Monthly Archives: May 2010
As I sat in a restaurant today I was reminded of the many times during Slavery and Jim Crow that African Americans heard the words “What You Lookin At Nigga.” This phrase, this insult, was one of the many bold ways white Americans exercised their perceived white supremacy to terrorize and belittle African Americans. What these whites were saying with those hateful and menacing words was that African Americans were so low and beneath us, that you don’t even have the right to look at us. We aren’t even going to allow you agency over your eyes.
Now given this abhorrent history that African Americans had to go through it is truly dismaying to me when I hear heterosexual (and some self hating gay) men saying the same things to gay men.
The phrase “What You Look At Faggot?” is a constant refrain used to demean and belittle gay men all across the country. On playgrounds, in classrooms, in lunchrooms, in barbershops, on street corners, and other areas. These straight men (and sometimes self hating gay men) use these hateful words to assert their perceived superiority over gay men, particularly those who are so called feminine. Its truly a shame that African American men, the men who are the descendants of African Americans who suffered under a similar assault would turn around and use the same hatred against their own brethren.
Its often said that African Americans know their history but knowledge is just the surface of learning. We must begin to UNDERSTAND our history and in doing that understand how appropriating forms of terror used by whites to demean and belittle us is a weird way of honoring the legacy of our forebears who fought to end this kind of hatred.
There simply has to be a better way. We must demand better.
The Bluest Eye is a novel by Pulitzer prize winning novelist Toni Morrison. In her seminal work Morrison presents a character that is perhaps the most pathetic character in modern literature. Pecola is a character whose entire life is shaped by her self hatred. You see Pecola wants nothing more than to have the blue eyes that little white girls have. She idolizes Shirley Temple who in her eyes embodies all that a little girl should embody. She has milky white skin, she has deep blue eyes, and she has beautiful blonde hair. As a black child thrown away by society Pecola covets this ideal and desperately seeks it. She prays for blue eyes, she yearns for blue eyes, she would do anything in her power to have blue eyes. Pecola is someone who has fully surrendered herself to the Master Narrative.
The Master Narrative is whatever ideological script that is being imposed by the people in authority (usually white men) on everybody else. In Pecola’s case it is being told by the dominant society that blonde hair and blue eyes were the height of beauty and purity.
For millions of gay men they are Pecola Breedlove. Instead of coveting blue eyes they covet heterosexuality. They want nothing more than to be heterosexual and to be able to pass for straight and to be considered normal. Gay men are also victims of the Master Narrative. They surrender themselves to an ideology that tells them that the only acceptable sexual orientation is heterosexuality and if your sexual orientation differs from that you are deviant, abnormal, and unnatural. Gay men much like Pecola submit themselves to the Master Narrative often times hoping, praying, and longing to be heterosexual so they can fit into the Master Narrative.
One of the saddest moments in The Bluest Eye comes towards the end when Pecola Breeddlove in her last desperate attempt to have the blue eyes she so deeply wants goes insane. In order for her to fit into the Master Narrative she escapes into madness and fantasy. She believes that she has at long last acquired the blue eyes she so deeply wants but everyone else realizes that she had lost her mind.
I see many Pecola Breedloves in the gay community. Men who have gone completely insane and lost their mind in an attempt to fit into the Master Narrative and exhibit or at least try to exhibit what they by way of the dominant society and those in control considers acceptable sexuality. Gay men who lie to themselves and others are living a fantasy. Gay men who prefer to be known as straight rather than gay and actively tell others that they are straight have lost their mind. Gay men who put interested in women on profile after profile are living a fantasy. Gay men who pray for their sexuality to be changed, and wish that there was a pill to cure them of their sexuality have gone insane.
When I think about Pecola Breedlove and how she represented the ultimate pathetic human being. I can’t help but notice how she represents thousands if not millions of gay men. So desperate to be validated by the Master Narrative that they choose insanity over loving themselves and recognizing, truly recognizing, the beauty that is inside them.
