Justice, Choices and Other Bleak Things in America

In one of my favorite movies, A Thin Line Between Love and Hate, just after playboy, Darnell, played by Martin Lawrence, discovered that a crazy ex-lover had stolen the tires off his truck right in front of the police station, he shouted, “Where’s the justice?! Where’s the justice?!” That’s long been one of my top quotables always resulting in a laugh or two when I or friends come across unfortunate, but hilarious circumstances.

Today, I’m asking the same question, but it’s no laughing matter. It’s beyond serious and deserves speculation, discussion and action: Really, here and now in 2012, where’s the justice?!

By now, you’ve got to know that our country is in an uproar. In just one week, I’ve read stories about a few things that have knocked me off my feet. In no particular order, they must be addressed:

Trayvon Martin and the Hoodie Effect

I could give you a run down, but that’s what the Internet is for. Just know this, an unarmed 17 year-old black man was gunned down by a self-proclaimed vigilante because he looked “suspicious.” The killer, Zimmerman, has not yet been arrested for killing someone who was armed with a bag of Skittles and an iced tea. Did he shoot in self-defense? Would Trayvon have really harmed him? Up until today, those were the major questions swirling around the media airwaves. I log on to Twitter to find that Geraldo “I Got Knocked the Eff Out” Rivera says that black and Latino parents should teach their children not to wear hoodies, which was worn by Trayvon at his time of death. The hoodie killed him just as much as Zimmerman.

Wait. So an article of clothing meant to cover your head  (it was raining)  is the issue moreso than his race? Oh okay. Silly me. I don’t know how it feels to be a black man, but I know that they’re often told don’t “look the part” to prevent being pulled over by police, i.e., don’t play loud music in your car, don’t purchase a certain type of car, don’t sag your pants, etc. I understand that. Black men are already targets regardless of upbringing, social, economic status, education, etc. Why give them another reason to harass you? Wearing a hoodie has become part of  The Don’ts Handbook for Black Men now?

If that’s the case, should Caucasian men be allowed to wear black as to appear as a Goth or wear long trenchcoats, as they may shoot up a middle school or shopping mall? Plenty of skaters and your  fashion plate cool kids wear hoodies, too. Are they suspicious, as well? No?

Let’s be honest here, the bottom line isn’t a hoodie or anything you can take off of your body. It’s what’s there that cannot be removed: color. I pray that the Martin family sees justice for their son.

Take Birth Control, Lose Your Job

Arizona is showing out. Again. Earlier in the week, I came across this story on Slate. An excerpt reads:

The Obama administration recently issued a mandate requiring all employers to cover prescription birth control under company health plans. Arizona legislators recently introduced abill that would allow some employers to opt out. That’s not terribly exciting. An employee can just pay for birth control out of her own pocket. But here’s the troubling part: If her employer is seriously opposed to birth control, and wants to discriminate against her for taking it—even though she’s paying for it herself—a provision in the Arizona bill would allow that.

The lines between work and what one does after work. As an employer, in an ideal world, you’d like your employees to have the same morals, ideals as you. You like chicken, instead of fish, so I should, too. I am strongly opposed to smoking, I should be, too. Wake up, people. Aside from an extreme, such as murdering and/or abusing children, as an employer, your only concern should be my productivity and contribution to the bottom line. Me popping BC pills that I pay for out of my own pocket at 5 p.m. daily is none of your business. It’s my choice. Point, blank, period.

For starters, not every woman takes birth control for contraception. They regulate menstrual cycles and regulate menstrual pain, along with other things men have no clue about. Secondly, if taking them to prevent pregnancy is the issue, would you rather I become pregnant, take medical leave, leaving you with one less, possibly highly productive employee for a month plus, six to eight weeks for maternity leave? Does that make any sense? No. That makes for discrimination.

You have a right to know what medications I take as it could negatively affect your business and/or staff, similar to knowing if I have any criminal offenses on my record? Will that question be added to employment applications now? It’s ridiculous. Do better Arizona.

You Want My What?

Employers are asking for Facebook passwords these days, huh? Nah. I’m good. You have my social security number, my address and Google, plus an extensive background check. What the hell else do you need?

