I have this awful habit of reading YouTube comments. It’s a dependency that can only be described in totality by R. Kelly’s intro to “Bump N’ Grind” when he yells, “my mind is telling me no, but my body, my body is telling me yes!” Oddly enough, we will get back to R. Kelly later.
With that said, I’m obsessed with a song called Coming Home by Leon Bridges (check the song out here). A couple of months ago, while watching the video in my 1950s-style soul and R&B euphoria, one fact kept dragging me back down to Earth: Leon is black and his love interest is white. Who cares, right? In an ideal, and impossible, post-racial world, maybe that sentiment carries weight. But, knowing the actual world in which we live, I was worried that there might be some backlash for his decision to cast her.
I felt the familiar urge to scroll down and see if thousands of viewers protected by the veil of anonymity would voice their harsh opinions on the matter. The first few comments focused mainly on the music, many commending him on such a thoughtful, heartfelt song. Whew, Leon lives another day. But, like most good things in this world…they must be ruined. A love song turned into a no-holds-barred discussion on black feminine beauty.
The most diluted of the negative feedback concluded with passive disappointment in Leon for acknowledging an ongoing trend of exclusive white beauty. The most jarring comment highlighted the irony that if Leon were actually with a white girl in the time period his music emulates, he would have been strung up. We’re obviously dealing with a wide spectrum of criticism here, but the unifying discovery was that almost all of the disapproval in this range came from black women.
They’re just angry black women right?
I won’t sugarcoat my initial reaction—I felt that in this case, black women were among the most racist demographics in the country. As much as I hate to mention that, it was painfully obvious that many of the other commenters agreed with me. However, I found it increasingly difficult to deny the one-sided nature of the discourse.
Even if I didn’t originally agree with the logic behind their caustic remarks, the argument was clearly black women against the world. Perhaps it was because of this observation that before long, my sentiments shifted. I started to ask myself why they felt the need to speak out in the first place? Even if the criticism is misguided in where it’s directed (Leon Bridges), the motivation behind mustering up the courage to speak up carries weight. Think about anything from Yelp reviews to Comcast surveys—for the most part, the only people participating are people who feel strongly either one way or the other.
You’re more than welcome to disagree, but I don’t think that only anger, intimidation, and jealousy are what fueled the negative responses—it’s deeper than that. Either way, if the discussion is all against one, no one will take the one seriously. It’s like being a liberal anywhere in Indiana that isn’t Indianapolis.
So how do we get into the heads of black women? Simple: ask them.
I interviewed a group of 5 women based on age and race (in this case, black and white). The initial goal of the interviews was to gather perspective on interracial dating. Over the course of the interviews, however, the shear volume and potency of the stances presented would force me to split my focus into two separate parts. Hence, you’re reading part one, which will serve as more of an overview of the perceived opinion of black beauty. Don’t worry though, part two focuses all of it’s energy on interracial dating, so be patient. It’s worth noting that I promised those who participated in the interviews full anonymity. Let’s dive in.
Everyone thinks white women are attractive.
This simple affirmation was a universal topic of agreement amongst my interviewees. “Adorned” was the word that one of them in particular used to get the point across. For many black women, the idolization of the white woman is a constant reminder that they are overlooked. After all, everyone can relate to the unintentional backhanded compliment that serves to remind us of our shortcomings. In this case, “you’re pretty attractive for a [insert race here] girl” could inherently lead one to believe that her race is a detriment to her attractiveness. The follow up question would be: is that true? Now I’m all for unwavering female confidence, but I’m sure that you’ll find a similar answer to that question as when you ask minority women if they’re fed up with hearing “that’s just how the world works.”
Let me be clear that I have no intention of shaming white women, I’m only stating a perceived fact of life. In fact, none of my interviewees placed blame on white women at all, but rather the society that perpetuates stereotypes of black women and their beauty as compared to the norm. When asked about what it feels like to see a black man with a white woman, one of my interviewees said she would assume that black man has decided to buy into what society has told him is beautiful.
“Black men don’t fall into the same society that stereotypes black women”
Simply put, black men have more choices. I’m not afraid to admit that and it comes with a fair amount of guilt that I’m not sure is within my control. One of my interviewees asserted that black women don’t feel like other races find them attractive. The basis for this claim won’t come from looking at other races of men, but rather the men within the race—black men. I’ve seen first hand (as have any black men who have been on a date with a white woman) the hostile looks that coincide with the comments on Leon Bridges’ music video. What if these presumptuous, virtual outbursts aren’t based in racism or full on jealousy, but abandonment? If Beyoncé’s Formation video were solely about feminism, and not black feminism, would there have been as much of a fuss? In a time when gender equality has become an important symbol for unification, black women still find themselves at the bottom of the spectrum.
I’ll return to R. Kelly via a point that one of the interviewees made (obviously before knowing I would use R. Kelly as an anecdote). She claimed (and I’m paraphrasing) that had R. Kelly’s past allegations involved a young white girl, his career would look vastly different than it does now—and that’s if it would exist at all. Admittedly, I hadn’t even thought about that. The discrepancy between a young white girl victim versus a young minority girl victim is a fair debate. Perhaps it’s denying that the discrepancy exists in the first place that secures its truthfulness.
We are taught that white female beauty should be adorned from day one. It’s depicted in just about every medium that exists. How many times have you watched a sporting event on TV where the cameras go out of their way to show a player’s particularly good looking girlfriend in the crowd? How many times is that woman white? The idea becomes lodged in our subconscious mind. So, when faced with the discrepancy between victims, it almost seems illogical to think that anything outside of white beauty would have the same gravitas. Even by definition white is innocence.
We all carry the same cynicism in our head. In fact, I would argue that cynicism is the voice of our generation and I can’t help but find myself increasingly apathetic to the idea. It’s too easy. I’ve encountered indifference from black women for not being “black enough” and, in theory, that sentiment would make it easy to dismiss their complaints, especially when targeted at black men. But, isn’t that type of approach the same as ignoring that a problem exists in the first place? Are there hypocrisies in that problem? Yes, but that’s human. Part two of this examination will discuss some of that hypocrisy in more detail, but the resounding conclusion is always acknowledging that the emotions are founded in truth.