Pecola Breedlove is a fictional character but the thousands of self hating and closeted gay men are sadly not. They are real people, living real fantasies. Gay men who have gone insane chasing a heterosexual ideal.
I just found out is free to read online in it’s entirety.
The Will To Change: Men, Masculinity, Love by bell hooks
It is my sincere hope that the book is as powerful and as life changing for you as it was for me.
One of my main missions in life is to share and spread knowledge to my black brothers.
So a friend of mine begged me to watch The DL Chronicles and I finally gave in to watching it after having much reservation towards the project based on the name alone. And while the project was problematic and stereotypical it did have some redemptive qualities. But here are some of my thoughts.
1. The majority of the actors in the series skewed heavily to “high yella” and the only time a male lead was dark skinned he was playing the role of the DL man spreading HIV/AIDS around without regard as well as being the hyper sexualized thug…. Was this intentional? IDK.
2. All of the men could have been models for Mens Fitness. Perhaps in the creators world all men have six pack abs? Who knows.
3. When a stereotypically feminine man did appear he was used as a campy prop as opposed to a real person. There were no depictions of so called feminine men as anything other than caricature.
4. All of the “DL” men were tops.
5. There seemed to be an association, at least in the first story with being gay (closeted or out) and the will to cheat on your partner. Now was the creator saying by virtue of being gay men will cheat on their girlfriends with their girlfriends brother and brothers will fuck their sisters boyfriend? Thats the way it came off to me. Because these men were gay they thus had no self respect, self control, and self restraint.
6. Particularly in the last story with Dante and Marcus. After Marcus basically humiliated Dante the moral of a story was a happy ending where in which the four newly authentic gay men could all live happily ever after. I dont know about Dante but there is no way in hell I would tolerate a man who makes me “beef” it up just to appease to some ignorant self hating cousin.
I can admire the creator for telling this story but the series in my opinion did about as much harm as it did help. I will say that the project seemed to be well shot and edited and didn’t seem like an after school special. The actors and actresses were mostly believable in their roles and the production values were on point. There were some continuity errors but overall I thought the production was sound even if its depictions of black gay men wasn’t.
But I am sure the series is digested differently by different authentic and closeted gay men.
Yesterday David Rubenstein (The Carlyle Group) spoke at the DC10 Summit Series and what he cited on aliteracy in the United States was chilling.
Some statistics he cited:
42% of college grads never read another book after graduating.
75% of ppl over 40 haven’t been in a bookstore in 5yrs.
He noted that the overwhelming problem in the United States isn’t illiteracy but rather aliteracy.
Aliteracy: The quality or state of being able to read but uninterested in doing so.
I was talking to one of my professors recently about the decline of the black community. Now I am not by any chance maintaining that the black community was ever perfect, but I do feel like during the early part of the 20th Century the black community was a lot closer than it is now. If you think about the way blacks rallied around each other to begin the civil rights and all of the unity it took to secure those rights we were a community united rather than divided.
Now a days though black on black crime is at an all time high, the black community is fractured lacking in unity, and it seems that each new generation of young blacks have lost their way and are worse than the one that preceded it. I was reading a journal article recently where it stated our current generation of African American will be the first generation since we got to this country to do worse than the preceding us.
My professor is an intelligent man and he’s been teaching for years and he said its just getting worse and worse. He talked about how astonished he is by the level of ignorance of each new class of black students he have. How opposed or ambivalent they are to black liberation. I asked him what did he think was the cause. What went wrong between the period following the Civil Rights Movement and the 1980′s?
My theory is that the black community sold itself to white middle class values and it is this factor that has led to the swift decline of the black community. Where there once was a sense of community, a village mentality, and a collective being has been replaced with a “A long as I get mine” type of mentality. Middle Class values are about accumulating wealth, creating your own island unto yourself. This is why people can buy 5,000 sq feet homes, in the suburbs, gated communities, with 5 bed rooms. Its the sense that there is no community there is anti-community. Blacks today are all about acquiring money and not about building a sense of community, bringing the collective together. Its more me and mines.
