Sunday, April 30, 2006

"What's Up Ni@@a?" -- Double Standards in Racial Slurs

"Nigger - a black man with a slavery chain around his neck; Nigga - a black man with a gold chain on his neck."
--Tupac Shakur's distinction between "Nigger" and "Nigga," as cited by Wikipedia, the free online dictionary.

I CRINGE when I hear black folks use the term "nigga" in the presence of white people. I cringe because I know that by hearing black folks openly use and accept that word, white folks will think it is okay for them to use it. However, I will admit that I too have been guilty of using this word, but only in the comfort of my friends (not all black people -- just my friends). Does it make it any better to use the term "nigga" when white folks are not around, or does it make me -- and others like me -- hypocrites?

Whenever I use the word, I am usually telling a story, and referencing some ignorant person in the story. It's not that I purposely say it, or on the flipside, that I consciously try not to say it, but it just seems to flow as the best way to describe the level of ignorance of certain people. I am not necessarily saying that it is okay for me to use that word while in the company of my friends; however, I do think there is a distinct difference between that, and between using the term "nigga" openly and freely among white people. I know, based on experience, that white folks WILL take the liberty to use that word -- and more importantly, to think it is okay to use that word -- once they have heard a black person use it in his/her daily conversation, a comedian use it during a performance, or in rap lyrics.

Unfortunately, the Hip-Hop community shoulders much of the responsibility for widespread acceptability of "nigga." In a show about the TV series "Black.White" -- where a white family and a black family "swapped" lives, Oprah told a story about being in Africa, and being called a "Nigga" by an African man. When told the use of that word was inappropriate, the man told her that based upon the lyrics in rap music, he thought that is how all African-Americans referred to themselves, and shockingly, what they want to be called.

Black folks -- STOP SAYING THE WORD "NIGGA"AROUND WHITE PEOPLE!!!!!!!! Stop speaking so loudly at restaurants and other public places, to the point where white folks all around you can hear you refer to your boys as "niggas." I suppose that we all should try to refrain from using the word altogether, but in the meantime, we really need to curb our willingness to say it so freely in public. As long as we continue to do so, we can expect that white folks will think it is okay to refer to us as "niggas."

Call me a hypocrite, but that's just my honest opinion.


Sunday, April 23, 2006

Expiration of the 1965 Voting Rights Act -- Is Our Right to Vote in Jeopardy?

The short answer to that question is: no, our right to vote is not in jeopardy, per se. However, certain provisions of the landmark Act are set to expire in 2007, which could potentially affect our ability to vote if the implementation of discriminatory practices is allowed. Specifically, Sections 5, 6, 9 and 203 are set to expire. Here's a quick breakdown of each section:
  • Section 5 -- Applies to any state or county where a discriminatory test or device was used as of November 1, 1964, and where less than 50 percent of the voting age residents of the jurisdiction were registered to vote, or actually voted, in the presidential election of 1964, 1968, or 1972 (about 16 states altogether). Requires these states to submit proposed changes to any voting law or procedure to the Department of Justice or the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C for pre-approval, to prevent those states with prior discriminatory practices from instituting future discriminatory practices.
  • Section 203 -- Applies to communities with voters in at least one of four language groups -- American Indians, Asian Americans, Alaskan Natives, and those of Spanish heritage -- if (1) more than 5% of the voting-age citizens in a jurisdiction belong to a single language minority community and have limited English proficiency (LEP); OR (2) more than 10,000 voting-age citizens in a jurisdiction belong to a single language minority community and are LEP; AND (3) the illiteracy rate of the citizens in the language minority is higher than the national illiteracy rate (affects jurisdictions across 31 states). Requires these jurisdictions to make language assistance available at polling locations for citizens with limited English proficiency.
  • Sections 6 and 9 -- Gives the Justice Department the ability to send observers and monitors around the country during election season to protect election-related civil rights.

