Friday, December 22, 2006

Away from Michigan

Ah yes, to the East my brother to the East. For all my X Clan fans. I'm back East for a while. I celebrated a happy bday and had a good anniversary with my parents. My first couple of days were relativel low key, I've found myself watching all sorts of TV.
Hair Trauma
Ultimate Fighting
Bush's Address
Maury Povich - the holiday special "is this hottie a male or female"
Jerry Springer
Colbert Report

You know the usual brain food! I've also signed up for a virtual writing challenge over at Just follow the links to the discussion forum and "Publish or Flourish." Also, that reminds me to shout out Blac(k)ademic who has retired from blogging. She was a great voice in the blogosphere. I'll be skirting around the tri-state for a little bit, so maybe I'll see you virtually or in real life, if not, then catch me in 2007. Oh, I should be doing a best of, we'll see.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Conflict... Blood... Peace Diamonds? Russell you are still not Hip-Hop!

A couple years back Rosa Clemente penned a heavy letter about Russell Simmons called Russell Simmons You Are Not Hip Hop. Back in 2001 it caught me, it helped me remember why I got sick of people sweating Russell. It got me to realize why I did a little "mouth vomit" when I heard someone refer to him as the Godfather of Hip-Hop (didn't Herc already have that title?). Recently Russell opened his mouth again, this time to defend the diamond industry.

This past weekend I shelled over my hard earned bills to see Blood Diamond at the theaters. Going in, I had my expectations set at the level that I set them when I'm going to listen to a Method Man album (that's pretty darn low). But I was rather impressed with the film. Of course there were your standard issues of gender and race (e.g. Black Africans find White woman in the bush and she charms them with her camera -- don't even get me started) but the message about conflict diamonds was very clear to me. Conflict diamonds help support war and distinguishing between a conflict diamond and free diamond is damn near impossible. Neither of which were new concepts to me, but I thought they were both well illustrated in the film.

When the film was rolling out, I was interested to see that Nelson Mandela came out with a statement about diamonds and their positive impact on African economies. I was immediately a little bit concerned, as were others. Eventually, I had to wrestle with Mandela potentially selling out or if there was a degree of pragmatism attached to support of the diamond trade for the wealth or rather reduction of gross debt for African nations. I think my history with Nelson Mandela allowed me to take his statements within a larger context, when Russell Simmons opened his mouth however, I heard cash registers ringing.

Who the hell died and made Russell chief of Diasporic Affairs? And can I really take him seriously if Jim Jones is on his side with a diamond crusted bracelet? Okay, that's just my bias! For years, I saw Russell Simmons as I saw Bob Johnson, a damn good Black capitalist (not endorsing this just calling em like I see em). Now with his explicit support and retort to Blood Diamond, I see he's graduated to a damn good (Black) capitalist pawn... I wonder is there a difference between the two?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Reclaiming Racist!!!

"I'm not a racist." Another variation on it is often, "I'm not a racist but..." or better yet, "Are you trying to say I'm a racist?" All three of these things are beginning to make me literally sick to my stomach. A few weeks back Michael Richards' outburst set the blogosphere on fire, which in turn set the media a fire, which in turn drove Richards to say, "The funny thing is, I'm not a racist." Well to Mr. Richards and all others who utter these words, I have one simple comment, "Yes, (fill in name here), you are a racist." Many folks get jarred by this statement, so read it again in the "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" tone. Does that help you stomach it?

I tend to let my mind ferment during the evening by watching reality TV or playing my Nintendo DS (oh it's so great!). Tonight, I opted for Reality TV. I decided to watch the Real World Denver (no I don't think I have a real reason to watch this trash, but I did). Tonight's episode was yet another "big race episode" (this reminds me of when they would say things like, "Next week, a very special Webster" remember that? I digress). The characters end up in a tussle and the N word is barked by a drunken White male, Davis, within earshot of at least one Black roommate. I'll summarize so you don't have to watch the episode, they (producers) take the White roommate away for the night to a hotel and he returns the next day so the cast can talk it out. The result, the Black roommates forgive him and he says... you guessed it, "I'm not racist." One Black roommate Tyrie asked him (and I paraphrase) "So I just want to know, when you used that word. Where did it come from? Is that something you've been thinking or did it come out of anger or...?" Davis quickly responded, "Out of anger." This was particularly important to me because I knew once Tyrie gave him an "out" - mentioning anger, he would immediately jump at that reason. The episode closes with the Black roommates forgiving him and Davis staying so he can show them he can "watch what he says" and "he's not a racist." Dammit, you are a racist!

Now if any of you reading have had the pleasure (or pain) of sitting in on one of my guest lectures on race and ethnicity you know about this. Towards the beginning of the lecture I have all the people in attendance point to their neighbor and say, "You're a racist" and then have them point to their other neighbor and say, "You're a racist." After people follow in a Pavlovian style they usually look back at me, half of them with some form of pissed expression. I then allay their fears by saying, "Now that everyone has been called a racist and called at least one person a racist, we can stop being scared of being labeled a racist." The label racist is avoided like Jehovah's Witness' on a Saturday morning.

Now being the good sociologist that I am, I know that is because most people associate racism with individual deliberate actions towards someone of a subordinate group that are meant to harm and are based on prejudice. Which really means that nobody wants to be considered a Klan member (well except of course Klan members who are out of the closet). That's the big problem, when I'm in a room of over 150 people and I ask, "Who is a racist?" and maybe one or two people raise their hands, we have a problem!!! The problem is not anger, the problem is not drunkeness, the problem is not hecklers and losing our cool, it's racism! I know you want a nice out or absolution, I know you want to prove you're not that bad word, but dammit you gotta claim it to change it.

Imagine this, you go the doctor, you ask him about a piercing headache you keep on having. The headache is usually bearable but on occasion it causes you to yelp in pain for others to hear. The doctor takes does a full exam, xrays, scans, etc. and sees you have a tumor on your brain. When the doctor comes back to talk to you and you ask the doc, "Am I alright?" The doc responds, "You have a cold." A cold, hell nawh you have cancer!!! Racism is a disease, one that needs to be addressed. Unfortunately everyday we ask the world not to label ourselves or others as racist, which drives us further away from curing the sickness of racism. A doctor who prescribed Ludens to you (you know those cough drops you always wanted because they tasted like candy but your momma wouldn't let you have them) instead of chemo would be in serious malpractice and in violation of the their oath. But everyday, people ask me, "Why do we have to say someone is racist?" "Can't we call it something else? or "I get what you're saying, but calling someone a racist is ugly." Racism is ugly!!! I could go into my definition of racism but here is a link to a basic definition of racism that should get you started. If you're already with me, read on.

For me, dropping the term racist from our lexicon weakens our ability to call everyone to the task of being accountable for inequality. Admittedly not all inequality is racial, but many of the social ills that we see have a strong racial component. To borrow from Beverly Tatum racism is like pollution, you may not have started it, but you must live with it and everyday your actions contribute to it. The true question is what are you going to do to reduce it? By ignoring racism and the people and institutions that perpetuate it, we retard social progress. Because we have dropped racist from our lexicon, racial discrimination (disproportionate impact) does not legally exist until animus is demonstrated. Because we stopped calling out people as being racist, the very people who support systems of oppression now label us racists. Because racist became perverted, some are now distorted enough to think the oppressed are the oppressors.

I know this getting way too long, but let me conclude by saying, we live in a world without racists, but in a world full of racism. While I am forgiving, reasonable, and solution oriented, it disturbs me to see us sidestep the root of the hatred that we see in the disparate worlds we live in and in the malice ridden words we speak. I'd rather have chemo than candy. Wouldn't you?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

While WE were sleeping

So I've been busy, but I did want to post briefly on something that is tremendously important and waiting in the balance of the Supreme Courts. While we were all sleeping, two cases rose to the level of a Supreme Court hearing and stand to place the final nail(s) in the coffin of Brown V. Board of Education. Realize that Brown v. Board of Education has been dismantled steadily through legislation and contestation. For a great discussion of the process check out Dismantling Desegregation by Gary Orfield.

