This Is Making America Great?

I didn’t hold out the slightest bit of hope or optimism for the direction of the country since the reality TV host tossed his hat into the ring to become the nation’s 45th president of the United States.

He painted a picture of a political establishment that enriched itself on the backs of decent, hard-working Americans, rhetoric that I know to be hollow when stacked up to actual facts and unassailable evidence. Hint: It’s corporate interests and senior executives who have done very nicely at the expense of everyone else. Politicians are merely at their beck and call.

So how is the 45th going about rebalancing power in favor of the little guy? If his first full work day in office is any indication — not at all. His nominations are making their way through Senate confirmation hearings, and several of the ones in key positions are anything but outsiders. They’re the same old buzzards who have been seething on the sidelines as the country has tried to move forward and actually be a “kinder, gentler nation,” that was painted in pretty prose to prop up an earlier president. The 45th is using his influence to tighten the screws on ordinary people, not relieve their burdens. Once he is done, the establishment — both corporate and governmental — will be just fine. Peep the few executive actions he has taken so far.

  1. He suspended a pending rate cut to mortgage insurance premiums that President Barack Obama enacted just a few weeks earlier. The mortgage insurance is part of a program from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The FHA, part of the same government arm, extends loans to first-time borrowers, or those with poor to middling credit. After the housing crash, the Great Recession and the economic recovery, the Obama administration judged that the FHA’s finances were on solid ground, and they went ahead with cutting premiums for mortgage insurance. Sounds reasonable, right? And if falls in line with what Republicans are always claiming to represent: Giving taxes back to the people. Well, ya boy just decided against that.
  2. The 45th’s press secretary has suggested that development on the Dakota Access Pipeline might go ahead. You might know that the DAPL is hotly contested because the proposed development site runs through disputed territory that was promised to the Standing Rock Sioux Native Americans. Even a proposed alternate route runs perilously close to the tribe’s main drinking water supply, and opponents fear contamination if the project proceeds. If you believe the United States America wouldn’t, couldn’t possibly knowingly poison the main supply of drinking water for thousands of people, remember what happened in Flint, Mich.
  3. In the name of “small government,” another favorite Republican mantra he has ordered a hiring freeze across all federal agencies, except in national security, public safety and the military. These things usually lead to greater backlogs, not efficiencies. The IRS is already straining under its burden — which I guess works out for them, since there are fewer tax collectors and auditors looking when people of his ilk look to skip out on paying their taxes like everyone else.
  4. He reinstated a ban on U.S. funding to foreign groups that discuss, promote or provide abortion services to women. This reeks of a backlash against the Women’s March on Washington. The march a statement in support of women’s rights to attain safe abortion services, and an action to preserve access to other forms of family planning, equal pay, etc. The Washington, D.C., turnout easily eclipsed the middling attendance for the 45th’s inauguration just one day earlier. It also enjoyed an outpouring of support in American cities across the country, and in international cities around the globe — from London to Malawi.
  5. He signed an order urging his administration to fight the Affordable Care Act as much as possible. This doesn’t have as much executive teeth as much as it reaffirms the Republican party’s desire to dismantle the legislation. How dare the Obama administration give Americans a helping hand in affording health insurance, so they don’t have to mortgage their houses if they get hit with a potentially devastating diagnosis! On this point, and the DAPL, I think this country has shown the depths of moral sickness to which it will sink to preserve the wealth of a select few.

This is only the beginning of tough times for Americans. In electing the 45th, we’ve revealed ourselves to be a pernicious, vicious, beyond miserly people who will stoop to inflicting harm on others if it means that a select few enjoy an unfettered, comfortable life. What a horror, and what a waste of so much human potential. But that “establishment?” The so-called swamp that he said he would drain? Oh, I have a feeling they’ll come out of it just as well-heeled and boggish as ever.

 

Empties: The B.O.M.B. Edition

The spirit of Black Lives Matter, or a peachy, rose-toned echo of it, is taking hold onYouTube and Instagram, as #B.O.M.B. makeup tutorials make the rounds. For those of you who don’t follow popular Black beauty vloggers, or their friends, #B.O.M.B. stands for Black-Owned Makeup Brands, and it’s a creative way for vloggers to practice and demonstrate their craft while raising consciousness of high-quality Black-owned beauty brands. They are bigging up Blacks who excel in makeup artistry, instead of recycling videos of Black people’s violent and often deadly encounters with the police. Hello!

The smart cookies Alyssa Forever and Alissa Ashley probably had no idea that their tag would last all summer and keep going. Funny thing is that Jackie Aina, the Queen of Black Beauty vloggers and overall Grand Duchess of Color Layering, (in my opinion, anyway) had done a Valentine’s Day tutorial in February. In honor of Black History Month she featured as many Black-owned beauty brands as she could find in her vast, vast makeup collection.