So, for anyone else scouring the comments section of the Coming Home video, stop yourself for a second before you judge the bitter black female giving Leon an earful (eyeful? I don’t know, it’s YouTube). And please, try to remember that at the end of the day, the marginalization of black women in this country is a matter of perception. A perception that seemingly consists of everyone’s opinions but black women themselves.
I was one of the lucky ones.
It was one of my first weekends at Yale. A few of the sophomores invited me and a few of my freshman friends over to their suite before going out on campus for the night. We stepped in and immediately in the first bedroom, I saw a Confederate flag hanging above the fireplace. I stopped in my tracks. Please pardon my language, but my words were, “what the f***?” The room quickly burst into damage control, simply and logically explaining to me why the flag was there. “Oh, I promise you he’s not racist, he just really loves the South.” In an attempt to understand their clearly well thought out logic, I asked, “oh…yeah, well where is he from?” The response: “Massachusetts.”
I was one of the lucky ones because early in my tenure at Yale, I was able to witness that the prestigious university differed little from the “outside world” to which I had already grown accustomed. As pessimistic as it might sound (and I’m a fervent optimist), once I reached that conclusion, it became easier to slip back into the complacency and virtually muted acceptance that a “safe space” doesn’t exist. Not anywhere. Not ever.
Last month I wrote about the unfair, yet realistic world where pulling the race card and tone policing seem to be equivalent evils (see post below). You’re either deemed the “angry Black person” if you choose to speak up and take a stand when you feel wronged, or you’re a judgmental non-factor looking from the outside in, yet refusing to join the cause. I can see the same polar reactions in the current situation at Yale as well and it’s heartbreaking. I’m going to do my absolute best to exist in my own fabricated middle ground between the two. A world where I can honestly critique the actions of my own race, but also wholly support and agree with the cause for which they passionately fight. A world where I make myself susceptible to being known as the privileged both by Black people and White people. The “grey area” if you will.
First and foremost, I’m not sure that a “safe space” exists even amongst ourselves (ourselves meaning Black people). I say this with a pit in my stomach knowing that, in a way, making this particular point could make me a social pariah in my race, but I feel strongly that it needs to be said.
A few weeks ago, The Dean of Yale College, Jonathan Holloway, was approached by a sea of students who voiced their concerns about the racial climate on campus especially with regards to the “safe space” I mentioned earlier. I agree wholeheartedly with just about all of their concerns, and for good reason (see first week of college anecdote above). However, I often found myself at odds with the approach of some of the activists. One student in particular claimed that she was disappointed in Holloway as a Black administrator, and as a Black man. A few other students asserted that they felt as though Holloway had lost touch with the constant struggle that young Black people endure. That he somehow no longer understood their plight.
These toxic claims expose a deeper intraracial issue and inhibit our ability to present any sort of unified front in a war for racial equality. The way that I decipher the “lost touch” sentiment (and I’m well aware that many might see this as a gross oversimplification) is:
Why are you not as Black as me? or You should be as Black as me.
Are you someone that also hates being stereotyped by other people as having voted for Barack Obama simply because he is Black? We should have all voted for Herman Cain and should now all vote for Dr. Ben Carson in this coming election because they should understand the plight, right?
Let’s not forget that a minority student who attended the free speech conference was called a traitor and subjected to being spat on by protestors just like the other attendees. But yes, let’s all stand together in solidarity. We are better than that. We have to be better than that.
As I’m sure anyone who has read the title of this blog (or any of the past posts) knows by now, I feel like a majority of my young life has been spent trying to prove my worth to the race in which I was born. One of my main fears is feeling alienation or a lack of acceptance by my race. Given the current state of racial activism, what was usually a tussle over trivial aspects of life like music or ebonics has now become an issue about whether or not someone is “down for the cause”. At the risk of dealing in an absolute, I’ll take a page from Obi-Wan Kenobi’s book and say that “only a Sith deals in absolutes.” (Honestly that was just because I’m really excited for The Force Awakens)
This “either with me or against me” mentality only serves to polarize the race at a time when we should stand together. One has to question whether there would be as much of a questioning of how Holloway handled things if he weren’t Black. Not only that, but he is the first of his kind. By the logic in question, being disappointed in Holloway as a Black man must also equate to being disappointed in every Black student at the school who was able to rally for the cause and chose not to do so. I have Black friends who don’t like bringing race into issues at all because of how it will be perceived, and even at times because they don’t want to jump to conclusions. Should he or she not be considered “down with the cause” even if they agree with the cause on an ideological level? Should he or she also be labeled as traitorous? Either we admit to flawed logic, or we must admit that Holloway (and perhaps he is discovering this for himself) has been subjected to unwritten and unspoken rules and expectations that come along with being not only the Dean of Yale College, but a Black Dean of Yale College.
You wouldn’t understand because you’re not Black = You wouldn’t understand because you’re not [as] Black [as me].
I can sit here and tell you about how in high school there were basketball games in which I knew I would foul out based on the school we played. Or an umpire telling me that my brother had to throw the ball right down the middle for him to call it a strike. Or about how my dad couldn’t coach my baseball team without other dads undermining his advice to their sons from the bleachers. How about the whispers of affirmative action after I got into Yale? My brother getting called “boy” on the mound by fans, opposing team, and umpire during a game? Or even teammates that have told me point blank that Black women aren’t attractive (and even the ones who disagree with this claim could never take one home to their parents).
Is this what we want from Holloway? A list of all of the trials he’s been through so that it can be determined he understands “the struggle”. When did the prerequisite for Black support and activism become a dick measuring contest of racial atrocities? Is there any other race that does this to each other? I find myself unsure of the answer. One of the main cases against the activists has been that they are privileged and coddled children unable to cope with the hardships of the “real world”. Part of this comes from the Ivy League legacy and often opulent backgrounds of the students, but the other part comes from a willingness to avoid and even condemn opposing ideas without even confronting them. Let it be known that I do not agree with the coddled argument at all, however, it unveils an important point. How are we, within the race, any different from the conservative onlooker who claims we are privileged? We have made the same discriminatory assertions that cause our own pain, to the people we want to join us in solidarity. Maybe, just maybe, it takes someone relating to your hardship on a human level, rather than an assumed racial one to both rally and strengthen support.