I think in order for the black community to be saved we need to reject white middle class values and return to a more traditionally African way of arranging our community. The goal of the Civil Rights Movement was never for Blacks to become White Middle Class replications, but instead to secure equality but also remain a sense of who we are. I think in the aftermath of the Civil Rights Movement so many blacks saw the securing of those rights as salvation, the end to a long road, when in reality it was just another track on the railroad, a continuation. When we get back to this realization I think we can begin the process of healing our community.
Yesterday was Confederate Memorial Day. Groups dedicated to preserving the legacy of the Civil War took to grave yards yesterday to mark the graves of fallen Confederate soldiers. One such group was Daughters of The Confederacy.
Now I understand the need to honor the dead especially when those dead are your ancestors. But I do not understand the notion of honoring a group of people who decided to secede from the United States rather than give up owning slaves. I also don’t agree with using a flag that has come to represent slavery and racism as the symbol you use to honor those soldiers. There are many Confederate Flags to choose from, many of which are not so polarized and racist.
It’s interesting that we have come to a place where glorifying Nazi’s is considered to extreme and is universally frowned upon and yet we tolerate people glorifying those who fought to maintain legalized slavery in the United States.
I’d like to end with this piece of history:
“Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”
– Vice-President of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens
When it comes to Human Sexuality people will fight tooth and nail to avoid the truth. And its no coincidence that a children’s book targeted at the most impressionable, would be everything but the truth. We know that child abuse is real and its poisonous, we know that millions of children over the world are abused sexually at the hands of adults. If the book were simply aiming to open a dialog about abuse with the young that wouldn’t really be an issue. But this should not be an excuse to mislead concerned parents by way of a homophobic book targeted at relying on outdated myths and misconceptions, but thats exactly what happens in the children’s book And Now I Realize I’m Not Gay.
We know that children are very impressionable and you can mold them to believe just about everything. Racist, Sexist, and Homophobes know this and thus try to begin the process of conditioning children to be hateful and bigoted towards those around them. This is the basic premise of the story in And Now I Realize I’m Not Gay.
One of the most common ways people discriminate against homosexuals is by denying them legitimacy. To deny us legitimacy in our sexual orientation is to deny homosexuals as a community legitimacy. Anytime a person or group isn’t seen legitimate the oppression, discrimination, and violence they face can more easily be passed off as acceptable.
The message of the book is simple and relies on many tried and true stereotypes used to debase and demean homosexuals.
Requisite Child Molester/Pedophile.
Add those all together and supposedly what you get is a sexually confused person who “claims” they are gay but are really just you know confused and in need of help. This notion that homosexuality isn’t a legitimate sexual orientation and thus not worthy of respect is one of the main factors of homophobia and heterosexism. Many people simply assume that no one is really gay that gay people are just confused and all the victims of past or present abuse.
Its interesting though that no one ever mentions the thousands of young men and women molested by women and who are still heterosexual. No one mentions the thousands of young men raised by single moms who are heterosexual. No one mentions the thousands of kids raised by two loving, married, heterosexuals and are still gay.
I’ve never been abused.
My parents have been married over 23 years.
They are both heterosexual and alas I am still gay.
There goes that theory.
Books like this are aimed at portraying gay men and women as helpless confused victims and not having legitimate sexual orientations. If this book deserves to not be in schools its because of its homophobia and that alone.
Read more: http://www.collegeclassifieds.com/blog/
Today Bristol Palin appeared on The View as a “spokesperson” for abstinence. You see Bristol is a teen mother and thus is uniquely qualified to speak on the topic of teen pregnancy. But apart of me wonders would this be the case if Bristol Palin was Lakeisha Jackson.
