can volunteer & donate.

 

I defended Danielle on social media. One guy couldn’t get enough of criticizing her. “Show me someone else that displayed that behavior and I’ll hush mouth,” he said.

 

Too easy, I said. The entire Trump Administration, for example was filled with people paid to answer tough questions from the media who threw tantrums by either hiding in the bushes, or going on profanity-filled tirades. And this was just at a regular day at work. No life-threatening floodwaters threatening to snatch the lives of your children. And who can forget when Cheeto Jesus himself said that he could grab women by the pussy, and still get elected to the presidency?

 

When mediocre white men have meltdowns over regular ass shit, they get elected president. When black women who have literally been through the flood and fire, crack under the pressure of seeing their lives flash before their eyes, they get called ungrateful, ignorant, and selfish. Oftentimes (as was the case in some of the most vicious insults) it’s black men holding black women to such impossible standards.

 

Even in the midst of category 4 hurricanes we are expected to be scared, but deferential–traumatized, but gracious. No one has time to perform all of these unrealistic emotions for you so that “they” can see our humanity. The truth is, Danielle knew in that moment that CNN wasn’t really interested in her as a human being. They were interested in capturing her pain as a vehicle for ratings. But as always, there are people who insist that no matter how cold, wet, scared, and traumatized she was, she should have put on a happy, dignified face for the cameras.

It’s hard enough to be a black woman in general, but being asked to be one on camera on the worst day of your life so that strangers can pick you apart is trash. I hope that Danielle and her family are on the road to recovery. No thanks to the people who are high and dry playing respectability politics on social media, though.

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Five Things Harvey Survivors Can Do From Their Phones

Although we aren’t out of the woods yet, it looks like the heavy rains of Harvey have finally left Houston. As the waters recede and we begin to get a better sense of the damage and loss of life, emotions can be overwhelming, and it can be hard to get a sense of what to do next.

Here are a few hopefully helpful things that you can do to reorient yourself. The list isn’t exhaustive, but it should help get the ball rolling on the long road to recovery.

  1. Contact all of your insurance companies to file claims. If you have homeowner’s insurance, contact your insurer. If you have comprehensive car insurance, contact your insurer. You may have a provision in your policy that allows for 30 days of rental car replacement. Be patient, though. Car rental agencies will be inundated with requests for vehicles, so it may be several days before you get a rental car.
  2. Contact all of your creditors.  Many financial institutions, including mortgage companies, car loan companies, student loan agencies, and credit card companies will restructure loans or give payment forbearances for people who are affected by Harvey.
  3. Contact FEMA for disaster assistance.  If your home has been damaged or destroyed by the storm, visit FEMA’s website  https://www.disasterassistance.gov/ asap to get financial assistance. They can assist with emergency housing and rebuilding/relocation expenses. This is especially important if you or a loved one is elderly or disabled. Again, a little patience is needed here.  The need is often greater than the number of people dispatched to assist.
  4. Update your social media to let friends and family know that you are okay.  This may be obvious, but it was something that I forgot to do as the storm made landfall. I was inundated with phone calls and text messages from family members all over the country who were watching their televisions in horror at the damage and destruction.
  5. Play games, listen to music, or watch YouTube.  In other words, do something to distract yourself from the constant images of people suffering. If you are in the midst of your own hurricane survival, it can be overwhelming to be constantly exposed to such graphic images of the toll the hurricane has taken on the city and its residents.

 

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Media Vultures: How the Media Prey upon the Vulnerable During Natural Disasters

As I type this, my family and I are hunkered down hiding out from the wrath of Hurricane Harvey. We are some of the lucky ones. We have plenty of food, water, and medicine. We haven’t had any power interruptions, and only occasional outages of our satellite signal. As someone who was personally impacted by Hurricane Katrina, I realize what a huge blessing this is. Unlike Hurricane Katrina, all of my family members are safe and accounted for during Harvey. No one is stuck on the roof of their building with no power and no plumbing, wondering when help will arrive.That isn’t the case for everyone here in Houston though. Many of my neighbors have lost everything. Some of the poorest and most vulnerable Houstonians are stuck on their rooftops as the rain continues to pour down on the city.