To find out if your state or jurisdiction is one affected by these expiring sections, click here:

Whether or not your state is one affected by this, black folks need to pay attention to the possibility that these sections could possibly expire. ANY depletion of voting rights for ANYONE, or of the mechanisms that keep this process fair, is a bad trend for everyone -- not just those directly affected by the expiring provisions.

Black folks -- TAKE ACTION!!!!!! Click on this link to find out how your voice can be heard:

Congress needs to know that we won't sit by quietly while our right to vote, and to do so in a manner that lacks discrimination, is being chipped away!!!!!


Sunday, April 16, 2006

You Drive A Benz, But You Live With Your Momma????

Have you ever met someone whose priorities are, let's say, a little out of whack? For instance, take the guy with the phat ride (I really don't say things like "phat ride," but I thought it was appropriate here) -- decked out in 22's, chrome package, luxury sound, with chinchilla seats -- who lives with his momma. Or, there's the female who wears all the latest designer clothing, carries only Gucci and Louis Vuitton purses, and always has the latest pair of Manolo's in her closet, which happens to be inside her apartment.

What do the people in these two scenarios have in common? They have both fallen victim to a lack of priorities. Instead of focusing on long-term financial goals, they focus on depreciable material things, so they can look like they have money when they really do not. I'm sure most, if not all, of the women reading this have been approached by that guy -- living with his momma, but trying to impress you with material things. Just like I'm sure the men reading this have met women who appear to have it all together -- always dressed to a T -- until you find out their finances are a mess. Unfortunately, this epidemic infects many, many, many folks in the black community. And although some people like to characterize this behavior as irresponsible, I think it runs deeper than most people think.

We all know that systemic racism has historically inhibited the earning potential of black folks in this country, which results in many black folks growing up poor, or without much money. They are never taught what it means to save or invest money, or to use credit wisely, because their parents never did any of those things. Schools, especially those in urban areas, typically don't provide education on these types of things because they are too busy teaching their students to take standardized tests (especially now, courtesy of Bush's "No Child Left Behind Act"). Thus, naturally, when these same people get a little money in their pockets, they want to indulge themselves with the material things they were deprived of as children, rather than invest or save their money.

So where are our children supposed to learn how to be fiscally responsible, if their parents and their schools fail them in that regard? The answer to that is they don't learn it, which results in the guy with the "phat ride" parked at his momma's house. I guess the question really should be: how do we break that cycle? Honestly, I don't know the answer to that, so I'm hoping someone out there in blogger-land can share their thoughts on this topic with the rest us.

In the meantime, I'll say this to both the men and women who are victims of this epidemic: it is not attractive for you to act like you have something you don't. Get your finances together, and invest in some appreciable assets before you go spending all your money on rims and accessories.


Sunday, April 09, 2006

White Privilege: The Benefit of Being White When Accused of Rape

Imagine this: Three black members of an HBCU's football team are accused of raping a white woman. The police issue a search warrant two days later, and subject the entire team to DNA tests. Meanwhile, the players/suspects roam free on the streets. Sounds good, but its not likely to go down that way given those facts. Now let's switch it up a little. The players/suspects are white members of a prestigious university's mostly white lacrosse team, and the victim is a black woman. Does this change the outcome? Sadly, it does.

This is the story from Duke University that has made national headlines. A black woman has accused three members of Duke University's lacrosse team of rape. The alleged incident occurred on March 13, 2006, and the victim reported the incident in the early morning hours of March 14. Two days later, the police obtained a search warrant for the house where the alleged incident occurred, finding several items the victim stated were in the house. Also on March 16, 46 of the team's 47 members (the lone black team member was ruled out as a suspect because, well, he's black) submitted to DNA tests. Those results are expected to be out this week. Meanwhile, Duke's lacrosse team continued to play two games (on March 18 and March 21) before forfeiting two games. Finally, on April 5, the University cancelled the remainder of the team's schedule this season.

