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Dr. King Day, what a day to remember

 

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Interesting day today. On the day we celebrate King's life and death, I had a mini-brush with death today. I wasn't the target, but I could have easily been a victim of a drive-by shooting today.

I park the car at the restaurant where I am about to have a meeting for a radio-hosting job. As I park, I hear 10-15 gun shots ring out behind me. I look in the rearview mirror and can't see what's going on. A car comes racing by me and stops a few cars in front of me. Two young men then run up to the car and start shooting at it. I duck down in the driver's seat and just wait for the exchange to end. If I didn't wait an extra minute or 2 in the car, I could have been the victim of a stray bullet.

On any occasion, this would have been a heart-wrenching ordeal, but this happened on Dr. King's holiday. I got out of the car and carried on to my meeting, not knowing if someone else was going to turn the corner and start firing again or even if one of the shooters saw me and thought I would recognize them or their car (I couldn't). I just told myself that I couldn't be moved and that I had to press on. We're too often forced to live in fear and I just decided that wasn't going to be my moment of fear.

During the meeting, I thought long and hard about how my life could have ended and how I didn't say goodbye to my wife the way I wanted to when I left the house. On the way home, Michael Baisden was airing his Dr. King show and Baba Dick Gregrory just finished his comments about how the 3 things that we do to kill ourselves quickly are not getting enough sleep, not drinking enough water, and not exercising. I get home and turn on the radio to listen to the rest of the show but the dial stops on WPFW (the radio station I just met with) and it is Dr. King's final speech. He speaks about not making it to the end goal with us. It was a day of symbolism all around.

On this day, I thank Dr. King and all civil rights activists for their work and I am saddened that the biggest threat to my livelihood is black on black crime from the same people I write to help uplift. I write, perform, and live for all of humanity, but I this work started from a long burning passion to see black people love themselves. It pains me to see this not happening in 2006 on a large scale. King day is seen by too many as a day off, a day to get a car deal, and a day to shake your butt because you can sleep in late. How many parties did you here advertised on the radio in horror (yes, horror) of Dr. King?

Humankind is on a serious path for destruction. You and I owe it to all who came before us to not lose focus. We are soldiers in this war and there will be casualties that won't always be physical. We must press on. If we kept the legacy of King alive everyday, we wouldn't need a holiday. My wife and I had an interesting debate about King's legacy which spun into a discussion of media images and black TV shows. I told her I was frustrated because in the 80s and 90s, we had a good balance of black programming with shows and now everything I see is comedy or promotes more black stereotypes. This is
the subject for a future blog so stay tuned.

I am proud that we have this holiday and with today's events, I am more inspired to press on with my work than ever before. We as soldiers in humanity's war against ignorance need to reflect 365 days a year on how to live peacefully. King's holiday should not be the equivalent of sinning 6 days a week and going to church on Sunday for purification. Let us live life to the fullest and if we learn anything from King this day (I learn something new every year), let us learn that life is fleeting so say what's on your mind and only apologize for being too stubborn to listen to anyone who may offer you a differing opinion. Think before you speak. Write before you fight and remember ”we are only as humane as our most inhumane soul." Peace be unto you.

The Death of Black America

 

Despite the many riches that blacks have attained in America and despite the growth of black people becoming top executives and obtaining advanced degrees, black America and black causes are becoming a vanishing minority. The travesty of it all is that we are responsible for our own unraveling. There are two facets to our demise. The first is mentioned in my article on illegal immigration and gay rights below so I will not delve into that here. I will instead focus more on the second facet of my theory: the willing cooperation of black America in its own destruction.

The first aspect is the way in which blacks in America are still under attack, yet our stories seem to only garner attention when tied to other causes. For example, who can forget (well, most of us have), the case of the 3 black college students who were murdered execution-style in Newark, New Jersey? Did anyone notice that it was almost 48 hours before the story made national headlines? Does anyone know why? The reason is that whether they were college students or not, it was just another case of inner-city crime until it was discovered that there was an illegal alien allegedly who was one of the killers. Once this news was discovered, Lou Dobbs, Bill O'Reilly and others could not keep their hands off the story. So black America indirectly found its way to support someone else's cause with no direct benefit for our own.