Again, the work/home lines are blurred. First, it was cool when you knew employers would search social media sites to see if you would be a good fit or a misrepresentation of their company. Everyone simply changed their privacy settings to ‘Friends Only.’ But to ask for an account password is infuriating. This quote from a story via the Business Insider says it best:

“It’s akin to requiring someone’s house keys,” said Orin Kerr, a George Washington University law professor and former federal prosecutor who calls it “an egregious privacy violation.”

Is it really that big of a deal, or does that tell us that we’re sharing too much of lives on social media sites? If we’re not posting expletives, raunchy music videos and pictures of us getting wasted at bars, shouldn’t we feel free to hand our passwords over? NO. It is a big deal. Where’s the stopping point? Accounts have passwords for a reason, right?

Any employer that requests my Facebook password or any other password won’t have to worry about me being a candidate any longer. If I had one, I suppose they’d ask for my first-born next.

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Jay-Z’s Influence on Hip-Hop and Family

You can all stop salivating (for now). Jay-Z and Beyonce’s little bundle of joy, Blue Ivy Carter, made her debut on Saturday in New York City. After only 48 hours in the world, her birth has incited outrage after causing a couple to be unable to see their newborn twins,  and now, tears of joy and nostalgia thanks to Papa Shawn’s latest track, “Glory,” which samples her first cries.

Listen here (via Vibe.com)

Just minutes ago, the Twitter sky cracked as hip-hop fanatics, emos and thugs alike shed tattooed tears over Jay’s heartfelt tribute to little Blue. The song is probably his rawest yet, telling stories of “false starts” and a miscarriage and the seeing himself and his beautiful wife in her. Jay’s told us countless stories that have touched us, from losing his first love (“Song Cry”) to losing his nephew (“Lost Ones). He’s seen friend come and go, as well as a boatload of enemies, but he’d never had a child before.

All that aside, I thought about how Mr. Carter sets trends. Over a span of 10 years, he’s convinced us to stop drinking Cristal, stop using autotune. He made guys feel it was okay to not be “so young” anymore. Being and acting like an adult is cool, too. In fact, cooler. In no time, your ’round the way dudes were trading throwback jerseys for button downs, but never letting that Yankees fitted go. Good job, Jay! He showed us all that hip-hop is more than words over beats, but it’s a lifestyle and a business. One that proves to be lucrative if you do it right.

In his next phase, perhaps, he’ll model what a good father is. When Beyonce announced to the world that she was “with child,” millions of girls and women wanted to have a love like hers and even be pregnant. Will men do the same? Will “Glory” inspire young men to be a part of their children’s lives?

If so,  my position is two-fold.

(1) If one man can influence an entire culture to the point where men emulate him through being active in their children’s lives, that speaks volumes about the man. People do what they see, and if they only see Jay rapping about and more importantly, actively and financially taking care of his daughter, then it is what it is. Maybe he’s no different from that father, uncle or guy around the corner who’s a stand-up guy. Or President Obama.  Influence is a two-way street and there’s no way around it in life. Better that than a negative influence, right?

(2) Call me green (I’m not though), but it’s sad commentary when it takes a multi-millionaire icon to influence men to be what they should be anyway. Here’s why it happens though. Because there aren’t enough fathers or uncles or guys around the corner to look to. Actually, there are, but they’re out of reach for some folks.

So that brings up a new-old issue.  How can we make sure little boys and little girls see these role models consistently? Jay can’t do it all by himself, and I don’t think he’s trying to. It’s awesome to know that while you’re simply living your life, someone’s watching, waiting to follow in your footsteps.

Walk with humility and choose wisely where those footsteps take you. Somebody’s behind you whether you know it or not.

Congratulations to the Carters.

DMV Adventures: Hey, Where’d Your Wedding Ring Go?

Sometimes it just takes too long for me to write about the randomness in my life. Here’s Part II of my visit to the DMV on Labor Day Weekend. Read Part I here.

Day 2 of our Girls Trip to the DMV was under way. We’d obsessed over what to do, where to go all morning, and the standard answer was still, “To the District.” So, off we went.

After clowning with the staff at Ben’s Chilli Bowl (They were singing MJ’s “PYT,” and I line danced in the middle of the restaurant.), we strolled down U Street to see what the rest of the day had in store. A gorgeous guy, skin kissed by the sun, stood outside of a cafe and motioned for us to come in. Surprisingly, it was a day party, and behind those doors, people were getting it in.