This is great. This is all great, because while this newfound pride and support of Black brands was taking over, my containers of empties was piling up. For months, I figured I’d do a blog post on empties from Black-owned companies. You see it’s one thing to be a beauty vlogger who jumps on a trending tag to raise awareness of your channel, and quite another to be an Afrocentric consumer. To deliberately to search for Black producers of the products one wants and needs, instead of clicking the first thing that comes up on a Goggle search, or making a mad dash out to Walgreens and Target to stock up on the Black-owned brands you know of for a video tutorial. But are the products good enough to stand up next to the well-known high-end beauty brands that Black women are willing to pay so much for? Are they so good that you will hit pan, pump out the last drop of foundation, or scrape the insides of the tube of lip gloss to get every last bit of product? Fortunately for Iman, Shea Moisture, and Black Opal (more on their Black-owned status later) the answer is yes! So here is my rundown of B.O.M.B and Black-owned body brands that have stood up and delivered time and again.

Shea Moisture: Manuka Honey & Mafura Oil

sheamoisture-manuka

Owned by Sundial Brands, this line says it delivers deep and restorative moisture to dry hair. It does! I put a few drops of the “Intensive Hydration Complex” oil into my hot oil treatment or massaged it into damp hair after stepping out of the shower, and it went a long way to hydrating and sealing my hair for at least a couple of days. That empty jar is the intensive hydrating repair mask, which I used as a deep conditioner once a week.

sheamoisture-coconuthibiscus

The Coconut & Hibiscus line work wonders on Baby’s biracial hair. Her curls need as much moisture, care and attention as mine, or they will dry out, tangle and make grooming a frustration for both of us. We go through these regularly, and just the other day we were in Shop-Rite and she put a bottle of their moisturizing spray into the cart. I think I’m going to stock up on Shea Moisture while I can, because you never know when the Dennis family will cash out and head for the sweet life of early, wealthy retirement. Hey, it’s the American way. The Bancroft family did that when they sold The Wall Street Journal to Rupert Murdoch, who owns Fox’s parent Newscorp … oh, wait. When is the next sale! Outta my way!

Pooka Pure and Simple

pooka

To put it Pure and Simple: I love the Pooka products from my head to my toes. Based in Newark, New Jersey, the company sells its mists, butters, bath bombs and candles online and from its boutique in downtown Newark. Last year Baby came up to me with a box of scrumptious surprises from the store, and said: “Happy Valentine’s Day!” Everything came in a beautiful red box with a white and red polka dot ribbon. This is what’s left of the tins of body butters that they got me, and I’m still working on the Sugar Body Wash, which is in my shower. Matter of fact, I might treat myself to a fragrant scrub down tonight before turning in!

IMAN Cosmetics: BB Creme, Mascara and Foundation Stick

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This one is my favorite! Iman makes luxury, high-end quality makeup for women of color, and they are accessibly priced. I’m not a makeup artist or socialite, so I can’t possibly justify owning enough makeup to stock a spare room — and then make an indulgent video on “how I store and organize my makeup.” Beauty rooms are the latest iteration of frivolous spending, just like all those wine refrigerators and wine rooms that populated middle class McMansions before the last recession. Sooner or later, whether because of another big financial awakening, or more realistically, a baby, those rooms will be passe, except for professional, full-time makeup artists. But anyway! Since the beginning of the year I’ve finished off a foundation stick, which had terrific staying power in this heat! The BB Creme is one of my favorite items in her collection, because if I don’t have time for a full face beat, I can smooth it on and go about my day. I’m on my third container, and the one pictured is my second. The mascara is deeply black, and goes on smooth. It doesn’t irritate my sensitive eyes. The products in this picture are just he tip of the iceberg. I’ve gone through several lip and eye pencils and lip glosses — I just remembered to save up some of these empties for this blog.

I started using Iman Cosmetics in 2012, which is kind of late considering that she has been around since 1994. The reason was simple logistics: I couldn’t find them in nearby drug stores or Target, and my unrelenting busy schedule pretty much shut down any chance of me devoting time to hunting down the products I wanted. They are a little more accessible to me now, and I will not be sleeping on it.

Black Opal: True Color Pore Perfecting Liquid Foundation, Concealer and Lip Pencil

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I know, I know. Black Opal‘s status as a fully Black-owned company is dubious at best. But never mind all that. The newest liquid foundation, the True Color pore perfecting foundation, is a miracle. It goes on fairly wet, but dries to a skin-like finish. I slapped this on once while running out to Costco with Hubby, and one of the women working there completely gushed when she got a closeup look at my face. I hadn’t even applied any of their magical finishing powder. And it was summer. This has quickly become one of my favorite liquid foundations these days. I might even show my face in a selfie — it’s that good! LOL. The concealer works … but offered lighter, and I found myself using an orange concealer from LA Girl on top of it to really correct the dark areas around my eyes. The lip pencils are outstanding! Look at that nub. Enough said.