Then it hit me. So I wrote a little poem.
And she’s white.
And she’s attractive?
And she’s able bodied?
And her family is rich.
And she gets appear on The View.
But if she were a woman of color.
But if she were unattractive?
But if she were disabled.
But if she were living in poverty.
But she wouldn’t have been invited to come on The View.
Race and class privilege never fails.
Naomi Campbell is one the most famous super models in the world. She has blazed a trail that few women in modeling industry have been able to achieve. After over 25 years in the business she is as stunning as ever and continuing to change the game. Now this isn’t to say that Naomi hasn’t had her fair share of problems and today she went on Oprah to atone for her past and offer us a glimpse into her life.
Now you may be wondering what race has to do with anything, but as witnessed by the way Black and White blogs covered the Naomi Campbell interview on Oprah, race played an integral part in the reaction to the Naomi interview. Where Black blogs saw Naomi as vulnerable, open, and honest, White blogs saw her as zany, weird, and bizarre.
Take for instance the way a Black blog The YBF (Young, Black and Fabulous) covered the Naomi Interview as opposed to a predominately White blog Jezebel did.
The YBF writes,
“Oprah had the baddest supermodel of them all, Naomi Campbell, on her show today. O asked Naomi how she feels about her actions toward her housekeepers and assistants and cab drivers–all of whom she has lashed out on physically. And Naomi opened up with tears and fears, and exposed a side we rarely see.”
The emphasis of the YBF post is on the strength of Campebll as well as her opening up to Oprah Winfrey and showing a side we rarely see. The YBF highlights the fact that Naomi showed us a more emotional, vulnerable, and contrite side of herself.
Now compare this to Jezebel contributer Tracie who wrote of Naomi Campbell,
“Today, Naomi Campbell took up the full hour of Oprah talking about various aspects of her life (she’s into the Master Cleanse) but O mainly wanted to focus on the supermodel’s notorious tantrums involving kicking, punching, and throwing cellphones.”
The emphasis of the Jezebel post is placed purely on Naomi’s bad behavior and not her vulnerability to do the interview or the fact that she showed us a side of herself we never see. Tracie even makes note that Naomi took up “the full hour,” as if to imply that Naomi Campbell was somehow unfit for the full hour alloted to her.
The Jezebel post also makes light of the fact that Naomi said she is suffering from a mental illness. Tracie writes, “She also admitted that she has some kind of emotional disorder.” The emphasis being here that Naomi Campbell “claims” that she has a mental illness but who really cares if she does or not?
The YBF post closes with respect and appreciation of the interview Naomi has given to Oprah saying,
“One of the most revealing and good interviews I’ve seen Naomi do.”
The Jezebel post ends with a comparison of Naomi giving a tour of her closet to porn.
Now to add some perspective lets see how Jezebel writer Tracie covered another trouble star (Courtney Love) a few days before. Mind you the only seemingly difference between Naomi Campbell and Courtney Love, both trouble stars is that one is a Black woman and the other is a White woman. Tracie writes of Courtney affectionately, describing her as “pleasant” and “lucid,” going on to state how Love has understated makeup, is coherent, and seemed well put together. It’s interesting that the same writer covering similar could take two totally different approaches to how she handled the two women.
A commenter on Jezebel made note of the difference between the way Blacks and Whites were viewed the Naomi interview. User 7andfive writes,
“My African-American female friends loved the interview. Several of them had it their status and all of the comments (by other AA women) incredibly were positive. The focus was more that she’s still trucking at almost 40 and what she’s accomplished as an black model. Not so much on the negative stuff, which seems to be the focus on Jez.”
I enjoy Jezebel and most of the topics that it covers and approaches, but it would be remiss of me to remain silent, without pointing out some of the double standards that crop up on the site. Oftentimes we forget how race privilege informs our everyday lives and how it can influence something as simple as chronicling a TV interview by Naomi Campbell.