The Supreme Court yesterday heard oral arguments for Parents Involved v. Seattle School District No. 1 and Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education. The first case (Seattle) is about high school assignment and the latter is about elementary school assignment. There is some really impressive social scientific research that went into an amicus brief provided by the Harvard Civil Rights Project here. Essentially both cases boil down to the question that is IN PART analogous to the Michigan cases: "Can be race a factor when determining school entry or placement."

I'll let my legal colleagues dissect the finer nitty-gritty details for you, so I'll let them lead that way. But I do want folks to realize this is once again an attempt to reduce racial disparity by race neutrality.... yeah I know it sounds ridiculous. I recently watched a panel on CSPAN that features Ted Shaw (NAACP LDF), Roger Clegg (Center for Equal Opportunity) and others. The most interesting part was hearing Roger Clegg actually say (and I paraphrase) "considering race is racial discrimination." For me, that sums up my issue with "race-neutrality" in fact it let's just call it "utopian-neutrality" because there darn sure isn't any consideration of race.

Aight, I gotta go write and do the 50 other things I have, but wanted you all to be paying attention. By the way, remember when I posed my simple question of who has beeen doing the work on the k-12 education? Well, clearly the conservatives have been working on dismantling equal oppurtunity there too.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Media Appearance and Eductional Debt

First, I want to thank Fatima Ashraf of Radio Tahrir for interviewing me this past week for Pacifica Radio's Informed Dissent series. We did a brief interview on Proposal 2 and how it's been swept under the rug in light of the "Democratic Sweep." You can find it on the Nov 18th in part one about half way through.

Last night I was reading and talking to one of my boys and I told him I was reading about the achievement gap. To which he responded, "You love to read about that ish." Which I do, it's the motivation for my research. While we talked I lamented over not really learning anything "new" from most publications on it. He responded, "Well if you're going to publish on it, why don't you just write the book that someone's going to write in 25 years. Just say it (the achievement gap) ain't going no where." While on the face this remark is fatalistic, I think he's actually right on. I was further confirmed of this when I woke up and finally read through Gloria Ladson-Billings' 2006 American Educational Research Association's Presidential Address. The talk was entitled "From the Achievement Gap to the Education Debt: Understanding Achievement in U.S. Schools." The talk is really amazing and I encourage you read it, it's a little longer than most things that I link to, but well worth it. Or you can watch it here.

She uses economics to discuss educational inequality but not in predictable ways. She uses economics to talk about people.
I am arguing that our focus on the achievement gap is akin to a
focus on the budget deficit, but what is actually happening to
African American and Latina/o students is really more like the
national debt. We do not have an achievement gap; we have an
education debt.

The talk is based on the idea that we do not know what really causes the narrowing of the gap.
However, when we begin looking at the construction and compilation
of what I have termed the education debt, we can better
understand why an achievement gap is a logical outcome. I am
arguing that the historical, economic, sociopolitical, and moral
decisions and policies that characterize our society have created an
education debt.

She powerfully weaves a narrative of black, brown, yellow and red children's cumulative educational disadvantage. She makes powerful policy metaphors from Plessy v. Ferguson, Brown v. Board of Ed, the Voting Rights Acts all the way to the responses to Hurricane Katrina. She leaves us with fertile ground to start our work toward improving children's lives and opportunities. I can't encourage you enough to read it, it gives a richer context to discussions of the pursuit of educational and social inequality.

New Media... Same Old Story?

So a number of things have come past my desk recently that display the pernicious nature of racism and violence in America. Below you'll find two now, unfortunately, popular videos. If you haven't literally watched them, I encourage you to. They are much more sobering than that coffee you just drank.

The first is the video for the University of California-Los Angeles and features Mostafa Tabatabainejad, a student, being tasered repeatedly for not showing his id in the library.

Since then, students have been mobilizing to bring light to this issue and get some justice. The catch unfortunately is that "thanksgiving" break is approaching and continuing momentum across breaks has always been an issue. Additionally, a subtle dynamic is that the taser weilding officer was a Black man. One of my good friends out there told me that he thinks that has in part affected the cross-lines organizing. We'll see how this unfolds, please keep spreading the word about this.

The second thing that has gotten some attention was the posting of hatred on John Andrews' facebook wall. While the article is not new, I think it's always amazing to read people's comments. I know John, I know before this broke he was talking about it, and I'm reminded by these comments that people are more than willing to turn an ignorant eye, ear, or whatever!

The third thing that should get you ready to go for the day is the video of "Kramer" going off at the Laugh Factory on Friday night. I know that you may have read the comments, but you should really watch the clip.

So something that is really interesting to me is the way that people begin laughing when he begins with his comments about lynching. Ha, ha, ha.. what the F**K is wrong with people? I was also amazed at how slowly people left. Of course the next day Richards performed at the Laugh Factory and now he's barred from performing there.

Taken as collective, I'm just reminded that even with new media, we can see old hate.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Uncle Ruckus & Ward Connerly

I'm on the run, just got back in town, lots of deadlines. So no original blog post coming out for a little. In the meantime, probably the funniest image I've seen in a long ass time. Respect to Julio for passing this along.

Friday, November 10, 2006


1. Does Harold Ford's loss prove that light skinned brothas are not in style?
2. With Ed Bradley and Gerald Levert passing, can Black men get a break?
3. Without Affirmative Action will Black folks ever get a break?
4. Why do I feel like niggaspace is owned by Rupert Murdoch?
5. Why am I holding my car together with tape (literally)?
6. If I had all that was owed to me, would I work as hard as I do?
7. Why does everyone think they're the exception to the rule?
8. If people are so busy, why are they always on myspace, facebook, friendster, blogging, etc?
9. When was the last time you had a good cry?
10. Why doesn't Mr. T wear gold anymore and where did TV Land find him?
11. Why is Lil Wayne wearing all those diamonds when NOLA looks like it does?
12. I wonder if she's thinking the same thing?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Ballot or the Bullet?

Well, it looks like Proposal 2 passed in the state of Michigan last night 58% to 42%. The passing of Proposal 2 does not surprise me, but it does disappoint me tremendously. Over the past few years I've seen leaders emerge from the U of M community and beyond to fight this measure. While it passed, I want to take this time to thank everyone who put their time, heart, and souls into stopping this thing. To you all I remind you, that your work will never be cancelled or distilled by this measure. You have served to heighten awareness among the unaware and provide fertile ground for the future battles that we will fight as we work to maintain civil and human rights.

While the nations applauds the Dems taking the House and the nation awaits very
tight senate races, I'll be in mourning. It's naive to think all the "allies" that we found in the fight against Prop 2 will be around today to comfort, walk with, and get ready for next steps, they'll be busy returning to their jobs saddened, but not disappointed. For me the mourning is realizing that the very reason that I am able to attend U of M is under attack again. As a first generation college student and graduate of African-American descent, I was able to take advantage of programs such as the Rackham Merit Fellowship and the resources on campus targeted to people like me, who didn't come from the best of circumstances, but when I look back down the pipeline, there will be fewer "me's" coming in the door. Michigan voters have neatly shut the door behind them and many will continue on today with "business as usual."

This year, like a number in the past, have continued to make me feel electoral politics failed me. The representation of "minority" issues in the electoral process rarely comes out in the minority group's favor, no surprise right? But I realized that with Michigan's battle of Proposal 2 that there is a silent tide that has been rising vis-a-vis the ballot proposal. While the highest courts in the land may rule in one way, the ballot proposal has become a tremendously dangerous tool to use local sentiment to contradict decisions by "activist judges."

