Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Adopting Across Seas And Races: Is it Ok? (Part I)

Disclaimer: I am not a parent nor am I adopted. I simply am writing based on my experiences with adopted adults and children, my brief experiences overseas, and my background in youth development. Also, I’m smart. So there.

About three months before I graduated from college, word on campus spread that the commencement speaker would be America’s Favorite Giver Away of Things, Ms. Oprah Winfrey. Interestingly enough, the response from my peers was mixed. Many were excited, others were nonplussed, and some were even angered. “How dare that woman who doesn’t give back to her own people speak at our graduation? I’ve never liked that ole mammy looking woman.”

Then, as usual, the discussion arose around Oprah’s Leadership Academy for Girls, a school she opened in South Africa. People complained that she should have opened a school in the U.S. and helped people here versus traveling so far. I have to admit, I was a little curious as to why you’d literally travel ACROSS needy children to find OTHER needy children you’d like to help. And then, in March 2011 when I visited Liberia, I got it.

The majority of my career and volunteer experiences has been grounded in youth development, particularly for “needy” children across the US. I’ve seen kids who couldn’t participate in after school programs because they had to go “work” (read: be corner boys a la The Wire), and students wearing thin, short sleeved shirts in 40 degree weather. I know that there are real almost “third-world” (I HATE that word) conditions in America. And yet… there’s a glimmer of hope for every single one of those kids. Every child I’ve ever encountered in America has access to at least one library, whether it was a locally funded one, their school’s, or one provided by a local Boys & Girls Club. We can talk about all the obstacles that make it difficult for that child to visit a library or even read a book, but that doesn’t change the fact that the access is there. While it’s seemingly small to many, access to libraries is one of several American privileges that cracks open the window of opportunity for the underprivileged.

Last spring, I traveled with my church to Liberia to work in their schools. Honestly though, my brothers and sisters there taught me more than I was able to give them. One of the things that really stuck out for me though: Liberia does not have a single federal or locally supported library. There is not one government-funded building where you can use the Dewey system or look up your favorite Goosebumps title. The few libraries there are privately owned and can only be accessed if you are especially privileged or lucky. (Read: Ballin’ so hard the police wants to fine you.)

Immediately, Oprah’s passion in South Africa clicked for me. The type of need in developing countries like Liberia, Indonesia, Sudan (both of them jawns), is in an entirely different stratosphere than that of American kids. As bad as kids in SE DC have it, I promise you… somebody somewhere else has it worse. My life’s work is evidence that my focus is on American kids, however, I recognize why someone would feel compelled to invest their dollars and love overseas. A Peace Corps member once provided the following analogy: “The odds of a kid making it out of the ‘hood in America are like the odds of winning the lottery. But Botswana ain’t even got no Powerball.”

Are there challenges? Well of course. Parenting, particularly adopting children inherently has its own challenges; adding a new culture only further complicates things. You’ve got concerns about preserving that child’s identity, how to instill them with pride in their own country/region, the immense paperwork, and a myriad of other things. But I’m willing to bet that the overwhelming majority of kids whose parents met those challenges head on appreciate that multifaceted investment. And in the end, isn’t that what matters? Finding a home for a child who needs one?

I know many folks have issues with celebs like Sandra Bullock and Brangelina’s presumably fad-like international brood of children. Folks question their motive and wonder if there just doing it because it’s a trendy thing to do. I don’t know them, so I can’t speak on their behalf. I will say this though:

If the adopting parent(s) have a sincere desire to do what’s best for a child that hails from a different country than their own, the positives derived from providing said child a home significantly outweigh the challenges associated with doing so.

Give me your opinions, dissenting or not: I’d love to hear them. Part II will discuss interracial adopting, particularly White parents adopting non-White kids.

Also if you’re looking for an opportunity to have an amazing time while ensuring that an American (DC) kid has a great Christmas, please come out tomorrow:

Karaoke for a Cause
 Liv NightClub | 11th & U Street NW
(above Tap & Parlor)
 Thursday, Dec 15th, 2011 |6 – 10 PM
Bring a toy or $20 for a food basket at the Southeast White House
If you can’t attend, you can still donate: Donate to Karaoke for a Cause!
You can also RSVP here: RSVP to Karaoke for a Cause
I can't wait to see you there! Feel free to email any song requests! lol!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Women on Women Crime (How Twitter Made Me A Feminist)

All things considered, the morning of Saturday, November 26th, 2011 was an interesting day for entertainment news. The NBA announced a tentative end to the lockout and a rumor sprouted that Lauren London, actress best known for her role in ATL, would be welcoming her second child, fathered by producer/R&B artist The-Dream. Sounds innocuous right?

Almost immediately, my Twitter timeline was overwhelmed with a barrage of tweets and tongue-in-cheek, mean-spirited commentary on the "hoes/groupies/bitches" that were rejoicing at the resurrection of the NBA. Many heads shook with pursed lips in Lauren London's direction, because in their opinion, she was a "hoe" for having a child with both Wayne Carter (Lil Wayne) and Terius Nash (The-Dream). 

This morning, via Twitter, someone I really respect and consider an intelligent, kind woman of substance referred to one woman as a bitch and another as a hoe, all within the space of about 15 minutes. It hurt my soul! As my boy @JeffTrouble says, "I want better for me. I want better for you."

