Author Archive

Tuesday

20

June 2017

0

COMMENTS

5 Problems With How We Talk About Police Reform

Written by , Posted in Culture, Politics, Race

Are our conversations addressing the real problem?

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The ubiquity of cell phone video has made plain to the general public something black folk have believed for a long time: we don’t receive equal treatment from the police. Every time a police shooting makes the news it forces people–especially whites–to confront that uncomfortable reality. Unfortunately many of the resulting conversations over the past few years have done little to move us closer to a tangible resolution. While I believe this is due in part to the naturally slow pace of the types of policy change reform advocates want, I also think the way we discuss police violence has made it more difficult to forge a common understanding and achieve real progress.

1. Making it a “black issue”

Perhaps the biggest issue with the national dialogue on policing is how quickly it gets framed as a “black issue”. Treating it that way obscures the facts, makes it easier to divert the attention to unrelated issues (e.g., “black-on-black crime”), and makes it harder to build political consensus. The facts are that even though black people are disproportionately (compared to our population percentage) shot and killed by police while unarmed, the majority of fatal police shooting victims each year are white. The general public doesn’t know this because those stories rarely get media attention, even when there’s video of the incident. For example, the police shot a 19-year old white teen named Dylan Noble who wouldn’t show one of his hands after being pulled over. Another man, John Geer, was shot and killed by police while he stood in his doorway with his hands up. The officer, Adam Torres, was released from jail in June 2016 after serving most of his one-year sentence. In fact, according to Washington Post data on police shootings whites make up 46% of all people shot and killed by police and 45% of those who are shot while unarmed. There are also instances of non lethal force that involve whites. One Missouri officer stopped a teen on an outstanding warrant, tased him, dragged him out of the car, and dropped him face first on the curb. The teen suffered brain damage as a result and the officer was sentenced to four years in jail.

The real problem with our current state of policing is that officers are rarely charged and almost never receive prison time for actions taken in the line of duty. That should be a major starting point for our conversations about police reform. It is ethically and morally unacceptable to live in a society where prosecutors are more zealous about jailing petty drug dealers than police officers who kill citizens–regardless of their race, gender, or  income–without just cause.

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Thursday

1

December 2016

2

COMMENTS

4 Lessons the Media Should Learn From the 2016 Election

Written by , Posted in Culture, Politics, Race

 Did the media learn anything over the last 18 months?
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Donald Trump is set to become the 45th president of the United States. To say his defeat of Hillary Clinton is a historical political upset is a major understatement. Very few people saw this coming and a lot of individuals and institutions, including the media, are left trying to figure out what went wrong. Here a few of my takeaways.

1.  Assumptions rarely lead to understanding.
The most powerful and influential voices in media are centered in big cities and their perspectives take on the type of progressive worldview that is common in urban centers. That’s not a bad thing per se, it just means members of the mainstream media–and many of its consumers–don’t understand much about people who live in other parts of the country. And what do people do when they lack experience or understanding in a particular area? They rely on assumptions, project their own worldview onto others, and listen to the opinions of others who have as little information as they do.
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Monday

2

November 2015

0

COMMENTS

5 Biggest Problems With the Overuse of “Respectability Politics”

Written by , Posted in Culture, Race

The term “respectability politics” is in danger of  becoming irrelevant.

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The phrase “respectability politics”–the idea that racism can be defeated on the strength of good behavior by black people–is one of the most commonly used terms in discussions of race in America. We heard after Geraldo Rivera suggested Trayvon Martin would still be alive if not for his decision to wear a hoodie the night he was killed. We also read it in thinkpieces about structural inequality and institutional racism.

But the term is also frequently used to dismiss suggestions that African Americans should change any aspect of our behavior or culture in order to achieve social, economic, or political progress. It has been used to describe everything from President Obama’s beliefs about the importance of marriage to criticism of black artists who use the “n-word”. Any criticism of black culture, regardless of its intent, will almost certainly get you labeled as an endorser of respectability politics.

People who accuse blacks of playing respectability politics are basically saying that culture isn’t as important as we’ve been led to believe. They believe policy is key to changing conditions in communities of color and, to a lesser extent, influencing individual behavior. They believe talking about culture is a distraction from more substantive conversations that ultimately puts too much attention on individuals and groups who have historically been disenfranchised. I disagree. Culture is very important. Just as important, in fact, as policy. And since culture is created, it is fair game to be criticized. And every criticism of culture isn’t necessarily an indication of prejudice. That’s why the ever-growing list of things that will get someone accused of playing respectability politics is very troubling. Here are five reasons using the term to describe any critique of black culture is a hindrance to progress for anyone concerned about the state of the black community.

1. It creates the illusion that the point of critiquing our culture is acceptance by whites

The most frustrating thing about how loosely many writers and thinkers talk about respectability politics is that it presumes that black folk who offer any type of cultural critique do so to please whites. I’m sure that is the case for some blacks, especially many of the contributors on Fox News, but I believe most black people want better for our community because we respect ourselves and want to see our collective condition improve. But over and over again, black social critics and pundits will imply or explicitly state that black writers, politicians, and others in the public sphere who question aspects of black culture do so to gain the acceptance, respect, or support of whites. This might sound like a deep sociopolitical analysis but it really isn’t. It’s a projection. When I’m at church or the barbershop or around the dinner table and people start talking about what our community needs to do to improve conditions I never assume the person speaking is trying to impress white folks. So I’m not sure how the respectability politics police draw this conclusion unless they are the ones overly concerned with how black folks look to whites.

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Thursday

25

June 2015

0

COMMENTS

Charleston

Written by , Posted in Culture, Politics, Race, Religion

 

Last week the country was rocked by the actions of a cowardly killer in Charleston, South Carolina. Dylann Roof, a domestic terrorist, walked into a Wednesday night Bible study at one of the most historically significant African American churches in the South and, after sitting for an hour with the congregation that welcomed him with open arms, decided to shoot and kill nine innocent victims. In the time since last week’s tragedy, we’ve seen a lot of attention paid to issues of race–from calls to remove the Confederate flag from state grounds to the president’s use of the word “nigger” while describing modern manifestations of racism to frank discussions about forgiveness and faith. Here are a few of my thoughts:

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Thursday

18

June 2015

0

COMMENTS

#TBT – Lessons From My Father

Written by , Posted in Relationships

Based on a Black and Married with Kids (BMWK) article from 2010.

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June was a good month for my father. Both of his children were home for Father’s Day and he celebrated a birthday shortly thereafter. While our relationship has had its fair share of mountains and valleys, my father has taught me many life lessons that have had a lasting impact on me as I have matured. While applicable to many different types of relationships, I hope to remember these nuggets of wisdom if I am fortunate enough to become a father.

1. Play D

As a young man, I often wished I had some of the freedoms of my peers. I wasn’t allowed to go to parties or many other social events like other kids in high school. My father also made sure that I contributed more to the household than consuming food and electricity. At that time, I didn’t enjoy living in a strict and structured household but I have come to appreciate the discipline he instilled in me as I’ve matured. The Bible says that a father disciplines a child that he loves, whereas an unloved, unclaimed child is allowed to do whatever he/she pleases. Ultimately, when children don’t feel loved at home they search for love in other places, often with negative consequences.

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Thursday

18

June 2015

0

COMMENTS

Is Change Always Progress?

Written by , Posted in Culture, Politics, Relationships

Love, marriage, then baby carriage? Not for some millennials.

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It’s no surprise that more millennials are forgoing marriage but the logic behind the decision by many couples to have kids before marriage is quite…interesting. It’s hard to  trying to understand how a couple that feels it is financially unprepared for marriage could think it has the capacity to support a child. And to be clear, a couple, and that term should be applied loosely to some relationships, that is having sex but not taking steps to prevent pregnancy can’t claim that a baby is “unplanned”. That’s not the way it works. If you’re not preventing pregnancy, you’re inviting it.

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Monday

15

June 2015

0

COMMENTS

Do Dads Still Matter?

Written by , Posted in Culture, Politics

This week we’ll be exploring the role and importance of dads, particularly black fathers.

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One of the worst things we did as a country, both through our policies and culture, is sell the notion that dads don’t matter. Even the simple act of mentioning the importance of fathers, and marriage, in debates about policies aimed at helping low-income families is often met with strong resistance by some progressives. The reason marriage is such an important part of this conversation is because it is the single most important structural enabler for father involvement. A man who has made a lifelong commitment to one woman is in a much better position–socially, emotionally, and financially–to commit to the rearing of the children they have together. That doesn’t mean that married men are perfect dads or that divorce doesn’t lead to family disruption. Talking about the importance of men and marriage also doesn’t mean you have to demean single mothers or disparage alternative familial arrangements. Embracing a more holistic model of fatherhood–one that moves beyond seeing dad as mainly a paycheck–is good for everyone involved.