Last night I learned that abortion, English as the official language, gay marriage, and minimum wage were on the ballots of a number of states. Some of the bedrocks of American freedom and opportunities lay at the hands of a populous, mind you a populous that just seemed to figure out a Republican run nation was not doing us too well- but I digress. Out of all these measures the one that I think gives me the most hope it's the increase in minimum wages, but even that is not enough (pun intended). The willingness to raise the economic floor is simple, in fact common sense. The abortion ban just got defeated, 45% of voters voted for it and they say it didn't pass because it had too few exceptions... scary! English as an official language ... I can't even start to go there on this one. The ban on same sex marriages further demonstrates that the American people believe in freedom, for some.

Collectively, these ballot initiatives literally mean the bullet for many civil and human rights, but they all happen relatively beneath the radar. In the past week, it would be hard to count how many folks from around the country didn't know that Affirmative Action was on the ballot here. I would be lying if I said I knew all these key issues were on the ballots around the nation. The national silence around these issues makes it difficult to build coalitions and responses, but one by one these propositions and proposals are passing. Today it was Michigan, I hear Wisconsin you're in the cross-hairs next. Until we learn how to turn out state level populations that are willing to vote against equality, we will be seeing this tide for years to come. Forget all the talk about "the tsunami" (by the way, does anyone else think its tremendously globally insensitive to refer to political shifts by the name of natural disasters that the world is still recovering from? I mean, what happened to good old landslides, at least we Americans know what that's like) the state level initiatives are going to continue to creep in, be on the look out.

Finally, I've already got a number of inquiries about what I think the passing of Proposal 2 means. Well since the best comparison we have is California this is my quick take. The passing of Proposal 2, theoretically would mean the ushering in of a California-like system. While to some this may seem "alright" there are a couple of major differences between Michigan and California: 1) demographics- Cali's racial demographics (majority minority -I know it's an oxymoron) make it "easier" to talk about successes without Affirmative Action 2) economies- Michigan's economy has been shrinking and will continue to, and 3) breadth of educational system- California's UC system is way larger and more diverse than what Michigan has to offer.

To me, this means that you will fundamentally see a large drop in entering students of color, particularly Black because of the state's composition. You will not see these students going to other schools four year institutions, I'd guess community college and other high cost urban schools will get flooded (in a best case scenario). You will see Michigan continue to be less competitive economically as the Black middle class flee to areas that consider their race in decision making. Lastly, you'll see Universities in particular do their best to maintain the representation of marginalized groups, but with at best marginal success.

This may serve as a wake up call to some, but I kinda think if you're not awake already, you may not be waking up. As the nation barrels ahead and waits for the "Democratic awakening" please remember that for many of us, the party politics will not save us and in some ways, I'm not sure the ballot will either.

For the folks who are in A2 and on U of M's campus today there are two things going on of interest: 1) at noon Mary Sue Coleman, president of U of M, will address the student body about Proposal 2 and 2) the Multiethnic Student Affairs office is hosting an Election Recovery space at the Trotter house all day.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

One of many???

Well a few moments ago I ran to the polls and made sure to vote, especially on Prop 2. There are a number of other important issues on the ballot as well. I meant to post this earlier, but with about 7 hours left in the polls if you're looking for a cool voters guide, my friend wsoftheart has posted one here.

On a bigger note, my boy called the Hussein verdict and its potential for gaining GOP support... we live in a tricky place. Speaking of tricky, really computer voting machines, why am I not suprised?

And lastly, the only thing more ridiculous the youtube video of Connerly endorsing the Klan's endorsement of Proposal 2, is Zarko's defense/revision of Connerly.

And one last thing, why do I feel like the nation has not even really noticed Proposal 2 is on the ballot in Michigan?

Sunday, November 05, 2006

A simple question.

For the past few years, I have watched patiently as Proposal 2 has come into the spotlight. It's been a long trip for this little "ballot intiative." Most people who read this know that I don't support Proposal 2. I have a million reasons that I can spout out to people about why the intiative is deceptive, naive, and destructive, but I've given up on screaming at walls. I guess I'm writing for those who still haven't made a decision or for those who may have recently talked to a family member who is in the "undecided 15%" or whatever the latest poll says. I'm voting No on 2 because I remember Detroit and its children.

Let me make this clear, I am not from Michigan, not for Detroit, but I remember Detroit. We all carry idealized notions about the past, but that's not what I'm talking about. I am talking about remembering the city of Detroit when you step into that ballot booth tomorrow (you better be voting!) I've had a number of conversations that make me feel Michigan voters are just as confused on Prop 2 as California voters were on Prop 209.

For me behind all the rhetoric, debates, and disagreement are the lives of real people. The lives that I am most concerned about are children. A basic feature of our society is that children of different races are born to vastly different life circumstances. You can look at birth weight, neighborhoods, incomes, wealth ... in all of these areas Black and Brown babies stand at a serious disadvantage to White children. This doesn't mean that they're aren't White poor folks, it just means that if you look at where we come from, on average, our worlds are still separate and unequal. Behind the numbers and statistics are real lives.

I spend a lot of my weekends in Detroit and I travel along the city's streets I realize that Detroit is a city that the state of Michigan has forgotten. While the politicians of the legislaturet and the mayors have done battle, the real costs of these contests have been the children that will grow up in, survive in, and die in the city. For many the city "was great" and "before Coleman Young" it was utopia, but the reality is that inequality between races in Detroit has always been an issue. The uprising of the late 60s (which weren't race riots) simply cast the light on the problem of deep seated difference. The seeds planted in the 40s and beyond are still coming to fruition in the generations that live the costs of racial and economic segregation.

The truth is in 2006 race and class inequality are so intertwined it's ridiculous to separate them in our analysis of inequality. But this does not mean that one is a substitute for the other. Race and social class together mean something powerful, something more powerful than the individual parts do. Affirmative Action, as we know it, has never been simply about race.

This brings me to my simple question: Will your vote on Proposal 2 be a vote for the children?

For my money's worth, if you look at the supporters of Prop 2, who among them has been doing the work to help the children of Detroit? To help the children of Flint? To help children, besides those born into privilege? How many of the supporters travel into Detroit and make sure the legacy of gross inequality that exists is addressed? How many have done outreach to populations that haven't had an equal chance from birth?

This does not clear the opposers of Proposal 2 from action either, but if I ask myself this same question, the difference between the two becomes more clear for me. When we think about who has been doing things for the children, for the marginalized, for the poor, for the oppressed, an answer emerges. Affirmative Action has and should be about opportunity. Opportunities that at birth are grossly different between races in particular.

Friday, October 27, 2006

It's Bigger than Hip-Hop

I'm guilty of it. You're probably guilty of it, you know, it usually goes something like this "I listen to hip-hop, not rap." The distinction between hip-hop and rap is one that "heads" have been making for years. While there are number of nuanced arguments about Hip-Hop as a culture, the hip-hop versus rap dichotomy is outdated and useless.

So the gist of the argument is usually any commercial rap music is classified as "rap" and anything that may be underground or semi-authentic is "hip-hop." The water usually gets murky when you ask about folks who have cross over appeal, but ya'll know what I mean. I recently realized, I can no longer do this bullshit distinction between hip-hop and rap. First let me make it clear, I'm not saying that I can't tell some difference between the two. This doesn't mean that I don't watch 106 and Park with a pain in my stomach. None of that changes, but my decision is one that is much like many disgruntled married couples, I can't split (hip hop from rap)... because of the children.

When I first started spewing the distinction it was in cinder block dorm rooms, but now that I hear the argument I hear it on TV, on websites, in blogs. As someone who considers himself somewhat of a scholar of Hip-Hop, I can appreciate a theoretical distinction. But I'm trying to look at it from the bottom up, not top down. I really started thinking about this distinction when I was reading blac(k)ademic's post on NYOil's video "Ya'll should all get lynched".