Don’t worry, I promise I’m staying in my middle ground.
The lack of a true”safe space” is obviously not only a by-product of intraracial dissent, but also a by-product of interracial ignorance. In this particular case, I don’t necessarily mean ignorance in a classic sense, although I will get into that as well. I mean interracial ignorance in a highly potent and detrimental sense — in terms of to whom it applies.
I was sent the below article from a friend and it is perhaps the closest I’ve come to finding something that circumscribes my life sentiments regarding race.
John Metta wrote the piece and he covers quite a bit, but I will focus on a few essential points. I recommend reading the entire article, but I’m about as biased as they come in this case (and I will quote the article heavily).
“The only difference between people in The North and people in The South is that down here, at least people are honest about being racist.”
The older I’ve gotten, the more this statement (made by Metta’s sister to his aunt) seems to hold true, especially in terms of ignorance. Many of us, of all colors, have run into the blatant, no remorse racist whose actions we simply attribute to pure ignorance. If we’re going based on the above claim, this racist individual is honest in that he or she doesn’t know any better. The alternative here, to me, is the reason that many of our efforts to create any semblance of a true egalitarian society always seem to fall short: the ignorant educated. Metta calls the individual (in this case his aunt) “a northerner, a liberal, a good person who has Black family members.” This person is unaware of their own inherent racism and yet will debate you ad nauseam about how you, as a black person, should feel. Let me elaborate.
“To understand, you have to know that Black people think in terms of Black people. We don’t see a shooting of an innocent Black child in another state as something separate from us because we know viscerally that it could be our child, our parent, or us, that is shot…Black people think in terms of we because we live in a society where the social and political structures interact with us as Black people.”
“White people do not think in terms of we. White people have the privilege to interact with the social and political structures of our society as individuals…They are supported by the system, and so are mostly unaffected by it. What they are affected by are attacks on their own character. To my aunt, the suggestion that “people in The North are racist” is an attack on her as a racist. She is is unable to differentiate her participation within a racist system (upwardly mobile, not racially profiled, able to move to White suburbs, etc.) from an accusation that she, individually, is a racist. Without being able to make that differentiation, White people in general decide to vigorously defend their own personal non-racism, or point out that it doesn’t exist because they don’t see it…Black children grow up early to life in The Matrix. We’re not given a choice of the red or blue pill. Most white people, like my aunt, never have to choose. The system was made for White people, so White people don’t have to think about living in it.”
I apologize for the lengthy quote, but not only does this outlook espouse my personal feelings, it is also essential in understanding the innate flaw in the argument for free speech. In theory, yes, free speech should be upheld and treated as one of our sacred rights. But, I argue that we should also understand that there are social norms and moral obligations that come along with that free speech. Former governor of Vermont Howard Dean took this approach when commenting on the situation at Yale (http://yaledailynews.com/blog/2015/11/09/dean-with-rights-go-obligations/).
We can’t ignore the fact that society, over time, determines what is acceptable and what isn’t acceptable. And as society becomes increasingly secular, morals are based either on an individual’s own perception of good, bad, right, and wrong, or their religious beliefs. Free speech isn’t some black-and-white entity (no pun intended) that either works one way or the other (remember the Sith?). Somehow over the years, the argument for free speech has gone the way of the equally deplorable “slippery slope” argument. “If we allow one thing, we have to allow all things.” I’ve accepted the fact that if someone is truly racist and wants to call me the n-word, I can’t stop that. But, I also understand that within a particular context, the n-word has been deemed offensive by modern society. In short, just because this person can say the n-word, doesn’t mean I can go around and use racial slurs to everyone else. I have both a moral obligation to those around me based on my upbringing, as well as a moral obligation to the norm created by society. It’s important to understand that regardless of whether or not a true “safe space” is achievable.
However, perhaps the most terrifying notion that Metta touches on is that the society of which I speak, operates with White people as the norm. While all of the “angry Black people” are being coddled and attempting to take away everyone’s free speech with whom they disagree, Metta highlights the irony. He posits that “no calmly debating White people want to admit: The entire discussion of race in America centers around the protection of White feelings.” Essentially, the argument for free speech, unbeknownst to those who fervently defend it, is actually an attempt to coddle those same people. It’s an attempt to make White people feel more safe in a world that already exists to keep them safe, and has kept them safe for years. Who’s really being coddled here according to their argument?
If the situation does still seem like the complaints of privileged Ivy League kids, I leave you with a quote from one of my best friends from college, unearthing the dilemma of these so-called “privileged”. He claims that “if you’re at Yale, you can always say, ‘hey, I’m not going to let this bother me, I’ll be fine,’ but at the same time, you’re like ‘this is Yale, these people are going to be powerful, influential people all over the world and a ton of them are ignorant as f***. I need to say something.'”
In order for any real change to happen, the ignorant have to become cognizant of their ignorance. Let me clarify, using one last quote from Metta. It’s not so much that White people are ignorant of the fact that they are inherently seen as “normal”, but rather, according to Metta, they “are complicit in this racism because [they] benefit directly from it.” It seems as though Black people are a continuous synecdoche, grouped together as one for the crimes of particular individuals; whereas, for White people, that individual was simply a bad egg that didn’t represent the rest of the whole. Even outside of crime, all of those Black people who blindly voted for Barack represent all of the Black people who voted, right?
Change will come on a case by case basis and will surface from those willing to see that they benefit from a system constructed for them. Speaking out against that system will be the task at hand, and some will obviously want to remain ignorant. After all, how many times have we thought to ourselves, “well that doesn’t really affect me?”
And you know what? I could be completely wrong. Yale came out with a detailed plan on how they are going to change the culture at the school (https://messages.yale.edu/messages/University/univmsgs/detail/129760). It can easily and correctly be argued that the multitude of planned changes are a direct result of the student activists, which I’m fine with. Only time will tell whether the new diversity program will lead a few of the previously ignorant to participate. It’s tough to describe how I feel hopeful and skeptical at the same time. However, a step in the right direction is better than nothing.
