The Curious Case of Judge Lynch

September 22nd, 2011

America claimed the life of another Black man at 11:08pm on September 21st, 2011.  The NAACP’s call that there was #TooMuchDoubt was unheard by the United States Supreme Court who upheld the decision of the Georgia Supreme Court to execute Troy Davis.  On the heels of a Republican audience offering a thunderous applause at the mention that Texas Governor Rick Perry has signed 234 death warrants, his lips forming to say that the death penalty is the “ultimate justice,” Troy Davis, a Black man is dead at the hands of the State.

“It’s a sad day. There’s nothing to rejoice,” said Joan MacPhail-Harris to the Associated Press describing how the family can now start to heal…  What type of healing?  Another man dead doesn’t bring MacPhail back.  And I would put my life on it, that the MacPhail family doesn’t feel better now, and they will always feel a deep and profound sense of loss because what they lost can’t be brought back.  “Grief is the thing left over after grievance has had its say” says Anne Anlin Cheng in The Melancholy of Race.  What they lost is gone, forever, but it will always haunt them.  Their grievance answered in the State’s murder of Troy Davis; his blood, on their lips… now the ghosts come to fill in that empty space.

And since revenge prompts the MacPhail’s healing process, what would healing look like for the family of this man?

George Meadows was lynched at Pratt Mines (in Jefferson County) Alabama January 15 1889

Or this one?

A postcard with the picture of the charred, castrated corpse of Jesse Washington, Waco, TeXas 1916

Or this one?

Leo Frank, Marietta, GA 1915

My argument against the death penalty is simple:  MY country, with its sadistic history–Salem “Witch Trials”, Slavery, the Trail of Tears, the Klu Klux Klan–has no right to claim that it can offer an “Ultimate Justice.”  The State and its laws have been the source of injustice, the tool of it.

Emmett Till’s body. His mother insisted on an open casket.

Yet (if we are to follow the logic of the Social Contract) that the State can set itself up in the case of the death penalty to determine that it can kill the very individuals whom are supposed to authorize its existence, its citizens, then that’s just illogical.

Finally, let the record reflect that I don’t care whether or not Troy Davis killed MacPhail, or if there’s #TooMuchDoubt.  That’s irrelevant to the fact that THE DEATH PENALTY/LYNCHING is the Ultimate Injustice.

[fbcomments url= width=”400″ count=”off” num=”3″ scheme=”dark”]

No Thanks… I don’t need The Help

September 12, 2011


Grade: D+


Oscar performances for sure (the plus+), but as maids though (the D)? What the hell man?  Didn’t we already do this once?  Gone with the Wind?  Hattie McDaniels as Mammy?  Can’t we do better?

Why I don’t need The Help

Am I happy that Black women were in a movie that got significant attention? …No.  Should I be?  Do I feel some type of way toward the Black actresses who lent their talents to the film?  No, because they need to eat and they were amazing and they deserve to play in movies where they get to display their talent, but I would happily go the rest of my life without watching an “Oscar worthy” movie produced in Hollywood where Black women play maids.  That these roles among a few others (singers, dancers, and criminals) continue to be the only way that Black women can be taken seriously in Hollywood film is something to be angry about, not thankful.

The point is: Women of color, in fiction and in real life, continue to carry the burden of teaching white people about racism, or in the case of The Help, how mean they were back in the ’50s.  Racism shouldn’t be reduced to mean girls and absent white men (did anyone notice that the white men in the movie always disappeared when the white women were doing something mean?).  Racism was and remains structural, meaning it is violence built into law and practice and thought and action; it is terrorism.  It is lynching.  It is unlawful imprisonment.  It is economic and labor exploitation.  Matter fact, Melissa Perry-Harris says it better than I could ever.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

[fbcomments url= width=”400″ count=”off” num=”3″ scheme=”dark”]

Deeply White: Rembrandt Promises to “Whiten on the inside and out”

September 8th, 2012

I found this commercial at best, simply an ill-thought out attempt to be clever, and at worst, a complete and utter lack of consciousness about the still very present and active processes of ethnocentrism and racism which seek to stamp out difference; both literally and figuratively, whiten.