I'm used to reading nonsense on Twitter, but something about today's brand of judgment/nastiness was especially nauseating. The source of my discomfort was that most of the comments were not from misogynistic, Neanderthal looking/Geico promoting men; they were from women. I realize this may seem like a double standard. I am certainly not desensitized to sexist comments from men; that's a problem too (and another blog post). Nevertheless, a woman's desecration of another woman pierces more deeply and here's why:

We know better. Any woman who has ever been dancing at a club, walking down a street in a seedy neighborhood or actually... just walked into a classroom in a flattering ensemble can recall a moment where she was objectified. We know what it's like for a man to focus on our parts versus our whole. And yet... we who have been a resident of the Pit of Degradation, choose to embrace it (Spelman women in 04 were a great exception). We embrace the terminology, the music, and unarguably most detrimentally, we embrace the attitude that some women's decisions make them not worthy of our respect, sisterhood, and a hug. Instead of Juvenile lewdly demanding that we "Back that Ass Up", somebody's daughter is singing the hook to Travis Porter's "Make It Rain." (Most recognizable lyrics are from the 2nd soprano chanting, "You wanna see some ass; I wanna see sum cash; keep dem dollas coming, and das gonna make me dance.")

In the interest of being 100% transparent, I'll admit I'm guilty. I've dropped down and got my eagle on. I've worn a dress that highlighted my frame in a way that draws attention from the mens-es (As my girl @Kenya_D calls them.. lol). We all contribute in small or big ways; it's hard not to when mainstream culture guides you in that direction. But at some point, we have to take responsibility. 

  • We can't completely blame hip-hop for sexist attitudes when Nicki Minaj pens the lyrics herself. 
  • We can't completely blame the media for showing off our body parts when we designed the dress.
  • We can't completely blame "diva dudes" and manwhores when we sign up to be on their roster.
  • We can't completely blame The-Dream for his fallout with Christina Milian, when we run to judge Lauren London for her rumored pregnancy and no one says ANYTHING about The-Dream fathering a child when he's not married to the mother. 

And we can't be surprised when someone questions the lack of a sense of community when we verbally assault women who seek out professionally athletes instead of addressing what may be a mental health issue like poor self-esteem or the notorious problem of "daddy issues." 

Does this mean that we can't hold celebrities accountable for their decisions? Does this mean that we can't criticize folks? Does this mean that we can't value planned parenthood over seemingly accidental pregnancies? Does this mean that we can't wear sexy clothes or step foot in the club? Nah, of course not. But...

I do challenge us to think a little more sensitively and critically before we speak/tweet/snub our noses. 
I challenge us to consider the effect on our subconscious and others' perception of us before we drop it like it's hot on any and everyone with a drink for you. 
I challenge us to address each other with words befitting a sister, mother, or daughter. 
I challenge us to use words and actions that evoke an attitude of respect from others. 

Don't be mad at me, sisters. I said it because I've dropped the ball before and I want to be able to turn to you to pick it up for me. I also said it because I love you and I respect you and I want that love and respect to be reciprocated.

Oh and BTW, the most rewarding tweet of the morning after all the hoopla was this one:

Morning Rumors. Blah blah blah. No I'm not pregnant or Nor do I even know the Dream like that. Now back to real life. God Bless.

I'll wait for the apologies. 

Monday, October 31, 2011

Is College for Everyone?

Disclaimer: I don't think college is for everyone. However, I do think people overuse the "college isn't for everyone" mantra. This post expounds more.

I don’t ever remember thinking “What will I do after high school?” As early as I can remember, it was inevitable that I was going to a four year university or college afterwards. All that was left to figure out was which one would it be and who was going to ante up the funds. Considering that neither of my parents graduated from college (they opted for the military) - it’s actually pretty impressive that college attendance was so ingrained in me.

Now that I’ve been out of college for a few years, I wonder if I would have chosen to go to if the decision hadn’t been made for me. I’d like to think the answer is yes, primarily because college was one of the greatest experiences of my life (in and out of the classroom). You may be thinking, “Well it worked out for you, smarty pants, but what about people who weren’t meant to go to college? College isn’t for everyone.” I can agree that college isn’t a purse full of rainbows and Hello Kitty smiles for everyone. Nevertheless, I think this College Isn’t For Everyone (CIFE) theory is overstated, and I’m here to refute 3 pillars that the CIFE argument stands on.

  • “I hate the classroom setting; I learn better when I’m actually practicing my craft/talent/passion.” So lectures/taking notes/taking tests/etc  isn’t your cup of tea. You prefer to make pottery, rap over beats, portray Othello, etc. Duh, everyone prefers that. However, taking some time to really sit down and study something gives you the opportunity to learn from people’s mistakes without having to make them yourself. You aren’t the first person who wanted to paint for a living. Why not learn the history and nuances of your field alongside future colleagues versus out on the streets? If you’re going to be stuck eating Cup O Noodles anyway, why not at least be learning at the same time?

  • “College is for people that know what they want to do. I’m not sure yet and want to try out some other stuff first.” Most people enter college at the age of seventeen or eighteen. Very few people know exactly what they want to do and even fewer end up doing what they set out to do. I know many prospective doctors/lawyers/teachers turned IT analysts/marketing consultants/fundraisers. Does this mean it was a lost cause? No! The great thing about college is that it gives you four years to be in a setting where your job is to learn not only about your chosen major, but also to learn about yourself! In college, you learn what you don’t like, what the competition is like in your field, and about more careers that you may have never considered prior to.

