Tag Archives: black men

Notes on 4:44: Black Male Vulnerability

You know I thug em, fuck em, love em, leave em 
Cause I don’t fuckin’ need em
Take em out the hood, keep em lookin’ good
But I don’t fuckin’ feed em 

-Big Pimpin

Jay-Z

Everybody wants to be needed on some level

Chris Rock

 

My brother was the one who brought Jay Z into my world. And a lot of what my brother paid close attention to when I was growing up inevitably entered my consciousness as well. X-Men comic books, metal ninja stars, GI Joe, Hip Hop…

I remember my brother buying a lot of Jay’s albums and a long landscape poster of Jay Z on his bedroom wall. I didn’t think he was attractive. He just looked like a regular dude to me, whatever that means, but his confidence was undeniable. And I remember thinking, who is this guy? What capital does he have to impress me with if he’s not super good looking? When I listened to him, I got it right away. He was not unlike like Sinatra who was also no studio heart throb. That didn’t matter though. He was gonna do it his way.

Continue reading Notes on 4:44: Black Male Vulnerability

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The Real Scandal

JOE-USE4
Joe Morton

I don’t know that I ever understood who Olivia Pope was outside of a fixer/handler/help who wears the “White hat” quivers in the presence of power, aka Fitz and hires people to kill people but is shocked when she realizes her intimate proximity to killers. If Joe Morton, who plays her father had not joined the cast when he did, I doubt I could have continued to watch the show, particularly after they killed off Harrison and gave him that wack ass funeral. If Poppa Pope hadn’t already been around by then, I just don’t see what other reason there would have been for me to stick around. Don’t get me wrong. I do enjoy the other story lines. But Olivia’s is meant to be the one we watch for and frankly it’s making me nauseous.

Look. I realize that interracial relationships happen. I’ve been in a few myself. But I look around on television and all I see is white couple TV shows and in Shondaland where Black women are the main characters of two hit shows, for some reason, they can’t be seen with a positively portrayed Black man! WTF?

My good friend at Life as I Know It and I were having our Court Street Car chat last weekend after attending a lecture at the Brooklyn Museum about unpacking the definition of the Diva. We were discussing the reasons why we felt Olivia and Annalise were not only in exclusive relationships with white men but the fact that the little bit of Black men in both shows have been portrayed as either untrustworthy, dead or monstrous. All the powerful white men in Scandal are evil, murderous and selfish but it’s clear that whoever has Olivia’s heart is the hero. And it ain’t her daddy. I can’t get into “How to Get Away with Murder” right now but that story line is starting to go downhill for me as well. She’s doing everything she can for her asshole husband while the only Black man we’ve seen her with is running around in the shadows trying to avenge himself against her.

Let’s  talk about Olivia’s father, Rowan, played expertly by veteran actor, Joe Morton. Every time he starts talking, I’m on the edge of my seat.  I need to know why, when they write for Rowan, the language he uses clearly subverts a truth about race relations that is never fully brought to light in the racial dynamics of the rest of the show.

“Those people are not your people.”

“Don’t you ever leave me for one of them.”

“Twice as good as them to get half of what they have.”

“Those boys..”

I could go on.

HE-GIVES-ME-LIFE

And I know he’s supposed to be an asshole but I need Olivia to give a shit about her family. I need her to put family before these dudes no matter how dysfunctional it is. Why is it that the obvious dysfunction, crime and perversion that is inherent in both Jake and Fitz is seen as the lesser evil for Olivia when compared with her father?  It’s hard for me to believe that she was actually going to sit across from her father at dinner and while “those people” blew his head off. I wasn’t feeling her method of betrayal at all. To pretend she actually believed what her father was telling her to lure him into a trap rather than understand that what he was saying was the God’s truth. Now I don’t know where Shonda is trying to take this, but if it doesn’t pan out or make any sense to me, I can’t continue to watch “Scandal” any longer. I don’t understand why it’s such a big deal to have a Black man and woman in a couple on tv who are loving and supportive of one another, but it’s starting to bug me that this is what stands in for someone’s idea of progress or a “post racial” reality. I mean I could see if we had just experienced decades of positive Black images in relationships and families and influential figures in film and television and THEN Scandal came along. MAYBE.  But that hasn’t happened.

I remember that before it was cancelled, my husband used to watch the show “Happy Endings,” a comedy with an all white cast of couples and friends except for Damon Wayons Jr. whose character was married to a white woman. I peeped just enough of it when he watched to see that the show was funny and well written but I refused to watch it. I am not familiar with this reality. What world is that they were living in? No one outside of that circle ever addressed the situation of Damon’s character being the only Black person in his social circle with any seriousness, I’m assuming because it was a comedy? I couldn’t get past it. I couldn’t accept it, because there was never any equal or opposing representation to compare it with.