Over at blac(k)ademic NYOIL's video and comments have created quite a stir. In reading through I recalled that people like to distinguish between hip-hop and rap. As someone who consumes more hip-hop than rap, I can honestly say, they're not all that different. Let me go through my issues Rolodex: misogyny - check, homophobia - check, violence - check, drugs - check (yes, weed counts), foul language - check, materialism - check (yo rapping about your sneakers counts too!).

So what's the deal with pretending like hip hop music is the holy grail and rap is a red keg cup? Maybe I've just been reading into to it too much but so much of our quest for authenticity in Hip-Hop now is social class related. Do you think it's a coincidence the only location you can still hear hip-hop on the airwaves is college radio or satellite radio? I remember a couple years ago hearing someone say, "Hip-Hop didn't die, it just moved to Long Island and wears a backpack." Let's be real, if you've been to a hip-hop show anywhere in the US in the past 10 years you know like Common said, "When we perform it's just coffee shop chicks and White dudes." The quest for the latest hip-hop takes us to message boards, to overpriced coffee houses, and to Tuesday night performances at our local blind pigs. There's something peculiar about that to me. If we're so hip-hop and the music is the music of the people, why don't I see my people in those spaces? Could it be that my people are in a different place?

At the opening of NYOIL's video you see an image of Cam'ron. Now I will admit that I'm not a huge Cam'Ron fan, but I do listen to some of his stuff.

Aside - Want a fun game? Here it go! I try to see how many "Cam'Ron lines" I can make up using Ben and Jerry's ice flavors- try it! Here's a head start, "I was chilling with a married mocha honey, her man walked in, so I chubbied the hubby."

Sorry, like I was saying, many hip-hop heads don't really mess with Cam'Ron but you know who does? Black youth! Please just go up to Harlem and see if Dip Set isn't an epidemic. See if they aren't Chicken Noodle Soupin', see if in Atl they're not Snappin and getting Beamed up. My friends, the music that is reaching our kids is no longer Self-Destruction, it's more Shake Sumthin'. If that is where youth are, if that is where the future is, if that is who is supposed to be affected by the Hip-Hop movement, that's where I need to be, if I truly care.

Now being there doesn't mean you have to support all that it is, but it's foolish to hold onto something that is marginal and disconnected from our youth. Trust me, I feel like I'm part-time hip-hop librarian because I always have to go into the annals to find songs that concentrate on a single issue that I can use with youth on social issues. It means that we gotta meet Black youth where they are at and move them forward from there. It means talking to them about why NYOIL makes a song like this and then walking through the history of the figures he mentions, the history of lynching, and the histories of power. In that process you're going to challenge whoever made the original song, but music is a gateway to our social world, not a perfect explanation.

We can take songs like this as an opportunity to reach more youth or we can continue to turn up our noses and say we listen to hip-hop and not rap. I think NYOIL understands something that KRS didn't. I think Dead Prez understands something that PE didn't. I think Little Brother understands something that you don't. You can speak to people without preaching to them. That should have been the message we got from "The Message." Instead, we're left dropping crazy diatribes about neoliberalism to White kids in Schenectady. I think in 2006 we have to be ready to approach hip-hop and its potential differently than we have the past 10 years. Realize if Hip-Hop is the culture, the music that still gets to people is rap.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Saunders out, 2 weeks out, Sandals out?

So the big news in the Daily today is apparently Tony Saunders was ousted from the Black Student Union for being a member of Michigamua. This was not news to me, but now he's appealing his ousting saying that it violates the BSU constitution.

For those who don't know Michigamua is a "senior honor society" which has a long sorted history of misrepresenting and disrespecting Native folks. Black in 2000 their office space was occupied by a coalition of students of color. Eventually they agreed to not use Native artifacts anymore, etc. Just six years ago, it was common to hear folks of color displeased with Gamua and their practices. Fast forward six years and half the students of color here feel as if the Gamua offenses occurred in another lifetime. We definitely practice selective amnesia at U of M.

Now back to Tony, many folks know and love Tony. Let me make it clear, I really don't know him from Adam, but I have known he's been in Gamua since he got tapped last year, so I'm sure we disagree on somethings. Tony is president of the NPHC here and on MSA and was an officer in BSU.

*On a side note, how did you not think he was in Gamua? Black man comes out relative obscurity (participates largely in his frat) then wins a campus wide election with from my point of view little discernible platform... that was red flag number one for me*

In the Daily article it mentions how he refused to go public with his membership when the Daily published a list last year (both him and the Editor in Chief Donn Fresard made this decision, I wonder who else is hiding in woods?) but he said he did it to avoid what he's going through right now? Okay, let me try to rehash this argument. 1) He joins an organization that has historically and likely con temporarily disrespects students of color. 2) He is serving on a executive board that is meant to be a political arm to the Black community. 3) Instead of resolving this conflict up front, he chose to hide it. Makes sense right?

Since the controversy has come to light, Tony apparently has been receiving threatening phone calls. I don't think that's cool.

*Another side note, did you notice the Daily article says it was someone from BSU... has that been confirmed or is that speculation?*

But I definitely think his choice to join a organization that is known to go back on its word and disrespect our community of color was one he has to stand on. His classmate Nicole Stallings came out when the group when public, she suffered her hits, but she's MSA president and living life pretty well from what I hear.

*Dammit another side note, I wonder is Nicole standing in Solidarity with him?*

While I believe in including folks in our pan-African agenda, I do think lines have to be drawn. I think the decision to not have Tony in a leadership role is a wise one. That's my two cents.

We are approximately 2 weeks away from the vote on Proposal 2. Vote no on 2. I am not a 501c3, so I can say this loudly and repeatedly!!!! Tell a friend.

It's getting cold outside in Michigan. Marc Hill has a hilarious post on sandals and white folks over here. Check out the comment that mentions the theory of ten.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Whoosh, Whoosh, that's the sound of...

deadlines passing by. I can't figure out where the heck my time is going. Sorry for my absence on the posts, but I'm a little bit busy these days. So I have a number of incomplete posts in my blogger account since my last post, so I'll try to finish this one.

This past week, the Young Americans for Freedom hosted their "Catch an Illegal Immigrant Day." They originally scheduled the even at U of M for September 28th, but YAF chickened out. I heard a number of people rumble that they were not going to do the day because "the woman" who came up with it got fired. I thought it was really interesting that the Daily plastered Morgan Wilkins on their cover. Because she was "fired" I ran into a number of people who thought the event was off because the culprit was gone. As I suspected, she may have suggested the event, but the group was going to carry it out. I was unable to make it to the Diag on Thursday, but as this article outlines, the big story was BAM-N. Same script, different cast (well not really a different cast). Maybe I'm getting old, but their silencing of dialogue and reactionary antics are killing me... well hell that can't be my age, they've been annoying me since 2000. That's enough about them, not deserving of more space. Alternatively a number of student of color and ally orgs organized a peaceful counter-demonstration. Biggup up to that, as well as biggup to metro Detroit community that responded to the ignorance of YAF (shout out to Rashidah and Dawud - ya'll are fly).

Aight, there is much much much more going on right now, but that's all I have the energy to type on. I'm looking to put a couple more things up this coming week.

Monday, September 25, 2006

TV Appearance

Tuesday night at 9pm I will be featured on a show entitled "Bridging the Racial Divide" on Detroit Public Television. The show is a brainchild of Emery King and Paul W. Smith who have been working with issues of race and race relations for years in Metro Detroit.