Then again, maybe it’s just a commercial… right? Maybe it’s really not that deep.

But cultural products take place within very specific contexts and social forces.   To say that this is “just a commercial” is to not recognize that all symbols, all choices of representation and presentation are just that, choices.

Graffiti is often associated with social ills.  Gangs.  Dark bodies.  Vandalism.  Young, scary dark children destroying property.  The commercial adopts the view of graffiti as a problem.  As vandalism.  As something out of place and wrong.  Dark and disorderly, and in need of being cleaned up, like plaque.

To not recognize that graffiti only works in this commercial when you imagine it in this way, is to not recognize that whiteness as pure, perfect, and devoid of all color; without stain or impurity, still reigns as the dominant ideology within the American visual lexicon.  They suggest their toothpaste, in an especially charming civilized British accent, as the solution to not only rid oneself of the stains on the outside of the tooth, but to fix it at the core as well.

To others however, graffiti is the artwork of disenfranchised youth in urban centers, and artwork which blossomed during the “Golden Age of Hip Hop”.  From this perspective, you can react with wonder when you see 10 feet tags on the craziest and hardest to reach places around the city and think on those kids who just want to be recognized and noticed as being and existing.  You can applaud them for their talent and resourcefulness, and be thankful that it’s not your garage door they tagged.

And if you have this perspective, then you know that Rembrandt and ever other toothpaste is full of crap because teeth just aren’t white.  They’re more of an eggshell.  Off white.  A shade of tan.  No matter how much you brush.  And those people who do have freakishly bright smiles?  They cheated.  They had some fancy procedure done that most of us can’t afford.  White teeth, like pure and unstained white bodies, do not exist in nature.  Certainly not after you eat that peppery salad for lunch, because you are going to have some green and black in between a couple of your teeth no matter what shade you are.  And those are the breaks.

The White Girl Mob: or Why I Really Miss Teena Marie

I’ll be honest, it took me several Youtube videos and a few more Google searches to realize that Kreayshawn was actually serious.  It took me even more time to realize that V-Nasty was serious.  She truly believes that she’s a rapper.  If you transcribe her freestyles however more than half the “rhymes” are the b-word and the n-word in some combination.  When I think about the way that I feel about Teena Marie’s performance of a music form that was made by Black people, her respect for the music and the people, I’m just sad that Kreayshawn and V-Nasty, and their White Girl Mob even exist.

I can admit that the “Gucci Gucci” song by Kreayshawn is pretty catchy, but most of her stuff isn’t.  V-Nasty’s work is just bad and there’s no way around that.  But this post isn’t just about that their music isn’t very good.  It’s also about what is happening in the world that would make it such that you have a group of white women rapping, thinking that it is perfectly acceptable to refer to people as “n-words,” and willing to refer to themselves as the “white girl mob.”

That they grew up amidst urban poverty and blight along with other poor children of color is not a surprise, nor is the way that they talk, or that they found hip-hop as a way of expressing themselves.  I suppose what surprises me is that no one mentioned to them that they shouldn’t use the n-word no matter how many Black people they grew up with, or how many times they went to juvy (which V-Nasty seems especially proud about).  Eminem learned that.  Eminem is about 15 years farther into his career.  Closer to the Rodney King incident that led to riots around the country, closer to common sense, and some consciousness around the nature of race relations and even he had to come to the realization that he shouldn’t use it (now if we can get him to stop saying the f-word).

If the White Girl Mob is emblematic of anything, it is the declining understanding of race and that is terrifying.  Terrifying to think that they feel so far removed from white privilege and the benefits they receive from the institution of racism that they would refer to themselves and (mostly white) cronies as a “mob” and go around launching n-words.  Time hasn’t fixed racism.  Time has made us forget what racism looks like.  Time has made us forget that we have the words to express what it feels like and the tools to fight it.