If you think I am stretching this argument too much, let me ask you this: does anyone know the names of the students who were killed? Not likely. We did see their faces on occasion. Their names (if anyone cares) were Terrance Aerial, Iofemi Hightower, and Dashon Harvey. Terrance's sister Natasha fortunately survived the attack. As black Americans, we should have been outraged that our children were being used by others to advance an unrelated cause but we were silent and have not reached out en masse to assist these families.

It is sad that events like these keep occurring in black America. The fact of the matter is that black Americans en masse would rather defend Michael Vick than the Jena Six. Everyone from Jamie Foxx to Whoopi Goldberg has come out in support of Vick but our celebrities are relatively silent on the aforementioned issues. Where are these celebrities on issues such as the Jena 6 or Megan Williams'rape by a white mob just this month? I am not asking that celebrities become the champions of civil rights causes. I am just annoyed at the causes they choose to open their mouths for. Many of them build their careers on black support force and then forget us, highlighted by Beyonce's recent confession thatshe wishes she was Latina because they have a richer culture.

But here is where it gets troubling and actually quite sickening. Despite the fact that there are Latino gangs that lists killing a black person as initiation (reminiscent of white boys during slavery who had to rape a black girl as a rites of passage); despite the fact that members of armies in places like Germany are being told to think of black men when they shoot; despite the fact that some of our celebrities hate the skin they're in; and despite the fact that white people are still hanging nooses and gang-raping our women, I am still more likely to be killed by a black person than anyone else where I live in inner-city Washington, DC. Despite the work some of us do in prisons, where the majority of the black inmates are incarcerated for assault, murder and drug possession, I am still going to turn on the TV and see black men promoting the sale of drugs and promoting violence and murder. I am still going to see artists get signed because of their street credit instead of their college credit (unless they dropped out) and many young black girls and boys lose their lives following their example.

Some of us are quick to say that it's white folks at the top of the movie industry and record companies that are responsible for this. That was true a decade ago but now as people like Jay-Z and Diddy rise the corporate ladder, they bear much of the responsibility as well, at least as it relates to who gets discovered. Despite Viacom's BET purchase, there are still black people working there at every level so I will not blame Viacom for the creation of shows like "College Hill" or "We got to do Better." This is the same company whose mission statement is to showcase the "culture, genius, beauty, and talent of the black race." BET founder Bob Johnson stated that he's a businessman, not a social worker and has nothing to apologize for because he created more black millionaires than anyone. So kids who watch TV without supervision get one message: get money no matter if it's at the expense of your own people.

In the eighties and early nineties, BET had shows like "Teen Summit" and even a few news shows like "BET Tonight" with Tavis Smiley. Bill Cosby used his media influence to create shows like "The Cosby Showâ" and "A Different World." Though we have made more advances financially in the last 20 years, publicly we have basically gone from "A Different World" to "College Hill" and from "Soul Train" to "Soul Plane." There are black graduates of predominately white colleges as well as HBCUs behind these types of programs, movies like Soul Plane and music videos. Despite their degrees and our financial advances, we still cannot manage to have one 30-minute television show on the air devoted to news affecting us in 2007.

This is why we are disappearing. We are killing ourselves locally and promoting degrading stereotypes internationally. We are in charge of our image now. When I look at many blacks in movies and videos I sometimes feel like I’m watching the scene from "Birth of a Nation" where white folks in black face are eating watermelon and chicken in the White House. Someone once said to me when I was in high school that if blacks were in power, we would still be suffering the same ills as we were in the Reconstruction Era and beyond. I thought it was funny. But now we're getting power and I see black-on-black crime (lynching), women being paraded as sex kittens and breeders (slavery) and blacks acting as buffoons in the media (minstrel shows). With the exception of our en masse reactionary activism on issues like the Jena 6 and Hurricane Katrina, it appears that there are no more black causes, just black people. Just darker-skinned Americans, particularly as our issues have been swept under the category of class rather than race. How convenient. I know we have some nicer houses and cars now, but even Stepin' Fetchit became a millionaire so how far have we really come? More importantly, where are we going?