    Two great schools. :)
  • “I don’t want to waste money paying for a degree I probably won’t even use.” This might be the easiest argument to defeat. College is more than 4 years spent studying communications or liberal arts. It’s an opportunity to meet people from different walks of life. It’s an opportunity to network with folks who may end up being your future bridesmaids or physician or psychologist. It’s one of the few places for adults where your job is to learn. Eventually, most of us will have to get a formal full-time job. So why start earlier than you have to? I went to school for psychology and theater. I didn’t end up becoming a psychologist or an actress, both career goals I thought I wanted when I enrolled at Howard U. But I use my degree every day. When talking to potential funders or angry parents, I’m using my acting and psychology skills. When volunteering with kids, or attempting to understand how I can best market to folks, I’m using my psychology degree. An infamous requirement to graduate from the College of Arts & Sciences is the swimming course. And yep, I’ve certainly used that skill. Most of the jobs I’m interested don’t care about the specifics of my college degree; they just care that I got one. While it’s not necessarily fair, a college degree in just about anything says a lot to a potential employer. It says that you dedicated four (or five) years to your education and that you’re invested in your future. Even for folks that want to be an auto mechanic or cosmetologist, college has a business class for you. Maybe eventually, you’ll want to own your own body shop or salon. Maybe you’ll create a hair product that you’ve fine-tuned over the years and you need some marketing classes to show you how to get it out there. College has a little something for everyone.

In closing, the biggest problem I have with this argument is the following:
  • It typically comes from people with hindsight vision: those who have already attended college. It’s easy to say that college was a waste of time if you got the chance to experience it. It’s not fair though to decide for someone else that it would be. It’s almost like you’re stunting their potential.
  • My other issue is… the CIFE theory is probably most harmful to minority males, who already don’t seem to be sold on the idea of pursuing a higher education. Despite the well-known fact that college graduates earn on average, a million more over their lifetime than high school graduates, only 10% of Latino males have earned their bachelor’s degree and less than 3% of students at large public universities are Black men. I’m not sure that the minority community is in a position to act as if “too many of us are unnecessarily going to college all willy nilly.”
The stories of people who don’t attend college and go on to be lucratively successful are few and far between. Attending college is simply a smarter gamble. I’m not suggesting that you’re a failure if you don’t attend. Nevertheless, the CIFE is an overstated and somewhat dangerous argument to toss out there. Consider what I’ve suggested before you decide it’s a lost cause. Thoughts? Leave a comment!

Feel free to read these articles for Even More Words:

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Don't Let History Pass You By!

Mad cool points if you know where this picture came from.

On December 13, 1945, a cleaning woman and part-time janitor/barber welcomed a smiling brown boy with the odds already stacked against him to Memphis, Tennessee, a proud part of the Jim Crow South. His parents moved to Georgia and he grew up on a farm there where he lived a poor but happy life. His father worked three jobs to keep the family clothed and fed and encouraged him to get a college education. Just three years after the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, this young man went on to attend the prestigious Morehouse College and graduate with a degree in mathematics. From there he started working for the military while pursuing a master’s degree in computer science. After earning his master’s, this enterprising young African-American went on to work for Coca-Cola, Pillsbury, and then Burger King, each time gaining in status and acclaim. While at Burger King his division went from the least profitable to the most profitable. From there, this baby boomer was appointed CEO of a Pillsbury’s rapidly declining pizza chain. Under his leadership, the company did a complete 180 and became a profitable chain again. He gained national acclaim when he challenged then-President Clinton’s health care reform bill which, according to the now seasoned businessman, would force business owners to “lay off hundreds of folks.” In 2006, he battled Stage IV cancer with a 30% chance of survival and emerged victorious. In 2009, this industrious man founded the “Intelligent Thinkers Movement” with the intent of organizing activists in every congressional district.

And now, this man is poised to make history as the first Black man to win the Republican nomination, ensuring that 2012 would be the first presidential election virtually guaranteed to produce a Black winner. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m talking about Herman Cain. Herman Cain… the man who might be in the Top 10 for People Blacks Would Like to Auction Off in a Racial Draft a la Chappelle. Why the hate?

Ever since prejudiced Southerners hijacked the Republican party in the 1940’s, African-Americans have generally voted for the Democratic Party. According to, over 88% of Black Americans voted for a Democratic president in 2004. Black conservatives such as Supreme Court Clarence Thomas, Michael Steele, and now Herman Cain are often considered sell-outs and called Uncle Toms. By and large, many Blacks believe that black conservatives have turned their back on their community, by voting for measures and legislation that harms low-income and usually minority citizens. I tend to agree.

Nevertheless… in our haste to castigate Herman Cain and his “9-9-9 Plan”, many folks have missed what may be a monumental historical moment. Whether we agree with Mr. Godfather Pizza or not, we cannot negate that his rise in the Republican Party is something no one could have anticipated. The polls in Florida, South Carolina and other places show Herman Cain is outpacing Mitt Romney and even the handsome governor from Texas, Rick Perry. About 4 years ago, many people said they thought would never see the day when we would have a Black man running for president. If you had told me then, even while watching coverage of our newly elected “post-racial” president, when the world briefly believed in unicorns and fairy dust and miracles, I wouldn’t have believed that a Black Republican, particularly one who had no real political experience before, would be Obama’s most competitive opponent in 2012. Colin Powell? Maybe. The former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza? Nahhhhh. Creator of a tax plan that sounds like some type of low-end retail store sale? Not a chance in hell. Even if he doesn't win the nomination, he’s already achieved more than can be expected. While I strongly disagree with the notion that America is post-racial, I do believe Cain’s seemingly vast acceptance by conservatives -black and white alike- is a positive marker of race relations for America.