If I could write letters to Kreayshawn, V-Nasty and the White Girl Mob, here’s what I’d say:

A Series of Letters to Kreayshawn, V-Nasty, and the Whole White Girl Mob

Dear Kreayshawn, V-Nasty, and the whole White Girl Mob: Have you ever heard of the Klu Klux Klan?  Or have you ever heard of the lynching of Jesse Washington in Waco, Texas?  An angry mob of white people lynched him, castrated him, and burned him alive.  Pictures of his chard corpse were made into postcards.  See below.

Dear Kreayshawn, V-Nasty and the whole White Girl Mob: Don’t call yourself a mob… and don’t use the n-word.  Do those two things, not because you’re responsible for the murder of Black women and men a hundred years ago, but because whether you like it or not, it happened in this country and the perpetrators looked like you and used the same language you’re using.  And the language you’re using is rather terrifying because it sounds like you’re talking to me.

Dear Kreayshawn, V-Nasty and the whole White Girl Mob: When Martin Luther King, Jr. said he dreamed of little white kids and black kids playing together in the streets, I don’t think he dreamed of V-Nasty posting up on a ’74 Cutlass on switches throwing out the n-word in every other sentence with her white DJ backing her up while she calls the people who she offends “haters.”

Dear Kreayshawn, V-Nasty and the whole White Girl Mob: I am hating on you.  I hate that you think you’re closer to the “street” than I am when I know that to be far from the truth.  Don’t let my college degree fool you, a bonafide African American tried and true in the ghettos of the south speaks to you.  Not only do I hate the n-word because the beliefs built into it continue to be used as one of many justifications of institutionalized racism including the creation of poor Black suburban and urban areas, but I also hate that you think you’re “hood” and therefore have permission to call me an n-word.  I hate that.

Dear Kreayshawn, V-Nasty and the whole White Girl Mob: You demonstrate the risk of getting to know Black cultural products without getting to know their significance or the history of those who created the art form.  You are quintessentially what we have to look forward to if we don’t teach the history of race in this country: white kids growing up thinking that the n-word is “just an expression” that doesn’t offend anyone.  You are wrong. 

P.S. I am four generations away from slavery and there was a time when I could say I was one generation away from a time when it was okay for white people to call me a “n-word,” but I can no longer say that.

Less than Brief Reviews: Madea’s Big Happy Family and Jumping the Broom

Monday, May 16th, 2011

I’ve chosen to do these reviews together since Loretta Devine and a similar message, carried both films.

Average Grade: C-/C+


  • These movies were average. I’ve seen better films with Black actors in them. I’ve seen better films by Black film makers.  I know we can do better.
  • Why was Loretta Devine, a Houston, Texas native cast as a mother from Brooklyn in Jumping the Broom? Someone should have caught that. And if she and all her relatives moved to Brooklyn from somewhere else, that should have been made clear.
  • I absolutely adored the Teyanna Taylor, who played Sabrina in Madea’s Big Happy Family. I especially loved the way she chewed her gum and yelled “Byrrrraaaaaaaaaaaannnn.”  Fantastic. Thank god for her and the other nuggets of disconnected Madea-comedy, because there was so much melodrama in this film, you needed something to remind you that life isn’t always this deep.   I mean, this drama was so thick you couldn’t even get a big tooth comb through it.
  • Both movies were way too long. I could have easily shaved off 20 minutes from each. You don’t need 10 comic relief scenes. The best comedy is woven in throughout the telling of the story.