Now, about its B.O.M.B. status: From what I could gather, the company that makes the color cosmetics and skin care line, BioCosmetic Research Labs, is owned by Mana Products, Inc., which itself is owned by a man named Nikos Mouyiaris. While Africa is vast, that doesn’t sound like any name from the continent I’ve ever heard. But my guess is that the women who developed the skincare line are Black, including Dr. Cheryl Burgess, a high-profile dermatologist and a woman named “Donna” who claimed to be involved in developing the skincare line, at least according to comment section of an article in this NYU student paper. So there you have it.

As I Am and Karen’s Body Beautiful

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I don’t know why I combined these two products. Maybe I was tired after my workout and was rushing through taking the pictures? But the As I Am cleansing co-wash was a must during Baby’s swim class days, for rinsing her hair in the shower afterward. The Karen’s Body Beautiful sealing butter is a terr-i-fic product to seal moisture into damp-dry hair after washing and conditioning. I picked this up at a Circle of Sisters expo last year, and used it in lieu of my Aethiopika Hydrate & Twist Butter from Qhemet Biologics. It was also a great stand-in for the miraculous Alma & Olive Heavy Cream, also from Qhemet Biologics. (Nothing against the latter. I just ran out and needed to replenish with something so I could maintain my moisture routine.) Founder and CEO Karen Tappin has a wonderful thing going on, if this is any indication.

Entwine Audition Kit: Teeny Tiny Coils

entwine-audition-kit

I picked up this handy kit at a Circle of Sisters event in New York a couple of years back. They were selling like hotcakes for just $10, and the package contained pretty much everything that you need to wash, condition, moisturize and style your hair. The package also contained a deep hydrating conditioning hair mask, which imparted terrific moisture to my hair during my washing process. But I threw out that envelope. I would say the best components of this kit are the deep conditioner, and the two small pots of styling products. Not only is this a handy way of trying out products, but it’s a perfect travel kit, too. Everything you need for up to two washing cycles is in this kit — which is also TSA compliant!

Difeel: Body soaps

difeel-soaps

I snatched up this line of body soaps from Sunflower Cosmetics, Inc.,  in my local beauty supply store while stocking up on barrettes and ponytail holders for Baby, and all sorts of hair things for myself. The soaps go for $3.99 a bar, but they aren’t cheap quality. They cleanse effectively, and leave the skin feeling smooth and moisturized. At first I bought just a couple, then went back again for a few more. There’s just one tiny drawback: I’m not sure if it’s wholly or majority black-owned. The photo on the back of the Black Soap has a picture of a Black man working on the product, while the company’s listing at Manta.com says it is owned by a guy named David Kim. Maybe they co-founded it, and Mr. Kim is the managing principal or something? I’ve reached out to the company, but knowing these small operations, it could be a while before they reply.  I’ll update as I get new information.

And that wraps up my first blog post on Empties: B.O.M.B. edition (technically also B.O.B.B., for Black-owned beauty brands. But who’s checking?). These are my current tried and true products that deliver on the creators claims on the package with the added bonus of helping to build financial autonomy and independence for Black people. If you know anything about how financial values shape American society and our mores, you know that Black Enterprise’s DOFE Principles and F.U.B.U. are not reactionary declarations of “exclusion” and “reverse racism.” They are indispensable values for any minority in this country to live by.

Black Twitter: Season 3, #BlackPlotTwists

Black people are never, ever bored. That’s because we have everything: the Cradle of Mankind, the richest man in all of history, a badass female general who made Joan of Arc look like a lieutenant. One of the greatest U.S. Presidents.

What we don’t have is chill: none whatsoever. And so, from the kids (or associate editors) who brought you #ThanksgivingwithBlackFamilies and #CelebritiesOnlyBlackPeople Know, comes #BlackPlotTwists. Enjoy.

Don’t Be Surprised When Race Bending Comes Full Circle

I call myself a movie buff and patron of the theater, but I’ve always found the entertainment industry to be incorrigibly absurd, always asking audiences to suspend disbelief in poorly conceived plot twists and editing choices. And I hold the powers that be in a permanent state of suspicion when it comes to finding fair and believable ways to include Black actors in creative output.

That’s why I’m ambivalent about this whole “race bending” practice spreading through the entertainment industry right now.

Sometimes I bring a theatrical view of things to the table, where you can see how iconic characters would be played by someone outside of the original race for the stage. Photos emerged this week of the Granger-Weasley family in the new stage production of “Harry Potter and The Cursed Child,” and Hermoine has grown up to be a Black woman. They have a daughter with a mane of thick, naturally coily hair, dark skin and a mischievous Weasley glint in her eyes.