Let me be clear: unless Herman Cain completely changed his views on tax cuts, proper government spending, health care reform, energy independence, and just about every other political stance, I wouldn’t vote for him to be president of a book club, much less a country. But that doesn’t mean I don’t acknowledge his intelligence or rightful place in the history books. He received a lot of flak for a CNN interview where he stated, “I don’t believe racism in this country today holds anybody back in a big way.” Well, besides the fact that that’s not a fact, I don’t even think he believes that. He was born in 1945, almost a decade prior to Brown vs Board of Education; he knows better. I certainly wouldn't underestimate the tenacity of the Southern Black son of a janitor and maid who ascended to immense success in the restaurant industry, a world typically run by old White well-connected men. Whether you plan to support the Pizza Peddler turned Politician or not, it makes sense to take note of Herman Cain.

He’s making history, one debate at a time. No need to be surprised. I warned you.

What are your thoughts? Anyone voting for Mr. Cain? Do you believe he deserves a respectful place in history?

Other good reads on Herman Cain:
1. The Post-Racial Tipping Point by Panama Jackson of
3. Did Someone Just Say the Same Number Three Times?... Do it Again! in The Onion

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Grocery Shopping for Scriptures

One of the things I’d miss if I traveled several decades back would be grocery stores. If you live in a suburb like myself, or even a newly gentrified neighborhood, you have access to fresh produce  flown from orchards in Florida and California, more spaghetti sauce brands than you’d ever thought imaginable and the whole gamut of paper towel options (thick and soft or rough but economically priced!)

Prior to the massive grocery stores with bright, welcoming aisles, most people had access to what was immediately available like Neighbor Jones’ potatoes, and Sister Smith’s homemade solution for warts. It was pretty much an all or nothing deal. Either you got the sugar made in your backyard or you just didn’t get anything.

Our society has been spoiled. Just the way we pick some brands of peanut butter (Choosy moms choose JIF!) and leave others on the shelf, we often choose to do the same with our morality. Specifically, I’m speaking of the so-called Moral Majority, who quote scripture to justify legislation or ideals, but ignore other scriptures when it doesn’t fit their agenda. The notorious example is capital punishment and abortion. The “religious right” argues for the protection of life citing that it’s a “gift from God”, yet most fail to be concerned about this protection of life when discussing capital punishment. One of the best arguments I’ve ever heard in opposition to capital punishment was a Christian one. A dear friend of mine said, “At every opportunity that Christ had to legally exact capital punishment on a sinner, He chose mercy. Who are we to choose death?”

Another inconsistency is on the issue of appropriate sexual behavior; for the moral majority only some of the scriptures seem to be put into the grocery basket of political ideals. Many opponents to gay marriage weakly claim they are opposed to the redefinition of “Biblical marriage.” According to these folks, marriage is a religious institution, Biblically defined as between a man and a woman. But we know the truth. Gay marriage opponents are really against homosexuality, which the Bible does decree as sinful (here, here, and several other places.) However these folks are grocery store shopping again. In the same book, often right before or after the verses on homosexuality, there are passages that extol the impiety of premarital sex, adultery, and sometimes even divorce. (Examples here and here.) Jesus himself stated in Luke 16, “Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.” Has anyone put forth an amendment to the definition of marriage that includes making heterosexual remarriages illegal? Of course not; that’s not the brand of sin that politicians care about. Just the ones that make people afraid their sons will like other boys.

*For the record, I don’t support creating any laws governing sexuality, largely because I think that’s none of the government’s business. Furthermore, with so many varying beliefs about what’s morally or ethically acceptable when it comes to sexuality, I’m not sure the government should be in the business of making bedroom decisions for such a diverse group of people as Americans.

I’m all about consistency. This doesn’t mean I think in black and white; but it does mean that I don’t think truths, moralities, values, ethics, etc can be called upon when convenient to your existence, political policies or practices. While I’m a liberal, I believe that both the Democratic and the Republican party are full of inconsistencies. I’m all about meaning what you say and saying what you mean.  

How do you feel about the “Moral Majority” and our overall society? Do we shop for scriptures as we see fit? Thoughts?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Lies Come in All Shapes and Sizes

In one of my favorite books, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, one of the main characters says the following:
There is only one sin, only one. And that is theft. Every other sin is a variation of theft.When you kill a man, you steal a life. You steal his wife's right to a husband, rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone's right to the truth…”
Most people understand a lie to simply be a statement that when tried against reality turns out to be false. Popular lies include:
1. It’s not you; it’s me.
2. No, really. Your hair looks great.
3. Hampton is the real HU.

While I agree that the aforementioned statements are indeed lies, I also believe that lies come in many forms; my least favorite is the lie of omission which is just as disastrous as the conventional lie.

For example, fellas… let’s say you go out to one of these CBC events, meet a woman in a pencil skirt and a smile, discreetly check to make sure her ring finger is free of bling, and the two of you exchange information. Over the next month you get to know each other, learn each other’s likes and dislikes, religious background, relationship history, etc. One day, as you’re picking her up for a day at the Harbor, she waves you in. You walk in and trip over a tricycle.
You say, “Whose tricycle is that?”
She says, “My son’s. It actually used to be my daughter’s, but she grew out of it.”
You are floored. “KIDS?! You have kids?!?! You never told me that!!”
“You never asked.”

This my friends is an example, albeit an extreme one, of the lie of omission. As the saying goes, when you assume…. You know the rest. But I don't think that always applies. I believe it’s fair to assume some things. If someone doesn’t say “I’m married” and doesn’t have a ring on, it’s safe to assume that he or she isn’t married. If someone doesn’t mention kids after weeks of correspondence and time together, it’s safe to assume he or she doesn’t have any. If someone doesn’t tell you that he's allergic to cheese, you're not wrong for surprising him with lasagna!