Nappy Headed America

 

Just when I think we in America cannot descend any deeper into the abyss of ignorance, Don Imus saves the day. Don Imus should have been fired years ago. He has made a career off of making derogatory and hateful comments towards people of all races, religions, and genders. The reason that he had been able to preserve his position is because those in the Old Boy Network continue to look out for themselves, Ã la Marv Albert still broadcasting since his sexual assault charges. Don't get me wrong. I do believe in second chances, however, from the White House to shock radio, those in power in America have demonstrated time and again that loyalty is more important than honesty, particularly when the pendulum of profit is swinging. One needs to only bring up the current controversy surrounding Alberto Gonzalez, fired attorneys, Karl Rove's immunity, and missing secret e-mails.

I watched Don's good friend Bo Dietl say Imus should not be fired because of two words. This is not about two words. This is about three decades of Imus making money for himself and his corporate sponsors off of hate speech. Dietl said that Imus' charity work should far outweigh his words and he should be given a second chance. I guess when Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune made Imus promise that he would not call Blacks apes 9 years ago, that did not count for Dietl. Truth of the matter is that anyone who wants to bring up charitable work as a pardon for Imus' negative attacks on innocent people like the Rutgers team or Dr. Maya Angelou must also and immediately pardon Snoop Dogg for his lyrics because he is involved in a number of charity works as well. To me, they both must be condemned for their public profanities.

Now that my thoughts on Imus are clear, I must say that removing Imus is only scratching the surface of a much deeper problem in American society: the fact that hate and misogyny sells. It is not only Imus and it is not only rap music. It's "Jerry Springer", it's "The Family Guy", and it's the American movie industry. On a more personal note, it's most of you reading this, in addition to its author. We live in a society where "jokingly", homosexuals call themselves faggots, blacks (and everyone else it seems) call themselves niggers, Jewish people call themselves kikes, women call themselves bitches and hos, young Latinos call each other spics and wetbacks, Chinese youth call each other chinks, and on and on. Each aforementioned group member who partakes in this says it is OK for them to say it but not someone else. This is the most ridiculous double standard I have heard in my life. Irrespective of who says it, a ho is a ho and blacks cannot take back a word like "nigger" or "nigga", which was never their word in the first place.

If we in America do not use this Imus moment to seriously look at ourselves first before condemning others, we will miss the lesson here. In the past three months alone, we have seen journalists and radio personalities say rape is a good thing for ugly women, that they hate all blacks, and enact La cuca Gotcha campaigns aimed at catching illegal immigrants. We can do better in America but it starts by looking in the mirror. If we could make true strides to change or challenge our language and personal views publicly and privately, we may be able to prevent those wishing to spew such hate and hurtful words from thinking those words in the first place.

In some way, shape or form, we are all responsible for Don Imus and anyone else who spews hateful words for profit or for "play". Let us work as one America to put an end to the negativity that has been at the root of America in some way, shape or form, since its inception. If we cannot do this for ourselves, let us do it for the children of America's future.

How Could Oprah Open A School In Africa???!!!

 

Actually, the school is in South Africa. It's a country. It's in Africa, the continent. Oprah can open the school in South Africa because she can do whatever the hell she wants to. If there is one person in America who has deserved the right to not be questioned for her humanitarian deeds, it is Oprah. Why she has not yet received a Nobel is beyond me. Whether you agree with her politics or guests, you cannot deny that the world is a better place because Oprah was born.

Let's look at the facts. In Oprah's press conference on the opening of her Leadership Academy, she responded to critics as to why the school was opened in South Africa and not the U.S. She stated simply that in many inner city schools, many students are more concerned with getting IPODS and sneakers as opposed to South African students who were more concerned with getting school uniforms and school supplies. This happens to be 100% true (not: I said "many students," not "all"). I work in American inner city schools and have traveled to schools extensively in South Africa and can validate her testimony.