The local media have been really good at keeping us informed about where we can seek shelter and whether or not emergency services are responding to calls in certain parts of town. Getting good information to the people who need it is essential in moments like this, and the local media have been doing a wonderful job.

However, the national media is another story. I was shocked to see CNN attempting to interview a woman who was clearly wet and traumatized at one of the local facilities serving as a shelter. The woman’s name was Danielle, and her eyes were wide as saucers. She had two small children clinging to her side. The interviewer, CNN’s Rosa Flores, asked Danielle basic questions about how she got there and how long it took for help to arrive. Danielle responded that she had been waiting 36 hours for help before it finally arrived. She tearfully explained that the first day of the storm, she had waded through four feet of water to get food for her children. The woman was clearly already on the brink of a nervous breakdown. Then things really took a turn for the worse. Flores told Danielle that she had heard stories of mothers rescuing their children from rushing floodwaters and wanted her to expand on that–even though Danielle had just explained to her that she had braved high water to get food.  This question was just too much. Danielle exploded in frustration. “People are really breaking down and y’all sitting here with cameras and microphones trying to ask us what the fuck is wrong with us,” she accurately pointed out. “You’re trying to interview people during their worst time. Like, that’s not the smartest thing to do”

Exactly what was the point of Flores asking her such a graphic question, if not to trigger her so that CNN can boost its ratings? This isn’t an indictment against Flores herself, but one against the voyeuristic methods of the national news media in general. We’ve all seen national news coverage of natural disasters in which frightened, shell-shocked, or injured survivors are asked to narrate the worst moment of their life for a rapt television audience. A frightened black woman and her two scared kids reconjure images of Katrina. We all know how America in general is addicted to trauma porn, but no entity more so than the national media. Human suffering is often a means to a Pulitzer  an end.

During Katrina, the national news media referred to people fleeing the floodwaters as “refugees,” a very loaded word that demonstrated how New Orleans’ poor black residents were never viewed as American citizens who were taxpayers displaced from their homes. Now that Harvey unleashes its full fury on Houston residents (some of whom are also Katrina survivors), we see some of the same tactics being employed. We see language that whether intentionally or not, ends up shaming the poor and vulnerable residents of the Houston. Many restaurants, grocery stores and gas stations shuttered their doors on Friday night, leaving people who hadn’t already stocked up on supplies with few options to sustain themselves for the days ahead. Just like in Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Harvey survivors who were forced to pry open the doors of grocery stores to find food and supplies were called looters.

ABC News’ Tom Lamas even called the police on the people looking for food. Think about that for a second. It’s a grocery store during a natural disaster in which thousands of people are stranded without food and water, and there’s an enormous building filled to the brim with food and water. Is calling the police on those people and painting them as criminals really the thing to do? In the world of national news media, however, exploiting people’s most vulnerable moments for ratings or professional advancement is the name of the game.

The storm is breaking now. As Houston finally seems to literally be experiencing a ray of sunshine after the storm, we pray for our neighbors to the east in Louisiana, because the water and the national media are headed there next.

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Issa and Molly Need to Get It Together

So let’s talk about last night’s episode of Insecure. When Team Issa and Team Molly weren’t taking Ls in the romance department, they were revealing an uncomfortable truth that many millenial women don’t want to face. They just aren’t built for this. Of course everyone has their awkward and cringe-inducing moments in dating, but Issa and Molly took it to “Wow, girl. Really?” levels.

Molly, fresh off a shockingly immature reaction to the realization that her parents’ 35-year marriage hasn’t been all strawberries and rainbows, decides to accept Dro’s advances. Let’s stick with this for a second. Molly is  a successful, educated, and liberated professional woman in her late twenties or early thirties, and  is somehow shocked to find out that her parents’ marriage had endured some very painful hardships.  Newsflash–no long marriage is without its share of WTF moments, but Molly apparently thought her parents were unicorns. She finds solace in Dro’s arms and they have sex–several times. Although she’s aware Dro is married to her friend, he is in an open relationship, so she goes into this situation with both eyes open. When Dro’s marital responsibilities cut a romantic evening in the tub short, it’s become obvious that Molly is catching feelings.  Open relationships are fine for folks who are built that way, but Molly is a woman who was literally ticking items off of a checklist to find a suitable partner a few episodes ago, so we all know she’s not about that polyamory life.