A good friend of mine over at A Bachelor’s Pad disagrees. He believes unless you explicitly state a non-truth, you haven’t told a lie. This is a straightforward way of thinking about things, but it’s problematic, causes unnecessary drama, and leads to broken windows, shattered dreams, and bitter women who work at Fedex and have no sense of urgency or customer service. (Wait, did I just get personal?)

Here’s why this is an issue. Humans naturally believe if it walks like a duck and it talks like a duck, then that’s what it is. Many of us have learned the hard way that just because I hang out with him every day and he has a key to my house and I met his momma and we have a Facebook photo album together and you send me flowers at my office and you know that I pull my left ear when I’m nervous and all of our friends have become each other’s friends and I let you hold my hand in front of the entire class of 2007 at Howard Homecoming does not mean that we are together if it ain’t never been said. (Sorry, got personal again.) The assuming party bears some responsibility for not having an explicit conversation about the exact nature of the relationship. However, the party that knowingly lulls someone into this sense of security that really isn’t there is also wrong. You are allowing that person to believe a lie by facilitating the lie. By playing the boyfriend role, but down the road saying, “Oh… you thought we was together?”, you have told a lie. Sure, you never explicitly told an untruth, you just lived it. And that is a lie of omission with a little twist of deception.

Some liars (of omission) say, “I didn’t know that he/she thought we were serious. I was just doing my thing.” Or ”I didn’t know that the cookies weren’t free. They were just sitting out there in an open basket.” And most of the time, that's bee ess. But let’s say they’re being honest. Let's say they really thought the Cookie Store was giving away cookies for the day or that a girl who told you she was ready to start a family didn’t expect a serious relationship from you. Where then, is your sense of responsibility? Where is your common sense? Your ability to think in a way that is socially responsible and ethical? We have got to do better, people.

No one likes to be called a liar. Especially a liar. The best way to avoid being a liar though is to share the whole truth. Not the parts you find convenient. Be upfront. Not evasive. If you don’t want to deal with the aftermath of a confused or scorned lover/friend, make it clear what the relationship is. Otherwise, you’re walking into a mess and unfairly placing the balance of responsibility on someone else’s shoulder.

What do you think? Is a lie of omission a lie, or just selective truth? Have you ever been the victim of a lie of omission? Have you ever been guilty of rationing out the truth as best fits you?

And as a sidenote and question to the guys, if we’re supposed to be asking any and all questions, how would you feel if someone you’re dating asked if you were gay? Would you be offended? Are heterosexual women (and men) expected to assume that by nature of their heterosexual relationship or interaction, that that person is not gay? #imjustsaying

Check out the opposing opinion here ---> What's In a Lie?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Republicans Switch Up Their Anti-Tax Philosophy

I'm convinced that the decision makers in the Republican Party do not have the majority of hard-working Americans' best interest at heart. It's impossible. 

I try not to take most GOP policies personally, and I usually succeed. But now they're hitting my paycheck.

At the bottom of your pay stub is a line for Social Security. 6.2% of your check is collected by the feds for Social Security. Your employer pays the other 6.2% and through this lovely arrangement, the government receives scrilla for Social Security. 

That was the case until last December when Obama forged a deal that lowered our contribution to 4.2%, saving every family an average of $1,000 a year. The employers' rate remained at 6.2%. In light of the continued blue state of our economy, President Obama would like to extend that tax for an additional year, allowing people like myself, and probably you as well, to keep our 2% every two weeks. 

Sounds good right? Well, the Republicans don't think so. And honestly, the government will lose about $120 billion if they extend this tax cut that we all benefit from, so I get it. We can't afford tax breaks. We have a deficit. 

My problem here is the inconsistency. The GOP is known for their anti-tax stance; their philosophy is that by allowing people to keep a good chunk of their paycheck, we boost the economy. For example, many in the Republican party oppose ending the tax cut that folks making over $250,000 (less than 1% of the population), benefit from. Some consider it disgusting to even insinuate that millionaires and billionaires should pay more in taxes. (And by more, I mean what they used to pay during the Clinton era, prior to the Bush Administration's tax cuts.) Despite Warren Buffett, the godzillionaire admitting via open letter to the New York Times that he pays less in taxes than every other person in his office and that he should pay MORE, the GOP is still stuck on giving him and his few peers tax breaks. BUT NOT US! (Note: if you are self-employed or if you make over 250,000 you are not included in "us." Sorry.)

Interested in seeing exactly how much you'd lose? 

In other words, the GOP believes we should cut our deficit on the backs of middleincomeonaires, but NOT on the backs of folks whose checks read like "oooooooooooooooooooo!" Pick a side; either you're for taxes or you're not for taxes. But don't decide to be for taxes when it affects the people who have the least versus those who have the most. Or go ahead and be that way. But if I accuse your party of being rife with unpatriotic slimy greed, you know where it comes from. 

Carry on. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Don't Be Rude to The Help

(A twist on More Words Wednesday, today’s post provides more light on the controversial book/film The Help.) 
When I first saw previews for The Help, I assumed this would be yet another movie where Hollywood took a marginalized group and capitalized on their pain. I pushed it to the back of my mind and carried on with life. Then, at the family reunion two weekends ago, my mother handed me the book. I figured, why not give it a whirl.

It. Was. Amazing.