As long as intraracial dissent and interracial ignorance (specifically amongst the educated) continue, the “safe space” that people so long for will never come to fruition. The two will continue to inhibit it’s creation so that it only exists in theory as the end goal. The “safe space” will be akin to the desire for general world peace. One can always work towards it but he or she will never really get there as long as human nature remains consistent.
I’M AN ASSHOLE
Yes, you read that correctly (cue jokes from friends saying “Cam, I already knew that”). But, in recent times I have seriously come to this conclusion. For two reasons, both of which pretty much imply that there’s no way that I can’t be an asshole (which is also a realization that could only come from an asshole, a pessimistic one at that). I promise you that I will explain why.
I’m in a knock-down-drag-out fight with social media right now. The fight has only been exacerbated by the upcoming election which may or may not make me take a break from social media. That being said, some posts just don’t make sense in the context of other posts.
For example: it makes no sense to see a post about how the government shouldn’t do anything because we shouldn’t trust it, and follow it with a pro-life, anti-abortion post. Couple that with a post about how you don’t watch the news or read the newspaper because it spews lies, then another about which politician should win the election, and you’ve covered all your bases.
How would you even know who should win if you don’t watch or read the news? Did you attend a rally for that candidate in person? My initial thought is probably not until proven otherwise.
Those are more serious examples, but this one also kept popping up in my newsfeed a few weeks ago:
Are you serious!? Technically isn’t he providing the media about “that sub eating guy” by posting this? Anyway, I won’t get into that issue too much, but it does provide a great transition into the first reason why I’m an asshole:
Reason #1: The Race Card
The issue stems from this question:
Why can’t we still do that? Read: why can’t we still call people on their racism (mostly when blatant)?
This is a legitimate issue and it all starts with “the race card”. I thought back to World History class my freshman year of high school when I heard the ever so eloquently put phrase “well, racism doesn’t really exist anymore.” I can’t even remember what chapter we were learning about but apparently it was the chapter when pigs flew, unicorns pranced about in fairy inhabited forests, and marijuana was legal everywhere (even the South). Maybe the Ottoman Empire? Either way, I looked to my left, then to my right, the one other black guy in my grade was nowhere to be found. I had to pull the dreaded race card, which today just means you’re taking a giant sports-proverbial “L” for black people if you are, like me, often the only black person present when a race card is pulled (most of the time by you or the one white person who always feels like they need to speak up for you).
You immediately become the race card asshole in just about every attempt to pull the race card on a serious issue. Granted, I do jokingly pull the race card on a good amount of trivial issues, but it’s exactly that, a joke. Either way, you’re threatening to disrupt a society where racial discussions have become taboo.
To return to the Bill Cosby example (even though I disagree with the post), no matter what the motives were of the person who created it, [according to modern society] that person is an asshole because they pulled the race card. I don’t agree with the post at all, but the example is important because my disdain for it brings me to reason number two why I’m an asshole (perhaps the more interesting of the two):
Reason #2: Tone policing
I read an article the other day (above) that claimed that people need to stop tone policing each other. I had no idea what this meant so I read on. Essentially, the article said that the people who are consistently sitting behind the scenes and judging how other people choose to voice their opinion about whatever issue, are inhibitors. Read: Cam, this is you, you’re an inhibitor.
I’m not a fan of premature judgment but the hypocrisy is palpable. What I’m doing is taking those people who take that race card and actually do something with it and claiming that they aren’t doing it right (see Bill Cosby example above). See what I mean by asshole? How sweet it would be to have one of those race card pulling assholes by my side as I shovel these “L’s” into premature graves because let’s face it, they never had a chance from the start.
In the context of sports:
Growing up in Indiana there was always that question of “is this coach not playing me because I’m black, or because he doesn’t think I’m good enough?” This is one of the worst ‘slippery slope’ questions that I feel like one can ask in our “post-racism/black president world.” (Both legitimate present day examples I’ve heard with my own ears). I think you’d be surprised how many black people would say they’ve asked themselves that question, especially in sports like baseball, or any sport really depending on where you’re from. It’s easy to deny and even provide ulterior motives to legitimize the decision. But, when you’re in the minority, it’s almost impossible to prove without having your complaints fall on deaf ears.
LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson recently left the Eagles, claiming that Chip Kelly was racist. I will be honest here, my first thought is skepticism. They could be angry about contracts or something else, especially at the superstar level. But, what if they’re right? The alternative that no one wants to entertain would now be truth. Would anybody even listen to them? Would any action be taken barring some sort of monumental Donald Sterling screw up? Just something to think about.
So, my choices (as nihilistic as they may be):
Pull the race card (active) = ASSHOLE
Judge pulled race cards from afar (passive) = ASSHOLE
Funny to think about, but in all seriousness, a terrible situation to be in. You’re either “the boy who cried wolf” or you’re the person who didn’t believe him and did nothing when the wolf actually came. Is it better to just believe the boy every time he calls wolf? If I knew the answer to that, I wouldn’t be writing this.
But don’t take my word for it, I’m just an asshole.
P.S. maybe post once a month? I don’t know.
I’m currently in the middle of reading a New York Times Bestseller called How To Be Black by Baratunde Thurston (props to my friend Brea Johnson who put me on to it). Which, can we talk about this? Should I, as a black man, be offended by the fact that another black friend suggested I read a book entitled “How To Be Black”? Is it some subtle way of saying, “you need this more than I do” with a soft pat on the shoulder as they slowly back away. I wasn’t offended, of course, I’m not that crazy. Although I do feel like the decorum involved in passing the book from one person to another should be clarified and/or discussed (perhaps via The Black Panel described in the book). If a white person had handed me the book I’m sure my head would’ve just exploded from the complexity of the situation. But, I digress.
In short, the book is enthralling and believe it or not, it’s accessible to everyone. I promise this isn’t me trying to trick you into reading some militant, Afro-centric book that will make you feel uncomfortable. In fact, I’m saving that for a later date because that concept is hysterical to me. The book well-written and satirical, but above anything else, thought-provoking.
SIDE NOTE: Yes, I am aware it’s been quite literally a year since I last posted. It’s fun to write these, but certainly harder to keep up with it than one would think. Something for which I certainly wasn’t prepared. But, let’s not linger on my shortcomings, which I’m sure are far more enjoyable for you to hear about than for me to acknowledge.