 

 

 

 

Thursday

11

June 2015

0

COMMENTS

#TBT – 5 Things Every Woman Should Know Before She Gets Married

Written by , Posted in Relationships

 

Based on a Black and Married with Kids (BMWK) article from 2014.

Married

 

My last article highlighted five things I thought every man should know before getting married. I think it’s important for men to direct most of their relationship advice to other men because we don’t have many outlets to learn about what it takes to have healthy relationships. I also know it takes two to create a successful marriage so I wanted to make a similar list for women. Here are five things I think every woman should know before saying “I do”:

1. You can live a fulfilled life without getting married

I think it’s important to start here because sometimes people talk about women and marriage as if a woman’s life is incomplete or unfulfilled if she doesn’t get married. I don’t agree with that line of thinking. Some women have no desire to get married and others may believe they haven’t found the right person. Either way, it is possible to have companionship, experience love, and find fulfillment without a husband. In fact, an extended period of singleness can help you in your process of self-discovery. Another reason to use this as a starting point is because a woman who feels she must get married at all costs might be more prone to making choices that are motivated by fear and desperation or compromising her standards–especially as she ages and feels like the pool of marriageable men is dwindling. We often say that something is better than nothing but linking yourself to the wrong person can be worse than not being linked to anyone at all.

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Thursday

28

May 2015

0

COMMENTS

#TBT – 5 Things Every Man Needs to Learn Before He Gets Married

Written by , Posted in Relationships

 

Wedding season is in full swing. This 2014 article is for the men interested in being married one day.

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I’ve been married for almost two years, but I still feel compelled at times to share bits of wisdom I’ve collected over the years with singles that have intentions of being married some day. I think it’s especially important for married men to share with single men because so much of what we have all been taught about being a man is counterproductive to having a good marriage. I hope current husbands will also find this list useful because sometimes we don’t realize we’ve brought some unhealthy beliefs into our relationship until after we’re married. That said, here’s a simple list of five things every man should know before tying the knot.

 1. Women are people, not objects

Seems obvious, right? Unfortunately too many men have grown up believing women are objects to be collected or challenges to be conquered. This is a global problem, but this first lesson is especially important for the millions of black men who grew up hearing men that look like them casually refer to women as “bitches” and “hoes” in their music, in movies, and on TV shows. Understanding this fact will impact every interaction you have with a woman, whether as a single man on the dating scene or a married man at work. Most men will give lip service to how precious women are when they are talking about their own mother, aunts, grandmother, or daughters. Sadly, some of the same men who talk about their love for mom will leave their mother’s house and harass the first woman they see on the street. Your future wife will have her own thoughts, desires, ambitions, and feelings, but it will be hard for you to receive them and value them if you don’t see her as your equal. Always remember, “objects are collected, people are respected”.

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Thursday

21

May 2015

0

COMMENTS

America’s Real God

Written by , Posted in Culture, Politics, Religion

 

What’s one thing many American Christians love more than Jesus? Power.

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The debate over the role of religion in the public square is not new. Following the recent controversy surrounding Indiana’s religious-freedom laws, we’ve heard from Christians on both sides of the political spectrum who believe their faith informs their views on important social issues.

I recently came across an article that talked about how the “New Christian Left” is twisting the gospel. The author unpacked a number of points related to the tension between traditional biblical teachings and contemporary moral values. She also listed three different types of evangelical Christians that have emerged in these unique times–those who stay silent on major cultural issues, those who pick and choose which parts of the bible they want to live by, and those who operate in mercy and grace while still sharing the gospel message with their neighbors. Up to this point I didn’t really have any major issue with what I was reading. Then the author said this:

I know about these three types of Christians because at one time or another I have fallen into each of these three categories. My parents will tell you that even though I was raised in church, I morphed into a full-fledged feminist, told my parents they were ignorant for not endorsing homosexuality and bought into the distorted social justice rhetoric that confuses caring for the poor with advancing socialist or big government systems and demonizing the United States for its free market system.

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