Almost immediately, some guy approaches me and begins dancing. I can appreciate a guy who doesn’t want to bump and grind or  challenge me to a dance-off, so I two-stepped with him for a little while. He was nice-looking, but I could tell he was slightly older. (I have to remember to stop saying “older,” as if I won’t be 30 soon. Le sigh. ) He wore a cap, a tee and what my girls coined as “dad jeans.” Hilarious. Atleast he didn’t have on K-Swiss to complete the look.

Before he could ask my name, he  spouted out all types of “compliments.” I wanted to say, “Thanks, but you make the truth sound so disgusting.” He was thisclose to calling me a “tall drink of water.” I sensed that this was a Living Single club episode waiting to happen.

In an instant, he’d swayed me to the bar for a drink; I obliged. Don’t judge me. The entire time, my girls are laughing as I make funny faces over his shoulder. I noticed they kept throwing their hands up, pointing to and wiggling their ring fingers. Was “Single Ladies” on?

Nope. Ohhhh, I get it.

After a few sips of  my cocktail, suddenly, I didn’t feel like dancing anymore.I thanked and chatted him up, I was on to next.

“So, your friend with the “Dad Jeans” had a wedding ring on. You didn’t see it?” one friend asked.

“He did? Nah, didn’t see it.”

“Yeah, while you were ordering your drink he stuck his hand in his pocket to take it off,” the other chimed in.

Oh yeah? Men. As if him being married was the only barrier between us.

Before I could respond, Mr. I Don’t Wear My Wedding Ring was back in my personal bubble trying to dance. It became painfully obvious that this was first time out in a long time without the wife. He was just too damn eager. Poof, be gone!

It took me atleast 15 minutes to get away from him. Not to mention, he kept coming back around to ask if I was ready for another drink. What do I look like, a fool?

“No, I won’t be getting another drink. This is enough,” I said. “I think you’ve had enough, too.”

“I’m just gettin’ started!” he replied as he continued to dance himself silly.

I gave him the side-eye of all side-eyes. I could see the imprint of his ring sitting snug in the bottom his left pocket, but I didn’t even mention it. It was unnecessary to point something so blatantly obvious out to an adult who knows right from wrong. If hiding a symbol of your marriage is part of a scheme to test if you still have your mojo, there’s nothing I can say or do to help. On top of that, I didn’t even know the guy. Why not leave on a high note?

“Okay, well good for you. We’re leaving now. Nice meeting you.”

I left him standing there. The last time I saw him, he was doing something like the Reebok on the patio, scoping out his next victims, some college girls with bad weaves.

In the words of the great lyricist, Silkk the Shocker, “You ain’t gotta lie to kick it.”

Family Business

The setting:

Starbucks. Mid-day. Frappacino Happy Hour. I’m beaming because not only are fraps half-off, but I have a gift card. **Fist pump**

What happens:

I order my frap and brownie and peep around the corner to scan the area for an empty table. I spot one by the window, but there’s a plate there and it’s dirty. I could easily ask an employee to clean it off, but I decide not to. I take a seat at table directly across from the order counter.

A white man, bald, wearing a graphic tee and funky eyeglasses approaches me. He looks to be in his late 30s or early 40s. “Oh my, I thought I put my deodorant today,” he says. “I know I’m fresh and smellin’ good.” He sniffs his underarms to inspect.

I’m lost as hell.

“You  just looked on past me,” he says with a familiar Memphis southern drawl.”I saw you eyeing that table over there. I guess you didn’t wanna sit next to me.” He smiles a million dollar smile.

Ohhhh, I get it! He’s flirting with me. I smile right back and give a fake chuckle. “Oh nooo! I didn’t even see you. I just decided to sit here. Won’t be here long anyway.”

He starts going on about how “fit” I look, and some kind if way he tells me that he keeps in shape by dancing.

“What kind of dancing?” I inquire.

“R&B.”  Stop. Who says they dance “R&B”?  

I look down to see his pants sagging slightly, and back up to see that both of his ears are pierced. I give him a side-eye, but let him go on. It’s obvious he wants me to know more.

I egg him on. “Really? Where do you go dancing?”