Ron-Hermione-Rose

Quite a few people who consider themselves to be enlightened anticipated “the haters” and quickly clapped back at people who pointed out that the casting was not in line with Hermoine as portrayed in the original series of books. Twitter lit up with avid readers highlighting passages describing Hermoine’s “white skin,” and other allusions to her being a white English rose. In most cases, I would side with the ones cheering on whatever is supposed to be going on here. I’m just not sure what that is: Progress? Pure, talent-based, colorblind casting? A … bait and switch in the making?

Rose-Granger-Weasley

I have nothing against the actresses playing Hermoine Granger-Weasley and Hermoine’s daughter Rose. They are attractive and the young girl’s charm radiates through the promotional photo. You just know she’s going to put down a remarkable performance as a witch with her mother’s brains, an unbridled heart like her father’s, and the astonishing talents of both parents.

To be clear, race bending is not what happens when a Black actor is cast in a role from an original screenplay where the race or ethnicity of a character has not been explicitly or reasonably established. Whitney Houston in “The Bodyguard” is a great example. When a Black actor’s management gets wind of an opportunity to play a dynamic and appealing character, one whose race and ethnicity isn’t established in the script, there is nothing better than that rep really pushing for his or her talent to take on that role. May the best talent win, and if it goes to a Black actor, all is fair.

Race bending happens when, for instance, James Earl Jones and Phylicia Rashad led a Black production of “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof.” (I missed the brilliant and sublime Anika Noni Rose as Maggie the Cat!) Or Candice Patton signed on as Iris West, the soulmate and destined wife of DC superhero Barry Allan, AKA The Flash.  It was one thing when Black actors took roles in which the character was always depicted, described or drawn, as white, or it was plainly and reasonably understood that those characters were white. Opportunities for Black actors were scarce and narrowly written, because stories about Black life — all aspects of it — were scarce and narrowly written. Also, the mainstream stories themselves were so appealing. What actress wouldn’t relish the chance to bring her interpretation to one of Tennessee Williams’ women fraying at the edges? And I have to admit that Candice Patton is doing a terrific job in her portrayal as Iris West.

But I think the jaded entertainment industry needs to snap out of its culture malaise and produce stories around themes that are definitely about Black people, portrayed by people who are recognizably Black. We no longer live in an age where trauma-laden slave narratives and one dimensional melodramas of homespun wisdom are the only opportunities available for Black actors who want to work. Black actors, and the culturally diverse casts that they are part of, have more than proven that they are bankable, whether the story is a sensitive and heartfelt offering in the fall, or a pyrotechnic summer blockbuster. The way forward, at least in my opinion as a discerning viewer, is to produce stories where Blacks are everything: alluring and demure; noble and ignoble; complex and rich with troubled pasts; or single-mindedly devoted to whatever twisted agenda drives a thriller. You know … stories!

I don’t want to overthink Harry Potter because it’s only Harry Potter. High-minded issues like fair representation in works of film are probably best left to serious dramas and feature films. What troubles me here is that young Black people are already enthusiastically celebrating the reimagined casting in “Harry Potter and The Cursed Child,” as if this decision is some indication that predominantly white culture has finally learned to look past our skin color, etc., to see only talent and content of character when they need someone to fill a role. It hasn’t. It has copped out of recognizing enchanting stories and characters from non-white cultures in favor of slotting Black actors into white culture. As charming as the world of Harry Potter is, it is still a very white, English world. Everyone else just slots into it, regardless of what flavorful delectables were packed in the Ziploc containers for the train ride, or the native language that was being spoken in their homes while their mothers hurried them to pack their bags to head for Platform 9 and 3/4. As much as I respect Ms. Rowling and give her all the props for spinning a world we can all get lost in, total assimilation without so much as a glance into a Black person’s heritage (or other person of color’s) is not flattering.

If viewers continue to support Hollywood’s culture copout, then pretty soon you’ll see Hollywood casting directors develop the audacity to do a remake of “The Color Purple,” with a cast of illiterate, toothless white Appalachians. Our beloved “The Wiz” will be white one day, with people dancing on the ones and threes. Get ready for a reimagining of Octavia Butler’s hallowed “Kindred” with Scots-Irish indentured servants, not Black slaves. By failing to create storylines and roles around what makes us special, they ignore our identity — and I hate it when white people shrug and say narrow-minded things like, “I don’t see color,” as if ignoring what’s right in from of them somehow makes them enlightened. It doesn’t.

If you believe I’m “overthinking it,” you are in the dark on this issue. White decision makers are already whitewashing Asian characters out of stories that are distinctly Asian, choking Asian actors off work that is rightfully theirs. Just look into what Asian actors think of what Hollywood is doing to stories that represent them and their culture, starting with the Twitter campaign #whitewashedOUT.

Ladies, We Need to Talk. About Graciousness

A lot is being said nowadays about “feminism.” What it is, which high-profile figure exemplifies it, and whether intersectionality is justly applied by those who claim to be feminists. Less important, it seems, are comments about chivalry. American society filled out Chivalry’s death certificate decades ago, presumably because any public behavior that put women in high regard and placed a high value on their comfort and well-being was supposed to be condescending and suspicious.

