My Problematic Favorite In The Age Of Wokeness

I’m a hypocrite. I am a hypocrite because of Notorious B.I.G. I am a hypocrite because of Big Pun. I am a hypocrite because of Sam Cooke. I am a hypocrite because of James Brown, Bobby Brown and Chris Brown. I am a hypocrite because of Rick James. I am a hypocrite because of …(and this one hurts most of all) Nas.

Today TMZ published a story about Philadelphia Eagles Defensive End Chris Long labeling John Lennon a bad person. Ostensibly because he physically abused women during his life. This led to a back and forth Twitter exchange between Long and a Lennon fan who insisted things were too complicated to label Lennon a bad guy. To which Chris Long replied “Shut the fuck up”.

We are experiencing a moment in American discourse where (especially among those of us who have opted in to social media) it is becoming easier to establish a baseline for acceptable behavior. We have almost all identified a common language that makes it easier to express ideas without fully understanding them. To know what “social justice” or “white privilege” is or to label yourself a feminist without truly doing the work besides tacking on a few hashtags at the end of your scorching hot tweets.

But rightly or wrongly those of us who consider ourselves on the right side of history have begun demanding better behavior than our predecessors. (I stress this doesn’t apply to anyone who wants to Make America Great Again). We’ve coalesced around a set of common values that doesn’t attempt to transcend race, religion, gender or sexual orientation but instead it attempts to include those considerations in our execution of these ideals. Witness the Parkland shooting survivors reaching out to include the urban youth of Chicago in their crusade against the gun lobby. Those who recognize their privilege and instead of jealously hoarding it like a precious commodity extend it to the marginalized are the manifestation of the slow incremental progress of a shared respect for human rights.

In other words as we evolve socially at a snail’s pace our standards for behavior evolve. The marginalized are no longer voiceless and at this point if you remain ignorant to their pleas for justice that is a willful ignorance that results either from a personal antipathy or an irresponsible apathy.

When Chris Long reached back through the annals of time to remind the worshippers of the vastly overrated Beatles that John Lennon himself (their Patron saint) was a confessed abuser of women I had a brief gloating smirk at the hypocrisy of that Lennon fan who rushed into the fray to defend his hero. Then I stopped myself because I’m a hypocrite. I am a hypocrite because of Notorious B.I.G. I am a hypocrite because of Big Pun. I am a hypocrite because of Sam Cooke. I am a hypocrite because of James Brown, Bobby Brown and Chris Brown. I am a hypocrite because of Rick James. I am a hypocrite because of …(and this one hurts most of all) Nas.

All of these men have been accused of, proven to be, or admitted to physically abusing women. And yet I haven’t seen my behavior towards them change. I haven’t labeled any of them bad guys although a few of them most assuredly are. What standard should I hold them to? I see the hypocrisy within myself because when I hear about new rappers with whom I have no attachment being abusive towards women I instantly and reflexively reject them. You won’t hear me rocking too much with XXXtenacion and I’ve had my fill of Kodak Black. Neither of them will be getting any intentional spin in my rotation. But even that is inconsistent after all Kevin Gates kicked a female fan and although I don’t have a decades deep respect for him I check for his music.

You have to right to do what you want. In life you will most certainly make choices that contradict other choices. The only time this is truly problematic is when you to try to preach purity to others. Chris Long doesn’t want to hear any moral equivocation when it comes to John Lennon. Part of this is admittedly for him that he is no fan of the Beatles. The other part of this is that he’s not trying to convert John Lennon’s fans. You decide for yourself what can turn you off from an artist beyond their music. If abusing women in his youth automatically makes John Lennon a bad guy then I’m confident in his line of work Chris Long has embraced some bad guys as teammates.

I’m pretty sure most of us have some bad guys amongst our family and friends. This is not to excuse any one’s actions or provoke a circular debate. If you tell me Nas is a bad guy and I reply “It’s complicated” feel free to tell me to “Shut the fuck up”.

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My Thoughts On Black Panther

My spoiler free reflection on the most important Superhero movie ever.

After seeing Black Panther for the first (but certainly not the last) time last night I was struck by how appropriate this film is for this moment in time. The black power fantasy of an African nation untouched by European colonization and therefore able to thrive as the most technologically advanced nation on our Earth is revolutionary based on its premise alone. But that is the story we comic book nerds have been reading for decades. It’s a powerful story in print but to see it played out on the big screen is like nothing I could have imagined.

