Tag Archives: race

A View of the IRS Scandal You Won’t Read Anywhere Else

You have to love the politics in Washington. Any slip up or sign of blood and the sharks converge without mercy. So, the latest news inside our seat of government involves lower level IRS officials needlessly delaying or deny non-profit tax status to applying groups with conservative sounding names (tea party, patriot, GUNS-GUNS-GUNS). Of course the republican and conservative talking heads are rallying the troops and tying it directly to Obama. At worst, this was a move sanctioned by the White House, though there is zero evidence of this. At best, Obama appears to be too distant to know the chaos happening under his watch.

Well, I’m sorry, conservatives, but there is no grand conspiracy here. The truth of the matter is that a unique set of circumstances led to this pattern of discrimination. No major media outlet will point this out because it isn’t PC but is obvious enough that Blackneks is on the case.  First, you have to understand the demographics of DC. Politics and government is the biggest employer in town. This is what attracted thousands of Blacks from the South looking for good paying jobs with terrific benefits. The draw was so big that the city became known as Chocolate City. Most of the entry and middle level government positions, including those in the IRS, are fill by Black workers. And the large majority of these are democratic voters. Now fast forward to today, where you not only have a democratic president, but the first Black one as well, and you can see how the IRS unofficially became an Obama fan club by default. With the independent power that this branch of government, the bias against those groups with anti-Obama agendas simply was a unique convergence of demographics and history. This was a case of Obama fans with low level power using it to support the Prez without anyone telling them to do so. Sadly, people will be fired over this, and the scandal will cast a shadow over the Obama term, but the President was more of a bystander than a conspirator. A major flaw in how the IRS works has been exposed and should trigger needed reforms, but there is nothing more to the story than that.

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Filed under Barrack Obama, In The News

Oscar Night: Thoughts on Beast of the Southern Wild and Child Naming

The little actress, Quevenzhane Wallis, is thought to be a strong contender for the Best Actress award in tonight’s Academy Awards. She definitely did a great job but I want to overall say how happy I am to have an original movie with a predominately African-American cast reach this level of praise and recognition. Black movies with Oscar buzz have traditionally centered around movies retelling the lives of the famous (Ali, Ray, Malcolm X, Lady Sings the Blues), horrific events ( Hotel Rwanda, The Last King of Scotland), music (Ray, Lady Sings the Blues, Cadillac Records, Hustle and Flow, Dreamgirls), or overcoming the system (The Color Purple, The Help, Glory, The Green Mile, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, the Blind Side, etc.). Others have focused on the affects of urban decay and the broken family through action movies (Boyz In the Hood, Training Day) or dark dramas (Precious, Monster’s Ball).

What makes Beast of the Southern Wild stand out is that it forgets about all of these agendas and standbys and just relies on what makes all great movies great – storytelling. Here you have a rich, uniquely African-American story full of wonder and visuals which  takes the bold risk of going without the traditional villains of racists and the system, the crowd pleasing music and big stars, or the safe path to Oscar glory by simply recreating history. Another unique element of Beasts is the rural setting. We seem to forget about all of the Black families who don’t live in the ‘hood’ and ignore our rural community. But these communities are still prevalent, especially in the South. All of those other movies are greatly entertaining, and I think no less of them. I think because of the past oppressions of Blacks in America, many directors have been limited on what kind of stories could get a green light to be made. But Beasts of the Southern Wild is a rare treat, and I hope it is just the start of a wave of amazing, original, atypical stories coming out of our long and rich culture.

Now here is the only negative I have to say about this topic: we really need to give a lot of thought into naming our children. The young actress, Quevenzhane, has a name which means ‘fairy’ in Swahili. I’m not sure how accurate this is though since one poster of a message board who speaks Swahili said there is not a ‘Z’ nor accents in the language. Anyway, I know we have a tradition of getting creative with names or looking to African cultures for inspiration, and I’m not totally against this, BUT you have to think about a number of things before making your child’s name final:

1) Can it be pronounced in the community and country where she is going to live? It’s nice to pick a Swahili name but how many people speak Swahili in the US again? I do think if she had an easier name, she would be in more conversations as a future star. But most people only can say ‘that cute girl’ when describing her. Of course, there aren’t a lot of Barak Obama’s floating around in the US either, but the syllables and letter combinations in that name can at lease be tackled by an English speaker. Most people wouldn’t even know where to start with Quevenzhane. Even worse, the name is NOT pronounced how it is spelled. That is not fair to the girl nor the people trying to communicate with her. Now, learning that her mother’s name is Qulyndreia, perhaps it’s a family tradition but you would think someone would want to change it.

2) What are the life outcome trends for people currently having that name? Are you naming your kid a name commonly shared with CEO’s of businesses, professionals, community leaders, etc. or one commonly shared among jail populations and pole dancers?  Sorry to say but in the real world, people draw conclusions of family education level, behavior, and values based on your name. It’s not right, but many resumes have been rejected because of how decision makers feel about a name.

3) Is the spelling of the name consistent with the rules of the language? We all want out kids to be different, but if you are naming a boy Zhtaool and telling us it’s an alternative spelling of Paul, that is a YOU problem. No one should need training on new English rules just because you want to throw some letters together.

I will say that this advice is not just limited to us. White America has gotten on the bandwagon as well. It’s great that you are finding rich names by looking into your Irish and Gaelic heritage. But please stop making us struggle with the Aine’s and the Sadhbh’s. And do we really need 100 different spellings of Kaitlin.

Anyway, I hope that the ‘cute girl’ in Beast of the Southern Wild, whatever her name is, gets her shining moment tonight and more such movies will be produced.

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Filed under Engage, In The News

Young Afro Rocks The Jeopardy World

I rarely catch Jeopardy but happened to tune in this past week during the teen tournament. There, I caught a towering young man rocking the most gnarly of Afros. This thing had a life of its own. I was glad to see a Black teen make it this far and no matter what happened, Mr.Leonard Cooper would be inspiring some young Black person out there to be proud to be smart. Many of us have had the experience of not appearing too smart and nerdy unless our ‘Blackness’ is questioned. What is terrible about such cultural actions is they are almost saying by default that being academically ignorant means being Black. Even today’s generation is wrestling with this question of identity. Nonetheless,congrats to this young man full of personality and wits. I’m sure he will be making some big news in whatever professional field he goes in.

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The Harlem Shake and The Trans-Racial Nature of the Internet Meme

As I observed the latest viral video meme sweeping the internet, the Harlem Shake, I realized how unique this phenomenon is. In case you don’t know, an internet meme is something so popular that it is honored by being copied by others across the globe. Think of last year’s Gangnam Style:



Sometimes the internet meme becomes so popular that the original creator comes back and mocks themselves:

I particularly love how simple the Harlem Shake meme is to duplicate with just a few friends in a room:

But what strikes me more than anything is how these internet memes transcend race and place. You will find white military guys in Norway, Japanese teen girls in a bedroom, black college kids in Atlanta, mixed groups in an office in London, all fully participating in their version of the meme. Has this ever happened before? The only thing similar is how hip-hop has been embraced and adapted across the globe. But even that is acknowledged as a traditionally Black music form. The internet meme seems to belong to no one. Or said better, it seems to belong to the world. Engaging in the meme doesn’t make you less Black or less authentic it would appear. It’s odd to say, but the internet meme through such services as Youtube might be the ultimate representation of Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of a trans-racial open society.

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