So I found this on the 4CHairChicks Instagram page while looking for hair styling inspiration.  It’s a screen capture of a post by an online personality named Jacob Michael Mason.

 

The comments made all kinds of assumptions: that Jacob didn’t hold the door for other people, that he was coming on to the woman, or that he was in some other way a creep, plain and simple. Listen, chivalry is appreciated on my end, particularly because I encounter so many brazen hot-headed Hoteps in daily life. And then there are the guys — who can be Asian or white — who are inconsiderate on the train, who cut you off in traffic, snag your parking space or cuss you out for getting to a parking space before they had the chance to cut you off!

Public civility is declining in America, so I have no problem at all with any man of any background opening a door for me.

If you’re familiar with Jacob Mason, you might know that he doesn’t conceal his admiration for Black women, and has caught a lot of heat because of it. Apparently, both Black men who begrudge sisters the progress they are making in living healthier lives all around and valuing themselves cannot stand the idea that they would have to compete with men of other cultures for the opportunity to take a Black woman for granted! They lurk around every corner, waiting to pounce and call it “a wrap” on Black women. And their female lieutenants think they are so enlightened and hip to the bulls**t, regularly fighting to ensure that Black women never, ever peep one word about the mistreatment and avoidable hardships they often withstand with Black men. (Their typewriters must be on fire in response to “Lemonade.”)

I’ve never subscribed to the mainly American notion that only deviant white men ever openly express an attraction to Black women. I’m well aware of the history of the North Atlantic slave trade, and even early miscegenation on the West Coast of Africa. I’m also completely over the whiny assumption that European white men often see Black women as sex workers and not much else. Yes, I know there are pervs in the world, but Jacob is not one of them. If you encounter a guy like him, thank him for his display of kindness and public civility, and go about your business.

If you happen across a creep, put him in his place and keep it moving! It’s not that hard, and ain’t you a woman?

By the way, I don’t want to leave without saying that searching hair styling tips should not be confused with not 4C “natural hair porn.” I hate the term “porn” to describe any search for the right visuals to inspire any project.

(More on the degradation of thought and language in America later.)

He Might Not Think You’re A Sex Worker. He Just Might Be Into You

So, we’re back to this again? Dismissing white male attraction to Black women as a form of deviance on their part? In my last post, I talked about my first impressions of a new TV sitcom called “Here We Go Again,” from TV One. The name of that sitcom sums up how I felt after reading this personal essay, “What Dating Abroad Taught Me About Stateside Racism,” on the Jezebel.com, and reader reactions in the comment section.

BWWM Valentine

In the main essay, the Black female writer describes her experiences dating in the U.S., where she pretty much felt like a wallflower, in stark contrast with her experiences overseas, where she felt much more appreciated and attractive. It’s a wonderful essay, except for the fact that this apparently smart, engaging Black woman who is easy on the eyes, has accepted her wallflower status in the U.S. dating market because of the color of her skin. The author is obviously a smart and capable woman, at a level in her career that requires travel abroad. So I was aghast that, to shore up her point she cites the now-infamous and very unscientific OKCupid study claiming that Black women were the least desirable in its pool of online paramours; and he vile pseudo-scientific Psychology Today article written by a Japanese scientist asking “Why Black Women Are Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women.”

It only got worse in the comment section, where women frequently and flatly asserted that European men are culturally trained to assume that certain women, not just Black women, are sex workers, and that might partially explain some of the response she was getting while overseas.

So we’re back to the idea that attraction to Black women from men outside our race is a sign of sexual deviance in non-Black men? Because only very the rare European man dates outside his race with sincere intentions? It never occurred to the author that maybe these men were also attracted to her professional confidence.

In the essay, everything seemed to be tracking along with other experiences that I, and my other friends who have dated out, have had, until somehow her dating psychology swerved out of the confidence lane and into the oncoming traffic of a racist American society. I know it’s a personal essay, but the author never balanced the article by pointing to the fact that the Psychology Today article was debunked and wiped from the magazine’s Web site because it lacked any scientific grounding — and was cruel and offensive. Colleagues who rushed to defend the author spewed even more vile and racist assertions, like the need to look into the so-called fact that Blacks are more promiscuous, and Black males are more prone to rape white women! The OKCupid study was also effectively rebutted in several essays. And who really cares what a singer says about having a “David Duke cock” in an bizarre interview, anyway?

I hope the author has a change of heart down the line, I do. Her point of view is counterproductive, especially in an era when Black women are learning to should carry themselves with more confidence and come to each others’ rescue when an outsider tries to tear us down. We live in a culture that takes from us and shames us at the same time, and it’s a mystery that at a moment when Black women’s confidence is building, the author goes to a forum for white feminists to argue that she, as a Black woman, has resigned herself to a lower position in the dating marketplace. She might not be speaking for all Black women with that conclusion, but she should have found way to disconnect her thesis from her identity as a Black woman.