In many ways Black Panther shares so much DNA with other Marvel Studios films. This is definitely the same world created in Iron Man and The Avengers. But in so many other ways this is something I have never witnessed before. Black people almost exclusively dominate every single minute of the screen and yet it’s a superhero story for everyone. People who love movies whether they are Black, Latino, Asian or other will have to concede that you can’t expect to go all year long without seeing one movie that is almost exclusively about white men saving the world. Black Panther foretells the day when people who love movies concede that you won’t be able to go a year, or 6 months, or one month without one movie dominated by a cast of color in any or all genres.

The movie itself hits the right beats for an action movie but it also grapples with the moral conundrum of responsibility for a nation versus responsibility to all of the world’s oppressed people. This is the first Marvel movie where I kind of agree with the bad guy. This movie raises complex questions about black revolution, isolationism, racism and human suffering but doesn’t ram any lessons down your throat. Overall the film knows where its responsibility lies so for those seeking deeper analyzation of what the implications of a place like Wakanda would mean in the real world the film starts the conversation but makes no attempt to finish it.

Without getting into spoilers I will say that Black Panther supersedes the hype train. Performances from Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyongo and especially Michael B. Jordan encapsulate a who’s who’s of the next generation of Black Hollywood. (Seriously the only people missing are Donald Glover, Tessa Thomposn and John Boyega). The director manages to convey the scope of the world of Wakanda and inch the Marvel Universe one step closer towards its next climax this summer. As one reviewer put it the movie manages to do what these superhero movies are supposed to do while also managing the burden of showcasing black excellence.  In some ways that’s the perfect metaphor for the black experience not just in America but globally.

If you stick around for the first post credit scene you’ll hear a message written loud and clear to confront the times we live in. Some may view this as a Disneyfied dumbing down of the Resistance. But in Trump’s America we have to take these messages and sow them into the imaginations of children. There is a vacuum at the top of the moral universe if only there was really a T’Challa to fill it.

In Defense Of Jemele Hill

Jemele Hill is right but we live in America where the worst racial slur is “racist”. 

I realize that not everyone wants to blog or tweet. I realize that not everyone is articulate or social. I recognize that there are many people who simply want to go to work, pay their bills, and send their kids to college. They don’t understand the compulsion to share their innermost thoughts and opinions on these interwebs. Some people feel as though they have the privilege or as they would say the “right” to ignore politics. It doesn’t matter to them. They want to watch the game, drink a beer and..wait.. what’s this? Why isn’t that guy standing for the national anthem? That’s disrespectful to our military! That ungrateful ni- uh errr that spoiled anti-American athlete.

A lot of people don’t seem to connect their aversion to political engagement with the stance our black athletes are taking. By exercising the privilege to ignore the metastasizing racial divide in America you have ceded enough power to White Supremacy to allow black men to be summarily executed routinely by law enforcement with little to no repercussions. Your unstated détente with the “real racists” has allowed them to elect the most temperamentally unfit person on Planet Earth to the highest office in the land. To be fair I’m not calling you a racist. You are actually much worse than a racist. You are a person who hears a woman screaming outside your window and just assumes someone else will call the police. You are the person who sees a lost child in a public place and reasons with yourself that their parent is nearby. You are the person who thinks affirmative action probably isn’t necessary anymore because anyone can make it if they try hard enough I mean look at all the successful black people.  Not necessarily racist but a racial bystander someone who has resigned the fight because it’s not personal enough.  You are the type of person most likely to tell a commentator to stick to sports and you are the people that ESPN apologized to yesterday after Jemele Hill stated an essential fact about Donald Trump.

Donald Trump is in fact a white supremacist. He appeals pretty nakedly to white supremacist orthodoxy. He retweets white supremacist memes on Twitter. He popularized the White Supremacist birther theory that President Barack Obama was not born in America. He evoked talk of 2nd Amendment solutions last year in regards to the prospect of Hilary Clinton winning the election. He has made a crackdown on nonwhite immigration a pillar of his agenda. His presidency thus far has been unnaturally obsessed with erasing the accomplishments of the nation’s first black president. Talks of border walls and muslim bans are still the fundamental proposals on his agenda. And all this is before his weak response to the incident in Charlottesville, VA last month. Maybe America is afraid to reckon with the fact that Donald Trump is a white supremacist because it’s an indictment about what it means to be an American in 2017.

