Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Why I Don't Want a Black Spider-Man

 Before I start, I feel that I should recognize that what I am about to write, were I reading it, and were it written by a White person, I would probably find racist. But since I am writing it and, despite reports to the contrary, I am not White, I know that this isn't racist. The truth of this discrepancy is something I should not ignore, but cannot account for. So I'll ignore it.

A few days ago (February 10th) it was announced that Sony would be partnering with Marvel to include Spider-Man in the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe.) There was much rejoicing, as Spider-Man is integral to the story that Marvel seems to want to adapt from the comic books (Civil War.) This is also wonderful news. Spidey is kind of the center of the Marvel Universe. He lives by the motto “with great power comes great responsibility.” Not only does he live by that model, he tries his best to make sure that people around him own up to the responsibility their power confers, so by default he is the moral compass of the Marvel U. He is the everyman-superhero which is an oxymoron, but is also what makes him so compelling. I'm a fan.

Being a fan I was greatly distressed to see a bunch of articles posted mere hours after the announcement with titles such as “Enough Peter Parker”, “It'sTime for Donald Glove”, and, most horrifying of all, “Kill Peter Parker!” It seems that the internet hates Peter Parker! Why! I truly felt the need to #WellActually all these bloggers and inform them of the errors of their opinions (yes I know that opinions can't be wrong, but these guys are wrong.)

I saw several people on Twitter responding in a similar fashion, and as we all know, every one tweet represents 5,000 actual opinions* A virtual lynch mob has formed to get rid of Peter and replace him with Miles Morales. Let me say this; I hate the Ultimates Universe. Ultimates was a new line of comics Marvel started to tell what I guess were supposed to be “hip” and “edgy” versions of the existing heroes. I hate hip. I hate edgy. I like the things that I like, and I want the things I like to be like the thing I like. I am very consistent on this point; Transformers, Battlestar Galactica, GI JOE, you name it. All these reboots and hip, edgy versions of things I like that are almost entirely unlike the source material, I ignore. Dozens of people have tried to get me to watch BSG, or told me how great Ultimate Spider Man is; I don't care. It could all be the most amazing fiction ever, but it's not what I came for. Every effort to sell me on this new Fantastic Four movie has the opposite effect, mostly because their main selling point seems to be “It's entirely different from the FF you know!” Well... I like the thing I like... why would I like something entirely unlike the thing I like? I like Peter Parker, I like Spider Man. Making some cheap knockoff Spider Man isn't going to excite me just because he's Brown. If I am going to see a movie adaptation of something I like, it better be the thing I like, not some warped, twisted, approximation of the thing I like (I'm looking at you Michael Bay.)

One reason people use to justify changing Spiders is that his origin story has been done to death; on this point I agree. We get it, we know, no need to beat that particular horse again. In fact I've seen various reports that Marvel will jump right into a new Spider story sans origins, similar to what they did switching Bruce Banners. Bam, problem solved, and quite easily at that. No need to freaking murder the guy because of that. I know he's fictional. He's important to me. You will deal.

The second, and more emotionally charged reason people are pushing for the change is that we, as PoC (Persons of Color), would like to see a major superhero who looks like us to further the cause of diversity in fiction. Great. Wonderful. I'm all-in on that. But why do you have to sacrifice Peter Parker for this agenda?

The prevailing feeling I have received from reading these blogs and seeing the reactions on Twitter is that people want a Black Character, and Spider-Man is as good as anyone, because it will make a “statement.” I can tell that people who feel this way were never fans of the comic books. If you read Spidey like I did you would never want to just casually toss him aside in the name of diversity. Yes I sound like That Nerd because I am That Nerd. I am going to proudly and unashamedly be That Guy. I don't want Black Spidey because I grew up with Peter Parker. It is entirely possible that many of the White fans who are unhappy with these changes feel the same way. I mean, they can't statistically all be racist. Maybe some of us just want the thing we like to be the thing we like. People who have never been invested in the source material (a large portion of current movie fandom, for good or ill) are fine with making sweeping changes to characters that make no sense contextually. I don't want Black Johnny Storm. I want Luke Cage. Why in the blazes was Heimdall Black in the Thor movies? To shoehorn Idris Elba in there somewhere? Why couldn't he have been the scientist who befriends Thor, Dr Selvig? Why have him as a NORSE GOD. You know, I think I can deal with a lack of diversity in the NORSE GOD PANTHEON. It made no sense, and is the prime example of pointless pandering changes. (Please don't come at me with that “they're aliens” thing. Just... don't.)