The story was breathtaking, the characters were three dimensional and it was quite an inspirational piece of historical fiction. The authenticity of the story was enough to make you ball your fist in anger, laugh aloud, talk back to the characters (Magic Johnson Theater style), and stay up half the night until you finished the next chapter. Millions of readers and scores of book clubs agree with me. Meanwhile, several folks, including the Black Womens Historians, have hurled many serious allegations against the work. I can’t vouch for the movie since I haven’t seen it yet. However, I can address some of the criticisms lobbed against the novel. Below are a few, followed by my counterclaim:

1. Who is this white woman writing a book about black maids? Why can’t we tell our OWN stories? A few weeks ago, acclaimed Black author Terry McMillan tweeted, “When black authors write about black people, white folks don’t read them. When they write about us: bestsellers.” And with a few notable exceptions -her books being some of them- she’s right. Nevertheless, when Kathryn Stockett penned The Help it didn’t muzzle the voices of countless black authors, artists, storytellers, teachers, historians, etc. If anything, Stockett’s overwhelming success sparked an interest in domestic workers and race relations in a broader audience that may inspire them to read more from other authors on the topic, who are likely to be Black. Furthermore, the story had 3 narrators. Two of them were Black maids and one was a young White woman. Unless the book had been co-written by a Black and White person, someone was going to have write across race lines.  

2. This story has the oh-so-tired theme of White people coming to save Black people. I’m sick of it! This criticism has to come from someone who didn’t read the book. In the novel, black women and white women worked together to write a book about the domestic workers’ experience. In fact, one of the maids did a good chunk of the writing herself. Repeatedly, the novel references Black maids doing the bulk of the work, taking on the bulk of the risk, coming up with innovative ideas, and saving the day even after working in white people’s homes all day. There was no White savior in this story; the novel speaks of a true collaborative effort. 

3. The book left out major historical events and didn’t discuss the civil rights movement in enough detail. The Help is a work of fiction. It is a novel. It is not a textbook. It did not attempt to take on the task of detailing the civil rights movement or anything else. It did however discuss Medgar Evers and his assassination, the desegregation of Ole Miss, Jim Crow laws, the March on Washington, and the conflict in Vietnam. All in a book that wasn’t necessarily designed to educate.

4. One of the major issues that Black domestic workers faced in the 60’s was sexual harassment. The Help didn’t even touch that! The Help touched on many themes including race relations, friendship, societal pressures for women, and finding love. Stockett could have sneaked in a scene about one of the employers abusing his maid, but she didn’t. I’ll be honest, I kept waiting for it to appear, so I was a little relieved when it didn’t happen. Those women had enough issues going on without it. Furthermore, while over 15 maids are referenced in the book, only 2 maids’ lives were followed closely. Is it really fair to assume that at least 1 in every 2 maids in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960’s was sexually harassed? I don’t think so.

5. The Black dialect she wrote the maids’ perspective in was offensive. This criticism usually comes from college educated people who recoil at the fact that there was a time when Black women (our great aunts and grandmothers) said “Lawd”, “chile” and didn’t always make their subject and verb agree. I don’t particularly care to be reminded that women my grandmother’s age were uneducated and spoke like it; but it’s accurate. That’s really how they talked. I could often hear my grandmother’s voice coming off the page when I read Abileen’s perspective. The novel doesn’t make Blacks look dumb or like buffoons; if anything, it paints Whites as generally cruel and prejudiced. Black women who were around in the 1960’s, particularly domestic workers, would probably be amused or maybe even angered to know that we are ashamed of how they spoke. And I hate to admit it, but I’ve heard much worse grammar in parts of NE DC than I read in The Help.

6. There weren’t any positive Black men in The Help. Not true. Reverend Johnson, Abileen’s son Treelore, the man who offered to walk Abileen home, and a few others were all positive Black men in the story. It looks like this novel has charted more positive Black men than a Tyler Perry movie. *rimshot* Also, this book was primarily about women’s’ relations. People fail to realize that domestic workers worked at the home with the wives; they spent little time with the husbands whose socks they darned. There was more than enough material in discussing the complicated relationship between homemaker and maid.

7. Isn’t her family’s maid suing her for stealing the story? It is true. There was a woman whose name is similar to Abileen’s who use to work for the Stockett family. She was a maid who similarly to her almost namesake’s story, lost her son (although she lost her son to cancer, the fictional Abileen lost her son to a workplace accident). This is where the similarities stop. Ablene Cooper, who was attempting to sue Stockett, was about 10 years old when the fictional story took place, so she couldn’t have possibly been the inspiration for the story. In an interview, Katherine stated that in the 70’s, she grew up with a maid and that she included many of these experiences in the novel. This woman’s name was Demetrie, however she has passed away.  I can’t say with 100% certainty that Ms. Cooper’s lawsuit isn’t valid, but it certainly seems flimsy. Interestingly enough, the book was released in 2009, and the film was released this year. The lawsuit didn’t arrive until after the book became a national bestseller. Something to ponder. Update: The lawsuit has been thrown out because of the statute of limitations.

The short version: People expected The Help to do a lot more than it set out to do. People’s complaints surrounding The Help are based in what they think the author should have talked about, how they think she should have shared the story and on who they think is allowed to talk about race relations. When in reality, that’s utter nonsense. If you would prefer to read a story about black women by black women, there are countless options available to you. Buy them. But shunning and criticizing The Help isn’t going to help those Black authors sell any faster, so what’s your purpose?

Either allow yourself to be entertained by The Help. Or don’t. But don’t create a scandal, controversy, or problem out of thin air. You’re only helping her sell books with every angry blog post you write. Meanwhile, we’ve got actual problems to handle; like tax breaks for billionaires that are so ridiculously unfair even Warren Buffet had to speak out against it.  

    Have you read The Help? Have you seen The Help? Are you a fan, a critic or a little of both? Please share!