We already know how this is going to end. We know that Molly is going to want more than Dro can offer. Either he stays with his wife and Molly is miserable being relegated to side chick status, or he leaves her to date Molly and doesn’t want to give up the benefits of having an open relationship. So why can’t smart, capable Molly see all of this? I guess it’s because Molly in many ways is all of us at some point or another–pretending that we can handle a situation that we know we’re not built for.

Then we have Issa. Oh, Issa. Where do I begin? Frustrated that she isn’t able to control the men in her ho-tation, she suffers many unnecessary fails in this episode. From dropping in unannounced on a cuddy buddy (and still standing there while he closes the door on her face!) to that sad attempt at seduction with Nico, Issa cannot get out of her own way. Women don’t have to try this hard to get no-strings-attached sex, so it was painful to watch her be so miserable at it. She saved her best (read: worst) fail for last. I’m not exactly sure how she thought oral sex worked,  or perhaps she didn’t stay until the end of the blowjob tutorial she attended at Sexplosion, but her reaction to Daniel’s ejaculation was patently absurd. She acted like he shot hydrochloric acid directly into her face.  There are third degree burn victims who were less dramatic than Issa was in that moment. The homemade patch to cover the skeeted-upon eye on the Uber ride home literally capped off a pretty embarrassing string of losses.

So what’s the takeaway here? For me, it’s that Molly and Issa for all their worldly millenial sensibilities, aren’t really built for non-monogamous sexual relationships. They talk a good game, but when the rubber meets the road, neither one is really about that life. Few things are sadder than someone pretending to be something that they are not. Both Issa and Molly are clearly committed relationship girls out here fronting like they aren’t. Either one is a valid path, but Issa and Molly need to get it together.

 

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When the Hood Breaks Your Heart

Folks in the hood often complain that people who make it out don’t do enough to give back. I can’t fault that critique, because that’s one I often make of successful black people. The minute their career takes off, they only show back up in the hood for photo ops. Given that reality, you’d hope that the ones who do give back would always receive a hero’s welcome.

I have a childhood friend who grew up in New Orleans in the crack 80s and 90s. He went to dilapidated public schools in rough neighborhoods and always wanted better for himself and his people. When he grew up, he moved away to Houston, got a good job and did pretty well for himself.  He never forgot the blight and squalor that he grew up seeing in New Orleans. Houston had a lot of that too, so he decided that he wanted to invest in affordable housing in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods. Gentrification had really taken a toll on the affordable housing market, and he wanted to make an effort to improve things.

I remember how excited he was when he told me he got approved for a construction loan to build a duplex. The project was going to bring a few construction jobs to the neighborhood, as well as provide affordable housing for two poor families.  He was quickly inundated with rental applications and phone calls inquiring about the property.

Everything was going great at first. Though the weather was unbearably hot and humid, there was no rain to slow construction. The three construction workers he hired were completing the duplex quickly and under budget. Then the hood terrorists came.  During their lunch break, the workers went to a local convenience store for some Gatorade and sodas. Unbeknownst to them, they were followed back to the work site by a group of young men. Those young men decided to rob them at gunpoint.  Though they only got away with about $20 in cash, they also ended up with one of the construction worker’s green cards. One of the other construction workers was an undocumented immigrant, so he refused to call the police. Although the construction workers were happy to have escaped with their lives, they were too terrified to show back up to work to complete the project.

Since word had gotten around about the robbery, my friend has had trouble finding new construction workers to complete the duplex. Look at all the trouble these hoodlums have caused. They have terrorized three men whose only crime was working hard in the summer sun. They created fear in the community such that three good paying construction jobs will go unfilled.  And now the two families that were approved to move into the duplex will have their affordable housing delayed.