The current trend is to cast PoC as existing heroes, which I am totally against. Don't get me wrong I do of course want to see more PoC in movies, but not like this. In fact this trend annoys and angers me. Making an existing character a PoC is not a victory and it is not progress; it is the laziest kind of pandering I can imagine. It is never and will never be permanent. If you think Falcon is going to stay Captain America then you don't read comics. No matter how PC people want to be he will never be Captain America, he will always be Black Captain America to the populace. Morales will never be Spider-Man, he will always be Black Spider-Man. Debbie will always be Black Debbie (OK, obscure reference there) but you get the point. No matter how good the intentions of the creative team, changing an existing character's race or gender does not achieve the intended goal. Marvel needs to learn from DC, specifically from Dwayne McDuffie (rest his soul.) He was a huge influence on DC's properties, and encouraged them to use DC's existing character's whenever possible. He was why the Green Lantern in Justice League was John Stewart instead of Hal Jordan.

I'm a big fan of this tactic. Creating new characters that are People of Color in important roles IS progress. They inhabit their own space and own their own story. Unlike a palette-swap character, there is none of the danger of them being retcon-ed away. This is the strategy Marvel should employ, and the strategy that we as PoC and women fans should encourage. Why insist on a Donald Glover as Spider Man when you're sitting on Don-Freaking-Cheadle as War Machine. He's ALREADY THERE. And he's a great character played by a legendary actor. They could tell some gripping, dark stories with War Machine. I'm fine with a War Machine movie with a similar mood and tone to Captain America 2. I mean, he's called War Machine.

The biggest reason why I'm against Ultimates Spider-Man and Fantastic Four is that they apply the dark, gritty, realistic crap onto movies that don't fit it. Spidey and FF should not be dark and gritty. They can feature those elements, especially with villains such as Venom and Dr Doom, but the titular characters should not be that way. I read about Miles Morales; that story's f***ing depressing. Spidey has been through some crap, but he doesn't let that define him. Morales back story sounds like an episode of The Wire. I'm good, thanks. There is also the fact that if they did introduce Spidey as Miles THEY WOULD HAVE TO DO AN ORIGIN STORY AGAIN. I could go on. Peter needs to stay Peter for the good of everyone. Miles will always be alternate universe Miles, which is fine. Marvel proved that it's the story that matters, and if they made Guardians profitable what do you think they could do with Peter? Diversity will happen, it just can't be shoehorned into places where it doesn't make sense in continuity or context.



AND why aren't people demanding Ms Marvel be portrayed by Kamala Khan!?!?!?


*May not be an actual fact.

Monday, January 5, 2015

#WellActually issue 02 - Myers-Briggs edition

This issue of #WellActually doesn't focus on an Internet article, it focuses on the subject of the article. I have to switch it up on you now and then to keep you on your toes.

You should probably read this before we begin. It's an article about how the Myers-Briggs test is total and utter bullshit. It is so because it is based off of what I can only assume were the results of a long, relaxing day of Carl Jung smoking the finest marijuana he could find. Carl, who frequently hooked up with Freud in the early, heady, drug-fueled days of psychology, was influential in laying the groundwork for psychology. He and Freud had many, many great and interesting ideas that no one takes seriously anymore. The Id, the Ego, the Super-ego, the universal subconscious, the archetype; these are all crazy ideas that sound cool, but are completely unscientific. I believe in them because 1. it's fun and 2. if you really dig deep into their theories, you know, really roll around in them, you can see the possible truths that lie within. This is fine, this is America and we are all allowed to believe in anything we want. That's what Abraham Lincoln fought that Bear on the top of Mt. Rushmore for (note: I have an incomplete understanding of American History.) Freud and Jung's teachings are to me what Astrology is to others; they make sense in respect to how I view reality, both consensual and personal. Does this make it true? Of course not. Does this greatly influence what I'd tell someone who is going through psychological turmoil? Of course not. But as a psych nerd it's still fun to think about.

Which brings me to the reason I've gathered you all here; the Myers-BriggsTest. It's incredibly popular, and you see people everywhere using its results to define themselves. People often ask if I've taken it or what letters I am, and I have nothing to tell them. I also judge the hell out of them, but that's to be expected. I thought I'd never taken the test because I'm lazy and it's a long damn test but in reading the article above I realized that I've had nagging doubts about the test from when I first heard about it that I never put into words. I went to school for Psychology (twice) and as hard as I apparently tried not to, I did learn some things. As an undergrad at Rutgers I had several professors repeatedly beat me about the head with lectures on what is and is not science. I had to take several classes about quantitative methods, statistics and other utterly horrifying numerical crap. The upside to all of this is I now have a very highly tuned and sensitive bullshit detector. The MB Test sets it off on all levels.
Also, I'm a Sagittarius