Monday, August 15, 2011

What a Man... What A Mighty Mighty Good Man

A little while ago, Hot Biscuits And Gravy wrote a piece on women defining men's standards and the short version is as follows:
“Woman: I have a degree and a good job, so why don’t you like me? I’m attracted to men with degrees and good jobs!”

What a silly thing for women to say/believe! While I understand that it's human to engage in this flawed thinking, I agree with the author of the post; women using their own standards to justify why someone else should be attracted to them makes little to no sense.

But I’ve noticed a parallel phenomenon among men. Many have an attitude that says, “I have my degree, my own car, my own house, no kids [or I take care of the ones I have], and I’ve never been to jail… how dare you not be humbled in my presence?! How dare you not recognize me for the mighty blessing that I am to you females!?” ( calls these men “diva dudes.”)

Let me make something clear.

Earning a degree is no easy feat. It’s quite an accomplishment to be proud of. Financial independence is also admirable. The fact that you’ve avoided to succumb to the evils of the world and become Prisoner #991234-01 l is also respectable. But to me, none of those things make you a man or an absolute catch. Here’s why.

Degrees and possessions are valuable accomplishments. Character and principles, on the other hand, represent something much more significant.

For those of you that have had the pleasure of being in a healthy relationship, what are some of the characteristics or attributes of your significant other that made you really appreciate them? I can toss out some examples for me. I really appreciate someone who:
  • puts others before self,
  • holds our relationship to a Biblical standard,
  • is willing to listen,
  • will be honest, even if he knows I won’t like what he’s saying,
  • will laugh at my horrible jokes in a crowd so I save face, and then gently tell me in the car not to ever get my material from Laffy Taffy wrappers again,
  • someone who will trust me and present himself as trustworthy.
I doubt that many of you will call to mind that bachelor’s degree or their sporty car when considering the value of your loved one. And if you do, well that’s a whole different blog topic altogether.

Men, do you really want a woman that loves you because of your education and “stuff”? This recession has proved that stuff can easily be repossessed and that often, an education won’t save you either. I know folks with JDs who are unemployed. Plus, what happens when she meets someone with more degrees and more stuff?! You’ve lost your trump card.

Women, I challenge you to be observant of characteristics that will hold steady over time, tribulations, recessions, surpluses and other transient circumstances. If you’re searching out a man who meets qualifications based on a surface resume, it’s likely that he’s searching out a woman based on a surface resume as well. And as we all know --Stacey Dash, my mother and Phylicia Rashad excluded-- our surface stock plummets much faster than men.

Men, I challenge you to place your best foot forward, which when dealing with a “good woman” isn’t your Wharton degree; it’s your kindness, your modesty, your contagious laughter, and your consistency. You may be surprised at the caliber of women who take an interest in you.

What do you say? Am I giving men with stacks of education and accomplishments a hard time? What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

To Snoop or Not to Snoop

About a year ago, a girlfriend of mine called me mid-rage asking me and another friend to come over to check out some “evidence.” We headed over and crowded around her Macbook where her boyfriend had left his Gmail (and chats) up, just waiting to be searched. And boy. Did we uncover a treasure trove. I have to admit, while the language was strong and the content wasn’t all that surprising to any of us (we’d suspected it for months), seeing those exchanges in black and white might have been one of the most difficult things she’d ever experienced. We hit her with all the clich├ęs (“He just wasn’t ready for a real woman like you… You need to throw his stuff outside!”). However, after we shattered his character, we went home and she was left staring at the computer screen reading the harmful words over and over again. I’m sure she still remembers most of it and doesn’t feel any better knowing that someone she trusted embarked on filthy conquests with such a cavalier attitude about their relationship. Nevertheless, she gained valuable information that she needed to make the right decision about how to proceed with their relationship.

So, should you check your significant other’s phone, email, Facebook account, odometer, etc? Many men and women say no. People often insist that the mere search for dirt ensures that you’ll find something. Others say, “If they’re not hiding anything, then it shouldn’t be a problem.”

Going through someone’s email, phone and other communication tools indicates a level of distrust that may make your significant other defensive, resentful, or suspicious of you. You may just find some inside joke that you don’t know all the details to. Or maybe you’ll find a photo (possibly unsolicited) that was sent to your man or woman. And now what? It could be a lot more innocent than you think, but all you see is red (panties). Even after he or she explains themselves, you’re now suspicious, and may even use it as a personal justification for some dirt you got caught up in. (Our mind is sneaky like that; it will use anything it can to justify our own selfish behavior.)

So on the question of snooping, I say NO, don't do it. Unless….
There’s reasonable cause.

You may be scratching your head and saying “Come again?” Let me explain.

God equipped humans with 5 senses which can be used to detect fine brunette hairs that couldn’t have possibly grown from your head, the sound of a Quiet Storm playlist, and yes… the scent of another woman, all up on your man. So while most men and women are smart enough to avoid major mistakes, we eventually slip up and leave a trail #tigerwoods. Despite the dramatic reactions depicted in film and television, few people are rarely completely caught off guard when confronted with evidence that their significant other is cheating. When you get that feeling that something isn’t right (based on very legitimate concerns) I say it’s ok to check and here’s why:

1. Time is precious. No one wants to waste their time in a relationship where only one party is committed.  
2. HIV and other venereal diseases are real. I wholeheartedly support abstinence until marriage. However, I’m realistic and I know everyone reading this hasn’t chosen that path. So, I’ll say this: if you and your partner don’t take precautions to protect yourself from diseases and you suspect that your partner may be stepping out, your health is at risk. In order to minimize this risk, if you have a strong logical inclination that your spouse is cheating, you need to get to the bottom of it. 
3. It will bother you until you do. Let’s face it; you see all the signs that your boo is cheating, but you have no evidence; you just know he disappears from the dinner table frequently and keeps his phone locked down harder than Guantanamo Bay. So before you get yourself all in a tizzy, find out the truth. 
4. If your suspicions are wrong, you still win and you can begin to build trust. You notice that she’s always staring at the computer and that she’s always texting someone on the sly. You approach her about your concern, ask if you can look through the phone together, and discover she has an addiction to online poker and has been texting her bookie. See? That wasn’t so bad.