Let’s get back to it. In one of the early chapters, Thurston asks the question:
“When did you first realize you were black?”
Upon first reading it, I sort of felt embarrassed at the question. The embarrassment came from the fact that it had never crossed my mind before and it’s such a poignant question. I powered through the chapter and then gave it some real thought for myself. One of the people that he had asked claimed that their answer came from something their mother told them, so I feel comfortable using a similar example in my life.
According to my mom, when I was really young, we’ll say 6 or 7 years old, I was at my brother’s youth baseball game. For me, the experience was much more playing on the playground than actually watching my brother’s game (cut me some slack, you don’t know the allure of the jungle gym where these games were played). Aside from being a terrible fan and pillar of support for my brother’s trials as a young ball player, I was trying to be social and make friends because I always wanted to be the center of attention. Keep in mind that this is Northeast Indiana and we were one of the only black families that decided baseball was a great choice for coming of age sport.
So, apparently while playing on the playground, one of the kids I was friends with let slip that his dad didn’t like black people. Thinking I was the smartest kid on the planet (which obviously, I was), I decided the best method of action was to confront the kid’s father about it in front of everyone.
[Kid’s name] told me you don’t like black people. Why?
Again, according to my mom, what ensued was an insanely awkward moment for everyone as essentially this grown man had to explain to a 7 year old why he wasn’t racist. Do I wish that I actually remembered the entire exchange? Absolutely, but we all can’t get what we want. I’m sure this man and my younger self went skipping off into the sunset after his response was deemed adequate.
For the record, I was once told when I was younger that I looked like G-Baby from the movie Hardball. ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS. Google it and tell me I’m wrong. I should start a new blog only focusing on the fact that all cute little black kids don’t look the same. G-Baby was a great character though so I guess I should be honored?
All jokes aside, that’s crazy to think about. One singular moment that somehow defines what eventually becomes part of your identity (or at least as much of a part it as one wants it to be). Perhaps an even more interesting question is “do other kids have similar realizations?” On Thurston’s Black Panel, he cleverly added a Canadian white guy, not only for comedic purposes, but also for perspective and a control group.
It makes sense to me for minorities growing up in an area dominated by another race, but I started thinking even from a white perspective of when they realize that other kids are different. So many of the testimonials from the panel in the book were centered on the dominant race being the driving force in their realization, but what about white kids growing up in Saudi Arabia? And I don’t even know where I would start with South African children and the apartheid of it all. Just a thought.
That’s only after 63 pages of reading. I can also get into how, after 63 pages of reading, my mind tangentially took me to the conclusion that I am an asshole, but perhaps that is for another post.
So what now?
Well, I’ll probably finish this book. I flipped through some of the titles of other chapters and it looks like there is much more fun to be had within its pages. The chances are I will recommend this book to you and you will nod your head and say “yeah, I’ll definitely give it and try,” and then do nothing of the sort. You’re not mean, you’re just like 97% of everyone else in this world (including myself because I’m not that high and mighty). Look, I’m even giving you a link to the Wikipedia and Amazon pages for you to look at intently:
It feels good to be doing this again, hopefully a little bit more consistently than a year ago.
I’m briefly breaking my hiatus from blogging to share an interesting conversation I had this morning at work.
It started with a story:
I was in Spanish class my senior year of high school and somehow, in an otherwise incredibly boring class, the subject matter had switched to music (that’s música in Spanish). I don’t remember exactly how we ended up at the subject of Queen, but it happened nonetheless. Have you ever had one of those moments when you’ve made a comment and every single person in the room turns to eye you in judgement in unison? Well that’s exactly what happened to me when I asked, what I thought at the time, innocuous question:
Who is Queen?
Every cliché you can possibly think of occurred in 5 seconds. A pencil dropped on a desk, a girl gasped and covered her mouth in awe, even the teacher, probably mid to late 50s, took off her glasses and shook her head in disappointment. I can’t even remember the actual grade I received in this class at the end of the year, but this particular day, it was an F.
After what seemed like an eternity, I’m sure some soccer player (they were/are the most popular kids in my high school with no football team) said:
“Dude, are you serious?”
And the simple answer is yes, I was.
Now, don’t get me wrong, had I heard We Are The Champions? Absolutely, I mean how do you call yourself a D2: The Mighty Ducks fan without knowing that song belts during the end credits? You know, the movie where they add some black kids to the team so they can beat Iceland? And I definitely knew Bohemian Rhapsody as “that weird song where they kind of don’t speak real English,” so I was sitting high. The problem was, I couldn’t tell you what the name of the band was, nor their song library. Is this my fault for not understanding what a good amount of my friends would call “universal” music? Perhaps. But what I found this morning was that it opened up an entire discussion about race, musical preference, and one’s upbringing.
Anyone who knows me will know that my first response to this was:
“Black people don’t listen to Queen?”
This is unfounded and a complete generalization, but sadly carries with it some truth. If I asked the friends that I grew up with, I would say that a good amount of them wouldn’t be able to name a Queen song without being given some clue such as, “you hear this a lot at sporting events.” Queen was never played in my house growing up (excluding the aforementioned end to D2). Was it a generational difference that kept me from appeasing my work friends with a wider range of musical knowledge? I had to know.
So I got curious. And went to http://classicrockbands.net/top-100-classic-rock-bands/
This is the Top 10 Classic Rock Bands of all time (according to this website I googled):
- The Beatles
- The Rolling Stones
- The Who
- Pink Floyd
- The Kinks
- The Hollies
- The Beach Boys
- The Monkees
- The Doors
- Van Halen
Analysis (besides the fact that all but two are a “The”):
If I hadn’t known The Beatles I would understand the scrutiny, regardless of the fact that I can only say I like a few of their songs. Also despite an odd obsession with Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (I mean the song, not LSD, come on you’re better than that). However, a good number of these can be classified as “heard the name, couldn’t name their songs, but probably have heard their songs”. I know that’s a long category name but bear with me here, I haven’t had my afternoon coffee. Within that category would be 2, 3, 4, and 9.
5, 6, and 8 I have no idea who they are and haven’t even heard of the names.