The first thing that bothered me was the unnerving lack of statistical data backing up the tests results. Nothing about validity or reliability, no research method, none of that. I thought the thing was a BuzzFeed internet quiz along the same lines as “Which Horsemen of the Apocalypse is Your Mother-in-Law (mine is Plague.) I didn't know it was a thing that people were basing important life decisions on. I was shocked (Shocked!) to learn that corporations are using this test to weed out prospective employees. It's neither reliable in that it does not give the same results with repeated testings, nor is it valid. The number one problem with any self-report test is that we as humans are unwilling and unable to report negatively about ourselves. It's called the Social Desirability Bias and it colors all self reports to some degree. At times people will give more accurate answers under the protection of anonymity, but even then there is no guarantee of transparency. Humans operate under a number of cognitive biases that color how we see ourselves and the world around us. In psychology it is recognized that, whether by design or self-delusion, we are horrible at giving accurate representations of ourselves and equally terrible at accepting representations of ourselves that don't match what we want to believe. That creates Cognitive Dissonance, and we hate dissonance. So right there the MB Test is fucked up, and everything that springs from it thereafter is similarly fucked up.


Why do people believe in this test so much with absolutely no evidence to back it up? Because the people who take this test WANT it to be true. As the article points out, there are no negative outcomes to this test. Look at the comments on the MB Test link I put above; everyone is happy with their results. As a bonus the site shows them which famous people share their type. Everyone likes to be told they have something in common with a famous person they have nothing in common with. Who wants to take a statistically sound personality test that may tell you that you're an antisocial narcissist with sadomasochistic tendencies and a vicious Hentai addiction (this doesn't exist yet, so calm your fears Hentai lovers.) We are far more likely to take a test that tells us that we are what we want to be, which is exactly what the MB Test is; it excels at telling us what we want to hear. Like pop psychologists, talk show doctors, fortune tellers and astrologists, there is plenty of wiggle room in the conclusions these tests make to make us feel better about the decisions we make and the personality traits we display. Not only does having a test tell you that you're an introvert (for example) excuse you from trying harder to interact in social situations, but it also gives you a sense of belonging. Belonging is a basic human need, right after Physiological Needs and Safety (See Maslow's Hierarchy of needs for more details.) If you want to become rich and famous, find a new way to tell people that they belong to a misunderstood group, and that all of their problems are related to being a part of this misunderstood group. Bonus points if you can also make people feel like they are victimized and oppressed by belonging to this group. If you can find a way to make straight White males not seem like the most privileged group in America, you can retire and sleep on a bed made of solid gold helicopters, which is the embodiment of the American Dream.
I'm an Introvert

If you know me you know that I hold Life Coaches and the like in pretty low esteem. As a person who is drowning in student debt in order to give people professional advice, I don't have time for people who one day decide that they're fucking great at fixing people. That would be like me deciding that I'm great at spinal surgery and taking a knife to someone's spinal cord. The results would be just as damaging. That being said, I really can't be mad at people who figured out how to charge exorbitant amounts of money to tell a bunch of high strung executives how to “relax” and be more productive. 

Life Coaches are an extension of the “Everybody Wins” mindset that has taken over child rearing practices. I'm not a “spare the rod spoil the child” type, but I do believe that people need to experience e real disappointment and defeat in order to become stronger individuals. Always being told you're good enough, you're smart enough, and people like you creates a society where everyone feels entitled to more than they've worked for. This is why all of us think our opinions are valid when in reality 90% of people who believe strongly in something need to keep their opinions to their self. They're human Rorschach tests, becoming what the viewer wants to see but not actually providing real direction or intent. It's therapy for those who really don't have problems; what we call First World problems. You never see people in the hood employing life coaches, and not just because of the exorbitant prices they charge for their services. A life coach has no answers for institutionalized racism and inter-generational poverty. No, these people excel at selling people what they want to hear. The Myers-Briggs Test is a personality assessment form of the Life Coach. Pretty, but ultimately meaningless.
As well.


People are putting faith in a test that it's creator said was basically spitballing some new ideas. Briggs and Myers were basically life coaches who hooked up with an HR Manager to make a predictive test with none of the tools one would need to create a predictive test. The results change according to what mood you're in. Pseudoscience is the greatest way to describe this test; sounds good enough to be science so people run with it. Also you can take it on your lunch break at work. 

