Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Botswana & Zimbabwe - A Difference In Government Choices

If this documentary, produced by Bill Moyers, is not an eye opener to the hard of hearts on the self-inflicted wound that is taking place in Zimbawe then there is no hope of ever convicing folks otherwise.

The economy of Zimbabwe is shrinking 5% each year under the policies of Robert Mugabe. A few decades ago it was Botswana that was desperately poor and Zimbabwe that had relatively abundant resources. The blunt policies of Robert Mugabe have reversed their respective fate.

Today thousands of Zimbabweans flood the border of Botswana seeking work and refuge. In the view of Botswana they threaten the stability of their country because of the increase in low wage workers, criminal activity and AIDS. The administration of the system of deportation is also a financial drain on the country.

We have a situation in which a physical land mass that contains effectively the same race of people is partioned into two seperate countries each with differing policies governing them. The stark differences in the effective outcomes of their economic, civil rights and humanitarian conditions comes down to govenment choices that are incompetent rather than antagonistic forces of racism, legacies of colonialism or Western interventionalism.

To be clear - there is no doubt that on a macro level the legacy of colonialism is a factor in the overall condition of the entire region. This plus the geographic conditions of arid lands make a difficult situation even worse. Still this legacy does not explain the continuing change in fortunes between these two countries.

It is time for the leaders of neighborhing African countries to pressure Mugabe for reform. Their own countries are being impacted by this influx of people seeking to escape the economic collapse and political oppression in Zimbawe.

In the closing interview the African expert blames the situation on the reluctance of certain African leaders to yield power for the best interests of their own people.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Thug-ism: The Broadleaf Weed Growing In The Black Community's Garden

I saw the movie "Hustle And Flow" on the opening day. The movie had been talked up among through advertising in many circles. I was prepared to see the "Soul Plane" of the Summer of 2005. After seeing the movie, however, I did not find myself depressed with the thought that someone who hated Black people had created a movie as I did upon leaving "Soul Plane".

"Hustle and Flow" was a well written movie. The acting was good. The univeral theme of "follow your dreams" was present and clear.

The problem that I had with the film was about the lifestyle that was put on display. Now ordinarily the presentation of individuals caught up in a life in the gutter and aspiring to lift themselves out via their dreams is a worthy story indeed. The problem is that "Hustle And Flow" is but another peek into the window of ghetto-ism, thug-ism, pimping, gun violence, drug abuse and dysfunctional interpersonal relationships. Certainly the "Black experience" is broader than this oft repeated tale.

Don't get me wrong! The story of "man is seeking his big break to make it to the big time. Man puts his all into a given scheme to lift him to the top. Man convinces all around him that they too will benefit from the dream. Man has this dream experience a major setback. Man experiences his 15 minutes of fame". My concern is that as we view the typical content that is assembled around this tale when Black people are invovled we are inclined to see Pimps, Hoes, Drug Dealers, Drug Addicts and Rap millions as the rocket to lift them to the stratosphere.

Interestingly enough Terrence Howard, the star of the movie has 2 new movies coming out, as shown in the movie priviews before this movie. He stars with 50 Cent in the movie "Get Rich Or Die Try'in" about a stick up kid who gets invovled in a robbery that goes wrong. He gets locked up and then, you guessed it - He experiences fame and fortune as a HIP HOP ARTIST!!

In the second movie Andre 3000, Mark Dalhberg and Terese star as adoptive brothers who are, yup, Stick up kids who have someone kill their mother and they seek revenge by killing this adversary.

If the old guard (NAACP, etc) was concerned about the limited range of Black characters shown on the small screen then I have to imagine that they would be similarly concerned about this "weed" that is sprouting up in our flower garden. Silence over this infestation because African-Americans are profiting from this latest popular genre does not mask the great harm that is associated with the continued promotion of these messages to our community.

The misogynistic messages against women, the heavy use of the word "Nigger", the "Jail culture", drug abuse, prostitition.

Funny enough as I am flipping through the channels I see 50 Cent in a video in which he is assisting an escaped prisoner get out of jail. Clearly this must be another Black man who is being oppressed by our "criminal" criminal justice system and thus this escapee is actually the hero against a system that is stacked against him.

The prisoners are running the asylum folks!!. The care only about their own profit and their own sexual gratificiation. They care nothing about the impact on the rest of the Black community.

This lifestyle has no need for formal education, financial responsibility or stable relationships among Black people. The "law" is the oppressor. The years of "rebellion" against a racist justice system in America has morphed into the presentation of these new images in which the long time victim is now the VICTOR.

This is all well and good except that this "victor" presents nothing more than individual success. They have no government that is used to organize the people and create the just society that they CLAIM to seek.

In truth their years of "struggle against" they have lost what they sould be "struggling FOR".