Yes White Supremacy is popular enough in the present day to win a major party nomination. Yes White Supremacy is popular enough to win a Presidential Election. Trump’s political appeal has always been rooted in white resentment. Sadly while this makes him a poor human being it makes him an excellent Republican. Deal with it America. Now you have these quislings calling for Jemele Hill to be fired from ESPN. If you are more offended by someone pointing out that the President is a White Supremacist than you are by the fact that the President is a White Supremacist than you are exactly the kind of mediocre senseless moron that’s destroying America with your passive “lets all just get along” rhetoric.

You so-called “moderates”, you people who want your public figures to sacrifice existential truth at the altar of politeness get to act fake outraged every time Trump says something impolitic but won’t concede to accurate descriptions of his behavior. You people are worse than offensive you are increasingly irrelevant. You can’t be neutral on a moving train. I’m not saying you all have to hold up banners and march in the streets for equality because if we’ve learned anything about your ilk it’s that you’ll never ever do anything to upset the status quo of America’s racial hierarchy. (Hell, most of you would proudly claim to not recognize race). But at the very least you have to have an accurate description of White Supremacy.

Donald Trump isn’t catering to White Supremacist as part of some shrewd political machination. He’s one of them and to state that fact should not be controversial. Jemele Hill by virtue of her honesty has transcended corporate sports media for the same reasons that Colin Kaepernick has transcended the NFL. For those on the right side of racial justice walking around the offices of ESPN must be akin to the astronauts walking around the original  Planet Of The Apes. For Kaepernick would signing with an NFL team even be a win? Would any one of consequence be willing to work on the hard problem of police brutality in the black community? Certainly not Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions. And that’s what we’re dealing with in America a bunch of grown adults who have the same understanding of racism that third graders have. “Things were bad but then MLK came along and now black people can drink from the same water fountain, The End.”

What Jemele Hill does on her immensely popular twitter feed is to respond to trolls with the truth. There just so happens to be a huge overlap with the people trolling her and those that support Donald Trump and this in itself is not a coincidence. Is there any better starting point for trolling than White Supremacy? It pisses off all the right people. The whiny liberals that trolls hate. The minorities, the immigrants, the Muslims, the gays, the Jews. Trolling is the next best thing to violence. It’s a non-prosecutable hate crime and Trump himself has mastered it. Jemele tweets “Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.” And that should be as non controversial as saying “Toyota Prius’s get excellent gas mileage”. But we live in America where the worst racial slur is “racist”.

What I find absurd beyond the point of irony is that White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders has called for Jemele Hill’s firing from ESPN. So we are holding ESPN anchors Twitter feeds to a higher standard than we hold the President of The United States? The reckless vitriol and untruths unleashed by Trump on a regular basis are just fine. He can call Elizabeth Warren Pocahontas, he can threaten North Korea with Nuclear War, he can retweet an account called “White Genocide TM” with  an explicitly false racist meme. He can verbally insinuate that a Mexican-American judge is inherently biased against him. He can advise law enforcement to rough up suspects at the point of arrest. All of this speech is fine. But to call someone a racist is beyond the pale? I think if conservatives got any more hypocritical my head would explode.

Jemele Hill is right of course. Trump has had numerous occasions to just outright disavow white supremacy. Every single time he prevaricates, hesitates, obfuscates, and then if he manages to say anything mildly challenging to the forces of evil he bends over backward to undercut it and let the KKK and Nazis know that he stands with them. The sad truth is a lot of people stand with them. You might have passed one at Walmart. You might see one at a Red Sox game. They came out in droves to put their guy in the White House and he knows he owes his baseline 40 percent approval rating to them. He stands with them. He is them. Jeff Sessions is one of them. Stephen Miller is one of them. Sebastian Gorka is one of them. Steve Bannon is one of them. Michael Flynn is one of them. So let’s review for the slow kids : Trump is in fact a White Supremacist, and he has surrounded himself with White Supremacists. America is lousy with white supremacists it turns out. It’s never been easier to advocate hate in America. Let’s not start making it harder to state that essential fact.

The White Supremacist-In-Chief

Trump looks at white supremacists and neo nazis and see in his own estimation “very fine people”

Author’s Note: I’m going to use the words race, racism, and racist a lot. If you are a Trump supporter and don’t like being called racist you can skip this post. I won’t hold it against you.