Pseudoscience works well because it has great promotion by people who have an air of authority. Real science is promoted by people who are so bad at interacting with the general populace that they became scientists. It's fine to take this test and tell everyone the results as if they're the truth; people do it with astrology all the time, and it's more or less harmless. It may be a good way of explaining yourself to others, which is also fine. When people use this test to make employment or relationship decisions, that's when the crazy hits the fan. There are plenty of more reliable ways to create order out of the chaos of human behavior. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Thoughts About Thoughts About Lucy

     This was too long for a tweet, so I decided to put it here. In the past few days I have found two articles about the movie Lucy that have been very striking to me. Most every article, tweet, and FaceBook post about the movie has said it's terrible, so that part really is not up for debate. Here's the thing; I've been criticizing theMarySue.com both for it's #SolidarityIsForWhiteWoman nature and having a definite case of #LenaDunhamSyndrome. If you're not up on your hash-tag activism, I'll explain. The first one refers to the idea that mainstream feminism is only concerned with the problems of middle-to-upper class White American women. The second is a phrase I coined to describe the common excuse White writers use for not including people of color in their work, that being “I don't know any of 'them' so I can't write 'them', address 'their' issues, ask one of 'them' what 'their' life is like,” etc.
     Lucy is drawing a ton of criticism for its plot, writing, and direction. Thankfully ScarJo has escaped this criticism, because she is too good for the human race, and if we displease her she may forsake us for the race of Celestial Angels from whence she came. Much of the criticism centers around the films depiction of race, especially when concerned with the origin of our species. Critics have also had problems with the film's depiction of humanity's highest evolved form being a blonde White woman (the vast majority of humanity is not that.) These are interesting talking points that a female-centric geek blog would do well to focus on, right? You would think so, but this is the article that The Mary Sue ran: “Today in Female-Led-Movies-Obviously-Don't-Make-MoneyNews, Lucy Beat out Hercules This Weekend.”
     A pretty inoffensive title to a entirely inoffensive article. The article, written by Victoria McNally (@vqnerdballs) uses a snarky, sarcastic tone to convey the idea that even a bad female-led movie can make money. It ends by saying there's no good financial reason that Hollywood studios aren't making female-led superhero movies. Both of these points are entirely valid ones that I agree with. Then I read the article that The Huffington Post ran about Lucy, and well, it goes like this: “Lucy: Why I'm Tired of Seeing White People on the BigScreen.”
     A provocative title, and one that that has brought a ton of grief to the author's twitter account (Olivia Cole, @RantingOwl) begged me to read it. The article describes in detail the many race-related flaws with Lucy and with the Hollywood thought process regarding race in general. Ms. Cole is a White woman, and she manages to deftly communicate many of the same issues that people of color have been complaining about in regards to the entertainment industry for decades. As Ms. Cole has acknowledged on her twitter account, it is sad that these issues are only now coming to the attention of many White Americans because a White person has brought them up.
     Please understand , I have no problem with the idea of Ms. McNally's article; my main problem with it is it's shallow. If you look at most articles published on The Mary Sue, you will see that many of them are equally shallow, homogenous, and toothless indictments of pop culture. One would think that such a site would be more aggressive in getting its point across, not just for White women but for all women. But that's not the case. Ms. Cole's article that appeared on The Huffington Posts's Entertainment site, had far more bite and, in essence, did far more to expose the issues of all women than any article on The Mary Sue has to date. If you kept the articles the same but switched the sites, what effect would it have? There would be little to no effect on the HuffPo site, but The Mary Sue would be revolutionized and do much to show that it is a site for all geek girls of all colors. It is an easy cure; The Mary Sue, if it is not going to make a concerted effort to have a more inclusive staff, at the very least would do well to hire more writers like Ms. Cole.


If you like or hate this article, let me know on Twitter, @DonCoyote

Monday, July 28, 2014

#WellActually issue 01 - 17 Things Attractive Girls Do Differently

The #WellActually series I will take a stupid, stupid blog, think piece, news story, study, etc. and riff on it, trying to make sense of the non-nonsensical. If you have a suggestion for a story I need to #WellActually, send it to exit.eleven@gmail.com

So, this happened. It is a blog post from a male (extrapolating from the name Jason, unless that's now a popular girls name among the Upper-East-Side/Connecticut Suburbs set) who has taken it upon himself to manslpain how to be attractive to women. I'm no raging feminist myself, but I know better than this. I don't go around telling women how to do their jobs. I have been known to mansplain things, but I never do it intentionally. If I'm called on it I stop because honestly I can see how that shit would be annoying. When someone writes a whole blog post, a man that is, telling women how to be attractive to men... no pun intended, but that takes balls. So I'm going to run down these 17 things and let you know if this guy is full of shit or not (spoiler alert; he is.)