The messages for both Madea’s Big Happy Family and Jumping the Broom are fairly straightforward: family secrets are not good for anyone. If you’re caring for your sister, aunt, daughter, or niece’s child as your own, please tell the kid. The kid will be fine. It’s much better than having a family secret that could throw the kid into a temporary abyss of not knowing who “they really are”. Women who only have material requirements for the men they get with will likely be unsuccessful with finding a man who will take care of them. No one is asking you to lower your standards… just make the standards high in areas like “honesty,” “maturity,” “thoughtfulness,” “intelligence,” you know, things other than “has a Black card,” “has a 7 figure salary”, cause then you’ll be looking for some who actually exists.  And if you don’t, as was the case of Renee (played by Lauren London), you’ll end up with a cold lump of ice in your chest instead of a beating heart.   Third, men know better and women usually just need a strong man to put them in their place (yeah….). Lastly, “What god put together, let no man put asunder.” Divorce is for losers, and marriage is between a man and a woman as T.D. Jakes reminds us in this Jumping the Broom almost imperceptibly in his discussion about Bible readings with the soon to be married couple (right…).

Why the C-/C+

These particular film makers haven’t really conceived of new types of stories, or different messages to offer their audiences. You can look through any of Tyler Perry or T.D. Jakes films and find similar messages woven throughout. I’m not saying that either story was necessarily bad, or that I disagreed with every aspect, I just think they’re derivative, recycled, surface, and I know we have better stories to tell than of incest, angry women, paternity tests, family secrets, and marriage.  And if we want to tell those same stories: fine.  But we don’t have to use the same troupe of 1-D characters to tell these stories, and we can complicate them so much.  Add thoughtful and compelling layers.  We can do better.

Feminist Critique: Marriage and Love in Black Evangelical Christian Film

Marriage is fantastic for people who want to be in committed relationships with one person for as long as possible, but there’s little commentary on the fact that gays and lesbians aren’t allowed to do so freely.   And the gay/sissy man jokes in these films only exacerbate that very thinking.  In a world that condones the rape and murder of gay, lesbian, and transgender individuals by those claiming to be religious, which one of these mega church pastors or evangelical media moguls will stand up and say it’s wrong to discriminate, wrong to tell people what they can and can’t do with their bodies?

The tradition of jumping the broom in African American families comes from a tradition passed down by our enslaved ancestors in America who weren’t allowed to legally marry. Instead of signing papers and pronouncing the marriage in a civil ceremony recognized by the law, they literally jumped over a household broom to signify their union. Because they weren’t white, they were not considered human. Therefore, they weren’t moral and rational human beings who could make decisions about their heart and had no legal ownership over their bodies, thus had no right to marry. That sounds all too familiar to the language used to argue why gays and lesbians can’t marry in the U.S. They aren’t heterosexual, therefore they are not normal human beings. Their abnormality makes them amoral, and thus, they have no right to marry.

But love is much bigger than marriage. It has been around far longer as well. Love is a feeling deep in your bones. It is so densely woven into the fabric of your being that you can’t cut it out if you tried. If you have it and if you nurture it, it will grow bigger everyday until you can’t move without feeling it in you. There is only one type of it. It’s the kind that parents have for their children. Love is what children have for their parents even after they realize that their parents are only human, and make mistakes too but did the best they could to raise them, and they are thankful and full of love just for that.  It’s the kind that those couples who’ve been together, loving one another for 50 years have. The kind that a 5 year old has for their best friend. The kind that people have for their dogs; the kind that makes them write blank checks to the vets when their dogs get sick. It’s the kind that spouses should have for one another prior to getting married. That’s what love is.

(Love doesn’t kick you underneath the table when you’re saying something he doesn’t like. That’s abuse. And I hope that folks raised a red flag when they saw that in Jumping the Broom. I think it was an epic failure of  the producers, writers, and directors. Anyone who has witnessed, been the victim/survivor of, or studied domestic violence know that that type of behavior is a precursor to a woman having her teeth knocked in. Detective Olivia Benson from Law and Order: SVU would not approve.)

In conclusion, either of these movies are best seen via Netflix, Redbox, or HBO. No need to spend $12 to see these movies in theaters if you haven’t yet. They aren’t life altering.  They were good enough, and I think that if we want to see our favorite Blackactresses and Blacktors carrying amazing films by Black film makers, then we’re going to have to demand better quality.

Otherwise we’ll continue to get movies where the actors are good, the scripts are a mess, and the stories are the same.