Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Truth About Hip-Hop and Black Males

I had the recent pleasure of viewing an excellent documentary called Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes by documentarian (and Omega man) Byron Hurt. Hurt, an avid hip-hop fan, took a real, hard look at the rap industry and how it affects and reflects Black masculinity. This is one of the best documentaries I've ever seen (and I'm a buff) - it was thorough, insightful, and honest. The 2006 documentary was originally aired on PBS on the indie film show, Independent Lens, hosted by Terrence Howard.

Surprisingly enough, the entire documentary is on Google Video! However, be a good sport and support this brother by purchasing a copy (for about $20) at

Sunday, February 1, 2009

What Taco Bell and Black America Have In Common

As I was wrestling with my children and my piling mountain of writing work yesterday, I caught a glimpse of a new Taco Bell commercial that resonated with me. The theme of this advertisement was actually a play on words, where viewers were encouraged to 'change their view of change'. Taco Bell is simply communicating that you should gather your spare change to buy their inexpensive tacos, but it meant something different to me. It was the first day of Black History Month, and some stranger on the television told me to change my view of change.

And THAT made me think of you.

There are lots of Americans who are voting and taking political action all on the premise of "change". People are talking about how ready they are for a "change" in government. Obama got elected on this principle. Black America in particular wants to see "change" in this country.

But what the heck does THAT mean?

Has anyone ever stopped to consider that change is not automatically positive? Is it possible that changes, even when well intended, can cause unexpected problems? Then there are issues concerning the agents of change; who can realistically change what? Whose responsibility is it, really, to change what I want changed in my life and my community? Just because a pied piper comes to town talking about change, does it mean that they will or even can make the changes that they cause me to dream about?

Is it possible that the idea of "change" is a manipulation?

Understand that I am overgeneralizing to make a particular point. We are now experiencing Black History Month 2009, which will prove to be one of the most dynamic celebrations of Black American history ever in this country. People have been comparing Obama to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (ugh), and Black Americans really do have a reason to celebrate. However, when does "change" cease to be the buzz word for Black Americans looking to be satisfied and become the charge for Black Americans/ looking to actually progress themselves and not just celebrate the success of others? What sense does it make to spend an entire month celebrating a President who has not yet served any particular Black interests, and in fact is NOT a Black American (he is African-American at best) and the success of other high achievers.

What about YOUR Black history? Are you making any? Are YOU personally changing anything? Do you even have a balanced view of change in the Black community?

I submit to you that the answer is probably "no".

Case in point, Michael Steele was elected Chairman of the Republican National Committee in the same month that Obama was inaugurated. Not a peep out of Black America. No "Atta boy" for Michael Steele, although he is the first Black man to be elected to that office. Being the first Black chairman of the RNC is a HUGE deal! It's actually, according to the logic retained by most Black Americans, a harder feat to accomplish than even what Obama did! Think about it: the most liberal U.S. senator in history gets elected by a bunch of liberals, including Black Americans who unilaterally vote Democrat anyway. Okay. However, Michael Steele was elected chairman of a national political organization representing a party that YOU would probably consider to be racist! There are very few Black Republicans in this country, and yet a Black man was elected to be chairman over the entire RNC.

That's tough!

But there was no parade, Jessee Jackson didn't come and cry, nothing. Since Michael Steele isn't promising you free health care and a check, his achievements toward "change" don't matter to you. Many of you reading this don't even know who Michael Steele is. Yet, if given the opportunity, I'm sure you would take the opportunity to talk about how the Republican Party doesn't appeal to, accommodate, or serve Black Americans.

You can see that's a lie. The change has come; where are you? Where was your Black pride concerning THAT change?

As I digress, I submit to you that Black Americans have a very self-serving and warped idea of change, and it is based in victimhood. If change doesn't involve us getting served, we don't want it. Instead of cleaning up our own communities, we vote for crooked politicians who promise to do it for us. Instead of teaching our own children, we burden an already broken and insufficient school system with the entire responsibility of educating our children, and then get mad when they can't read dot on a spot. We point the finger at groups who don't kiss our collective Black behind, but when they do make progress and move toward the 'colorblindness' that we pretend to want, we are the ones who are actually blind to it. We think that everyone else is supposed to change. We want everyone else to be agents of change. We let snake oil salesmen and pied pipers get us upset about the establishment when they are just establishment-wannabes themselves. It's everyone else's responsibility to change.

When are WE going to change?

When are we going to get a 21st Century perspective on our own history? When are we going to go beyond just celebrating the successes and admit the failures? When do we critically analyze our history so that we can see what isn't working and form new social theories and action plans based in fact and not emotion?

When will we truly be the ones that we have been waiting for?