With the DNA results coming out this week, I felt it appropriate to discuss this issue. I can't say whether or not a rape actually occurred (well, I can, but that's not the point of this discussion); but I can say, with some certainty, that the story would be different if the suspects were black, and if the victim was white. We already have evidence of that; remember The Scottsboro Boys and Emmett Till (and Emmett Till was only accused of whistling at a white woman, not raping one)? Yes, those events may have occurred at a time when racism was more tangible and visible than it is now, but I think too many of us become complacent because we don't see as many outright acts of racism as we used to.

White privilege, which I think helps to explain why the members of this lacrosse team continue to walk the streets (specifically, the three members the victim identified by name), IS racism. Let's say it again: WHITE PRIVILEGE IS RACISM. And although many white folks like to claim that white privilege is nonexistent, we know -- or should know -- different.

Along with the rest of the country, I am interested to find out the results of the DNA tests. In the meantime, I can only continue to wonder how this story would differ if a white woman accused black students at North Carolina Central University of rape.


Sunday, April 02, 2006

Marriage Is for White People

"Ain't nothing going on but the rent. You got to have a J.O.B., if you want to be with me. No romance without finance." Remember that 1986 song by Gwen Guthrie? At that time, black women generally needed the black man's earning potential to sustain their families. We all remember that back in the day, it was the black man's role to be the "breadwinner" in the family, and that many times, women married -- or stayed in dysfunctional marriages -- because they couldn't afford to be alone. Oh my, how times have changed.

Like last week, this week's entry discusses another article that circulated via email last week. The article, titled "Marriage Is for White People," addresses the low marriage rates for black people, as compared to people of other racial groups. The article also states some very interesting statistics that support this phenomenon:

  • African-Americans have the lowest rate of marriage of any racial group in the U.S.
  • 43.3 percent of black men and 41.9 percent of black women in America had never been married, in contrast to 27.4 percent and 20.7 percent respectively for whites.
  • African-American women are the least likely in our society to marry.
  • In the period between 1970 and 2001, the overall marriage rate in the United States declined by 17 percent; but for blacks, it fell by 34 percent.
  • A black child was more likely to grow up living with both parents during slavery days than he or she is today.

The author attributes these statistics to her observation that "black women in their twenties and early thirties want to marry and commit at a time when black men their age are more likely to enjoy playing the field." She continues by stating, "as men mature, and begin to recognize the benefits of having a roost and roots (and to feel the consequences of their risky bachelor behavior), they are more willing to marry and settle down. By this time, however, many of their female peers are satisfied with the lives they have constructed and are less likely to settle for marriage to a man who doesn't bring much to the table."

WOW, it's like deja vu. I feel like I've had this very conversation with several of my girlfriends before, and this article has sparked more conversation (and more opinions) about the subject. Personally, I can definitely relate to the author's observations. When I was in my early to mid 20's, I was much more willing to settle down than I am now. As I look back, I can objectively say that back then, I was probably looking for someone to provide me with stability -- not to make me rich, but to make me feel safe and secure. As I have gotten older, and accomplished more in my life, my standards in men have changed. As the article states, "Women's expectations have changed dramatically while men's have not changed much at all..." "Women now say, 'Providing is not enough. I need more partnership.'" The author also states, "Most single black women over the age of 30 whom I know would not mind getting married, but acknowledge that the kind of man and the quality of marriage they would like to have may not be likely, and they are not desperate enough to simply accept any situation just to have a man."

Those comments really resonate with me because I can relate to them. Financially, I'm pretty self-sufficient, so I don't need a man to provide that type of security for me. Rather, I need a man to be my friend, my confidant, and my partner, as the article states. Personally, I feel like black women have stepped up their game, and are bringing a lot more to the table; whereas black men really have not done the same. Instead of just bringing financial support to the table, black men need to realize that they need to bring emotional support to the table as well.

Perhaps some of these attitudes toward marriage cause, or are caused by, the information related in last week's entry about the state of the black man. Either way, I think it is a topic worth discussing, and I look forward to your comments.

If you have not read the article, click here to access it: