Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Cornocopia of Reactions to Recent Events

I have these lofty ambitions to blog daily or even multiple times throughout the day in response to current events, but like I said in the previous post, I am on my post-Graduation break and I am just pooped. But now I am overflowing with commentary about everything from the new bestseller Game Change and all of its controversy to the Haiti crisis. This blog will serve as a way for me to let off some steam, because the last couple of days have ranged from completely outrageous to some of the most tremendous outpouring of humanitarian effort I have seen in years... Enjoy!

Harry Reid... Oh how I feel bad for you to a certain extent! The only thing that saved your face was the an unfortunate act of nature. Once again, the issue of race has been infused in the news at such a high rate and this time it has to do with the comments made my Senate Majority leader Harry Reid, that he supposedly made in 2008 in regards to then presidential nominee Barack Obama. While others have gone to extremes demanding that Reid resign from his post, I think most people are missing the mark and making a controversy out of some real talk. When I initially heard about the comments, I figured Harry Reid must be insane for calling President Obama "light skinned" and claiming that he has "no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one." No, seriously, the Senate Majority leader, a long-time Democrat said that? Yeah, I could believe it. But much to my dismay, the quote was presented to me (and more than likely you as well) out of context. I firmly believe that Reid was making social commentary on the American electorate rather than expressing his personal opinion. So this is what I got out of it... The American public thought that Obama was more electable because of the said traits. Is that bad? Yes and no. I am glad that the American public has moved past our poor history and would be courageous enough to vote for a Black president, but the problem is that good old skin tone conversation. Every ethnic person's favorite topic: colorism. I am being factious, of course. Yes but colorism: the internal strife between people of color over the pigmentation of our skin and being closer to the White norm. Everyone is aware of colorism and Reid's comment plays into the fact that even Whites, the majority of the American electorate, would be more comfortable with Obama because of that. The conversation truly shouldn't have been on why Reid said what he said, but why we still think like that in the 21st century. The whole "Negro dialect" can be seen the same way. It's amazing that people still find it astounding when Black Americans don't "shuck and jive" and speak with good grammar. We shouldn't applaud Obama and all the other people of color for being articulate. We should demand that from everyone, regardless of race. (Personally, I think the funny part is the latter portion of the "No negro dialect" comment about him not wanting to have it unless he wanted too. It reminds me of what comedian Dave Chappelle said about every Black American [and I would extend that out to all folks of color] about having 2 voices: your normal voice and your job interview voice. It's good stuff. Look it up!) And while President Obama did say that he used some "unartful" language to praise him, he and several prominent Black leaders/politicians have come to the defense of Reid. Honestly, I think the progressive base understands that and the GOP went to such an extent to publicize the comments, because they knew they would stir up a controversy. Why would they do that? It's simple. Divide and conquer. It's just a well known fact that the majority of Black Americans are either Democrats or sympathize with the political party, and if the top Democrat in the Senate is "exposed" as a racist then negative feelings would start brewing about the party. The lesson is that you simply have to watch what you say and how you say it. Make sure what you say is in its proper context, because it seems like there will always be someone there to bring you down and misconstrue your words.

On the other hand, I don't know what was the purpose of the Game Change authors when they included some of the comments in their book? Was it to create drama based off the hotly contested presidential race of 2008 and sell tons of copies of their tell-all book? Maybe so, but including the Reid and Clinton comments in the book created a political distraction from an already overloaded administration and legislative body. I care more about the economic rebound, job creation programs, and health care reform than some unsourced comments made by Reid and former President Clinton. Nor about how we once again know that Sarah Palin was highly unqualified and how Hilary Clinton may have assumed that she was the nominee to early. I'm sorry! It's just what it is. I love history/politics and I think looking back the political atmosphere of that time is important, but it just got a bit out of line. Clinton's comments about "a few years ago Obama would have been fetching him coffee" [paraphrased from the original comments in the book, which were already paraphrased] to Senator Kennedy were naturally construed as racist by many. Maybe I am simply naive and youthfully idealistic, but I thought it was an comment on Obama's age/experience rather than a racial statement. It's so easy to go so negative when you hear things like this, but give former President Clinton the benefit of the doubt. We don't exactly know what he intended when he said it, so I'm not pulling the race card and calling him foul.

But who is foul is the disgraced former Illinois governor Blagojevich. His comments about being "Blacker than Obama" are just ridiculous, but I wouldn't even say racist. Again, I look at his statement as social commentary rather than writing him off as a bigot. I don't have a problem with people wanting to empathize with a certain community because of the plight of many of their individual members, but Blago seems to have come up with the notion that all being Black is nothing more than a struggle and being poor. As a Black American, I resent that. My community is full of a tremendous amount of love and strength, despite the systemic discrimination that has held many of us back and a history in this country that includes outrageous crimes against humanity. And that's just the truth. Being Black is not a somber song! It is something that I wear with pride and won't allow others to define. Blagojevich's upbringing many not have been peachy-keen and I am sorry for that, but it doesn't entitle one to claim some kind of "Blackness" out of it simply because you weren't born with a silver spoon in your mouth. It's disrespectful to not only every Black American, but more importantly and specifically, to the President and his family for working so hard for him to achieve what he has over the years. And the whole "shoe-shining" reference, really? I don't even think we would want to go there. So his comments were possibly mis-worded or maybe he thought it was humorous, but his plight is the plight of the poor (which is debatable considering the fact that he said his dad OWNED a business, so he was likely working class). Equating that said plight with the Black identity is part of the reason why there is such a lack of racial progress in this country. People don't feel the need to come up or others are trying to keep you down! Kudos to you Blago!!!

And despite all of this political bickering and tomfoolery, the true plight of poor was seen in Haiti this week after the massive earthquake on Tuesday. Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, has been devastated due to the 7.0 quake and truly exposed how rampant the poverty in the country is. Devastation upon devastation. It's an unfortunate situation. But despite the sad situation, I am really impressed by the response of the American government and the American citizenry to help our neighbors of the region. We are once again showing the world how generous we are and that in times of emergency Americans are ready and easily mobilized to assist. Now, we can also help Haiti in the rebuliding process of the country to bring prosperity to the island nation and lift its population out of extreme poverty. And yes, I am fully aware of the comments that Pat Robertson and Rush Limbaugh have made, but I don't want to give them anymore attention for such hateful garbage. Keeping it positive. Big shout-outs to Wyclef Jean and Pras for leading in the Haitian relief efforts, and everyone continue to do all that you can to assist our fellow brethren and sistren!!! Solidarity of the Americas!!!! Yes, today we are all Haitians! L’union fait la force!!! Unity is strength!!! Thanks to the One Campaign for that!!!!

Peace and love,


Friday, December 11, 2009

"This is as real as it gets"... The RACE edition!

Forget cuing the Jay-Z song right this second and seriously put all your notions about race aside... Ok? You ready... Let's go on this journey real quick.

It is not my youthful idealism and naivety that forces me believe what I do. It's not because I grew up in the "inner-city", rural Texas, and an affluent suburb either. Sorry if I sound pompous, but I see it the way it should be... I believe in that good old fashion concept of equality in all factions of life.

As we sit here in 2009 with our nation's first Black President, those who are afraid of "racial progress" are doing all they can to stir up irrational, yet deeply rooted fears in the hearts of people, who I feel are good people but are being bamboozled into believing these old stereotypes are true. It's unfortunate that the election brought all of these issues back to the surface, but maybe this is what we need. Maybe we should stop sweeping these issues under the rug and acknowledge that there are still some serious tensions in this country.

Random side-bar: I put "racial progress" in quotes, because for the millionth time, I don't advocate the concept of race. Sorry. Race is a sociological phenomena and biologically there is nothing inherent in ANYONE that makes them better than the next person. So that would mean that we are equal. Ding, ding, ding. So back to the quoted phrase, I put it in quotes b/c I firmly believe that and sociologists, anthropologists, etc., are there to back me up. We are all different. I will acknowledge that and respect it wholeheartedly, but we are all equal. There are different histories and cultures for people all over this planet, but the one thing that we all have in common is our humanity. So I feel progress isn't needed on something we should just accept as is b/c it is the truth. I know that may seem a bit radical, and I am one indeed, because I feel like I can not budge on that. I feel the same way about gender, but at least we all know that there are biological differences between men and women. With that being said, I firmly want it to be know that it is also nothing that makes a man inherently better than a woman or vice versa.

Random side-bar 2: All the presidential bashing is just out of control. At no point in American history has their ever been something this ridiculous. Yes, presidents have been criticized by their opponents and allies throughout time, but this is on a different level. I can not recall learning in history class about those opposed to George Washington, Andrew Jackson, John F. Kennedy, insert any name here, evoking racial fears or questioning their citizenship b/c race was never an issue with them. Despite their differences in opinion, these men were perceived as legitimate, because they were the norm of that the President had been and should be in their eyes: An older, White, well-educated man. The closest thing we have had to this was the anti-Catholic sentiment that occurred with JFK's campaign.

Random side-bar 3: One day I hope to live to see a female president of the United States... And I'll honestly admit that I am overly-analytical person, so I wonder sometimes what would have happened if Hilary would have been the nominee and won the election rather than Obama? Do you think she would have received the equivalent to Obama in sexist acts? Would posters of her portrayed as a 'Femi-Nazi," etc., be the norm rather than our President's face photo-shopped on the body of a witch doctor? Would "bitch" be her version of being called an "illegitimate citizen" b/c of one's ethnicity? Would they be calling her a "Communist" and "Fascist" at the same time too? (Lol... That still gets me.) Honestly, yes I do, and gender issues would have bubbled up to the surface rather than race. Just something to think about.

Sorry about that... I can get a little long-winded at times, but I felt it needed to be pointed out and since I can't do footnotes on a blog, you get to read my side-bars. Haha. Back to the task at hand...

I was on Global Grind this morning, Russell Simmons' blog site dedicated to the hip-hop community, and read some comments that spurred this whole blog. So Mr. Simmons posted a blog about how Rush Limbaugh is stoking those good, ole racial fears and how no one is going for it. It was a pretty good post to say the least, but a comment on the page said something to the extent that multiculturalism is impossible, blah, blah, blah and another one that said that racism should be abolished, but Blacks should worry about "Black on Black crime rather than White-on-Black racism" led me to compose this entry. To address the first comment as a serious position is a joke in my opinion, but I shall anyways. I feel like I have to through a calender at people sometimes and tell them to wake up. It is 2009, and before anyone attacks me for my nostalgic love of history, esp the 1960's, I love the fact we are all acknowledged as equal under the law and the racially motivated legal restrictions that barred integration are gone (although there is still progress to be made in that arena, and equality for the LGBT community still needs to be addressed fully). But as much as we know that, we don't accept it. And that's the problem. That's why comments like those continue to be made. Look, there are some norms in our specific communities that I don't like, but that's beyond the point. I hate to sound cliche, but there truly is no Black American or White American culture. On many levels, we have the same culture. Oh no, did I say that? I SURE DID! Africans, who were sold into slavery, were stripped of their native cultures after that horrendous voyage from Africa to the Americas and basically left to fend for themselves in an unknown land, all while being treated as chattel. The Black experience is the American experience just as much as the White experience, so naturally the cultures overlap and share a lot of the same customs. The true difference lies in the treatment of Blacks throughout this country's history, but culturally, the similarities are astounding. Yes, I acknowledge there are differences between everyone, but we need to stop latching on to them.So back to multiculturalism, the founding of this nation was multicultural from the get go, and I am not sorry if I point that out all the time b/c it seems like it didn't sink into people's minds. Let's not forget that there were Native Americans here when this land was colonized by Europeans, Africans were sold into one of the most vile crimes against humanity and brought to this land for labor, my home state (Texas) used to belong to Mexico (Cali, Arizona, and New Mexico, as well) so there were Mexicans here, and although it was acquired later, the great state of Hawaii, the state that produced our current President, is an island located in the Pacific Ocean, so the native population there is of Asian descent. I can not forget about the Russian and indigenous cultures of people in Alaska, as well. I am not that naive to get all "Pie in the Sky" on you, but we seriously have to do better. Can utopias exist? God, I hope so, but for right now, what we can do is acknowledge equality and respect our fellow man/woman regardless of their ethnic background, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, educational level, religious beliefs, age, or their level of ableness.

So on to the next one... "Blacks should focus more on Black-on-Black crime rather than White-on-Black racism." Really? I mean seriously. Do we need to another lecture in why Black-on-Black crime exists? Clearly. It does not exist because Blacks are inherently criminal or anything of that nature. That's foolish. Systemic and economic racism has kept many Blacks in a place subjugation for decades, but it is a vicious cycle that CAN be broken and don't let anyone tell you differently. Blacks have preyed upon each other and countless lives have been lost, because poverty has run rampant in the community due to discrimination in the workforce, which has led to a lack of equal pay to workers of color (if you're a women, even more so), and the educational system in the country is so backwards that it neglects to fund the schools in the neighborhoods that need it the most (the same could be said for the schools in rural communities). So yeah, if we want know why the first part of that statement exists, the answer was in the ending. :)

But not to get too pessimistic on you all, the last comment I read was the most important, so I wanted to close with it. One poster states that "non-racist Whites should align themselves with racist-Whites and let them know that it is not okay to harbor such negative feelings towards people based on their racial background." [paraphrased] While I don't know if I would say align, I would say EDUCATE. People hate what they don't know. I get it. It's not right and seriously we live in such an age of uber technology that one should not allow themselves to be ignorant to others' cultures, but it is something that we all have to just acknowledge. Regardless, non-racist Whites can play a large role in shaping the racial landscape, and they have throughout history i.e. the Kennedy's. :) My favorite family. Haha. And there are so many more. But yes, we owe it to future generations to stop this nonsense. To get all MLK on you all, but I don't want my children growing up in a country where they are only seen as Black or any other superficial category. I say race is superficial b/c you can't and shouldn't want to change the color of your skin. We should take pleasure in knowing that there is such diversity in this country and for the most part, I say we do a good job. Yes, I know there is much room for improvement, but let's not harp on the negative this second and enjoy the progress we have made in our great country. Shout out to all of us!!! :) At a certain point, we have let history be history. It can be interpreted still and needs to be learned, but we can not be upset with each other because of it. This country has many negative aspects in its past, but let's not forget that we have achieved many great successes together.

I would just like to throw out there, that I graduate from college in less than ten days and I needed to be studying for my Spanish final, but I am blogging instead. PRIORITIES, PRIORITIES. Haha!

Peace and Love (or should I say Paz and Amor?!?! Haha!),


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Jay-Z should give Miley Cyrus a high five if he ever sees her...

So, I have a ton of things that I SHOULD be doing, considering I graduate from college in less than 3 weeks and start Grad School in less than 2 months, but such is life. Haha! I had this thought when I was at the gym earlier and decided to blog about it... Enjoy!

We all know the saying, "there's nothing better than free publicity", right? Well, this is definitely the case for the catchy summer anthem by pop princess Miley Cyrus, "Party in the USA," which gave a shout out to Jay-Z and Britney Spears. And while Brittney isn't doing to bad for herself (post K-Fed was rocky at first, but I am proud of her for her stellar comeback), we all know what's going on with Jay-Z these days. Numero uno: He is married to the amazing Beyonce, herself. The fact that he gets to talk to Solange makes me totally jealous. Haha. He has his eleventh number one album, and his first number one single on Billboard w/o being a featured artist (see "Crazy in Love," "Heartbreaker," and that one song that made Rihanna a superstar... "Umbrella"... I think that's right. :D) He and Alicia Keys performed their hit at the World Series, for crying out loud. And most impressive in my opinion, Jay-Z was on Oprah. Let me say that again... Jay-Z, Shawn C. Carter, was on Oprah Winfrey's show, the woman who notoriously refuses to allow rappers to grace her set or gives them a hard time if they do. Do I need to mention how Ludacris was not going to be allowed on the show at first with the rest of the "Crash" ensemble, and then when he did appear, he was lectured for his lyrics when plugging the movie and discussing racial discrimination? Yeah so clearly, bro is doing good for himself. And yes, I just know these things off the top of my head... The man is my idol. Hehe!

While a brief review of Jay-Z's career accomplishments may be interesting, the reason I wanted to discuss the song is because I feel it plays well into the the topic of the racial politics of music. Huge jump, eh? It all goes together... Let me take you on a journey...

If you all could rewind your clocks back to late June/early July of this year, the King of Pop passed away from unfortunate circumstances and everyone from President Obama to P. Diddy (or just Diddy... I don't know. He changes his name toooo often) had a comment on his death and his legacy as a musician/humanitarian. And despite the horrid accusations against him for the last decade, Michael Jackson was a seemingly good man and one of the best performers to ever grace this Earth. A lot of the conversation after his death, rightfully so, had to deal with his impact on American culture and I remember watching an award show this summer where several prominent Black musicians said that without Michael, there would have been no President Obama. While I am not going to even touch that with ten-foot pole, even President Obama himself stated that Black entertainers and athletes paved the way for easing racial tensions, because White America now has a sense of familiarity with the formerly unknown. While I don't disagree with this sentiment at all, Michael Jackson dominated in the 1980s and was the first Black musician on Mtv, but is that still true now? Can't be? We are so closely connected nowadays with blogs, Twitter, Facebook, video phones, etc, that still can't be the case?

Well, I beg to differ.

While the circumstance are slightly different, I think there is something to be said about Cyrus' hit song and the comeback of "The Best Rapper Alive." I know some hip-hop heads would probably tear me a new one for insinuating that this 17 year-old Disney star has anything to do with his return to dominance in the rap industry, but think about it for a second. And I would never want to take anything away from Mr. Cater's accomplishments and putting out an amazing album, esp. a beyond catchy and inspiring single with Ms. Keys. And, I love hip-hop. I truly do. I get the genre/culture and I respect it. As a a feminist, I don't feel the need to villify these artists anymore, because I understand where they are coming from.

With that being said, let me point out a few things. Jay-Z had been working on BP3, The Blueprint 3 for the non-believers, for a good amount of time and after the lackluster success of his last two albums, many critics and younger rappers *cough* haters *cough* claimed that the rapper was aging, losing touch with the trends in music, and "falling off." Some foolishly said that he was only known for his marriage to Knowles. Also in an unprecedented move, Carter became the President of Def Jam around mid-decade, but was leaving that position also to create Roc Nation. Money and romance were obviously a-ok, but in all honesty, he needed something to secure the crown and rightfully boast that he was the truly best.

Cue Miley Cyrus. Whatever she touches becomes gold. Just call her Midas. And while she has recently stated quite openly that she had never heard a song by the artist she helped return to mainstream relevance before and that "Party of the USA" was written by someone else, she did him a favor by crooning about a Jay-Z song being on in a taxi while she was getting ready to party. She planted a seed. The title of the song mentions the country and out of all of the artists in the US that could have been been used to epitomize American music, a rapper and a pop superstar were choosen. And yes, Cyrus did not pen the song, but she gave a bit of validation to the rapper by giving him an ever-present pop culture reference. She brought him back to the mainstream. The pop princess gave props to the rapper. On even more basic terms, the young White girl gave the ok to the older Black man's music, his livelihood. Is that a stretch? Not to me. Cyrus exposed him to a new audience, both racially and generation-wise. If we are truly to believe that she had never heard a song, she still did him an subconscious favor.

I don't think that anyone can deny the role that music has played in bringing together people of all races/ethnicities, but who would have ever thought that this song could have sparked something and led a triumphant return of a rap superstar. And while I am well aware of the D.O.A. craze from this summer, the Cyrus record was already out and in heavy rotation when this occurred. I was sitting at my computer that Friday night when Hot 97 debuted the song and Twitter went nuts. Oh wow, I really admitted that... Yikes! But those who were excited by that particular song, were true fans and possibly not even aware of Cyrus and her hit. Needless to say, there is something interesting about the fact that this teenager legitimized the rapper in the eyes of some and to me, made a statement in doing so.

And while I think that the sheer mention of Jay-Z in the song was a great positive for using music to bridge the gap, here is an example of it taking an opposite turn: the Kanye West and Taylor Swift debacle at the VMAs. I remember clear as day when that occurred and while I do recognize that "Kanye is Kanye" and he pulls stunts like that because he is an opinionated person, the bottom line remains that he still had no right to take her moment away from her. That incident will live in infamy, because he was the well-known arrogant man i.e. the aggressor ganging up on the sweet, blue-eyed country chanteuse. That's enough to make everyone dislike him, but amazingly race was brought into it as soon as it happened. Posts on Twitter and Facebook evoked shame for the Black community because of his actions and how this was setting back race relations. Really now? I think everyone was disgusted by his behavior, but just to note, West has rightfully apologized multiple times to Swift since the outburst. Once again, I was sitting at my computer reading all of these comments about Kanye and annoyance with his behavior, but the unexpected happened with Beyonce, herself, outclassed everyone and invited Swift back onto the stage to give a proper congratulatory speech. Immediately the internet conversations changed. People joked that "Beyonce saved the Black community," and while the statement is meant to be hyperbolic (I HOPE), there is some validity to it. Society judges many off the actions of few, and Kanye, as an artist and highly public figure, maybe the only exposure some kid in Wisconsin has to Blacks. So I understand why people were aggravated and felt that way. I'm glad it didn't turn into something unnecessary, but I will admit that after like a day, I was about to snap if I heard another lame Kanye West joke. Haha. I will openly admit that I do not believe that she deserved that award of Lady Gaga or Beyonce, and some felt that this was a foul move by Mtv in doing so. Such is life tho.

I don't know... I read too much into things. I am just VERY analytical. I dissect music. Maybe it's a stretch, but it makes sense to me! Oh well... Yyyyyeeeeeaaaaaaahhhhhh, it's a party in the USA.

Peace and Love,


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Ummm not too much negativity when it comes to rap, CNN...

Ok so this is no surprise to anyone I know, I LOVE RAP and the HIP-HOP CULTURE! I get upset with the actions of certain individuals and do not condone the hyper-sexuality and need to constantly talk about illicit behavior, but I am an advocate for the genre as a credible and necessary art form. But this blog is a direct response to a clip I saw on a rap blog website, which featured Nasir Jones aka Nas, talking about the beating death of the Chicago teen two weeks ago on CNN.


So I am going to assume you watched it and proceed...

First of all, I found it very odd that CNN choose Nas of all people to harp on about negative lyrics. When I think of Nas, I think of songs such as "I Can," "If I Ruled the World," and "One Mic," not something so violent. So it puzzles me to why CNN thought that he was the rapper to point the finger at. I am also slightly annoyed that they went through his musical catalog to find one of the worst songs he has written to feature during the clip. But with that, I also know that "Shoot 'Em Up" is not the urban "Kumbaya," but I think a lot of people forget the fact that rap, as a musical genre, tells the story of so many teens and young adults in urban settings in America. And that's the unfortunate thing. You can listen to a song like "Shoot 'Em Up," and get upset with Nas b/c you feel that he is perpetuating the stereotype of violence in the urban community or you can listen and acknowledge that this is the plight of too many young men of color. I think I'll do the latter. On another note, I just read the open letter that Nas wrote to youth that Don Lemmon referenced in the clip, and Nas is absolutely telling the truth.

Link to the open letter:

But here is the problem: What is Nas truly supposed to do? I don't want to appear to hypocritical b/c in another blog I posted about celebrities not wanting to do anything to influence social changce, but he DID something. He put his opinion and positive message out there. I appreciate it. But back to my original question, what is Nas truly supposed to do to stop the violence in cities all across this country? Yes, he could organize marches, write more open letters, appear on CNN daily, make music only about how we need to come together rather than destroy each other, and become an outspoken advocate for peace, but that will not correct the systemic changes that need to occur. Now I am a believer in using music for change, and I would like hip-hop to take a more positive turn, but these artists are not responsible for the well-being of all of Black America. So yes, it's a bit unfair to put that much pressure on them, but when artists do not acknowledge their ability to enact change, well I am not pleased with that either. The true problem is that we lack leaders that truly connect to these kids, because they don't want to be lectured, they need someone to reach them. That's why when Nas, Jay-Z, T.I., Ludacris, etc speak prolificly about something such as this, it's listened too. And it may just be me, but I feel like these artists have an obligation to the communities that they came from and I appreciate their charitable works and community outreach. More should follow suit...

So what do WE do? Do we make a huge fuss over of Nas' songs or do WE as Americans realize that there are like two different worlds in this country? The impoverished conditions that breed the violence that took the life of Derrion Albert are so widespread and accepted as the norm, so people just ignore it. We can live comfortably in our safe neighborhoods with the police ACTUALLY looking out for us and think that the experiences of people on the Southside of Chicago are over-exaggerated or their problem, OR we can demand more as a society. Once again, I choose to do the latter. We can demand the education that children in inner-cities receive be equivalent to their suburban counterparts. Education is key in this process, but we also the values that are prevalent in urban settings need to be changed. A hard work ethic needs to be instilled in people from a young age, and the importance of family needs to be stressed more. These kids need positive role models, who can be their parents/other family members, musical/athletic idols or not, but I said it once, no child should ever aspire to grow up and become a drug dealer b/c they saw that it is the only viable career path. I am not trying to get my Bill Cosby or Social Conservative talking points lecture on, but I do not want these kids to have to live a life where they think they can not be productive members of society or that they do not matter. They matter much more than they think they do, and it hurts to see the stories of the violence in urban America. Every child in America should have the opportunity to create a positive future, regardless of where they live or what color their skin is. When are we going to realize this? It's so frustrating, but I can not give up on America... We have to get it together!!!!!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Health care, again?!?! Really...

All this talk about health care is driving me bonkers. And as much as I like rhetoric at times, it still can not dispute facts. So the scholar in me decided to do a little research to find out some information about some of the other countries in the industrialized world that offer health care to all of its citizens and then the United States. You may be surprised. *Disclaimer: The “Obama Health Care Plan” is not socialized/nationalized health care, yet keeps our current (horrible) system in place, but offers a public option for those not able to afford the care. HUGE difference.* So here is a little something that I found out:

According to the UNDP’s Human Development Reports for 2007/2008,

Population: 32.27 million
Number of Physicians per 100,00: 214
Public Expenditure on Health Care (% of GDP): 6.8
Private Expenditure on Health Care (% of GDP): 3.0
Health Expenditure per capita, US Dollars, 2004: 3,173

United Kingdom-
Population: 60.25 million
Number of Physicians per 100,000: 230
Public Expenditure on Health Care (% of GDP): 7.0
Private Expenditure on Health Care (% of GDP): 1.1
Health Expenditure per capita, US Dollars, 2004: 2,560

Population: 60.99 million
Physicians per 100,000: 337
Public Expenditure on Health Care (% of GDP): 8.2
Private Expenditure on Health Care (% of GDP): 2.3
Health Expenditure per capita, US Dollars, 2004: 3,040

United States-
Population: 299.85 million
Physicians per 100,00: 256
Public Expenditure on Health Care (% of GDP): 6.9
Private Expenditure on Health Care (% of GDP): 8.5
Health Expenditure per capita, US Dollars, 2004: 6,096

Statistics don’t lie. Our current system with the doctors already in practice could function under the proposed health care reform. But what is amazing is that the US already spends much more than the other nations in regards to health per capita, and we don't have systems like the other countries. That ALONE should be a huge reason to overhaul this health care system. So please do not buy into this nonsense about losing your doctor, etc. Citizens of all of these countries have private doctors. And other concern is about wait times. According to all of the sources I read, the wait times are not tremendous under the European/Canadian models of health care. My question is: Have you ever been to ER in the United States? You want to talk about wait time. It is out of control. But that is truly beyond the point. Don’t buy into all of the hysteria that is being manufactured about health care reform. I think that is good for Americans to hold civil debates and conversations about their concerns about the changes the health care system, but shouting each other down, lies being spread about “death panels,” euthanasia, and abortion funding, as well comparisons to Nazi Germany is completely ludicrous. I think it is shameless that people have taken this debate so far to stating that people’s grandmothers are going to put to death or the government will pull the plug on people. We should all be smarter than that and know that this all spin. I stated it before, but I will just reiterate that socialism, communism, and Nazism are not the same thing. Maybe I should make a pretty definition sheet of the three terms and travel across the US and hand it to the protesters. But again I would like to say that I do not believe that Obama is a socialist, nor is he bringing the ideology to the country. Chill out folks… The United States is not turning into Castro’s Cuba or the Eastern Bloc. And on the same note, the United States government is not going to start practicing Eugenics either. These are simply scare tactics, and the sad thing is that they are working. The Right and its corporate allies are working overtime to fool everyday citizens and use them as their army, so the system will remain the same. No one ever talks about the fact that the health care that the Democrats are proposing to all Americans, via the public option, is the same quality health care that is offered to veterans. But just as a side note, the VA is one of the highest approved bureaucratic agencies and VA health care is some of the finest quality care available, if that matters any.

But on a personal note: I would like to shout out to FRANCE for its high number of doctors, even under its wicked universal health care, and in 2000, the French were ranked number one by the World Health Organization (WHO) on the quality of health for its citizens and access to good health care. The US came in 37th. Womp womp. And what is even more amazing is the fact that the French, Brits, and Canadians all rave about their health care system, yet somehow is it reported to us in the mainstream media or assumed in public discourse that these citizens are receiving rationed care, its citizen loathe their health coverage, and people do not receive testing for advanced illnesses/diseases. Falsities, folks, falsities.

So where do we go from here? The debate is being polluted by these uninformed protesters and their false allegations, and that is honestly what the GOP wants. Numerous prominent figures on the Right have admitted that they want to “kill health care reform” to hurt both Obama and the Democratic party. But what they keep on forgetting about is that, yes they may be hurting these women and men’s political futures if they do not deliver on what they promised during the election, but they also are doing damage to the millions of Americans who do not have insurance or can not afford the over-priced insurance offered by these corporations. Politics need to be put aside and the representatives that we elected to office either need to come together and work out a plan that is not overly compromised and we lose the public option, or the Democrats can do what the GOP did when they were in power and strong arm this legislation through b/c they have the majority. Either way, the reform needs to happen.

“Roosevelt is dead. His policies may live on, but we are in the process of doing something about that as well.” -Rush Limbaugh

Strong word, eh? Since the policies of the New Deal went into effect, the Right has done its best to stop the creation of more social welfare programs and undo what has been established. Does anyone recall from a history class or personal recollections the battle to establish Medicare and Medicaid? And like President Obama, FDR was called a socialist, but ironically, the Left was not pleased with the programs that he worked to create, because they felt it was not enough. As a member of the Left and an avid listener of left-leaning commentary, the same can be applied in 2009, but I can at least state that we are wanting uncomprised health reform to go through and willing to work with the President, not against him. The pharmaceutical companies need to be regulated much more and contribute financially to the reform process; while, Obama needs to stop bowing down to them and get to solving the real problems that Americans face. (The same thing can be said about the coal industry and the climate bill.) But as history states, FDR was successful in getting his legislation passed, and despite failures by Truman and Clinton to create universal health coverage, President Obama has the chance to change the future of the country and all of its citizens. Will we allow this to happen or will history once again repeat itself?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

So can we take away Medicare too? And soo much more...

It's no surprise to anyone that knows me, I am a leftist and I support universal health care. However, what the government is offering is not universal/socialized/nationalized health care, and I wish people knew that before that start spouting off talking points. I am well-versed in what socialism and communism are, and what President Obama and Congress is advocating is NOT either one of those. So please spare me with those talking points. As I am sitting here and typing this, MSNBC political analyst explained the plan best... "It is health security." So what does that mean? It is the same as social security. You don't have to take the public option. You can still go to your own doctor. You can continue to overpay for health care and stay with your insurance company. What the government is trying to do is offer care for those who do not have health care, and compete with the insurance companies. Isn't that capitalism when there is competition? I have heard different numbers, so I will quote the latest one... According to some protesters, 80% of the country has health care. (I have heard much higher numbers, as well.) That's a vast majority, but there is still 20% of people without it. I don't know why there is such a backlash against this. Maybe people are assuming that the 20% are a group of lazy bottom-feeders who are not able to afford health insurance. Well, it's not the case. Health care is very expensive. People go bankrupt from it all of the time. A lot of individuals that don't have care are normal families who can not afford to cover their entire family, so I of course support a public option that will help them and anyone else who needs help. From what the White House was saying, by the time this health care plan will go into action, 94% of the population will be in private care and only 6% will use the public option.

I understand it's too late to take the politics out of it, because conservative pundits and talk show hosts have gotten so much of "Middle America" revved up and these *magical* town hall protests have been orchestrated by right-wing think tanks and organizations with ties to the health care industry in order to further their agenda, but this is total nonsense. I feel like I am being bombarded with video of elderly Americans yelling about how President Obama is running their America and they are afraid. Afraid of what? People getting health care? Energy regulation? No, no! That's not what these people are getting so worked up about. It was no mistake why I italicized their earlier. Their America was an America where President Obama would never have become President or Sonia Sotomayor would never have been confirmed by the Senate to become the first Latina Supreme Court Justice. Their America was the America the students, civil rights workers of all ethnicities, feminists, and LGBT community advocates of the 1960s and 1970s fought to get rid of. They fought for equality. And while there have been a few Democratic presidents since then, the election of Barak Obama last year was a huge moment in the country, because the work that so many had spent their lives striving for was finally fulfilled. (I am no point am EVER stating that we are post-racial, but the 2008 election was monumental.) Race/ethnicity has been so infused into everything recently, from the nonsense with the Birther movement, the Skip Gates racial profiling controversy, Glen Beck's assertion that the President is a racist, to Sotomayor's confirmation process, and it's truly unfortunate. Will we ever learn?

But what else could they be afraid of? Oh, they think this is socialism. What is this 1950 again or something? All of this RED SCARE talk is reminding me of all of the history classes I have taken. All the Right is doing is bringing out these irrational fears in people. It's nostalgic. Listen up people... No one is trying to ruin your way of life nor bring in some leftist agenda. But this is getting out of control. People are associating the Obama administration with Nazi Germany and loving Eugenics. I can't believe how ugly this is getting over health care and how absolutely WRONG people are. This is the last time I am ever saying this-It won't be, but a girl can dream, but communism/socialism (leftist economic theories) are not the same thing as Nazism. Nazi Germany was fascism, folks. Hitler aligned himself with Mussolini. He was a fascist. I can't say it enough, READ A BOOK or TAKE A COLLEGE COURSE! Preferably one in history or economics before you start spreading this crap. I don't care if Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck are calling President Obama or Nancy Pelosi, etc socialists or Nazis. That does not mean that anyone should spread such falsities. Think about their AGENDA before you buy into their nonsense.

So back to health care, all of these older Americans are yelling at town hall meetings, chuckling at violence against elected officials and getting overly emotional about President Obama wanting to make them die early, and it's just out of control. People are concerned about the government rationing their access to doctors or that the care they received before will completely change. I don't know how many times they have to say it, but it won't. When I was listening to one protester, she annoyed me so much because I had to realize that some people are so selfish and could care less about the well-being of others. She asks why does her way of living have to change in order to help that aforementioned 20%? Really? People think like that. Maybe it's the lefty in me, but you should care about the quality of living for more than just yourself and your family/friends. But enough with my lefty talk, because clearly that will only led to more fear and ammunition for the right.

If we take the politics and emotion out of it, why can't we have a decent conversation about the concerns that Republicans have about the Obama Health Plan? In all honesty, there is a Democratic congress and President so they can get this plan through without consulting the PARTY OF NO, but I think it's admirable that they are at least attempting to work with the GOP. However, on Nov. 4th the country elected Barack Obama as the president and health care was an essential part of his platform, so I don't understand why there is such backlash now. He won the election, fair and legally, and the majority of the country wanted the issues that he stood up for to be fixed. I am sorry if you don't like the outcome of the election, but that's life. Has been for a while now. He is our President and he is sticking to this campaign promise.

But what is funny is that a lot of these protesters are claiming that so-called nationalized health care will led to the demise of the health industry, but a lot of these people benefit from Medicare. News flash folks, Medicare is government ran health care. Since you are so opposed to it, can we take your Medicare away from you too? I can't understand the opposition's perspective on this, because it makes no sense and they won't lay out their issues. The Right is making everything personal and attacking people, not policies, for baseless reasons. If you want to have a real conversation, have facts not attacks. If you all continue with this nonsense, sane Americans will continue to rally against you all and your real concerns, not the talking points of right-wing talk show hosts, will truly be ignored. People are doing a huge disservice to themselves by adhering to this mob mentality on this issue, and unfortunately then all of us will suffer because a bill won't pass due to a lack of public support. It's truly amazing to me that the people who will benefit from this reform are the ones so strongly opposed to it. Please check up on your facts people. So stop calling this Congress and presidential administration socialist and trying to bring out Cold War tactics. If you want to have a real conversation, act like an adult not a bunch of whiny, spoiled, selfish individuals. I'm so through with this. Hey Congress: Pass this and the climate bill after the August recess, or face backlash from the people who actually voted for you. Good grief...

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Pardon me... But it's time to get a little high-minded... Celebrity edition...

Wow. I haven't blogged in a good while! Life is hectic, and I haven't had time to sit and blog in forever it seems like. Nonetheless, I was struck by the need to blog today b/c I am quite annoyed with this subject manner I will discuss further in this post... Please don't take offense; it's just real talk... I don't mean to bash on celebs, celeb bloggers or anyone. These are just my thoughts...

Since last weekend, I have become thoroughly annoyed with celebrities and their high-minded comments. I KNOW I have no room to judge others, esp. not for making high-minded comments, and I follow celebrities as much as the other pop culture loving individual in this country, but I think they have a true disconnect from the rest of society.