There is nothing inherently less attractive about our hair, not when white girls always cycle through toying with afros, cornrows, box braids and dread locks. Not when they’re paying money to get plumped lips, tans and fannies like ours. And we will inevitably dance and sing again in ways that other women will want to emulate.

The essay was also linked to Tumblr, where I first saw it, and in that thread, one writer, who claimed to be biracial, jealously added that her dark-skinned friend got most of the male attention overseas. Incredible! That ought to tell you that colorism among Blacks is still alive and kicking here in the U.S., if a biracial woman is so spoiled by the existing racist social construct that she can’t handle the shine her dark-skinned “friend” gets when they are overseas. I wanted to tell her, ‘Grow up, my dear. The sexual psychology of males is not, by evolution, creation or any other default, geared toward light-skinned and white women.’

I tell you what. Let’s stop playing defense against Fox News, the #BlackLivesMatter and #BlackGirlMagic detractors, Jezebel, and anyone else who has a problem with Black women coming into a critical era of greater self confidence. Why don’t we scrap the loathing of Black women and have an essay exploring the fraying egos of the certain people spoiled by an aberrant racist society?

Here We Go Again: Backlash Over TV One Sitcom Calls It ‘A Wrap’ On Black Women

Every now and then I pull up a blog, vlog or snatch a piece of the public conversation about the state of Black women in America, and I come across a misogynistic tirade, often disturbingly gleeful, about why Black women are facing annihilation. Apparently, all but the lightest skinned amongst us are on the brink of collapse and utter humiliation, having destroyed the moral compass of an entire race.

So when TV One began running promos for its new sitcom, “Here We Go Again,” the predictable jeers resounded — often from men who aren’t content in just marrying white, Asian and Latino women, but who need to devote much of their energy to bashing Black women, too. I happen to like watching Black people on TV, so I had to find out what the fuss was all about. The sitcom follows the lives of three generations of women supposedly affected by a family curse. Wendy Racquel Robinson, known as Tasha Mack from “The Game,” stars as Loretta, who had her first child at 16. That child, Maddy, played by Latoya Luckett, one of our favorite “Single Ladies” also got pregnant at 16 with Chante, played by newcomer Kyndall Ferguson. The story picks up right before Chante’s Sweet 16 birthday party, an event that her mother greets with great foreboding and stern lectures about safe sex, and preferably, chastity. They’re all on pins and needles, fearing that Chante will succumb to the supposed family curse of a pregnancy at 16. Chante’s birthday does usher in a pregnancy — Maddy’s. And the father happens to be Victor, Maddy’s old high school sweetheart and Chante’s biological father, played by Andra Fuller (RoomieLoverFriends, The Game).

herewegoagainpostertvone

The self-appointed moralizers immediately panned the concept, saying it was cheap, degrading and portrayed Black women as hopelessly stupid hussies. I mean of all the topics to make television shows about, this is what TV One is backing? Supposedly this show takes a rampant out-of-wedlock birthrate among African-Americans, and turns it into “coonery,” an exploitation of our poor decision making and dire circumstances for mass entertainment. And apparently, Black women are ignorantly complicit to all of this.

But I actually watched the first two episodes, which the amateur TV critics might also have done in advance had they the press credentials to do so. In their haste to troll for clicks, stir up a tempest in a teacup, or gin up another flimsy excuse to bash Black women, the alarmists overlooked a few pivotal facts:

  1. Loretta has only one child, Maddy. After the pregnancy, she buckled down, became a successful realtor and didn’t have multiple unplanned pregnancies by different men.
  2. Maddy only has one child, Chante. After her pregnancy, she buckled down to become a successful lawyer. She never slept around, and never got knocked up by different guys, either.
  3. Maddy and Chante’s father co-parent and treat each other with respect. And by smooth co-parenting I mean that Maddy took charge while Chante’s father went off and had a successful football career. Both are successful professionals and provide a comfortable upper middle-class life for their daughter, including a private school, a large and luxurious house, and toys like a smartwatch and her own car.
  4.  Victor only has one child, Chante. But of course, the misogynegros expected this level of uprightness from him, since Black men are the natural backbone of the Black community, right? Riiight.
  5. Yes, Maddy got pregnant while in a relationship with another man — and her boyfriend is very good-looking and has his whole act together. But that relationship is celibate and had been so from the beginning. Clearly Maddy has a very short list of sexual partners, and her heart seems to be tugging her back to Victor.