Moreover, to question why Oprah would put up $40 million for a school on soil other than America is ludicrous. What individual has given more to American schools than Oprah? The list is not large. This woman has given millions to Historically Black Colleges and Universities. After Hurricane Katrina, BET had a telethon where rappers, actors, and R and B singers raised over $11million that was given to the Red Cross. This was a great effort on the part of the celebrities and they need to be commended. However, the money went to an organization that was later found to be siphoning funds from money given for Katrina relief efforts.

Oprah, on the other hand, was much more hands on. She put up $10 million of her own money and built actual homes for people on her own street, Angel Lane. As she said, she was tired of just writing checks and not really seeing where the money goes. As she did with the homes post-Katrina, her Leadership Academy is hands on. It's her money. How many cars, houses, and college tuitions has she paid for in America? Let us not be misguided in our frustration. We should turn our anger towards our government, which is investing more in Iraq and Afghanistan than on education reform in America.

Of course, I won't even begin to mention the misdirected attacks she has taken from the hip-hop community for believing in her words that "you don't have to bitch and ho me down to make good music." please read the full article below for that. This misdirected disdain for Oprah is completely counterproductive. If we are truly interested in human progress, we would realize that improving the education in any country helps improve the education of all humanity. Oprah being African-American is also improving the negative perceptions that many in African countries have of African-American women, based on the degrading hip-hop videos that they see from America. As one parent of a Leadership Academy student said, "I didn't know angels were black." Does that not say it all? Thank you Oprah.

Illegal Immigration and Complacent Black America

 

I guess at some point I have to speak about illegal immigration. It is amazing what the government has done to allow for this crisis to become so pronounced. The argument is similar to the argument I made in my prior article on how the government made racial tensions worse post-Katrina. Leaving that argument to others, let me add my two cents to the illegal immigration issue, with a slight addition to what this means for Black people in America.

First of all, all immigrants here, legal or otherwise, Mexican or Mauritanian, need to make their voices heard. Any group of people who work near the bottom of society should not allow themselves to be trampled on and kept in their "place" serving wealthy people and corporations. Furthermore, people who are anti-illegal immigrants should not be protesting the government (against the immigrants). Rather, they should be protesting the companies, small and large, who hire illegal workers. As Lou Dobbs said,"It's not that illegal immigrants do jobs that Americans won't do. They do jobs that businesses will not pay Americans a decent wage to do". It makes no sense for protesters who are anti-illegal immigration to leave their protests only to go shopping for their flat-screen TV at WalMart, for example. This perpetuates the cycle.

Yes, many illegal immigrants will do certain jobs at lower prices, but it does not mean they deserve to be treated like garbage. In that particular sense, there are similarities to the Black experience in America. With all due respect, however the buck stops there. It is quite sickening to see every group from homosexuals and marriage to illegal immigrants comparing their struggles to the Black experience in America. First of all, of course there are Black homosexuals and there are Black illegal immigrants and their experiences are real and valid, as are the fight for all oppressed groups for rights. The fight for gay rights and this illegal immigration legislation are real fights that deserve attention. But we cannot sit idly by while every group compares their circumstance to the Black experience while Blacks have never received real recognition in the form of, say, reparations.

How can someone in a protest for immigrant rights from Mexico say "we built this country!"? It can be said because the Black experience in America has been ignored and only resurfaces when the oppressed group du jour needs a cause to relate to and it is always the Black struggle in America. I never hear anyone say their plight is similar to Japanese or Jewish concentration camps in World War II. No one even compares their plight to that of Native Americans (no one can in all honesty) or the fight for the rights of women to vote. So why are Blacks the group that gets paraded across the news? Because Black people let their story get pimped in ways that no BET Uncut video could ever demonstrate.

When I watch the protests across the country and see middle school students protesting (on weekends as well, proving that they don't just want to get out of class), I ask myself: what could the United States threaten to do to Blacks that would lead us to rally on this level? The only issue I could think of is if the government threatened to put all Blacks into (physical) slavery once again. But in all reality, the way Black Americans are so disenfranchised mentally, the threat of re-enslavement, would probably lead to more Blacks scrambling to save themselves since so many Blacks have adopted the capitalistic mentality of "get yours". Now, some may say that Hurricane Katrina and the response from it by many Blacks proves otherwise. I would say, however, that there is a difference in the singer Usher, for example, giving refuge and clothing to homeless Katrina victims, and Usher and his Black financial peers being threatened with losing everything they have as well. I wonder: would Black Americans even sell each other if it meant saving themselves? Is that too far-reaching? Is there a precedent?