They say no good deed goes unpunished. What do you do when you try to help your community, and certain people in it take that as an opportunity to terrorize folks? There are precious few of us who actually have the resources to create affordable housing in our most vulnerable neighborhoods. We can’t afford to scare those people away from investing in our communities. My friend has done well for himself, but he isn’t rich. He can’t afford the expense of construction delays.

The hood needs so much–much more than I can list here. No matter how far we’ve climbed as individuals, no black person in America is more than a couple of generations removed from the hood. The government isn’t going to save us. Donald Trump doesn’t care. That’s why what happened to my friend is so heartbreaking. He was told not to invest there because he was a first-time investor and the people were not worth the trouble. “Not worth the trouble?” he said. “I’m one of those people.” Loving the hood is like being in a toxic relationship sometimes. No matter how much you love them, they will still break your heart. I don’t have the answers, but I know my friend still loves the hood. He just feels like it doesn’t love him back.

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Why Girls Don’t Tell…

They don’t tell because they know they won’t be believed…
They don’t tell because they know that even if they are believed, they will be blamed.
They don’t tell because they know their mothers will still stay with him.
They don’t tell because no matter when they tell, it’s never soon enough to satisfy people who are committed to thinking they are lying.
They don’t tell because they don’t want to be the person who ruined everyone else’s idyllic view of the abuser.
They don’t tell because they don’t want everyone view to them only through the lens of being a victim.
They don’t tell because telling means admitting to someone else that the horror actually happened.

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Why Colin Kaepernick Should Never Play Another Down of Football (Even If Invited Back)

By now, it’s become abundantly clear that Colin Kaepernick’s career as an NFL quarterback is effectively over. His decision to sit, and then kneel during the national anthem as a form of protest against anti-black institutional racism touched off a controversy that eventually became a national obsession. On one side were those who felt that this protest was tantamount to disrespect for the country and for the military, and on the other side were those who felt that the flag and the promise of freedom and liberty it symbolizes wasn’t fully extended to all citizens.

 

At this point, it doesn’t matter if the 32 NFL owners have made Colin Kaepernick a pariah for his nonviolent political demonstration. By passing on signing him in favor of inferior quarterbacks, it can plausibly be argued that NFL owners have spared Colin Kaepernick’s life. After all, now he won’t have to endure the bone-crushing tackles and concussion-inducing injuries that render the average NFL player’s life expectancy a woeful two decades shorter than that of the average American man. Even if an NFL team were to make room on their roster for Kaepernick, returning to the NFL would probably undermine his opportunity to become a figure larger than a sports hero.

 

Instead, what the myopic NFL has done is set the stage for Colin Kaepernick to become a political martyr. If there is anything that the history of American sports has shown, it is that it loves to ostracize black athletes who protest racism during their careers, only to lionize them decades later. We’ve seen this time and time again. From Jesse Owens, to Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, John Carlos, and Tommie Smith–black athletes have been spat upon, blackballed, and suffered all manner of vituperation and opprobrium for daring to speak up against anti-black racism. Decades later, these former black sheep become American heroes, and the national zeitgeist surrounding them undergoes a metamorphosis from pariahs to revered symbols of dignity and grace. When ostracism gives way to retired jerseys and worldwide adulation, former critics pretend that they had always been fans. This is not only the story of America and its politically active black sports heroes. In fact, this is the story of America and race. It is not hyperbolic to compare the tradition of black athletes who were shunned for their racial stances to the larger tradition of black civil rights figures in general. Though the black athletes generally were not beaten or killed for their defiance in the face of racism, what they share in common with other black figures who have become symbols for civil rights is that they became national treasures in the decades following their activism.

 

I suspect that when Colin Kaepernick first laced up his cleats to play football, he had done so in the hopes that the legend he would create for himself would be one of gridiron greatness. It is hard to believe that he ever thought that he would become another in a long line black athletes who would transcend his chosen sport to symbolize the enduring struggle for equal treatment. Now that his career has been cut short not by injury and a declining skillset, but by personal politics and the larger society’s desire to keep him in his place, perhaps his departure from football has given him another two decades of lifespan to watch himself become a legend for reasons he never could have anticipated.