Apparently, people objected to television executives mining a very real problem in our community for laughs. But this show doesn’t set out to coon Black people. Far from it: ‘Here We Go Again’ goes out of its way to depict a family that would be perfect aside from ill-timed pregnancies. And it seems a little unrealistic: How many teen mothers go on to become successful attorneys with all the trappings of the upper middle class? Also, while Maddy, Victor and Loretta were all out devoting so much time to building successful careers, who was reading to Baby Chante every night? Who carted her to story time at the library? Or did Maddy not sleep at all while Chante was a tot? If anything, the show dodges the tough economic and social realities of raising a child as a teenager. It decides to paint a picture of an exceptional family that overcame circumstances that trap so many Black women in poverty.

The story arc points to Maddy possibly reconciling with the only father of her two children. A family is being formed here. It is not a tragic tale of promiscuity, ignorance and social decay. Maddy is clearly not a trick, THOT, chicken head or any other charming sobriquets of a woman with a sex life, and she doesn’t fit into any of the ugly characterizations that the trigger-happy trolls are all too pleased to throw on her. She doesn’t hang out with guys whose only high scores in life are their recidivism rates. Chante’s father, as it turns out, wrapped up a successful NFL career and emerged with his finances and marbles intact. He is now eager to play a more active role in Chante’s life. He wants to support Maddy as she carries their second child.

If Maddy and Victor reconcile, then what will you have? A sitcom about two attractive and young, successful professionals who thought their diaper days were over, when … “Here We Go Again.” So how, on the strength of this particular show’s concept and execution, are Black women losing, exactly?

Nice try, Hoteps and handmaids, but you’ll have to get your kicks from kicking Black women some other time.

Fun fact: according to the discussion board on LeToya Luckett’s Web site, Ms. Ferguson is the daughter of R&B star El Debarge, and Tracey Ferguson, founder of the Black women’s luxury magazine Jones.

 

#BlackLivesMatter, Just Beware the Misogynegro

A few months ago I started to wonder if Black women who discuss their interracial relationships online weren’t doing themselves more harm than good. It seemed like we could hardly post a blog, Facebook post, Tweet or Tumblr update celebrating our relationships without intense backlash and unfounded claims that we were “bashing Black men.”

I had hoped the drumbeat would die down, since Black women were not backing down from marrying out. Actually, the phenomenon gained steam. Also, independent think tank data, mainly from the Pew Center, suggested that Black women who married out were often just as healthy as any other woman in a stable, healthy relationship, so it seemed like “swirling” did us no harm.

But the hypersensitivity didn’t die down. In fact, it has morphed into full-on hatred. For reasons that no rational person will ever be able to work out, a specific strain of Black men have intensified their campaign of railing against an oppressive white regime, proclaiming that #BlackLivesMater, while instilling self-loathing in Black women. Incredibly, they begrudge Black women of the happiness they find outside their race! Their videos, crude artwork, photo manipulations and blog posts communicate one message: Black women of every educational and social background are the scourge of the Black race, and are the cause of its “downfall.” It’s not enough that they don’t want us, but they don’t think anyone else should want us, either. To them, it doesn’t matter if we are cut from the same cloth as Michelle Obama or relate more to “New York” of reality TV infamy. To them, we are all trash, and deserve to be reminded of that fact whenever anything, be it innocuous or really troubling, sets them off.

Also, I couldn’t help notice that they idealize women with brown, caramel, olive and white complexions. Remarkably, the one or two men who had the courage to show their faces on their troll accounts were often very dark-skinned, broad-nosed, coily-haired and thick-lipped Black men. What else could this content be but hypocrisy and a bit of self-loathing itself?

Notice that the ideal male ruler has a "chocolate" complexion, and his so-called Queen is significantly lighter?

Notice that the ideal male ruler has a “chocolate” complexion, and his so-called Queen is significantly lighter and significantly softened Black features?

That’s when I gave up on trying to make sense of the pointed attacks that these men leveled from their cowardly social media troll accounts. I systematically began reporting all videos and channels with disembodied voices ranting about the evils of the Black woman, and then blocked them from my feed. That’s also when the word “misogynegro” came to mind. That type of character underpins what I call the hidden Third World in the Black community, and I define it this way:

mi-soj-uh-nee-gro

  1. a man of African, particularly Bantu, descent who zealously and irrationally vilifies women of African, particularly Bantu, descent. Such individuals tend to display an obsessive interest in ancient Egyptian of African Hebrew culture. They also devoutly glorify women of all other ethnic groups, regardless of their socio-economic background, educational attainment, or personal mores.

Mind you, misogynegros don’t all subscribe to a specific pseudo-religious sect, hail from the same socioeconomic background, and they are not all straight. Several of the most demeaning misogynoiristic hate speech, be it public, private or online, come from gay or trans men. You’ll find misogynegros all over hip-hop, which is why the “Straight Outta Compton” movie phenomenon can miss me forever, no matter how phenomenally it performed at the box office. No narrative about the Black experience is so important to Black people that it can be allowed to ignore the degradation, brutal violence, blackballing and finally, abandonment that Black women endured to prop up Black men.