I could be wrong, but please prove it to me. I am not speaking of the great Black mighty race that fought against slavery and fought successfully for civil rights. I'm speaking of the current crop of Blacks in America. As radio host Michael Baisden asked: "Do we really have a common cause anymore?" Most people I heard call his show said "no" or were silent. We're silent while every other group exploits our history for their personal gain. I wonder how many illegal immigrants or any other American would be protesting with us if we were out protesting for a particular cause in 2006 such as the portrayal of Blacks in the media or the racist policies that allow for Haitian immigrants to be treated differently from Mexican immigrants.

We have come a far way from the days where Whites, Latinos, Jews, and others, marched with Dr. King for civil rights. We are now in a generation where Jewish people will wage their own war to have terms like "kike" removed from the dictionary. Black Americans are still fighting unsuccessfully ”and alone” to remove terms like "nigga" from the dictionary. The illegal alien war will predominately be fought by Latinos with little input from other groups, like immigrants from India, for example.

At the end of the day, Blacks, who are now the second largest "minority" in America, are being reduced to a black mark on history's white board. We are history's great contradiction. We are demonized for affirmative action, though White women have benefited more than any other group from it (actually, White men created their own affirmative action policies starting with Columbus so they've really benefited more than anyone). We are demonized for the negative images portrayed in music, yet no campaign since the late C. Delores Tucker's anti hip-hop campaign has successfully challenged the distribution companies who put out much of the vile music. We watch the government laud the decrease in unemployment rates, yet unemployment increases for Black men. We read statistics on the reduction of nearly every disease in America, though we still suffer disproportionately from every disease except skin cancer. Lastly, our struggles are compared to the struggles of illegal immigrants, though the descendants of African Americans did not come here by choice, as many illegal immigrants do.

At the end of the day, Black America needs to wake up. We are the first to align with the causes of other groups in order to show we are not racist. Would protesters for illegal immigrant citizenship protest for better job opportunities for Black men? This battle for immigration rights should make every Black in America, on every side of the debate, sit back and really think about their place in this country. Our "place" is crystal clear in the minds of almost everyone else there is no longer a place for us if we continue on our course of complacency, which manifests itself in many ways, the least of which is voting (a vote democrats no longer need since we're a minority #2). As Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu said ten years ago: "America is deciding what to do with a people it no longer needs." The government and corporate America is now showing us they don't need our labor anymore, what will "we" do now?

With all due respect, we failed Mrs. King

 

Some believe that Mrs. King failed on several levels. This is in no way a departure point for discussion. If Mrs. King failed, then Dr. King failed, as well as Malcolm X, Nat Turner, Denmark Vescey, Harriet Tubman, and many others. These are all individuals who led their own lives and, often by default had to represent an entire movement. We cannot call people failures who lived their lives selflessly for others.

Furthermore, we do Coretta a disservice by comparing ourselves to her. I raise no human being to God-status, but I have a healthy respect for people who put their lives on the line for me and all who read this. It is a shame that we can raise rappers like the late Tupac to God or Malcolm X-status in his passing but be so critical of people who have never defamed the image of black people. Whether you are a Tupac fan or not, you cannot deny that during his lifetime, he hurt the black cause probably more than he helped it. Can we say the same for Mrs. King?

While we chastise Mrs. King for not carrying on her husband's legacy properly, let us not forget that she was her own person who created her own legacy. If a U.S. President dies, no one speaks of the former First Lady as having to carry on the legacy of her husband. They are allowed to just be. The Reverend Al Sharpton and many others spoke at length last week about all the bold moves Mrs. King took to keep them focused on the struggle, long after Dr. King passed. He credits her with keeping them on task and not becoming in mind and heart the same as their enemy. Through her death, she passed on another lesson to me through a quote from Al Sharpton: "She reminded us that when your heart us in the right place, your mind and body will go in the right direction."