When are we going to change OUR view of change?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The REAL Significance of Obama's Presidency

Yesterday was one for the history books - Barack Obama was inaugurated as President of the United States. Depending on what history book you read, he is (supposedly) the first President of the United States of African descent. There are those who say differently, but at as far as most people are concerned, Barack Obama is the first African-American president. My parents (in their 70s) were very pleased, as were many other Black Americans and African-Americans (there's a difference, technically). Although you know how I feel about Obama, I recognize that having an African-American president is a great step in the right direction for a country whose past has been rooted in racial inequality and injustice.


But once you come down off of the Civil Rights Movement high, you might actually start to think about what Obama's presidency REALLY means. His office and his job have NOTHING to do with race. His being elected DOES NOT improve race relations in this country or abroad.

In fact, his presidency has already proven that Americans are still STUCK ON STUPID when it comes to cultural and racial sensitivity and tolerance, whether they be Black, White, Brown, or otherwise.

Case in point:

As the inauguration approached, more White and Latino Americans began asking my husband and I if we were excited, if we were "going to party" with "our president", and other paternalistic, foot-in-mouth questions. Am I planning to 'party' with 'my president' on Tuesday? I'm supposed to be excited about this just because I'm Black, with no regard to my values or even my political affiliation? No matter what I stand for, Obama's being Black is supposed to be enough to make me want to party? That's how you see it? Of COURSE that's how they see it, because that's all we project! Then we allow the drive-by media to make it all about race while pretending it's not all about race! Aaaaagh!

[NOTE: Did you notice that the only people who weren't harping on Obama's racial heritage were the Republicans who many accuse of being racist? They didn't even care! But I digress...]

White Americans rarely have any idea of what to say in situations that involve the development of another race. One major reason is their paternalistic view of minorities, but another factor is how we tend to wear our race on our sleeve, making everything about being Black. EVERYTHING. How do you win when you're not Black, and you want to encourage someone who is Black concerning the historical relevance of having an African-American president? When Black people vote so unilaterally, how do they know when they're talking to Black people who are conservative Republicans? Many of you may have gotten these stupid comments and questions, too, but you didn't realize what they were because all you could see was your dark skin in the White House. I get it. Now, however, it's time to sober up and look at how things really are. We've got to stop crying or doing the funky chicken or whatever and start critically analyzing what's going on if we care anything at all about the impact that Obama's presidency will have on Black America as a whole.

Since Black Americans made this election all about having our first African-American president, please believe that's what his tenure is going to be about. The media played on White guilt while Obama campaigned, being sure to put every proud Black face and African relative the man had on national television. We showed our preoccupation with race, and they showed it to the world (If you don't think this was intentionally done and that it didn't affect any White voters, you are fooling yourself). So, understand that Obama's skin is always going to be in the forefront during his tenure as president, whether you like it or not, and whether people are willing to admit it or not.

So, what does that mean?

* If he makes any huge mistakes (and he will), non-Black Americans will deflect those failures upon Black leadership in general.

* If Black Americans as a whole do not improve their condition during his tenure, Obama will appear to be an exceptional African-American compared to the rest of us ignorant thugs.

* If Hollywood gets too progress-happy, we may see a huge increase in Black characters who are professionals and government officials in television and movies - that's just superficial and annoying to ANYONE who watches it long enough.

* All of the cries of disenfranchisement will be thwarted and considered baseless because if America can elect an African-American president, the playing field must be leveled, right? This isn't good if you are a proponent for Affirmative Action or other special rights for minorities.

* Black History Month will probably bring out the nationalistic tendencies in most of us, causing us to overdo it and put our Blackness in everyone else's face, turning off White Americans who thought that electing an African-American president was about togetherness and the progress of the country as a whole when it was really about us 'having our day in the sun'. This will serve to separate us even more.

* If Obama screws up royally, White Americans won't be voting for another African-American president for a long time, considering that so much emphasis was placed on his being African-American.

Don't get me wrong, people; I understand the historical significance of an African-American president, and it is something that should be celebrated. However, I believe that we were exploited by the Democratic Party and the left-wing media in order to further their own causes, NOT ours! At the end of the day, we play the race card and we make race an issue WAY TOO MUCH, even when we have the right to do so. It's like the football team who discourages end zone dancing - when you have a victory, act like you expected to. When you make your way to success, have some class; act like you've been there before. We can still celebrate progress while having a certain amount of necessary reservation. We want people to treat us as if they are colorblind when we're not. So, when it works in our favor, we're happy. However, when the racially charged beast we helped create comes back to bite us in the butt, who will we blame then?

It's time to sober up and tighten our game up. February should be spent critically analyzing our history and coming up with a plan to live up to the bar that we have helped Obama raise. Time to step up your game or face certain shame.

Come on, people...

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Interesting New Year

Hey gang,

Happy New Year...about ten days late :-P

I'm sorry I haven't posted in such a long time - there has just been a LOT going on, with the release of my ebook and other personal obligations, I have not been able to follow my predetermined posting shedule.

Ah, schedule schmedule, right?

So, you may be enjoying some drive-by wisdom in between more thorough posts to keep this train moving.

I'll see you soon,

I.C. Jackson