I have some theories about what might be driving this visceral hatred of Black women, and maybe it’s something I’ll address in another post. My point for now is that Black mothers need to prepare their daughters for the inevitable encounters with these guys. I don’t believe these guys are harmless, docile internet trolls. A video composed of a disembodied voice feverishly cussing out Black women dubbed over footage of boys wielding guns and smoking weed is a sign of a troubled mind, ready to blow. I would hate to see violence against Black American women to the point that it’s indistinguishable from what you hear of in oppressive paternalistic societies. Don’t think that gang rapes on a bus, honor killings or dowry murders is something only East Asians are capable of doing. We live in a society that has a cavalier attitude about violence on Black women. How long do you think that those fever-brained rantings will stay confined to the outback of the Internet before something happens on Main Street? Black women will need to learn how to either talk their way out of confrontations with these guys, or knock them down and run!

How Did #OscarsSoWhite Get So Messy?

Right now, the Northeast is under a blizzard watch for all of Saturday, and it seems like a similar storm over the blinding exclusive whiteness of the 20 performer nominees for this year’s Academy Awards. All but the completely Grinchy at heart can see the inherent bias from a nominating and voting board that is 94% white and 77% male.

What’s a Black actor, writer or director to do in situations like this? The immediate answer is not much. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences is not a government body, and is under no real obligation to behave in a way that represents or reflects the best interests of the population that consumes the products they put out. Ah, but there is the key word: the consumers. When you look at the breakdown of movie ticket buyers, it seems that about 46% of them are Black. It’s obvious then, that Black people have very little trouble laying aside any cultural or skin tone differences when choosing what to watch and which actors to follow.

Hey, Matt Damon and Ridley Scott: You’re welcome, by the way, for whatever contribution we made in helping your film succeed. Glad you put that obnoxious, nasty “Moses” business behind you.

You’ve seen the video on her Facebook page, right? In just under three minutes, she asks whether “we” have come to a time and place where “we” should stop yearning, no, begging, for a body that doesn’t reflect or represent us to actually duly acknowledge our creative output, especially when it is outstanding and might deserve an award. And that maybe it is time for “us” to pull back “our” resources and put them back into our own projects. Strike out on our own. She also announced the now-famous boycott of the Oscars.

Oh, Mrs. Smith. The years have given astute observers so much ammunition to cast doubt on the sincerity of your desire to be FUBU, when your husband was supposedly one of the actors who was supposedly snubbed for a nomination. Her husband’s former co-star Janet Hubert, however, minced no words in her response, which went viral, of course. She pulled the Smith’s cards, noting that they have never strongly advocated for the careers of actors of color, aside from their own children, and that it was thoughtless of them to call for actors with less social and economic clout to take a course of action that might put them on the outs with the powers that be.

Some say Ms. Hubert was merely salty — still, after 20 years — for a falling out that she had with Will Smith leading to her exit from “Fresh Prince of Bel Air.” Well, if that’s the case, then Ms. Hubert has company, because my first inclination after seeing Mrs. Smith’s video was that she was salty because her husband was not nominated for an award. The Smiths might make modest gestures in helping former costars here and there launch a minor project, but they are far from being figures that have helped mentor and advise up and coming talent in the industry, particularly if they’re not one of Will’s kids. Kind of weird to expect the people who might have benefited from your advocacy in the past to now take a bold stance with their careers to help you all make a point, huh?

And poor Will. When he did get around to getting on a national platform to explain his perspective on diversity in Hollywood, he really sounded like he was not prepared for the backlash that Jada had gotten him into. He always seemed to be searching for the right words to Robin Roberts’ questions, as if he’s never really trod on that topic before and had to quickly think on his feet to come up with an answer.

I’ve always thought that Jada was the kookier one in that relationship, and now I’m totally convinced.

If Jada’s video has gotten him deeper into an area that he didn’t expect, then it will be interesting to see how he gets out of this one.

Regardless of whether this storm blows over with the Smiths, I can tell you that I’ve already moved on from expecting mainstream networks and movie studios to tell stories reflective of my culture. After noticing some of the special tomfoolery that goes on with Black actors, and other actors of color, I’ve been seeking out other entertainment options that highlight more Blacks, men and women, and in varied ways that don’t play to lazy stereotyping by white writers who just don’t know any better or don’t care to. The Smiths are late with their self-serving call to action, and the Oscars lost a lot of their luster and relevance in my mind years ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NYTimes: David Bowie, the Legendary Musician, Has Died at 69

This man was one of my husband’s favorite musicians, so I know this news is going to be shocking. While he isn’t going to mourn Mr. Bowie like I mourned Whitney Houston, I can relate to his sense of loss.

They have one 15-year-old daughter, Alexandria Zahra Jones (Bowie is a stage name). Oh,  that has to be tough. Prayers for his family.

David Bowie, the Legendary Musician, Has Died at 69 http://nyti.ms/1P1MO3D

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