It was entirely up to Mrs. King to promote her husband's legacy as she saw fit. I cannot speak for Dr. King, but I doubt he was looking down from his resting place in disgust at how she has failed him. If we are to not give credit to one man or woman for an entire movement, we should not blame one man or woman for the "failures" of that movement. In terms of the King Center, we should view the fact that the King children are disagreeing amicably (no defaming of each other in the media, for example) about the legacy of the Center as a testimony to their mother's teaching.

Is black America in disarray? Of course. All of America is. But we who are part of this next generation of leadership are old enough to no longer blame our ancestors and current elders for what they did not pass on. We know the mistakes of the past and have no excuse to not learn from those mistakes. We should be thinking about what 20-something-year-olds will be saying about us in 50 years and what we have "failed" to accomplish. Collectively, we are all failing our forefathers and mothers in some way, shape or form. At the same time, collectively, we need to continue to learn from what worked and what did not work in our historical continuum. In the struggle for human rights, the only people who "fail" are the people who truly are blind to the cause for social justice. Mrs. King was visionary for justice on par with any human being who has walked the face of this earth. Let's not let her down.

Bill O’Reilly was Right

 

Some reading this may actually believe I am late with this. They may say "this Bill O'Reilly comment about Sylvia's and iced tea happened weeks ago." Yes, I know. My reply to that is that in addition to being a poet, rapper, actor, and motivational speaker, I am also a scholar. Scholars do research. Any real academician worth his grain of salt does his research before running his mouth. So as much as I wanted to speak about the conversation between Bill O'Reilly and Juan Williams on the Radio Factor, I vowed to wait until I could make an informed decision.

For those who may have forgotten, Bill O'Reilly got into the media hot seat for comments he made about his experience going to a black restaurant with the Reverend Al Sharpton. He said that there were no black people cussing and swearing about their iced tea. These edited (audio) comments were also paraded across CNN and outlets like Media Matters to further smear Mr. O'Reilly and Mr. Williams.

I, like you, subsequently received a plethora of e-mails about how racist Bill O'Reilly is, etc. I was tempted to get on this blog and join the chorus but I vowed that out of respect to my readers, I would not speak on the issue until I read or heard the transcript. I am glad that I waited.

Anyone who actually took 40 minutes to sit and listen to the show (listen by clicking here) would have found that Bill O'Reilly used the Sylvia's example to show that those who may have stereotypes about Blacks need to realize that we conduct our business like anyone else and that most of us do not like negative rap music. He spent the entire segment celebrating people like Aretha Franklin, the Four Tops, Denzel Washington, Will Smith, Bill Cosby, Morgan Freeman and others. He even stated that he thought democratic Senator Barack Obama is a good role model for kids. No Fox commentator has ever endorsed a democrat like that (though not for president).

Bill also stated quite clearly that it is the white controlled media that is putting out these negative stereotypes of black people. His overall message is that in America, we do not celebrate those actors and musicians who do not glorify violence, sex, and drugs. How can anyone argue with that? We argue with it by being misinformed and using other people's reputations to build our propaganda machine rather than dealing with actual facts. This culminated in Syracuse scholar Boyce Watkins calling Juan Williams a "Happy Negro" though Williams has been a champion of black causes, lives in a black neighborhood, and is married to a black woman. I guess I'm a "happy negro" too. Yowsa, yowsa, yowsa.

Now of course Bill O'Reilly said some things that I disagreed with, particularly about blacks starting to "think for themselves." Overall though, on the issues of black representation in the media and the negative images that come from some of our rappers and are broadcast by white media at our expense, I agree with Bill O'Reilly. The beauty of not being offered a record deal, being rejected by Def Poetry Jam 5 times, and not being embraced by many of these people who criticize rap but don't support positive artists like me is that I can say whatever I want. I have no constituency to appeal to. I just deal with facts.