It is time for the Black community to take back the minds of our young people and put forth images that channel them toward more productive and synergistic modes. This clear is not the right course.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The Strong Gravitational Pull of Ignorance

The Strong Gravitational Pull of Ignorance

I recently watched a documentary on PBS’s POV series called “Street Fight”. It detailed the all out brawl on the campaign trail in Newark between the incumbent mayor Sharpe James and the reform candidate Corey Booker. This was a classic battle against the entrenched incumbent who used his gift of personal relationship with the community to form a permanent bond with them versus the upstart, young politician who has a formal university education and who can see through the B.S. and tactics that the mayor uses to endear himself with the masses, tired of having his intelligence insulted.

What was amazing to me is the standard tactics that were brought onto the battlefield by the James supporters to suppress the challenge from the challenger. Amazingly enough even though the challenger was a Black male who is a Democrat the Sharpe James campaign realized that truth is no obstacle. They know the mentalities of their base of support and as a result they painted Booker as a White boy, a Republican, a Jew who has no experience and is a “carpetbagger” to the city.

The depressed state of much of the city was not a barrier to their choice to focus on the need to repulse this threat of new ideas from the upstart candidate.

The most disappointing part of the documentary was that the very tactics of voter suppression and voter intimidation and dirty tricks that is often complained about by traditional civil rights organizations, often with Whites or Republicans being accused of dirty tricks against Black voters who tend to vote for the Democrats. The NAACP, having seen this documentary must be recoiling in embarrassment that the people who they have fought for for so long have learned the tricks of the trade from their long time adversaries and are applying these tactics within their own domain. I have always said to many of the loudest decriers of racism who also show their own bit of corruption that “there is little difference between their mindset and the mindset of racist Whites except that they have never had power over another group of people to impose their ill-will against them. This documentary so perfectly showed this to be the case.

Amazingly enough the challenge for the James supporters was to keep the critical issues that Corey Booker was bringing up as to the problems that saturate the city off of the table and to keep the campaign down in the gutter. Sadly enough the campaign management for the James campaign, both Black and White, seemed to know the mentality of their base and they drove the standard of dialogue downward in order to connect to these people.

So much of the issue was couched on the rejection and repudiation of Corey Booker as a “White boy who has been educated at the finest schools and who are bringing his fancy ideas into Newark”. His “book knowledge” and methodical way of approaching problems disqualifies him to be their lead because he is out of touch with their level of comfort. The older Black supporters of the Booker campaign did a good job in pointing out how much of what was taking place in the campaign is a slap in the face to Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and all of the other civil rights leaders who gave their lives for us to see the day in which a Black man can run for public office based on the strength of his qualifications rather than to have his education to be used against him as a negative and a disqualifier.

The key point is that there is a certain salient mentality that is present in this and other Black communities. This sentiment is open for the stroking of skilled politicians who know how to appeal to the emotions, bitterness and victimization streak that is within these people. These politicians in pursuit of their personal political power are willing to sell out the best interests of the masses.

I personally take a bottom line approach in the hopes to negate this phenomenon. We must allow all communities as much independence as possible to make their own choices as long as these choices are within the bounds of the greater US Constitution which binds us. With these choices comes the responsibility for them to be held accountable for the destination that these decisions have lead them. It is important to communicate ‘best practices’ to the masses to allow them to be aware of all of the choices and potential results. Ultimately, however, when an external force is brought in to rescue them from the blunt feel that their decisions have brought to bear we do nothing but extend this ignorance as they are made immune to the real consequences of their choices.

As a Black man who dares to challenge the popular political mandate that is within the Black community I am often subjected to these same tactics. Amazingly enough some of the very people who I have heard denounce the tactics used by Sharpe James are also inclined to use them against “thought minorities” within the Black community.

To counter act this gravitational pull where I suppress my criticism of the popular ideology and “Go Along To Get A Long” or “Get In Where I Fit In” I have come up with the concept of judging such policies NOT by their popularity but by their EFFECTIVENESS. This effectiveness is made in reference to the common goals that community has. This might be goals for education, economic development & self sufficiency, general health and the condition of the family unit within the community. Sadly the reason why the gravitational pull is required is because many of these policies FAIL to meet the standards of when measured against these common goals. In a strange twist of fate, however, it is these underhanded tactics of gravitational pull that have been proven to be EFFECTIVE at keeping themselves engrained into the community and the people who use them in power. Thus the community is standing in the location to which it has walked.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Repetition Among The People Accomplishes It's Goal

A recent debate with a punk has reinforced the clear fact that the messages that flow through our culture and the concepts and associations contained within these messages work effectively to condition our people toward a certain end. These messages serve to strenghten the bonds that are between us or to seperate us - Black men from Black women by exploiting sex for material goods. Black men from other Black men by setting up the consequences of "dissing him". Black women from other Black women by telling of how she "took her man".