Van Halen (10) I know partially because of an absolutely shredded guitar solo in Michael Jackson’s Beat It (we will get into MJ later), as well as the fictional character Valhallen from Dexter’s Lab growing up. Don’t ask me how I put two and two together, I just did.
At this point I bet you’re wondering, “what about number 7, the beloved Beach Boys?” Well, when you steal your music from a talented black guy named Chuck Berry, you don’t get dignified with a response in Top Classic Rock Bands of all time. But let’s all just turn a blind eye.
To sum it all up, Queen came in at a solid number 92, so here’s to not feeling so bad for myself.
Back to the issue at hand.
Let’s think about who was listening to what.
I remember my mom once told me that there was white radio and black radio right around the tail end of the 60s, 70s, and even in some ways, the 80s. Given the tail end of the Civil Rights movement, it’s understandable that that might have been the case. It wasn’t done on purpose, there was no Jim Crow radio, that was just how things were. What I’m trying to get at is that “classic rock” would not be considered a part of our generation’s music. It is a genre that simply maintained popularity and was passed down over time. If that is the case, knowing that radio was not universal, it would make sense that I was never made privy to the stylistic playings of Deep Purple. (I chose a name from the list whom I had never heard of)
So then how do we bridge the gap?
My argument would be that Michael Jackson was one of the most, if the the most unifying musical artist of all time. I wholeheartedly believe that there would be a significant difference between the amount of people (of all races, creeds, and nationalities) that know who Michael Jackson is than say the guy my baseball team loved to exalt, Bruce Springsteen.
That’s no knock in Bruce. The reactions I have seen from people when his music comes on are ones of pure jubilation. I only ask that I not be asked to share that same sentiment simply because in someone’s opinion, “everyone knows Bruce is the king.”
Try a social experiment. Sample people from as many races and backgrounds as you can and see which person they find is more popular. Of course, don’t tell people you’re doing this because they will undoubtedly think you’re the weirdest person on the planet, but you get my point.
Also, be glad I kept Michael Jackson to one paragraph. I could’ve gone on for days. I wasn’t given a choice except to love him considering the first song I heard out of the womb was Billie Jean (my mother made sure of that).
Our generation (for the sake of this let’s say age 15 to 30)
I work with some exceptionally smart people (who probably think I’m an idiot). Yes, now everyone on the internet knows that I didn’t know what a cherub was or what abridged meant (the latter much more foolish), but hey you win some and you lose some. Or in life at an agency, you win some and you lose most.
That being said, the comparison was made between classic rock and rap music. When asked to name some rap groups or individuals integral to what rap is now, I was impressed to see that most people in my corner either knew or had heard about each group or individual, barring the Kurtis Blow’s of the world.
So then, what the hell, Cam? You should know more about classic rock.
I probably should know more about Classic Rock music, but I don’t think it makes any one person more cultured than another.
It could be argued that rap music is the most universal type of music of our generation. In my opinion, certainly more universally accepted than classic rock is, was, or will ever be. It would be interesting to see what a simple random sample from our generation would come up with when asked to make a playlist of their favorite 25 songs from 1965-1985. However, I don’t think it will be surprising that those preferences will be based on a great number a variables including race, generation, and upbringing.
At the end of the day, preference wins over all. To be completely candid, most of the classic rock songs that I hear just simply don’t elicit any emotion in me. Guitar Hero 2 helped bridge that gap a little, I even added an Avenged Sevenfold heavy metal song (Beast and the Harlot) to my iPod simply because of that game. But, it takes a very particular sound to excite me in the world of classic rock. The odd thing about it is that is a very wide range of particular sounds (again, bear with me on the fact that that previous statement BARELY made sense, I feel like I’m in the beginning of a 5 Hour Energy commercial).
People are allowed to say that don’t like rap music because they don’t like how it sounds, so I should also be able to say that classic rock sits further down my list of musical genres for the same reason.
Now Playing: Black or White by Michael Jackson
My friend at work showed me an interesting article the other day as a way of poking fun of my Ivy League background (something I’ve grown accustomed to). It was then posted by two other friends of mine on Facebook, both of whom provided impressively detailed and intellectual commentary on the article.
Here is the link if you want to read: http://www.newrepublic.com/article/118747/ivy-league-schools-are-overrated-send-your-kids-elsewhere
(As you can see, the title is pretty self-explanatory)
This post is NOT my take on this article – rather a thought that it provoked, one I’ve had since I was accepted into college.
Before I go on, there’s something you have to know about me. There are very few things that make me feel insecure. I find it somewhat easy to be self-deprecating (mostly for comedic purposes), but now after seeing that on paper, having that trait could easily be construed as an in security in and of itself. But, I will leave that to all of you to muse.
I can’t stand telling people where I went to school – to be incredibly candid. It’s one of my legitimate fears.
It started as a playful, post graduation “eh” when people asked me how I felt about it, but now I try to keep it a full blown secret until the very last moment when I’m forced to come clean (which, of course, makes me look like a bigger jerk than flaunting it from the get go).
Today, I say: yes, I went to Yale, and yes I feel indifferent about the whole situation.
“Dude, you must be so smart”
While at school, I met some of the most intelligent people I will likely ever meet, along with some of the most idiotic.
Buddy, we just met. Don’t you think it makes sense to observe a little before you make the lofty claim that I am wildly more intelligent than the people around me? Do you know what that does? It puts people under a microscope.
“…and this guy went to Yale?”
Always a great feeling hearing that phrase. I’ve never been one to sugarcoat my situation, though. Two things helped me get into an Ivy League school: I played a sport (baseball) and yes, you guessed it, I’m a minority.
What benefit does it do to “act” the part if every slip up in logic or knowledge brings on a waterfall of jokes and criticism? You learn to laugh at yourself. I’m horrific at doing quick math in my head. Every feeble attempt to split a dinner check is like getting a participation trophy.
“Hey, you tried.”
Needless to say I’ve mastered the, “I’ll cover it all and you guys can just pay me back” move. Rough on the wallet, but a great way to make true, life-long friends. On the upside, I’ve built up a ton of IOU’s…so I’ve got that going for me. My mom used to promise my brother and I IOU’s (yet to be paid), and no, your hard work getting us into good schools and helping us become the men we are doesn’t count.