The show is based on two dinner conversations that Kingberry Productions arranged. The dinners featured conversations around race and metro issues but were divided into a "Black" dinner and a "White" dinner. Last week, Rochelle Riley (columnist, Detroit Free Press), Heaster Wheeler (Executive Director, NAACP-Detroit), Nolan Finley (columnist, Detroit News), John Rakolta (Chairman, New Detroit), Kary Moss (Executive Director, ACLU-Michigan, and I sat on a panel to discuss the dinner conversations and debate a little. I think the discussion was good overall, a little short, but that's the nature of the beast. If nothing else, tune in to see if I embarrass myself ;)

In Ann Arbor it will air on channel 6 at 9pm.
In Detroit it will air on channel 56 at 9pm.
And for the radio heads it will be simulcast on 760 WJRam.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Playing the Rape Card

The other day I was inspired to write on the "race card." Today I woke up and was driven to think about sexual assault and the concept of the "rape card." I must first admit that I can't really recall this term being as common as the race card, but in my view the ideas that motivate the concept of rape as illusion are the same that motivate race as illusion. This morning I received an email from a close friend that simply read "Dear Morehouse Brothers, stop raping your Spelman sisters." I was shocked, confused, and inquisitive. I ran to the trusty google news search and typed in Morehouse. A couple entries down I found this story from the AJC. As Tribe said, "Don't you know that things go in cycles." The article discusses the walk out that Spelman students executed in response to recently emerged "alleged" incidents of rape. I wrote alleged like that for a reason, let me explain.

Back in 1996 when I was a freshman at Morehouse there was a huge controversy that tore Spelman and Morehouse apart. There was an "alleged" rape of a Spelman woman by multiple Morehouse students on Morehouse's campus. The story was covered, literally, on the now defunct Emerge Magazine. At the ripe age of 17 I was in a world of confusion. I've always considered myself, despite my behaviors at times, as a feminist as well as a supporter of Black men. In the swirl of the rape controversy I didn't know where to stand. In my years prior to Morehouse I had decided to always believe any woman who said she had been assaulted be it physical or sexually (I do know these terms are not mutually exclusive but you know what I mean). But in a hall full of Black men, I began to doubt this idea. I wondered, what if she's lying? I honestly think it was the first time I found myself in conflict with my own politics in a way that I couldn't easily resolve. Well, I do not think I was alone in that, despite what the more vocal voices on Morehouse's campus said.

Instead of having to remedy this dilemma, for many years I thought I was absolved of this responsibility when it was found that the "alleged victim" was found in the same dorm in a compromising position shortly after. That is how "the rape", became "the alleged rape."

If you ask virtually any brother who went to the House during that time they will mention "the alleged rape." I have attempted to avoid that saying, but much like Tribe said "I try not to say it, but my lips are like an ooh-wop as I start to spray it." By naming it "the alleged rape" we employed the same rhetorical device as "the race card". I heard many brothas say, "If she was raped, then why would she be in the same dorm again?" and "she's a hoe." Slippery slope reasoning 101 was and has been in full effect on the campus and beyond. At the ripe age of 17,19, 28 or 65 many of us can't see how rape can occur, regardless of how we interpret a person's sexual proclivities. As my friend Dance recently posted, the truth is that rape is almost exclusively identified as the responsibility of women in our society. Essentially, if you can find a breech in her responsibility, you can find absolution.

Fast forward ten years, Spelman students walk out of classes to protest the silence that has existed between Morehouse and Spelman and sexual assault. Once again, the same "alleged rape" scenario is appearing under the guise of impartiality. Once again, I know many young brothers are "caught in the same situation" that I was in 10 years ago. In the fray of all these debates, disagreements, and arguments, most of us who debate "the truth" miss the forest for the trees. I have finally come to the conclusion that even if these incidents are found to be "untrue" or are "dismissed" we still must realize that there is no way in HELL that in a span of 10 years there have been 2 or 3 sexual assaults between our campuses. It is almost impossible to quantify how many sexual and physical assaults, because so many have gone un-noted, un-reported, and un-treated (and not just between Morehouse and Spelman). A word for the concerned, drop the debate and deal with reality. The fact is that rape is rampant in our society.

See, in my mind, I could accept "alleged rapes" but I couldn't accept "race cards". Though analytically dangerous, the best way for me to understand gender and oppression is to find an analog in the areas of race and oppression. Not until I re-read my words about the race card and read about my Spelman sisters and Morehouse brothers did I see the reality, alleged rapes and race cards are the same. Rhetorical tools used by the dominant to assure that we are never fully responsible for our actions. We have a problem, a serious problem.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Playing the race card and Metro Detroit

I spent the day in suburban Detroit trying to convince White men to sit down and share their views and opinions about race and social opportunity with me in a survey. As you can imagine, it would have been easier for me to learn Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 in C minor (and trust me I don't even know how to play an instrument)in between writing dissertation chapters. If nothing else was confirmed to me today, its that most White Michiganders don't want to talk about race and ethnicity, unless it's on their terms. The survey is a lengthy one, so I can understand people being intimidated by length, but I was intrigued by one White man's response. He took the survey, looked it over for about 5 minutes and returned it to me empty and said "I'm not prejudice in any way and I'd rather not take this." So the good social scientist in me says, "Well Dumi, he thought you were trying to get him to answer in a certain way, thus you tainted the experience." But the catch comes in that this same man when I asked him about the city of Detroit a few minutes earlier told me, "It's going no where" and the problem of the city were because "people want to play the race card." He went on to explain some issues with race and how they were too trumped up, etc, etc. His returning of th survey reminded me of 2 things about White dialogues about race: 1) we can talk about race and ethnicity, but only on White folks' terms and 2) the race card is real in White folks' minds.

Now you can say I am unfairly characterizing a group, White men, on this guys response, but trust me, I had a number of guys be not so kind to me after the survey. I don't think it was simply the people who I bumped into today, but this country and Metro Detroit has a serious silence on the dialogue of race. Now Detroit is the most segregated major metro area. Want the evidence of it? I spoke to people who have lived over 10 years in the suburbs of Detroit who admitted to me that they had only been into the city 2 or 3 times. When I informed some people I wanted to get their opinions about Metro Detroit they said things like, "Well I don't know anything about the Detroit area." Ladies and Gentleman, if you live in the same county, less than 8 miles from the city limits, you may be a part of the Metro Detroit area. I didn't make the term up, hell if you watch the news they say it at least 30 times each morning. But somehow, White Metro Detroiters, seem to consider themselves autonomous, and in many ways are. If you live in a completely segregated space, attend segregated work, and socialized in segregated ways, you are autonomous. But if you live in those conditions then why not talk about race?

Well because talking about race means that someone is going to play that dreaded card. That's right, there is always a hold card tucked deep in my hand. It's more powerful then a flush and apparently all Black folks are adept at playing it, it's the race card. I think the term the race card is really interesting in that it immediately trivializes social experience. There is nothing cool or joyous about being pulled over and having police officers approach your car with their gun drawn because you're a young Black man. There is nothing fun about being followed around stores when you're really trying to buy something. There is nothing amusing about living in substandard conditions because you inherit the debits of your family's "misfortune." When I talk about race, I'm not playing shit, I'm telling you my experience. Don't discount my experience because you have lived a different one than me. I don't discount your experiences. What if I said, "Oh he's playing the class card." People don't say that, because folks who are White, Black, Asian, Latin@, Purple know that social class matters. Isn't it peculiar that race and ethnicities, which are just as "socially real" as social class, are part of a game.

There are so many rhetorical tricks around the issue of race in the country that silence the dialogue. If you want some good reading on them check out Eduardo Bonilla-Silva. I think the first step to real dialogue about race and opportunity is realizing that no one here is playing a card or a game. The stakes of segregation, discrimination and deprivation are real. See cause if this was a game, I would be holding chips under the table, because the race card doesn't seem to "win" me much. Ah man, I'll write more later.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Some things never change???? Black Self-Esteem???