Without the presence of a greater mission those who have the microphone are inclined to go astray. Add profit for delivering their message and we are sure to have our culture undercut.

I had a rental car earlier this week and when I got in the radio was tuned to the local hip hop station. I heard a song by a rapper called Mike Jones - "Back Then". He talked about how when he was a nobody the women treated him like a "scrub". Now that he has made it big they want him to "pull down their panties". I posted all of the lyrics to the ignorant song - which has a nice beat to attract those who don't give a "what" about the information that is presented to them. You too can easliy find the lyrics and judge for yourself.

The first respondee to my post was an amateur rapper who doubles as a "Black Nationalist". He is an expert at telling the world who is a co-conspirator with White Conservatives - the sworn enemies of Black folks. He challenged me to explain why it is wrong for Mike Jones to tell of his real life experiences in a rap song.

This is a classic case of the conflict between those who want to "keep it real" versus those who see the function and importance of the messages that are sent to a mass of people. Even worse this same person talks so often about the downtrodden state of the people who are inclined to listen to this "I got mine now" garbage and aspires a stronger Black Nationalistic drive among them sees no need to have more affirming messages to their people.

In the "Autobiography of Malcolm X" Minister Malcolm talk about the transformation that he had experienced that set his life in the right direction. He talked about gaining a respect for time thus having no respect for people who did not wear a wrist watch.

In his transformed state, which really means WHEN HE WAS CONSCIOUS OF HIS PURPOSE IN LIFE, he realized the need to clean himself up as a person and have his conduct as a leader who has a microphone to be without reproach.

Now these same rappers who are putting out these messages are inclined to view Malcolm X favorably and even make use of his "By Any Means Necessary" mantra as part of their own. Malcolm X as a leading figure would have drawn a similar response from women in a backslidden state who would have been attracted to his fame and the money that he would have made had he been in the game for the money.

With Malcolm X as a common reference to both sides in the debate would Brother Malcolm have arranged a clandestine meeting with this woman who was lusting after his power and fortune or would he have suggested that she "hook up with him" at the local mosque and learn why her ways are ignorant and wicked? Would Malcolm X have shown this type of resentment to women who were not attracted to him when he was a drug user and numbers runner in his past? In his pre-transformation state - NO DOUBT. In his transformed state you can better believe that he would have voiced a message to have this woman who so quickly wanted to give away her body to TRANSFORM herself.

Those who take the position "I didn't make this b'tch this way! Why do you expect me to be her leader" share the same mentality as the DRUG DEALER who believes that his link in the supply chain does not cause someone to take drugs. In both cases they are are cowards!

It is clear that for us as a people to be successful in our desires to change our condition we must also manage the messages that are commonly produced within our domain. The best way to insure that these messages don't cross the line of contempt is to inspect the man that is putting them out and consider his the purpose that he has for his life.

Friday, July 15, 2005

The Negro Consumer In America Is Fearful

Today I heard an eye opening and illuminating debate on a local Black radio station today. It was a date between the White guy who routinely calls into the show to give his "Ask De White Man" perspective and flavor to the show and the troops of standard Black callers who you simply can't convice that this economy is growing and is favorable to SOME depending on their position to take advantage of the market.

As I sat back and listened to their comments - THEY BOTH WERE CORRECT.

In using the standard measure for economic growth - the Gross Domestic Product - the US economy is in fact growing. This is the case even against the economies in Europe, a place where many a Black Progressive points to as a becon of reference for the USA to follow because of their expansive social safety net.

The callers stacked up giving their opposing view were correct as well. The economy FROM THEIR PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE is changing and is making it tougher for many middle class families to make it. They referenced increased gas prices, and price increases in general in the context of stagnant wage increase. From their perception their real purchasing power has decreased.

I happen to consume a higher than average amount of economic information. This is my interest. I found that both sides arguing their points were making points in the conversation but did not expess their concerns in the proper context nor did they have proper economic discipline in using terms to express that which was impacting them.

One caller mentioned that prices were going up while his salary was stagnating because "a few rich people hold all of the purse strings in the economy". While it may be true that consolidation has taken place in this country, this simplistic and conspiratorial explanation does not provide a proper model for what is going on - even though it was fully accepted by the many callers listening in to the show. The host of the show for sure gave her "I know that's right" to this response.

In truth these callers on this radio station who for so many years railed against American global imperialism, interventionalism, militarism and domination in general are having "their chickens come home to roost" and they have some critical choices to make. The rest of the world is coming to life economically. As these countries grow they are demanding OIL. Since the world's oil production is relatively fixed and the outlook for oil supplies has some fixed limit you can be sure that higher energy prices are here to stay when the source is petroleum based in nature.

The challenge to the backseat critic of America is to acknowledge the benefit that they have received in America while riding in cabin class as the captains of the ship did what they did to ensure that the ship was stocked and decide if they are willing to continue their ride or to leave their ship of consumer capitalism and experience a radically different life style and standard of living.