I know many of you say snooping is wrong no matter what the circumstances. Do what works for you. Just realize that life doesn’t come at you in such absolutes. I suggest the following “snooping*” rules:

1. Have a discussion with your partner (sans the accusatory tone) and let him/her know that you are worried that you could be hurt. You may find out that the reason they’re acting funny is because of all the Sonic commercials airing throughout DC although a Sonic is NOWHERE TO BE FOUND! 
2. Don’t do it behind your partner’s back. Either ask them if you can check yourself or go through the device together. This may seem odd, but give it a try.  
3. Whatever you ask your significant other to do, be willing to do yourself. 
4. Before you begin, decide what you’re going to do based on what you find (or don’t find.) If you don’t find anything, then come up with a plan for building mutual trust and create checks and balances that eliminate cause for concern. If you do find something, decide if you want to work it out or dissolve the relationship. 
5. Don’t assume the worst. 

What are your thoughts? Is snooping ok? Should there be exceptions to this rule?

*snooping – I know that the term implies looking behind someone’s back for information, but I merely mean doing research.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Why the NFL Lockout Was a Great Accidental Moment

I've only allowed one other person to guest write on this blog and that was a ghostwriter, so you know that this must be good. I'm not a sports expert myself, but my good friend known as ManoftheHour, knows EVERYTHING about sports. I asked him to deliver something of interest to a sports reader who makes his or her way over to my blog. Even I, a sports nitwit, could follow it. Enjoy!

Ever had something awful happen, and it turn out to be pretty cool? Something that, at the time the event occurred, you were sure it would be an awful blight on your life and then it turned out that it was exactly what needed to happen? For me, it was when I forgot to apply to John W. Ligon Middle School (formerly the best academic middle school in Raleigh) and wound up getting sent to Fred J. Carnage Middle School. Greatest. School. Ever.

The NFL just went through its own accidental greatness moment (I want to dub it a Carnage Catastrophe, what do you guys think?), with the 18-week lockout (the first work stoppage in over 20 years) officially over, look what has happened. The usual lukewarm offseason of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and flaccid trades has been replaced by a magma-hot Free Agency signings that have elicited twitter rants, screaming TV talking heads, and blogs waxing poetic about the joys of having America’s favorite game back.

During the past 72 hours perennial pro bowlers have been traded (Donovan McNabb, Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco, Matt Hasselbeck—with 17 pro bowl selections between them) , teams have changed their QBs (Arizona, Minnesota, Seattle, Tennessee, and Washington will all have new starting signal callers next year), and Carolina has added a pass-catching Tight End (this really isn’t a league-wide trend, but we haven’t had one since Wesley Walls in the mid 90s and now we have Jeremy Shockey AND Greg Olsen and I’m excited). This lockout has spurred the interest of everyone. There is a combination of relief and jubilation. It is almost like all of the blah, mediocre, mind-numbing dreck of the months of offseason, was condensed into a turbo, microwave dinner version of itself. It was fantastic.

This is great right? Over the course of the lockout, there have been several players to intimate (or tweet) that while they were interested in playing this year (and, obviously, getting paid) that they would now have the opportunity to heal from nagging injuries. Without the break, the injuries would have been re-aggravated and not allowed to mend because of the nearly endless season of conditioning and “voluntary” mini-camps that plague the mythical offseason of professional sports. Cutting down the offseason activities would mean little in the grand scheme of things. Players take better care of themselves than ever before, and so the rigorous offseason of conditioning is largely no longer necessary.

The Charlotte Observer reported that indeed, in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement the NFL has agreed with the NFLPA (National Football League’s Player’s Association) that there will no longer be two-a-days (the particulars of the CBA indicate that while teams are allowed to conduct two practices in a day, one will have to be without the use of pads). In addition, there will be more days off once the teams head to camp (which will also be later in the offseason, per the new CBA). In summation, even the NFL has acknowledged a need to scale down its activities.

The exhilaration of a new system would not come without its drawbacks. Colts quarterback Peyton Manning (a player set to become the highest paid player in the league when he signs his new contract) was unable to get proper care after his neck surgery. Because of the delicacy of the procedure, and the fact that it is the second one he has had done in the past year and a half, Manning wanted to work with the Colts training staff. The staff was intimately familiar with his injuries and medical history, and had done all of his rehab since he became a professional. In addition to the player health issues that presented themselves as a result of the shortened offseason football activities, General Managers are having to make tough financial decisions in a very short period of time. Rookies have been unable to get playbooks in a timely manner are at a decided disadvantage to the veterans. The undrafted rookies could face more of an up-hill climb to make the teams than in previous years.

Still, the problems created by the new shortened offseason could be dealt with easily enough. The only reason that the players didn’t get treated by the team medical staff was because the lockout prevented management (and their other employees) from engaging in any conduct with the players. Without a labor dispute, team medical staffs would be free to treat players regardless of the duration of the offseason. As it concerns the rookies, undrafted rookies may take the brunt of the effects of the change. As viewers, however, we would experience very little drop-off in quality of play.

I just hope that the NFL takes this Carnage Catastrophe and makes the most of it.

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