The video below is done by Kiri Davis and its entitled "A girl like me." It's a short film from the Media that Matters Film Festival. Dance posted the link to it on her page earlier this week and I found myself too busy to check it out, then my sister sent me to it, so I decided to watch it. Honestly, it made me cry, literally. I just grabbed it off of youtube so you could click on it directly and not be like me and just pass it by. One click. Please watch it.

One of the reasons I cried was that for someone who studies race and children everyday, in someways I have to believe or want to believe "things have changed." Her "replication" of the doll study, was the thing got me gushing tears. As a social scientist I've toiled over, rationalized, and critiqued the Clark findings by saying, well the doll was painted, etc. which had an effect ... blah, blah, fucking blah! There is something powerful and clear about this video. Scientifically we'll always debate self-esteem among African-Americans, but I'm not sure science can tell us some of the things that we're living.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Two new exciting things for Black folks at University of Michigan (Update)

Okay, I really don't have time to be posting on this right now, but I had to acknowledge it. I went to sleep last night and opened my webmail today and was greeted by a new face.

Yeah, yeah, I know it's blurry but this is the icon for a personal message! Before it was a little White face, literally White with no color, but now we have Raheem. That's my nickname for him! I may even respond to U of M email from now on because of Raheem.

Secondly the Black Welcome Week schedule is up and posted here. Aight, off to do work.

Update: This morning we seem to have gone back to the old White person instead of Raheem. I pray that this is just a system adjustment. For those who didn't remember the old one, this is what he/she looked like.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Read this Post

Omodiende posted a powerful piece over at the Barbershop Notebooks. The piece is "Living with Dying: The Reality of AIDS". Share it with someone.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Idlewild Review

Making films is hard. Making hip-hop films is harder. Making a film that plays with time and space is something that Outkast did well. I went to check out Idlewild a couple of days ago and was really moved to write a review, then I got lazy. This is my third incarnation of the review. Enjoy.

Not your Idlewild?
There has been a little bit of controversy around the movie being set in Idlewild, Ga (a mythical place). A year or so ago I heard about Idlewild, MI and thought that the movie was going to have a special connection to the area. I didn't particularly have an issue with the name and the setting, which was cool with me, but not with some.

"They take something with such historical significance as Idlewild, take the peripheral aspects of it, and turn it into a shoot-'em-up, bang-bang minstrel show. It demeans me as an African-American."

That was the comment of Coy Davis, the director of Whatever Happened to Idlewild. I hear that it's a good documentary, but I was pretty suprised that he would come out his neck so quickly about the film. There was shooting, but it wasn't a shoot-em up film. A minstrel show, interesting... there weren't even any White folks in the movie that I recall. There was the presence of the Black Middle class,decent representations of the juke joint, commentary on the "chitterling circuit", oh I guess characterizing Black culture in rural areas is minstrely ... maybe I missed it. I think it would have been nice to set it in Michigan, but maybe people like Davis' reaction dissuaded that possibility seriously.

Also, I think the name Idlewild represents the condition of the place. Percival (Andre) was "idle" in his place in the town, while the Church represented a dynamic setting with almost a religious excuberance from its attendees and was often "wild".

Storyline and Acting
I think the story line was solid. I didn't expect to have a thriller or many plot twists, instead it was straight forward movie. One where the viewer is encouraged to suspended disbelief. As the film opens the cinematography moves you into the images of old and I felt there (in part) for the time in my seat. I think the script was written close enough to Big Boi and Andre's characters that I didn't feel uncomfortable with their acting, even though Faizon Love was a little over the top, but delivered some great quotables.

Time Travellin'
The times that I was taken out of the old occured via the music. If the film made me realize one thing, it is that Andre is a musical genius! I wanted to see how they blended hip-hop music and classic juke joints. I was kind of shocked honestly, most of the music performed in the film were tracks that Outkast had already done, with some very small alterations (i.e. no references to tapes, cds, baby please...). I coudn't quite figure out why they didn't remix more stuff or change up the messaging. My best explanation is that they were attempting to challenge our conceptions of time and the fluidity between the juke joint and the hip hop spot. Some of the music meshed seamlessly (Andre's She Lives in my lap) while other moments felt odd (Big Boi rapping Church into the camera). The fluidity with with they treated time and progress was best represented by Percival's room and his wall of clocks. Throughout the film I kept thinking of afrofuturism, but that may just be me seeing too much Andre in the film.

My Verdict
Overall I was impressed with the film. It was an ambitious and well executed. Of course there could have been things that were done better, but the overall project was pretty fresh. It's what Carmen could have been (lol).

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Strong men Keep a- comin' on...

In high school I remember purchasing Brotherman: The Odyssey of Black men in America and reading part of Sterling Brown's "Strong Men". I was really moved by the poem's opening stanzas and periodically I'm reminded of our path as Black men in this country. Lately I've been reading a number of popular press articles that discuss my alma mater Morehouse College. This past year we graduated our largest class ever. This past year we also had some former Men of Morehouse take the life of one of their brothers for a paultry amount of cash. I'm not one to romanticize reality, the stories juxtapose each other enough to let me know we have a long way to go. But I am one to look forward and attempt to highlight signs of progress. After all, when in a stake of peril if you don't have vision, you're likely destined to stay in that place. At the Association of Black Sociologists meeting I went to a panel on "The Crisis of the Black Male" and realized that people have been "sounding the alarm" part time for the past 20 some-odd years, but the response has been less than favorful. Well, I do believe that we Black men still are in a time of crisis, but this story did make me remember that sometimes progress, which is a slow process, can be seen sooner than you think.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Montreal 101(Update)

So I was in Montreal this past week for the Association of Black Sociologists and the American Sociological Association meetings. The meetings went well, I got chance to see a number of people that I haven't seen in a year or two and I got a chance to fish around for future opportunities (graduate school must come to an end).

The title of the post comes from my tour guide on the "Tour of Black Montreal". Our tour guide was a 50 year old White man who was of French descent. I should have known the tour was going to be shady when he told us that he was going to give us "a standard" tour of Montreal and highlight some Black history. Well, for two hours, I sat on a bus, along with about 50 Black sociologists and we heard him randomly mention Black people. I learned that there are two Black communities in Montreal: the Black English and the Astians (that's Haitian to you none French speakers ;) I also learned that the World Expo of '67 changed his life and he met people from Africa and that the Africans loved the Expo so much they just decided to stay. I learned that lgbtq prefer to be called "sexual minorities" because it's politically correct.

I also learned that there are no ghettos in Montreal, which is interesting. Well really interesting because my friend stayed in a "hotel" in the "red light district" and while walking her to her door, I saw two drug transactions, a fight, and we had to ask the resident prostitutes to move off the stoop so she could get in. Come to think of it, it does make sense there are no ghettos, cause there are no poor or homeless. After all, I learned from our guide that there are enough social services and that anyone I saw on the street (those who we in the States would consider homeless), wanted to be on the street. I mean even if it does get down to -37c (-34.6f) according to our tour guide. They just didn't want to go into shelters. I guess the human condition is just different in Montreal.

Well maybe not, my friends came across "The Illuminated Crowd" Statue on McGill, it's pretty intense.
A visitor to downtown Montreal almost can'?t help walking by a large sculptural group outside a bank building on McGill College Avenue. Called The Illuminated Crowd, the work is by the European artist, Raymond Masson, and it was installed in 1986. It'?s made of polyester resin painted a kind of vanilla yellow and itÂ?s a crowd, all right! Dozens of figures, from the frenzied to the serene, seem to jostle each other for a place on the sidewalk. According to the descriptive text, the piece deals with the nature of man, violence and hope and the quest for the ideal. According to this writer, it'?s one of those works that divide people into two groups Â? those who love it vs. those who hate it. Quote from Montreal Behind the scenes

Here are some more views of it (1,2,3,4). Well I'm back and still black at Michigan so I'm gonna get to working.