If you note the calls from African nations during the G-8 they are calling for 'trade' not 'aid'. They want to have access to the US and EU markets just as NAFTA and CAFTA have opened us up without the standard protections. The challenge to these masses is if they are willing to be "down with Africa" enough to yield their jobs to a REAL Africa who is actually IN AFRICA?

The American standard of living which once was a mountain in a field of ant hills is subject to adjustment to the world's standard level. We are losing jobs because the gap between production costs in America and the production costs in other countries adding transportation costs to that is still less than production in America.

The major challenge is to come to the realization of the fact that we are world citizens and not just citizens of America - a creation of men who valued the nation-state and used this construct to issolate itself economically from the rest of the world for the nation's best interests.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Why It Is That A Few Ignorant White Folks Get To Define The State of Race Relations?

With the recent news that the billionaire entertainment mogul, Oprah Winfrey was not allowed into a posh French boutique after hours, reportedly because was SWB (Shopping While Black) I can't help but notice that some folks took this incident to mean that regardless of how much money you have “you are still a nigger”.

As I think about the psychology and pathology of such a perspective I cannot miss the notion that such a valuation of one's self is handed over to the judgment of the offending racist. Billionaire Oprah, recently voted the most powerful figure in the entertainment industry could easily purchase the entire Hermes and fire every one of the employees, repopulating the entire chain with people of more considerate views. Yet some of the folks with the perspective that I mention believe that regardless of how rich and powerful one gets they will be cheapened by the views of others and will never escape their state of Blackness.

In my view it is faulty to evaluate the state of racism and oppression by the views or actions of individual people who prove to be exceptions and use this as an inference to what the “rule” is.

Using the situation that happened a few years ago in which James Byrd was dragged to his death by 3 white racists I choose not to view their misdeeds as feedback on the state of racism in America. A more logical perspective is to note that these 3 white racists were punished under the modern set of laws that say everyone will be held accountable for their actions that violate the law. There is little doubt that in the year 1911 such a dragging death would have either not found it's way into court our the killers would have been found “not guilty” because of the racism that was allowed to fester in the system.

We are not able to control the actions of rogue individuals. Their actions represent the views and values of an individual. Society speaks by it's application of laws that refuse to allow the violation of such laws to go unpunished.

To yield so much of one's value into the hands of another only debilitates the one who is handing their self worth over to another. They won't achieve a high state of self until these other folks grant it to them.

Surely there are several hundreds of thousands of social interactions between people of different races. It seems more reasonable to me to quantify the massive number of those that go off without a hitch than to focus on the interactions in which blatant racism takes place.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Is The Current Popular Black Ideology Able To Transform Us?

As I consider the point of attack by many a Black person who stands resolute in his views about how the current state of Black America being shaped by our past of Slavery, Jim Crow and oppression I am brought to the point of wondering if these same people will be talking about the impact of American Slavery for a period longer than we were actually enslaved as a people?

African-Americans have been free from Slavery for more than 140 years. The practices allowed under Jim Crow were made illegal with the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. There is no doubt that it took longer for the populace to catch up with that which was written on paper as the laws of the land.

As I consider the outlook for my two children and I think down the line about the children of their children I wonder if many of the same language used to describe the situation for the Black American will still be in play then? The time then will be the year 2100 or there abouts. Certainly there have been massive population movements and cultural revolutions that have taken place in less than 95 years. Sadly I see no new ideas or concepts receiving birth among the current channels of thought and ideas that percolate into the mass consciousness of Black people.

I suggest that we begin to shift our consciousness and our support from that which is said to be the POPULAR Black Agenda over to that which can be proven to be EFFECTIVE at TRANSFORMING the situation of Black people from where we stand into where we desire to be based on our words said in our prayers to the higher power.

An adherance to a popular political dogma often results in the defense of the INSTITUTION rather than an abstract evaluation as to the effectiveness of this institution and it's people in achieving the common goals for the people. So often we will be asked to be UNIFIED so that we cannot be fractured. Rarely are those who are calling for this unity going to put their platform on the table for inspection and battle fitness. It seems to be assumed that their current set of beliefs and methdology to achieve it is the most correct for Black people and anyone who diverges from this is an enemy of the state.

In truth a "critic" of this methodology may only want the best for his people and are seeking to have his voice heard rather than being suppressed by those who are protecting the institution over and above the question of the EFFECTIVENESS of the institution.

In my view nothing short of a reformation of the major concepts of culture, economic, academics, laws & law enforcement and families/human relations within the Black community will sufficently change our course of action.

The current focus on external adversaries needs to be transformed into the building of our inner selves to shape the conditions of the year 2100. The only relevant point is what happens TODAY, not the past.