The fact of the matter is that anyone who speaks critically of Black America gets deemed a sellout if they are Black and a racist if they are of another race. We lament over how Will, Denzel and others cannot be role models because they’re too polished. I guess that means that we must watch "Flavor of Love" and "We can do Better" to get the "real" Black America. This has to stop. We have to be our biggest critics and look at our predicament honestly. In Bill Cosby's absence from TV, we went from"A Different World" to "College Hill." Anyone see a problem here? Bill and Camilla Cosby, for example, have given more money to black colleges than any couple I know. Most people who called him a sellout or traitor have made little to no financial contribution to our schools or other projects but talk a good game. Many of our scholars who criticize Black-on-Black criticism are merely enablers who excuse the ignorance that prevails in communities they no longer live in.

Hey, if you don't like what I'm saying, call me a sellout. Tell me I forgot where I came from, etc. etc. I've seen how this story ends but I am more concerned with the future of our children than I am with critique from my peers who have never walked in my shoes and have not traveled to 16 countries and experienced the negative consequences of the stereotypes we so righteously defend. At some point Black America, we have to stop celebrating our ignorance and start celebrating intelligence. We have to start celebrating college dropins instead of dropouts. Though everyone does not have to be married, we need to still recognize it as a valid institution desirable for Blacks. Let us celebrate artists who got it right the first time like Will Smith and not wait for the reformed pimp, drug dealer, or gang banger to "see the light". We should celebrate both and not the latter. Let's get it together and practice some tough love. We can do better, no pun intended. Our children are watching us.

Senator Barack Obama’s Blackness

Much has been written about the 19 candidates for President of the United States. From questions such as Rudi Giuliani's family values to Senator Hillary Clinton's changing speech patterns depending on which region of the country she visits, this presidential election promises to run the gamut of critiques and personal attacks that will easily trump the 2004 election. Though some critiques are indeed silly, the question of whether Senator Barack Obama is "black enough" to appeal to black voters is by far the most absurd.

The beauty about black figures breaking new ground such as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Obama's rise to Senator (not achieved by a black man since the Reconstruction era) is that one really begins to see just how far America has come as it relates to race relations. But this is an issue that has exposed black opinions of themselves more than whites' opinions of blacks. Some in black America have stated that Obama is not "black enough" because his late mother was white. These are probably the same analysts who list Bob Marley as one of their favorite artists because of his message of black pride and liberation. These critics conveniently miss the fact that Bob Marley had a white father.

Other critics hold that Obama is not "black enough" because his father is not African-American but Kenyan-born. They conveniently forget that leaders like the late Marcus Garvey were not American but identified with the international black plight, which included black America. Furthermore, following this logic of Obama's African parentage would also exclude me from the African American community because my parents are Congolese though I, like Obama, am American born. Gee, I guess I am suffering from a serious identity crisis. The police also seem to not notice that I am not African American when I am pulled over. Maybe I should wear a sign saying "Don't profile me, my parents are Congolese!" Yeah.

The real issue that ills black America is that we actually stereotype ourselves more than we are stereotyped by others. We have about 20 different skin-tones from "high yella" to"dark chocolate" each carrying a corresponding place on our racial hierarchy. We have about 10 descriptions of hair from "nappy" to "good hair", which also denote a certain level or superiority or inferiority depending on where the strand lands. For the most part, White America sees us as the extremes, just light and dark-skinned.

Despite these cosmetic differences, the largest stereotype occurs when dealing with politics. If Obama was as vocal on issues of race as the Reverends Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, there would be no discussion of his blackness because it would be easy to typecast him. Though unquestionably vocal about injustice of all kinds, Obama obviously has a different affect in his methodology. Couple this with his Ivy-league education and mixed parentage, and we have what Senator Joseph Biden and Rush Limbaugh would collectively call the"articulate magic negro." These are their words.

What we in America need to do is revisit this issue of race. We must realize that every black in America has a unique experience. We are democrat and republican, hetero and homosexual, rich and poor, college and street educated and there is enough room in America for all of us. We in black America must realize that our experiences are unique yet similar enough to at least dialogue about identity without asserting a claim to blackness and denying it to others. If neither police (Ã la Amadou Diallo, Abner Louima, & Sean Bell) nor taxi drivers differentiate who is black versus the other, we can indeed at least have an honest discussion about blackness for at the end of the day, Senator Barack Obama is as African American as apple pie.