Hilary Clinton famously (or infamously depending on who you ask) referred to half of Trump supporters as “deplorables” in the midst of her campaign last summer. At the time this statement was seen as a major political gaffe and the two second clip taking her words out of their original context was ran in a loop even on the “liberal” cable news channels. What we’ve seen throughout Trump’s rise is America’s inability to honestly discuss race. This inability is America’s biggest weakness and Donald Trump’s exploitation of it is not surprising but it is infuriating. It remains true even in 2017 that worst thing you can call a black person is “nigger” and the worst thing you can call a white person is “racist”. Racist is the most ineffective word in the English language. More black people will proudly proclaim themselves “nigger” than white people will proudly wear the label “racist”. As a matter of fact if you point out some racist shit there’s a fair chance they’ll “I’m rubber you’re glue” you with the reply “No, You’re The Real Racist”.

It is in that climate where you can’t discuss race openly and honestly that a creature of Donald Trump’s flawed character can thrive politically. When he descended that elevator in 2015 and openly declared that Mexico was sending us rapists and murderers and that his solution was a border wall his message resonated with a certain kind of American. While pundits and media figures (being the spineless shills that they are) immediately bent over backwards to explain away the racism by claiming Trump’s base was economically destitute and he was speaking to their anxieties, those of us who live in reality weren’t fooled for a second. Openly racist rhetoric was refreshing to Trump’s base because they were sick of being whistled at, winked at, and nodded at. My very first encounter with a Trump supporter was a buttoned up middle aged, middle class white guy. Not an uneducated underprivileged financially destitute redneck from coal country like the media was portraying. But an IT guy whose salary was upwards of $90,000 annually. His reason for supporting Trump was: “He says What We Are All Thinking”. And thus he was revealed.

The basic problem of White Supremacy is that we only truly recognize the extreme explicit variety. We’ve tolerated milder forms of it from the very start of our nation. If you think about the way we teach American History and the foundation of our nation you have to have a laser focus on the fate of White Americans to have any happy endings. What’s the happy ending of the founder’s story for instance? The Constitution that formed our nation. The same constitution that failed to abolish slavery and declared those very same slaves three-fifths of a human being.

We must not allow the people writing this moment in history to brush over the fact that Donald Trump campaigned as a champion for white people and is governing as one. He has failed every leadership test he’s faced as the President of vast multi-cultural ethnically diverse nation. He governs only for his supporters. He thinks of them first and foremost. For evidence of this you need only parse the words coming out of his face. But if you were to take a look at his actions as President or President-Elect since last year you see a clear pattern. For his Senior White House Staff  chose Steve Bannon, the famous alt right puppet master, he chose Sebastian Gorka who’s ties with neo-nazis are well documented, he chose Stephen Miller who’s been openly racist since at least his college years (as recently uncovered footage supports) and most consequentially he chose for Attorney General Jeff Sessions the Alabama Senator who was so racist that none other than Coretta Scott King penned a letter opposing his bid for a Federal Judgeship in the 1980’s. If you are too racist in the 1980’s it stretches credulity to think you are fit for service in 2017.

An effort to disenfranchise minority voters, roll back Civil Rights protections in every single cabinet department, re-ignite the racist ineffective drug war (while simultaneously showing sympathy for victims of the opioid epidemic who are overwhelming and disproportionately white), a memo urging judges to apply the harshest sentences regardless of context, rescinding the effort to disassociate the federal government from the private prison industry, and forming an exploratory committee to lay the groundwork for destroying Affirmative Action in college admissions are just some of the things that Donald Trump’s Administration has done that are right out of the White Supremacists’ wish list.

Trump’s comments last week in the wake of the Charlottesville controversy were not poorly chosen or accidental. Trump was speaking to his people. He looks at white supremacists and neo nazis and see in his own estimation “very fine people”. He looks at the murder of a protester out in defense of equality and sees “blame on both sides” even though only one side came to town bearing torches and an armed militia. Trump’s campaign was successful because he dispensed with the usual racial dog whistles and pulled out a bullhorn. Some argue that he’s not a reliable white supremacist and only speaks that way because he is a master of manipulation. But we’ve all seen Trump in action over these past 8 months and if one thing is clear of all the traits necessary to lead he is Master Of None. He is ruled by no one, he calculates nothing. He is merely amplifying the racism woven into the very fabric of our society. The average bigot has been suppressing his worst instincts for decades for them Trump is just saying what they’ve all been thinking.