My SAT and ACT scores would probably frustrate you.
I wish I could share with you the mental photographs of the faces people gave me when my college was announced in high school (they weren’t good faces). Part of me loved and thrived on the reactions, I had a chip on my shoulder. The other part of me thought, “wow, some of these people truly hate me because of one college decision.” They felt slighted.
Well, read the above article and find solace in the fact that not going to an Ivy League school is not the end of the world. Perhaps you’re even better off.
“If I went there, I would be tellin’ everybody!”
One of my friends from back home said this. Dreams of walking into a club in slow motion with a Yale polo on and having every girl interested in you are exactly that – dreams. Actually, pipe dreams. That might work for some, but certainly not all.
Who could forget that graduation party I went to where somehow going to Yale made me the whitest black guy in the room. That wasn’t even about intellect, but rather the social stigma attached to the Ivy League.
I would go to the YMCA to play basketball and my nickname was immediately Carlton. I didn’t care, I still competed, laughed, and had fun, it’s just who I was. And considering I haven’t changed much since playing basketball last winter, maybe it’s who I still am.
Now when I go to the Y, I like to roll out of the parking lot with my windows down and ratchet rap music playing. Stereotypical, absolutely. But it’s an interesting experience to have people in the gym read my Yale shirt and call me Carlton, then watch the judgmental looks of people watching me go with obnoxiously loud rap music. Maybe that’s just how my mind works.
Honestly, I’m not sure I’ll ever understand the direct correlation between higher education and how it makes someone “white.” It’s like a refusal to change a stereotype by deciding that the only logical conclusion is to wholly buy into it.
The eerie truth
I disagree with a good amount of the above-mentioned article, but it also touches on the eerie truth.
I do not believe that the Ivy League is all it is cracked up to be.
In the working world, when everyone is forced to make a name for his or her self, no one cares where you went to school. They care about how hard you work and what type of person you are.
I work in the entertainment industry and have had my fair share of eyes raise when someone finds out where I went to school, but after a while it grows stale. Some Ivy Leaguers can hack it and others can’t. The reasons for dismissal are all-inclusive as well, some because they can’t deal with the demeaning nature of the job, and others, yes, are not smart enough and do not have the common sense to keep up with the pace of it all.
After my freshman year in college, I returned home to countless questions from my friends. One girl asked me what I wanted to major in. My immediate answer was “film studies”. I’ve never seen a face go from happy and smiling to concerned so quickly. “But, what are you gonna DO with that?”
Find a way
It’s not intellect alone that drives one to be successful (in whatever your personal definition of success is), it’s who you are as a person.
My dad has engrained in my mind that knowing how to treat people with respect and be liked is of paramount importance (I got that phrase from my current boss – love it). Anyone who is close to me has heard me say this before and I’ll say it again:
I would rather be considered an idiot who people like and respect for who I am, than be considered someone of divine intelligence who people hold to some highly exalted, unreachable standard.
This is not to say that I am not proud of my achievements. I am very proud of what I’ve done, but that pride comes from the person I feel like Yale made me. My college experience is far different than any other person I went to school with, not because I’m special, but because we have different goals and expectations for our lives.
The Ivy League was created by us and is condemned by us. It means nothing.
But it is really fun to think about.
As I write this post, I’m listening to George Strait’s It Just Comes Natural. You know, because he’s the king.
Of course that song has nothing to do with this post, I just thought you should know. Also, it will make this post that much more weird knowing that song is playing in the background.
So, Pretty Ricky.
I tweeted this the other day: “You could legitimately make a case that Pretty Ricky should take some blame for the rise in teenage pregnancy.”
Ignoring the wildly inappropriate nature of the tweet, I think we can elaborate on our taste in music when we were about 13 years old.
Given a conversation I had at brunch today, I feel like you should know the names of Pretty Ricky’s members:
Baby Blue, Spectacular, Pleasure P, and Slick’em
Not only are these names phenomenal, they’re perfectly fitting for the racy, raunchy music they created in the mid to late 2000s.
So, Grind With Me came on in my car the other day and got me thinking: “What the hell was I listening to in my early teens?”
You would think that the tail end of the chorus is enough with the emphatic “now come and sex me till your body gets weak.” But trust me it gets far worse. Here’s Grind With Me lyrics:
Go crazy and understand that this is tame for Pretty Ricky, their other songs are even more ridiculous.
I was 13.
How does one defend Pretty Ricky?
“I just listen to it for the beat.”
Although I’m a firm proponent of this, no, you don’t. Think about the number of songs you really love. Songs that you simply cannot skip when they come on your iPod. Now, of those songs, think of the ones you legitimately don’t know any of the lyrics to. The answer is probably none.
Even hipsters who claim, “these lyrics are so stupid, I like them ironically” can understand that EVERYONE loves to belt “POPPED A MOLLY I’M SWEATIN'” when All Gold Everything comes on. No matter how idiotic the lyrics are, we listen to them and they factor into whether or not we like a song.
When Grind With Me comes on, no part of the chorus goes unsung and we’ve been doing it since we were pre-teens. I would say that’s somewhat problematic but the jubilation I feel whenever I hear the song provides a strong deterrent to those sentiments.
“Kids don’t do everything songs tell them to”
They kinda do. Have you heard the phrase YOLO lately? Thanks for that one Drake.
As I get older, I am faced with having to look back at the foolishness that was my teenage years. I can’t help but think about that time I lost my favorite hat sticking my head out of a sunroof trying to be cool like rappers. Maybe you were completely put together and composed at 13, but I DEFINITELY wasn’t (and I’m still not). Kids are impressionable, and I guess after what I just said I have to add in that so are 22-year-olds.
I remember the first time a girl “attempted” to grind with me. It was hectic, stressful, “my mind was telling me no, but my body, my body was telling me yes” (that is R. Kelly’s Bump and Grind – he knew what was up).