  1. They are Happier – You know what's always happy? Puppies. Who doesn't want a woman who has the temperament of a puppy? Wait... in a way that could kind of be awesome... bu... no. No, no human is always happy, and if they are they are most likely on the happiest of happy pills. Real actual humans have ups and downs. It's possible to have a sunny outlook and a positive demeanor even in the worst of times, but the writer is definitely describing a puppy, not a grown woman. He says that all the people he meets at work are “bored” and “standoffish.” Is that a function of their unattractiveness or is it the effect you have on people? Think about it.
  2. They Don't Complain About Their Bodies – Here the writer almost, ALMOST makes a decent point. No one expects perfection in real life, and striving for it is fruitless. He's doing so well on this point but then has to add “One we actually get to hook up with” implying that flawed women are hot because they're attainable. If the writer had any chance of hell in landing a “airbrushed model” he'd kick the rest of you imperfect women to the curb. Lucky for you ladies, he's stuck chasing the attainable woman.
  3. They Actually Don't Complain Much Period – Have a bad day? Keep that shit to yourself! It makes you ugly!The writer makes the classic mistake of thinking that women talk about their problems to find a solution. It took me years to figure out that women sometimes solve their problems simply by conversing about them with others. The act of having someone listen allows people to vent their emotions on a subject and reflect upon it rationally. But it also makes you ugly, so don't do it. Bottle up all that negative emotion and channel it into, I assume, cooking and cleaning.
  4. They Wear Dresses – I have to admit, I much prefer dresses on women than anything else, but that's just that, my preference. I mean, there's a reason women wear dresses and gowns to fancy events. To assert that this is the only way a woman can be attractive is asinine. There's no evidence that pants make a woman ugly. The writer asserts that dresses “make us look at you like a man is supposed to look at a woman.” Um, sexually? That's how we are supposed to look at women? Only? Do men have to look at all women who wear dresses sexually? Because that could cause a problem at work... any work. This is probably why all of the writer's coworkers are standoffish.
  5. They Make a Guy Feel Special – This point is not actually too bad. He at least asserts that making an effort to impress the other person is a two-way street.
  6. They Are Kind - Who doesn't like kindness? At this point he is just describing what makes a person a good person, not what makes someone attractive. He should add to this point "doesn't murder children," because that is also a trait found in good people. Unless, you know, they try to murder you first.
  7. They NEVER Talk About Exes – Again, this may be a good rule for people in general. Who wants to hear about their significant others exes all the time? This is just common sense. However, if there are some real issues that a woman needs to discuss to be able to maybe move past some stuff in her past, you as her man should be able to suck it up and listen. It's idiotic to pretend that your girl is a virgin. That's delusional, and delusional thinking is not attractive at all sir.
  8. She Let's Me Take the Lead – Ah here we go, SUBMISSION! No woman should leave home without it. The writer asserts that being feminine involves deference to his wishes. I used to date a girl who had no will of her own and I hated it. I agree that the perfect relationship is one where the two individuals compliment each other. The writer contradicts himself here though; he wants a woman who can be her own person, but also defers to him. Don't be weak! Stand up for yourself! Don't stand up to me! Damn, being attractive is hard.
  9. She Isn't a Dead Fish in Bed – Again, this isn't just for women; this is for everyone. Don't suck in bed, it's a given. And if the man sucks in bed, well, see #3 and #5.
  10. They Aren't Businesslike – Hey I hear women are working now! That's swell! I am trying to figure out if this blog was written in 1952. The writer is basically saying “Hey, it's cool that you work, but don't bring it up to me. Keep it to yourself along with your hopes, fears, ex-boyfriends, worries, and personal preferences. Those aren't things I need to know about you.” 
  11. They Cook – Everyone should cook. A woman who can cook is a plus, but not a necessity, and you certainly aren't unattractive if you can't cook. Dumb-ass.
  12. She's Encouraging, but Not Bossy – Going along with the theme of shutting your big trap, the writer feels that an attractive woman only expresses herself when it is in support of her man. When the writer talks about his problems, he doesn't want the woman to offer suggestions or alternatives, he wants her to just sit and listen to his problems in exactly the way he is unwilling to do for her. Fascinating. The hypocrisy I mean. Fascinating. Christ, there's 5 more of these?
  13. They're Athletic – Translation; No Fat Chicks.
  14. They Drink in Moderation – Addendum; No DRUNK fat chicks.
  15. They Keep Our Couple Secrets – OK so the writer doesn't want you talking to him, but he does not want you talking to your friends and loved ones either. Is he a cult leader?
  16. She's Close With Her Parents – No fat chicks, no drunks, and no orphans. Also, apparently being a single child or from a small family makes you unattractive. So if you can somehow change that, you should. You know, to be more attractive.
  17. She Doesn't Take Herself Too Seriously – OK I have to agree with him on this one. I could never be with someone who takes herself very seriously. Levity is what keeps me going. Again, the writer takes it too far, suggesting that anyone who is “neurotic” is going to make your life “a whole lot worse.” If you can try and never have had anything bad ever happen to you, that would be ideal.