What television has done effectively is to say, forget about seeing Black people together and loving one another! Lets just skip to situations where they are represented in the minority again! Let’s get over all this racism stuff! There’s not racism anymore! There’s also not one single new show on prime time television (besides “Black-Ish”) where loving, supportive couples, relationships and or families are played by BLACK PEOPLE!

Erm….but we’re so over race right? We’re all equally represented right?

In addition to myself, I know Black people who are married to, dating and in relationships with other Black people and people of color. But I have NEVER seen this reflected on television in any but the most occasional and exceptional of ways. The Cosby Show was great but can we move on?

My main concern is with the message that audiences of color are being fed. I can’t be bothered with what white people may or may not think and I can’t say that I really care. All I know is, I finally get why a lot of Black men hate both of Shonda’s shows. They can’t see themselves portrayed in them in any but a negative light. They continue to be either made to look like terrible people who are violent and manipulative in ways that do not earn them either status, power or love or they are removed altogether, as if they were never important, never needed and never remembered.

Street Harassment or Public Flirtation? How do we define it?

“God Bless you darling”

“Have a good day dimples.”

Those are the two I’ve heard addressed towards me this week and I thanked them both politely and went about my day. I imagine that these comments might be unwanted by a different woman walking down the street and I can appreciate and respect that. But I would hope that she could also open her mouth and say, “No thank you.” or “I don’t appreciate that, will you please stop?”

Ever since the video of Roberts’ recorded experience of being addressed by strange men in the street was released, my nerves have been somewhat on edge whenever an online conversation flares up which generalizes or defines what occurred flatly as “Street Harassment” that should be criminalized. What is “Street Harassment” please? Who does it and what does the face of a possible campaign against it look like? Who would it serve?

“Hey Ma, my man over there thinks you’re cute and wants your number.” That’s one I used to hear endlessly in High School.

If you think the guy is cute, is it still “street harassment” because thousands of hook ups and even marriages begin this way.

When single women go to bars to meet men, those men are strangers. This game the sexes have always played has required men to be the initiators and for women to be the ones who decide whether they will respond affirmatively or with displeasure for what ever reasons.

For me, harassment whether in the street or in the office or in a bar, club, or wherever is what occurs after you have expressed the desire to no longer be pursued. Men will pursue. That’s what they do. That is what we have required them to do. And I don’t care how anti-feminist or offensive this sounds but it’s what many women like them to do.

I was hanging out with a male friend of mine yesterday and I asked him he felt about this issue. Interestingly he is the second Black male who told me he didn’t really care about it but started paying attention when he noticed that most all the men in the video were of color.

As to the question of how men would respond if it was the other way around and woman were always cat calling, whistling and making kissy noises at them, please! Does anyone need to take a poll or do a hidden camera segment to know what the overwhelming response to that would be?

That would save men like 80% of their time!

I’m not saying I haven’t had men say things to me in the street that I haven’t found infuriating. But I always chalk it up to that one particular guy or incident, not all men and certainly not all Black men. I can’t even imagine how I could! I guess I’ve just never found it to be an issue for me.

Now I get how patriarchy plays into our internalized normalization of this occurrence but as women with intelligence, voices, and power, we also have to be aware of the ways in which we contribute to the appropriation of gendered social cues. Because to me, there are situations in which the same women who hate to be called out in the street, require this same amount of assertion in a setting where they crave attention and flattery. Again, if the attention is unwanted and this has been made clear but still continues, you are now dealing with a harassment case.

Do I think a man is wrong or bad mannered or a rapist just because he says something to me I don’t want to hear in the street? No. But if he pursues me after I have made it clear I have zero interest, then he has a problem. And at that point, I have to do what I can to protect myself and my rights.

And finally, compliments from men I don’t know in the street have yielded feelings of positive reinforcement for me on several occasions. I’m not saying I know who is harmless or who is potentially dangerous. I’ve also gotten compliments from women in the street and love those as well! What I’m saying is, I wish there was more carefulness around the definition of “street harassment” and not this dangerous lumping in of “How are you today”s and “God Bless you”s and “You’re beautiful”s with a general sense of being made to feel unsafe.

Roberts also makes a general statement about places where people don’t experience harassment.

“People don’t put up with harassment at work, at school, at home. And we shouldn’t have to put up with it in the streets. I have a right to feel safe.”

WHAT????

Women get harassed everywhere and have been for ages! They’re being harassed this second. If she only gets harassed in the streets and not at school or in the office than good for her but that sounds kind of like a generalization to me. Who are these people who don’t get harassed at work or in school or at home? What strange new world does she live in and can I visit? I just feel like this issue has become about about one women’s experience and I don’t seek to undervalue her experience or her feelings but I worry that her testimony speaks for the experience of other women in ways that are not accurate and I hate it when one person speaks for others in even the smallest ways without checking in on them. There has to be an attempt at balanced and fair reporting that includes opposing viewpoints in order to have a truly constructive conversation about this issue.