Update: I neglected to mention that at the close of the ABS conference we shared the hotel with Anthrofest aka a Furry convention. Now I wonder what my tour guide would have referred to them as???

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Why I still watch reality tv (or at least my rationalization).

It's very common for anyone who visits me at my apartment to find me tuned into some unlikely TV programming. Well folks tend to think that I would be sitting and watching Eyes on the Prize and the Huey P Newton story on a loop, instead they find that I am still obsessed with reality TV. I can't front, you'll find me watching Project Runway, The Hills, The Real World (just kidding, that show is terrible), The Real Housewives of Orange County or something of that ilk. Recently a friend interviewed me about my media consumption habits and I had to verbalize what I like about the shows that I commonly watch. It's always different when you say your thoughts aloud, maybe it's nommo or that old testifying from church, but once it slipped out my lips, it became clear, kinda.

I usually watch reality TV for the gross displays of whiteness. I can't resist it, it's like watching a car crash on the side of the highway or rummaging through medicine cabinets. When you're done doing what you've done you feel sorry that you did it and often feel like you've wasted your time. Well that's not wholely the case. I realized that reality TV has given me access to the conspicuous consumption that is enjoyed by some sectors of society. I think it's amazing/ridiculous that I can watch someone decide between an internship in Paris and spending the summer in Malibu with her boyfriend. With that said, I can't stand shows like "The Fabulous Life" on VH1 (has anyone noticed it's just a re-hashed Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous)which celebrates the material dimensions of privilege. I'm much more into watching Paris and Nicole struggle with understanding basic social functions. Okay, I know some of that is acting, but some of that stuff you can't fake.

As a Black man in America, I can't say I've had that many carefree days. Heck, it's only 1pm and I've been thinking of where I have to go and how I'll be received. As my homegirl once said to me, "Life must be really nice when you don't have to worry about oppression." Well, I think in a way, I get to see that otherside of the coin in "reality" tv, no matter how surreal it is.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Guess who's bizzack!!??

Well I wanna thank everyone who dropped me a line of checking in. Very sweet of you, demonstrates that loved ones do exist, even if it takes me blogging about me to get folks filled in. The 24 hour cloud like I predicted was just that, about 24 hours of unease and discomfort. I'm back in Michigan and stepping one foot in front of the other. I'll post more later, but in the meantime, check out Wendy Woods' webpage in her campaign for mayor.* And get some good food for thought from my twin star J-Rod. And for all my Clerks II fans, "it's okay, we're taking it back."

*This is not necessarily an endorsement of Woods, but I think you should check her out :)

Thursday, July 20, 2006

One of those days

Ever feel like sometimes for 24 hours there is a cloud following you? Well I'm trying to figure out when my term of service is up!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

International Racism and Black Republicanism??

Whenever I lecture of race and ethnicity envitably I get questions about racism around the world. I always hesitate to answer the questions, trying to feel what the person is asking. For me to answer accurately, I would have to know the situation they were talking about, as well as the social, historical, and political dimensions of the landscape to really give a decently accurate response. I guess it's a response to not wanting to be "wrong" or misread a situation or continue to perpetuate the belief that race, as it is lived in this country, is the way race functions everywhere else. There are some particular things about the ways race and ethnicity function in this country that make it unique, but certainly not an outlier.

On the global level, racial or ethnic divisions can be seen, but not necessarily in the fashion that we construct them here. A couple of years ago a I had a student come up to me and tell me that he was trying to explain to an African immigrant to this country that he was Black. He said, "Man, Dumi I tried to tell him, but he just didn't understand." Besides feeling shame for having clearly produced a student who missed the nuascences in these social categorizations, I was reminded that my student, like most people read the US constellations of race and ethnicity as global. This shouldn't be suprising, hell, most Americans see the rest of the world through their own positionality. It is not to say that we all don't have a unique view point, but Americans seem to seldom interrogate why they view the world as they do. Who is Black? Who is White? Who is male? Who is female? All of these answers can vary dependent upon where you are. So why do American insist on reading race, in particular, in a US centric fashion? Maybe because sometimes it fits or does it?

Recently, the state of Michigan has been ripe with discusion of this ad. You'll have to enlarge the ad to read the text. Essentially it talks about how when Jesse Owens in 1936 campaigned for a Republican candidate. In the quote Owens explains he campaigned for him because when he won his gold neither Roosevelt nor Hitler would shake his hand, but the Republican candidate did. The ad goes on to explain how African Americans have long been treated poorly by the democrats and now it's time for a change (I assume he wants me to vote for Dick DeVoss). I think the ad is pretty interesting for its imagery and argument. Also shout out to Daily Kos for publishing it. I had a hard time locating it, probably because of the Hitler image. For the past five years or so, I keep hearing Republicans and members of the right talk about how African-Americans are considered a given to the Democrats and how we've been SO mistreated, so we should really not show our allegiance. This type of reasoning always reminds me of the quote "No permanent enemies, no permanent allies, only permanent interests." So I ask, what the hell interest does the right have for my condition?

I agree that democrats have been "hoeing" us for a long time. I agree that we are one of the most reliable blocks, but honestly the other side of the fence doesn't seem to have my interests at heart. Let me count the ways: 1) anti-felon voting rights, 2)disproportinate sentencing, 3) reduced social spending, 4) anti-affirmative action, 5) increased military presence internationally... and the list goes on and on like Shyheim. Good try on the ad fellas, but please do realize we're a little smarter than seeing a set of images and thinking what was in the past, is in the present. The context of Owens' life (domestically and internationally) was one of exclusion and hatred and in many ways, African-Americans' lives remain analogous. But I think we're clear who won't shake our hands now... ain't that Right?

And on a related note kinda, how about that World Cup finish?

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Black and in School

There a couple of things recently that have peeked my interest as it relates to race and education. As you know, the state of Michigan remains embroiled in a battle over Affirmative Action, which may come to a head in November. I'm slacking on the updates around the legality of the MCRI signatures, but I'm figuring that stuff will wash itself out. If you want me to continue posting on that stuff, drop me an email or comment. Okay, but I digress.

The Supreme Court has recently decided to hear cases on the race and school assignment. If you had a chance to read any of the Harvard Civil Right's Projects reports over the last five years, you know that our children are going to more segregated schools than they did nearly 50 years ago. Of course this is not without debate, the Thernstroms have argued that segregation has decreased in school in their book No Excuses. Regardless of which side you believe (and I fall in line with HCRP because of their methodology, not ideology) the classrooms that children attend as well as the students they sit next to affect their educational performance.

In this NY Times piece the CEO for the Center for Equal Opportunity classifies research that provides evidence that racially mixed schools yield educational benefits as "touchy-feely social science." *Ouch* I guess considering the relationships between children as important to their educational accomplishments is soft. Well then, call me a powder puff.

I think at the root of this issue is not simply desegregation, but integration. While a court can mandate that groups co-exist and occupy the same space, a court can never guarantee that these groups will integrate into each others lives. As someone who finds myself aligning more with Black nationalism (in some form) than liberal intergrationism, I know their are many issues in this. Many nationalists as well as conservatives will take this opportunity to suggest that consideration of race or desegregation is not needed, but not so fast. I would argue without desegregation, the odds for integration dramatically reduce. I guess one could consider desegregation the lynch-pin to integration. In that sense, without desegregation, you shouldn't expect to see the "benefits" of integration. Which leads me to Booker T. Washington.