The 7th grade dance was all going according to plan. I had already picked out the song I wanted to break dance to (I used to spin on my head at school dances – middle school was an odd time for me) and I had studied up on all the popular dances so I could bust ’em out at a moment’s notice. Apparently for the girl I was dancing “near” (key word – near), the time for innocent, honest and true face-to-face dancing was over. She was ready to kick it up a notch. She turned her back to me and ever so slightly arched her back and stuck her butt out towards me. As she inched closer and closer, I panicked. I knew what was happening and I wasn’t ready for it. I had seen it in the Turn Me On video by Kevin Lyttle but never in a million years did I think I would have to deal with it so soon. The immediacy of it petrified me.
Moments later I’m in the bathroom splashing water on my face – it was too real for me. Of course, I used an opportune “white people song” to escape. Side note: there were in fact white songs and black songs. I can’t make this up, the races would legitimately split up based on the song that was on. At the time I was afraid to admit that I liked some of the white songs, so I would walk out with the rest of my friends when they came on. Because being a follower is cool, right?
When I look back, all I can think about is how insanely disgusting it must have been to be a chaperone at these dances and watch kids from 12-14 humping each other in clothes like they saw on TV. I’m sure they had nothing better to do on a random Friday night.
“They’re not the only ones”
Let’s be honest, there really is no excuse for Pretty Ricky. There’s also no excuse for why unedited Pretty Ricky songs were played at my school dances but take that up with Fort Wayne Community Schools.
Obviously Pretty Ricky is not to blame for the rise in teenage pregnancy. Someone also told me they thought the number of teenage pregnancies had fallen, but who does actual research before they say something completely unfounded on Twitter am I right?
As untouchable as Usher is, do we really need to discuss the song “Nice and Slow” or “You Make Me Wanna.” Seriously, Usher made a song where he says “you make me wanna leave the one I’m with and start a new relationship, with you, this is what you do.” What? No, this is not what you do. Perhaps I need to make another post about Usher songs and divorce rates. (How’s that for founded research?)
Kids are impressionable but they’re not dumb. Pretty Ricky never made me want to go out and sleep with every single girl I saw. Again, I was 13. Also, some girls still had cooties and I wasn’t trying to get involved with that.
I’m also sure that Pretty Ricky didn’t plan on having countless pre-teens taking every last word to heart.
If anything, it’s a testament to just how powerful music can be. I still remember how the song made me feel and I associate it with part of growing up. It’s not until now that I truly realize how questionable the lyrics were. Lord knows what will come from what kids are listening to now. How will EDM shape the next generation of kids? (Besides making them all want to do copious amounts of drugs)
At the end of the day, you just have to sit back and laugh at how ridiculous it all was. I mean Juvenile made a song called “Back That Azz Up.” Yes, with two Z’s because he wanted to be considerate to our youth. I mean using to S’s there is just in bad taste.
In some ways we can control who we become and in other ways we can’t. However, I don’t think Pretty Ricky songs are high on the list of influential, formative aspects of life.
I only ask that you think of me every time you decide to throw in Bluestars or Late Night Special.
So, I joined Hinge last week, described by a friend as “the classy Tinder.” This week I’m slowly realizing that I joined much to my own chagrin, which, of course, should be read: “I have no matches.” Normally I would post a picture of myself here and say something like, “see, not a bad looking guy.” But, unfortunately, I just started this blog and have idea how to do anything yet. So, for the time being you’ll just have to trust me when I say that I’m not ugly.
Let’s dive in, shall we?
1) Never take the advice of your peers who don’t understand the lives of normal-looking people. Throughout my life, I’ve had a knack for being best friends with the Adonises of the the world. Or would the plural be Adoni? Either way, the point is, I have good-looking friends who seem to think that their fantasy life can be applied universally to us “normies.” This is all knowledge that I wish I had been introspective enough to know before creating this profile, but instead, I went to one of my good-looking friends for advice. After countless hours of sending and receiving picture messages on my phone, we finally agreed on the ordering of my pictures (he didn’t completely support it). I decided to be honest on the sight and give my height. I’m a short guy, but have been told I do not carry myself as such. The jury is still out on whether that can be considered a positive. Nevertheless, “no matches” changes a man, and subsequently the ordering of his pictures. I’ve fumbled around with my pictures about 8 times, thought about taking my height down, but ultimately decided to submit to the whim of my good-looking friend who provided lots of reassuring “dude, trust me” pick-me-ups in the process. According to him the matches should start “flowing in,” but I remain skeptical.
2) Are there any black people on Hinge? I’ve seen ONE black girl so far. Don’t get me wrong, I find all races attractive and have dated multiple races, but I honestly don’t see an understandable reason for this. Someone came at me pretty aggressively the other day and said “well, it’s based on your friends of friends, maybe you just don’t know many black people.” As much as it pains me to do it, this elicits the same response as someone trying to prove they aren’t racist. Simply put, I have black friends. Whether you’re white or black, life isn’t some tally of the amount of black people we know. I feel like sometimes people make it out to be that someone either hangs with black people all the time or not at all. Surprise! There is in fact a middle ground. People exist who can fit into both circles, you know, because we are human beings who can make our own decisions on with whom we associate. All tangental rants aside, I was a bit disappointed in the lack of diversity in choice. Hinge says that over time they will start to recognize your preferences based on your favorites. Seems like everyone’s favorites are going to end up being California blonde girls (if you are in the LA location).
3) Where do we go from here? (if your mind naturally said “turn all the lights down now” after reading that, we are going to be great friends – for those who don’t know, that would be Feeling This by Blink-182) One thing I’ve learned from my one year in the real world is that finding “the right” relationships are tough. You go out to be social and find a girl you like at the bar or club. “Son, I remember when I first met your mom, she looked so brilliant in the neon laser lights. In our drunken haze we laid eyes on each other and the rest is history. I took her home, we hooked up, and three hook ups later we went on a date.” You try to find a girl at work but interoffice relationships are frowned upon. Everyone sits just one bad hook-up away from a tarnished reputation. Or, you swallow your pride and join the eHarmonies and Match.coms of the world. In all honestly, those are starting to seem like the best bet in a big city.
The point is, don’t get discouraged. If I don’t get a single match within the year on Hinge, I don’t care, there are other opportunities and chances out there to meet someone. Being a pessimist is easy, but being an optimist is hard. Understanding the reality and knowing how to avoid letting it deter you is a valuable skill that everyone can use. That’s not to say that putting it into practice is easy, because it’s not, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.
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