So, that's how a woman becomes attractive. Easy right? No? This guy should go fuck himself? Yeah, probably.  Again, you can see the original article here.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The White Man's (New) Burden

     By now you have probably heard about Anthony Cumia, of “Opie and Anthony” fame. He had a run-in with a woman on the streets of New York that lead to him losing his job on Sirius XM. He states that he was taking pictures of public areas (streets and buildings) and that this woman happened in front of his camera. He says that she attacked him, for no reason of course, and then went on Twitter to call her a “cunt” and a “savage.”

To be sure, supporters of the “Opie and Anthony” show did not use such kind language to describe the woman, who is Black. None of their listeners have in any way expressed sentiments that Cumia did anything inappropriate. This should not be surprising as the show's White, male, 18-34 year old audience has never been known to be sensitive to women or minorities. In this essay I refer to White males as if they are a homogenous entity, but really I think the guys who get it will know who I am speaking of and will recognize whether I am talking about them or not.

Full disclosure; I never liked “Opie and Anthony.” I've never even listened to the show. But I knew the type of people who did listen to the show, and that was all I really needed to know. I have found that you can learn more about a person, group, or institution from the people who support it than from the thing itself. The people who I knew liked that show were overwhelmingly male, White, and sort of, if not outright, racist. Nothing about that demographic made me think “that's a show I need to listen to!”

To be fair, many guests that have been on the show are comedians who I appreciate and am a fan of, most notable Lewis Black, Rich Vos, Patton Oswalt and Patrice O' Neal, the only non-white regular guest the show has ever had. I always thought Jim Norton was a raging racist but, to be honest, it was 90% because of his appearance. He looks like an extra from “American History X.” I watched one of his comedy specials out of curiosity, and much to my surprise I found him to be very funny and not at all racist, at least not in that special. So my method of judging people may not 100% accurate, but most of the time it works. It's anecdotal evidence, not DNA testing. Those of you who know me know that my superpower is Hypocrisy. In my defense the show also has a very good relationship with Donald Trump, who has been vigorously defending Donald Sterling. So, there's that.

The most striking aspect of this event is how victimized Cumia himself feels. Cumia, Trump,  and people like them have felt for many years now, oh let's say since President Obama was elected, that their rights to “Free Speech” have been tread on. They feel that society has become too “sensitive” and “politically correct.” They believe that we as a people have become soft and can't take a joke. White men in positions of power are enraged that they cannot get away with saying whatever they want to say. To those men I say, in the words of John Mayer, welcome to the real world. One thing that straight White males have to understand is you do not get to be the Victim and Privileged. Whether you know (or like) it or not, Western society is set up to benefit the straight White male, and as long as that is true that demographic will never be viewed as a sympathetic victim. Not fair? Probably. But again, welcome to the reality that the rest of us have existed in for centuries.

I'm a Black male. Black men have not been able to just say whatever we have wanted since we  first met Europeans centuries ago. We have never had much of any type of freedom where Europeans and Americans have been concerned. White men have never had to fear any repercussions to what they say in public unless it was against The Church, but that is a story for another day. European and American men have long believed in the “White Man's Burden”, their right and duty to save and educate the savage heathens and Brown peoples of the Earth. It is now 2014 and White men have a new burden, the burden of Responsibility. This is the burden of having to face the people they speak against or insult, the burden of having to Think before they Act, a burden that all the rest of us have had to deal with for centuries. It is a burden that few White men are prepared to shoulder. Many, many men still have not realized that they have been put in this position, and you can tell by the genuine surprise with which White men receive the news that people are angry at what they have said, and that they are being punished for their words.