The larger question of integration is one that has always intrigued and plagued me. Booker T. Washington posed an interesting position at his Atlanta Compromise address when he said,
"In all things purely social we can be as separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress."
In my own research, I've come to see the issue with this idea is the fact that social worlds between Black and Whites are largely separate. So the ability to reap the economic, and in this case educational, gains of others is less likely.

Simple example, trips to the local library to read about Peru pale in comparison to trips to Peru. When we talk about children's experiences and opportunities we have to realize that exposure is paramount for healthy social and academic development. By assuming that we can segment our experiences, when they are still unequal, will leave us behind still, right? Aight this is way too complex for me to be posting on right now. In fact this post was started weeks ago and I need to be writing a dissertation!!!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Organizing for peace in Ypsi

In the past two weeks I've received an email from current U of M student Krisilyn Frazier about the death of Clifton Lee Jr at the hands of the Washtenaw County Sheriffs. Issues of police violence can brew uprisings, distrust, and organizing for progressive change.

Krisilyn has stepped up and wants any help she can get in organizing a Peace March later this summer. She says it best, so I'll quote her here,
As I stated before, the purpose of the Peace March is to promote peace and unity within the community. It will give the community an opportunity to speak out against black on black violence, police brutality, and racism. This is not an attack on ALL blacks or ALL police, just against those who commit the crimes and those who demonstrate insensitivity toward minorities as individuals who deserve equal respect and protection under the law.

You can contact her at for more information.
*As a note the information on Accountable Community Policing that I linked to can be found in Covenant IV of the The Covenant. Gotta use what we know.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Blackness in Ann Arbor

The post title probably makes you think I'm gonna write some deep introspective stuff... sorry not tonight. But there are a couple of things going on in Ann Arbor that I thought you may like to know are going down.

This Saturday the Ann Arbor Branch of the NAACP is hosting its annual Juneteenth gathering! It will be happening from noon to 5pm at Wheeler Park. It's a nice family friendly event which features food, performances, and even some Bid Whist (how's that for Midwestern)!

Next Thursday, June 22nd from 10am to 6pm The Black Factory is stopping into Ann Arbor. The Black Factory will be at Liberty Plaza, it's that little concrete park thingy at the corner of Liberty and S. Division. Definitely follow the link above to see the brochure about the Black Factory. I'll have to try to stop by to see what is going on, it seems really interesting.

And while I'm on my Ann Arbor kick, have you been to Another Ann Arbor? It's a great website which is one of the original resources on things Black in Michigan.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Why can't we have nothing??????!!!!!

Remember this? Well take a look at this. (shakes head in disgust)

Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Covenant Book Review

The book, in my estimation, is a continuation of the lineage that Du Bois sought to establish with the Atlanta Conferences. While many have attempted systematic analyses of the conditions of African-Americans across a broad spectrum, few have successfully conducted these analyses and provided prescription for change that could be understood at the individual, family, community, and policy levels. The Covenant does this. Now of course the book is not perfect, one could desired deeper analysis from some of the contributors, but I ask you to suspend your “academic hat” of deconstruction and “critique for the sake of critique” and take the time to see how each essay fits into the whole.
Read my full review here.

The Covenant Tour is going to conclude in Detroit this Friday, June 16th at 7pm at
Greater Grace Temple
City of David
23500 W. Seven Mile Road
Detroit, MI 48219
It's free and open to the public!!!

Sunday, June 04, 2006


Study for Intervention: Invisible Man #1 by Charles H. Nelson

So it's apparently here, the (print) media blitz over Black men. The Washington Post is now running a series on Black men, I plan to post my thoughts on their series and like most other things, whatever else I darn well please!

The opening piece in the series is based on a poll that the Post conducted. As the title suggests, the results are a really mixed bag. For the past 8 years or so, I've found myself consistently uttering the statement, "Being a Black male is all about contradictions." I often say this statement with a tongue-in-cheek candor to my friends and family, but I, in many ways, do believe this. From my perspective, Black masculinity is a fabulously contradictory constellation. I won't dive into that, better minds have already done this (1,2,3).
But the survey, at the least, confirms that we see ourselves in complex and in some cases in contradictory ways. As a young Black man I can think of times when I complain about the ways in which women (often White) have changed their posture upon seeing me or outright have run from me because they saw me approaching on a street. But at the same time I recently told my girlfriend that while those types of responses are not ideal, that she should do what she thought made her feel safe (within reason) when she asked about a similar situation. Contradictions. It's kind of the the same way we don't flinch when Pac can make "Keep your head up" and "Wonder why they call u b-tch." To many, this would be a fatal flaw among Black men, but if it is a fatal flaw then we should really struggle to understand where it comes from. In part, it's got to be attributable to our social position - privileged as men but disadvantaged as Black men in a predominantly White world. But as always, there is more to that story...

Despite our diversity of perspective on our own social conditions and why we are where we are, some things remain pretty central to us.
Despite their clear achievements and general optimism about their prospects, black men worry more than virtually everyone, the survey found.

For a while social science research has been finding evidence that more middle-class African-Americans experience more discrimination, but this still seems to shock many. It really challenges the dominant economic narrative of racial discrimination really being discrimination based on skills or other "unobservables".

If anything, the survey suggests that better-educated black men experience more direct racism than those with fewer resources. For example, 63 percent of educated, upper-middle-class black men said they have been unfairly stopped by police, compared with 47 percent of less-advantaged black men.

It's also pretty interesting to see how White men view us... more details are in the survey pdf if you want to check it out, but here is a snippet from the article.
Regarding the obstacles black men face and their prospects for the future, whites were the most optimistic. Black women tended to be the most pessimistic, even more than black men, with only 44 percent of black women saying that now is a good time to be a black man in America . Black women were also just as likely as their male counterparts to see the economic system as biased against black men.

In sum, I am very interested by the poll and will hopefully this weekend plow through the supporting materials in their entirety. Two glaring issues are incarceration and that fact that it was conducted over the phone. With 8 percent of the Black male population imprisoned, there is a considerable perspective that may be missing. And a phone survey likely means that they undersample lower-income people or people with more transient lives. But that's just the sociologist getting a little nerdy.

Rachel over at Rachel's Tavern also beat me to posting on this, so I'd suggest you drop by her spot and see what she has to say.

Oh, and should I be ashamed that I cringe each time I see Chuck Brown picture...

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Our Native Brothers and Sisters

To many Black folks (including Black Latinos) the claim "I have Indian in my family" or some variation there-in is common. Rather than demand DNA tests, I'd encourage folks to read things by Tiya Miles or just read some of the recent stories that display some important happening and commonalities that matter for all of us... other than your long flowing hair ;)

Native Health and Education...
If you've been keeping your ears to the streets (or just have a good informant like I do) you've heard about the Bush Administration's attempt to completely cut the Urban Indian Health Program as well as some educational funding. Thankfully, due to great advocacy and organizing, that is not going to happen and the new budget is looking better, though there is still a ways to go.
By a 293-128 vote, the House passed Interior's fiscal year 2007 budget bill on Thursday. The measure funds Indian programs at a total of $5.9 billion, $204 million above current levels and $62 million above the amount the White House requested in February.

For a more detailed picture of what's been going on, check out this story at

Them bones...
Margaret Kimberly provides a nice commentary at on the Bushs' lineage and George's ancestor's pillaging of Geronimo's bones. It's actually pretty funny (and dare I say refreshing) to hear a genetic argument about the deviance of the Bush family!

Mascot Madness...
And as you probably know already, but if you didn't here is a link, the NCAA declined three schools' appeals to use Native Mascots at the end of April. Of course this is not the last that we will hear of this, particularly from the North Dakota, where letters of support and disagreement were issued by native communities. The article has a decent summary on past happenings, so I'll let you read it.

Lastly, shout out to Heather "Unbreakable" Brink for keeping me updated and staying on me to post. Now only if she would stop playing sports and sending the national healthcare situation into crisis ;P