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Why America No Longer Needs the Republican Party

Full disclosure–I am a dyed-in-the-wool liberal and proud of it. The first presidential election for which I was old enough to vote was the contentious and Supreme Court decided contest of 2000. I cast my ballot for Al Gore then and for every Democratic nominee since. I believe in reproductive choice and marriage equality. I believe in science and that climate change is real. I believe in gun control. I believe that the criminal justice system unfairly targets and penalizes black and brown people. Now that my liberal bona fides have been established, let me also say that until the 2016 election, I had also believed in the Republican Party–not in its policies, mind you (I believe those to be woefully wrongheaded and even cruel in certain respects), but in its  ability to offer cogent philosophical and moral counterpoints to the positions espoused by Democrats and liberalism and in the basic fundamental decency of the elected officials who call themselves Republicans. Pro-life Republicans made me ask myself important questions about where I believed human life to begin and what it meant to go to war. Though I usually fall on the opposite side of the question from Republicans on these and myriad other issues, I had never doubted before that the Republican positions on these issues were based on genuine concern for what was morally right and what was in the best interest of the public they serve.

 

The GOP had long championed (read: paid lip service to) family values and limited government spending. Given the blank check Republican congresses have given the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the litany of sex scandals that GOP officials have found themselves in (like the time the former governor of South Carolina went AWOL for an international tryst with this side chick), it’s been hard for Republicans to credibly hold up that mantle. Since the political ascendance of Donald Trump, it is impossible to do so. The thrice-married, adulterous, pussy-grabbing real estate magnate cannot insert the preservation of morality into any policy initiative because there are no depths to which he will not seek in the service of his own intumescent ego.

 

Bloated Republican budgets and sexual peccadilloes aside, Donald Trump’s presidency in many ways represents the cheapening of the GOP brand. Ronald Reagan was the last truly beloved hero of the Republican ethos, but each of his GOP presidential successors was worse than the man who preceded him in both policy and popularity. George H.W. Bush, though competent and pragmatic, was boring and uninspiring. George W. Bush, buffeted by his false claims of WMDs and his bungling of Hurricane Katrina was less popular than cold sores when he left the White House. Contrast that, however, with Democratic presidents since Ronald Reagan. Bill Clinton, despite an incredibly sordid second term somehow managed to leave the White House wildly popular. In fact, his legend has only grown with the passage of time. Barack Obama, already popular upon his departure from the White House, only saw his popularity grow in the months since the Greek tragedy called the Trump administration began.

 

To the extent that the GOP has put winning presidential elections above advancing its policy ideals, its brand has been devalued. Nowhere is that more apparent than with its support of Donald Trump. The party that often proudly refers to itself as “The Party of Lincoln” now has Donald Trump as its standard-bearer. The party that often bragged that 80% of Congressional Republicans voted in support of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 now has a leader who gives comfort and succor to Neo-Nazis and white supremacists by equating them to the people who protest them. The deafening silence of prominent GOP members like House Speaker Paul Ryan, who waited more than a week to comment at length on the terrorist attack in Charlottesville (and didn’t mention Trump by name in the condemnation of the president’s comments) exemplify why conservatives cannot trust the GOP to be a moral voice for them. Congressional Republican failure to get major policy initiatives passed despite their House and Senate majorities is the reason that conservatives cannot trust the GOP to be a policy voice for them either. When taken together with the fact that Donald Trump is divisive even within his own party, it makes one wonder what if the party even has a future.

 

America has been through this before. The Whig Party saw their descent into political oblivion when they could no longer adequately address the policy and moral concerns of the day. Other parties rose to prominence in the void left by the Whig Party, and America is the better for it.  And so it will be with the Republican Party. If this party cannot manage to govern with a Republican in the White House and with Republican majorities in both chambers of Congress, why should voters trust them to address their policy concerns? The answer is that they shouldn’t and they won’t.