Where shall we begin... how about Mel Gibson? He's like the Jay-Z of offensive rants. He has gone off against gays and lesbians, women in general, and then his infamous statement about “a pack of n*ggers.” I never knew that the proper term for a group of n*ggers was a pack. I should thank him for the education. Speaking of “the N word”, Michael Richards. Enough said. Remember Don Imus? He had no idea that women would object to being referred to as nappy headed hoes.” Because that's something that the rest of us regularly say to women we don't know. Eminem throws around the word “fag” like he gets paid for it. There's Donald Sterling, who is still honestly confused as to what he has done wrong in his life (let's go with discriminatory housing practices for that one.). And then we come back to Cumia who, according to comedian Penn Jillette should be compared to Martin Luther King Jr for not using his gun on the unarmed woman who attacked him. He basically said on his podcast “Penn's Sunday School” that a White man not shooting an unarmed Black women should have earned Cumia a Nobel Prize. No Penn, there's no award for that. Not only are we supposed to forgive Cumia, we should applaud him for his restraint. Oh. OK.

Penn also said that he's never seen any evidence that Cumia is racist. This line always kills me. I tell everybody I know that Boston is the most racist city in the Northeast, and inevitably a White person will say “Really? I never noticed.” OF COURSE you didn't notice, you're not the one they are racist against! Penn concludes by saying that the “free market” will decide if Cumia's firing was justified or not, and I believe it already has. The market has spoken, which is why he was fired. It makes better business sense to appease the great majority of people who would spend their time influencing advertisers to drop their support of the show than to keep Cumia and the small but vocal audience he brings in.

The problem that most of these men have is their lack of exposure to people different from them. To Cumia, he was attacked for no reason by a women from a culture that, he believes, has a violence problem (all of these views are available in his twitter feed.) It would never occur to him that as a woman she has experienced a lifetime of street harassment and would be justifiably suspicious and angry of a man taking pictures of her on the street. He would never think that it would not occur to a Black woman to call the police on such a man, because what are the chances that NYPD would take her side in a disagreement with a White man? He would never think that after, well, all of American history a Black women would be less than inclined to give a White man the benefit of the doubt.

And that is the main point that White men in this day and age need to understand; you don't get the benefit of the doubt. Like the rest of us, you as a White male are laboring under the sins of your fathers. No matter what it will be assumed that you are racist, misogynist, homophobic, etc. until proven otherwise. It may suck but the White male in this society has the burden (there's that word again) of proof when it comes to not being seen as a dick. It is almost irrelevant what Cumia's intentions were because of the way it looked. The same way Black men would have to be very cognizant of how they approached White women in the streets for fear of lynching, that's how cognizant you have to be about how you come off. You will never face the level of repercussions for your behavior as many other Americans have had to face, but now there are consequences to your actions. A novel concept I know, but one that you will have to deal with.

There are many White men who get this, and know that there is a level of self-restraint that has to be exercised when expressing one's feelings in public. Some of you reading this may be thinking “what's the point of trying to be sensitive to race and gender if everyone is just going to think I'm a jerk anyway?” Some of you still don't get it. Some of you may be angry and upset by what I'm saying, and feel unduly attacked. To those of you who don't get it, I will say this; every time I encounter White people in any setting I am self-conscious about about being the best example of a Black man I can be so that I don't reinforce stereotypes about My gender and My race. That is a burden I did not ask for, it is one I was born into and you know what? It's exhausting. It is exhausting to have to constantly monitor yourself because your appearance and demeanor may get you rejected, fired, or in some cases killed. It is exhausting. Ask any Indian or Arab person what it's like to be assumed to be a terrorist. Ask any woman what it's like to have to make sure that she doesn't do anything to “invite” men to harass or attack her. Ask any Black woman what it's like to have to measure their words so that they are not viewed as being “angry.” I bet each and every one of them will tell you it's god-damned exhausting. That's the burden the rest of us have been carrying since before we can remember. And now, it is yours as well.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

African American Patriotism

It is hard to be a patriotic African American these days. With Team USA playing Belgium later today in the World Cup, there will be an exciting show of patriotism from Americans all over the world. My favorite part of this world cup has been #BlackTwitter showing it's Red, White, and Blue pride. I really thought I was the only Black person who liked America for a while. I've been very vociferous about my allegiance and love of my country, and because of it I've been subject to criticism and mockery, which has come in two forms.

My girlfriend and I often get into heated discussions about absolutely nothing. Recently I was espousing why I have a bit of a loathe-on for Europe, Nutella, and Soccer, not necessarily in that order. I spoke about why I dislike the French as a concept, a nation, and a national team, when she made the observation that on this subject I sound very nationalistic, like a Republican. This statement angered me greatly for two reasons; 1. I despise Republicans and 2. she was right. One of the biggest tricks the Republican party ever pulled was complete and absolute appropriation of Patriotism. In the 10 years post-9/11 conservatives all over the country made it seem like if you did not support them and the “War on Terror”, you were worse than a Communist. To this day it seems nearly impossible to be proud of the United States without sounding like a gun-toting toothless redneck, or Ann Coulter. Worse they blurred the lines between patriotism (pride in one's country) and nationalism (a belief in the inherent superiority of one's country over all others.) Patriotism leads to awesome photoshopped pics of Abraham Lincoln riding a bear with an eagle on his shoulder. Nationalism leads to World Wars. It's a simple, but vitally important distinction.