So what started the issue... Last Sunday on the BET awards, rapper and philanthropist Wyclef Jean won the award for being the "Humanitarian of the Year," and I was all about his speech until he ended it with some rather poignant words: "I moved from a hut to a mansion. If I did it, you can do it too. You have no excuse." [paraphrased]

So when I heard this, I was highly aggravated to say the least. One might ask why? Well, I appreciate the sentiment of telling the masses, esp. the viewers of the BET Awards-young and middle-aged Black America- that hard work will led to success, but there was something about the word choice that just didn't sit well with me. Wyclef grew up in Haiti and the country is one of the most impoverished nations in the Western hemisphere, so for him to be in the position he is in, it is truly an amazing story. He was blessed with enormous musical talents and became a superstar with The Fugees and as a solo act, but his success came in a way that many of us will never experience. He is a musician. He works in a pretty harsh, ever-changing industry, but when one is given such talent, establishes longevity like he has, and creates a faithful following, the rewards are large sums of money and the prestige of being a celebrity.

Ok. That is fine and dandy, but this is the problem... Most of us will never has this as a life experience. And I can't say that I wouldn't want that life. To not have to worry about money and to have toured the world spreading your music seems like a dream. A dream that a lot of people have. But we do not all aspire to live that life.

But the fact is that when a person has achieved the financial successes of a Wyclef or any other highly paid individual, there is a bit of insincerity about them lecturing the us-the rabble, the proletariat- about pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps to get to their SES bracket. Yes, I want people to work hard to achieve successes in life, value the importance of work, and have a strong work ethic. Of course I do, I am a leftist. But clearly my concept of "making it" is different from most, or maybe just celebrities. I am a college student now and even if I receive a Ph.d in African-American or Cultural studies, which is my dream in life, I still will not make the monetary amount to live in a mansion. Is that the definition of "making it" in American society? As much as I don't like it, I understand the American Dream, but the key work in that little phrase is that is a DREAM! I don't want to lecture people in the systemic inequalities in this country that keep people back, but please know that they exist. If someone grew up in an impoverished or dysfunctional environment or belongs to a marginalized community that people don't expect much from anyway, yet is able to hold down an honest job for their entire life, able to provide for themselves [and his/her family, if they choose to have one], and is a good person who contributes to society, I think that more than qualifies them as "making it." Even if one did not grow up in the aforementioned situations or does not belong to a minority community, still doing what I expressed still equates "making it." Well it does to me anyways. It does not make a difference if you do not have the bling, the yacht, the 15 bedroom home, or are able to follow every fashion trend. "Making it" does not mean having a mansion, or even a college degree-although I would encourage everyone to continue with their education and attend college if possible. Nonetheless, having made it should not equate material goods and costly possessions.

But the problem is not even celebrities or the countless individuals who spend their lives focusing on them, it's society's fault. Western culture places celebrities and socialites on a pedestal and media portrays it as if we SHOULD want their life. So individuals like Wyclef need to understand that the life they led is extraordinary. Please do not talk down to people simply because they are not able to live in a mansion or do not aspire to live in one. There is no excuse for that.

I don't want it to seem that I am knocking wealthy people, but be conscious and knowledgeable when you are spouting off your talking points to people. Unfortunately, everyone who makes it will not have the luxuries that you all have acquired due to working in the entertainment industry. News flash: Most careers, even ones where people have multiple degrees, never come close to the compensation that musicians, athletes, and actors receive. I deal with academia, and in our backwards society, we don't focus on education enough and compensate educators fairly for all the hard work they do. So yes, I take great offense to these words. If I could have anything in the world, I would want teach in higher education and work for a non-profit organization that deals with civil rights, women's rights, environmentalism, or some cause that I believe greatly in, and then I knew I MADE it. Mansion, not needed!

So I let it go, and I even signed up for Wyclef's Warrior movement. I wanted to see what Wyclef's mission was all about...

I was a-ok until not to long ago. Today had been a pretty laid back day for me, and when I got back from the grocery store, I got online to check my twitter for random updates, etc. I saw one tweet by Tyrese Gibson, multi-talented musician and actor, and it spoke on how he uplifted himself from the guns, poverty, etc of the Watts neighborhood he grew up in. I checked his page and he had been posting tweets about the need for people to do what they are supposed to do to better society. I have no problem with that of course, but what bothered me was the following statement: "I hate when people put the responsibility to make this world better on Celebs.. F**k no.. Your more POWERFUL than you could EVER imagine.." [direct quote from his twitter page]

Well Tyrese, while I can't fully understand your life, I empathize with you. It would have to be hard to always be on your Ps and Qs, because you are in the limelight. And you may not want to place the issues of the world on your shoulders all the time. I understand and respect that. But there is something that you all have to understand, you are a public figure and people look up to you. Yes the average citizen has a lot more power and influence then they want to admit or accept, but they are not public figures with a large following. Celebrities have the responsibility to be role models. I do not care if people disagree with that, but I wholeheartedly believe that they and every other public figure has to be be conscious of their actions and the message they are sending out. When celebrities enter the entertainment industry, there are assumptions and expectations that come with it. You can not get mad when people expect more from you all. I am not indicating that celebs are bad people and worthless, because there are countless musicians, actors/actresses, etc who contribute to the betterment of our global society. But this is what you can do: use your place in society to make the world a better place. We all know that the select few celebrities in this world will not fix everything, but you all could LEAD by example. Once again, you all are role models.

But in all honesty, that is not where the solution lies. We, as good world citizens and stewards of this planet, all have a responsibility to each other and our planet, and should be doing a lot better than we are all doing.
So I understand the sentiment of his rant. There are almost 7 billion of us on this planet. If we all did something to better the world, just imagine the outcome. So yes, in a way Tyrese is right and we are way more powerful then we know it, but he always has to embrace the fact that every time he steps out into the world he can use his position of influence to promote change, spark dialogue, and continue in the tradition of countless celebrities and public figures "to heal the world [and] make it a better place." Thanks MJ for those words!!! RIP! Much <3