I blame the Democrats for this. Were they not so spineless as to let conservatives appropriate patriotism it would not sound so weird when I talk about how rabidly pro-American I am. Even in my own head when I talk about views that I’ve held my entire life, it sounds funny. When I talk about how I love America I feel like Rush Limbaugh has hacked into my thoughts and is using me as a mouthpiece. It's a terrible feeling because one should never have to feel like a fat, slimy, conservative radio talk show host just for loving their country. Being a patriotic Liberal feels strange because of the company it puts you in. We've grown to expect a certain amount of xenophobia and flag-waving from conservatives, but not from a Black Liberal from the suburbs of New Jersey.

In the last week another phenomenon has presented itself to me that has made me question my patriotism. As I've said, watching the World Cup and being on Twitter has been nothing short of spectacularly entertaining, especially when the USA is playing. The memes and comments from #BlackTwitter have been awesome. But another faction has reared it's head lately, a faction I've seen referred to as #HotepTwitter or The Fun Police. Basically it's a group of Black people who like to remind us that hey, the US Government hasn't always been so kind to Black people. Ya know what? I'm aware, thank you very much. I never try to defend the US because a lot of what the US has done is indefensible. The very reason I am here typing this blog is because of kidnapping, rape, torture, and slavery. However, the reason why I am able to sit here and type, the reason I can read and write and hold an advanced degree and earn money and walk around in public with a girlfriend who is not Black is because of African Americans. The reason why most of us can enjoy and complain about our #FirstWorldProblems is because of African Americans. As much as we hate what some Americans have done TO us (as Black people) we have to love and respect what other Americans (African Americans) have done FOR us.
I'm patriotic for many reasons, the first and foremost being that I am as American as it gets. Physically speaking I am most definitely of African origin, there is no getting around that fact. And I wouldn't want to honestly; I love being Black, it's arguably the greatest thing about me. Beyond those physical traits I am in no way African. For one thing, I can't trace my lineage to any specific African country (for obvious reasons). I don't have an African language or culture to investigate and learn about. Like most African Americans my roots probably go back to West Africa, but beyond that I cannot say. But I am most definitely American. I have an American mindset and the American superiority complex (augmented by my NJ superiority complex, I'm damned near insufferable.) I am overly proud of where I come from. I'm what the terrorists hate about us. I love excess and dreaming big and shooting for the stars and every other cliché you can think of. I am consumerist and love money and things and freedom of speech. I read the Bill of Rights and the Constitution for fun. As Denis Leary said I love football and porno and books about war. I like girls in bikinis and action movies were there are more bullets fired than words spoken. I HATE NUTELLA. I like violent cartoons. I like muscle cars that have 400 hp and get 15 miles to the gallon. I like engines the size of a 1 bedroom ranch house. I do not truck with the metric system. I buy most of my shirts from Wal-Mart and, for the most part, I don't care about soccer. FOOTBALL is FOOTBALL and futbol is soccer. That's the way God and Man intended it to be. I am American. I am a proud resident of New Jersey, and for me to try to claim otherwise would be fraudulent.


I believe to be Black in America and to distance yourself from that is an insult to the generations of Black people who fought and died for all we have today. Our ancestors did all they could to make sure that their children would have a better life than they did. The reason you as an African American can voice your opinion and have the freedom to leave the country if you want to is because of Black people. We built this country and today every single one of us, from Barack Obama to Lil Wayne benefit from this. Our blood, sweat, and tears are intractably enmeshed in the colors of our flag. I feel that to disavow what America means to me is spitting in the face of every Black person that died to make this country better for Black people. We've fought in every war this country has been in. We have been a part of every branch of government (that bastard Clarence Thomas, unfortunately, counts.) There would be no American culture if it wasn't for us. As much prejudice and discrimination as we face, this is still our country, and that only serves to remind me that this American Experiment is not done, and that this generation needs to do its part to make this a better country for Blacks just as my parents and grandparents did. It's a flawed, bloody, dirty, excessive, racist, prideful, sinful country, but it IS our country. We fought for so long to be recognized as citizens, and now some Black people want to reject this gift that we've been given. What a slap in the face of those who went before us. So yes, today I Believe That We Will Win. Because I'm a proud 'Merican and that's what we do.