“Aww, I go to the Rumba Room, The Republic, but most of the time, I’m at Classic Hitz.”

Two of those clubs cater to Latino, white and sometimes mixed crowds. Once a week, but they may sponsor “Black Folks Night”, but Classic Hitz? It’s nothing but African Americans day in, day out.

Now I get it.

“You know, you’re so beautiful. I love Black women. I just can’t find a black woman who’s totally comfortable with being with a white man, ya know.”

 I forget that I’m supposed to be enjoying my triple chocolate brownie. He continues.I think he thinks I’m the woman who will take the plunge with him. He’s sadly mistaken.

“I just don’t understand. I’m a good man.” He leans in closer as if he’s about to tell me a secret and whispers, “These black men done fucked it up for everybody else. They don’t know the good thing they got in ya’ll.”

Even though I agree with his last statement, I sigh on the inside and wonder if I should say something in defense of Black men, seeing as how he is an “outsider.” It’s not worth my time though.

“I hear them talk about how hard it is to find a good man.” Dude seems to be frustrated at this point.  “Shit, if it was me, I’d be on it!”

Though he has some valid points, I become extremely annoyed and my face says so. He extends another invitation to sit with him.

“Well, I hope you find who you’re looking for,” I say. “She’s out there.”

He walks back to his chair and stares at me until I finish my brownie.

So what’s wrong with this scenario? For the past six months or so, popular culture and the news media have been obsessed with Black women. Our literal worth, our education, but mostly how single, successful women can’t get a “good, black man.”  Just last month, ABC aired Nightine Face-Off: Why Can’t Successful Black Women Find a Man?, a townhall meeting discussing the divide between black men and women for millions of viewers to see. This is a follow-up to the first story aired in December 2009. I’ve been asking myself why they are so interested in us suddenly, but there have to be black women pitching these ideas and producing these segments to get them on air. Note: ABC’s first segment was produced by Linsey Davis and Hana Karar.

What that white guy in Starbucks said to me stung. Why and how does he know what we women are going through? It felt like when a friend or non-family member chimes in on trash-talking session about an aunt or cousin. That’s a no-no. I can talk about my family, but you, sir,cannot! Why are always the ones to put our “business” out in the street? 

But conversely, isn’t an open, candid discussion healthy? How can find solutions to these “problems” if we don’t talk about them? Often, issues are never resolved because we keep them locked away. Or should we be selective in who discuss our issues in front of? Is it family business, being dissected only the State of the Black Union and other minority-sponsored events or is it okay to discuss with the mainstream?

One thing these segments have done for sure is driven us crazier and made us more paranoid about our relationship status and future. Contrary to popular belief there’s more than five good Black men around. So, in the words of Public Enemy, “Don’t believe the hype!” There are so many layers to the miscommunication in Black relationships and the so-called “man shortage,” ABC can’t begin to chip the surface. Or is it a start?

What do you think?

Young Black Men: There Is Hope

This morning as I rushed to get out of the door by 8:10 a.m. (#epicfail, by the way), I slowed down as the second hour of my favorite morning show, Good Morning America, began. The anchors are doing a series,  “Be Inspired.” Each anchor reports on a story that…inspires them. Yesterday, the meteorologist, Sam Champion, shared his older sister’s story about being an advocate for parents of autistic children. Today was Robin Roberts story. Don’t you just love her? Her southern accent and mannerisms peek out from behind her “reporter voice” often. It tickles me. I’m always interested in what she has to say.

I’d heard about it, and read about this great achievement, but seeing the video made me tear up. What a great way to start my day–inspired! Thanks to Ms. Roberts for bringing this story from behind the shadows.

Robin Roberts Inspired by the Young Men at Urban Prep Academy

Photo courtesy of Chicago Now

The Black Man’s Apology

I’m sick of it. I’m tired of it.

It’s not what you think. It’s not his apology to women for any infidelity. It’s the not the apology to children he’s left behind. It’s not even for the pain he may have caused his mother when he didn’t live up to his fullest potential. It’s the apology to America.

How many times will he say ‘I’m sorry’? How many times does he have to prove himself to you, America? When will he stop being made an example of when he’s reached a financial status or height of fame? When will he not be pushed up to a podium to read the words a publicist has written to appease a country that wants to see him crumble, never to be built back up again? How much longer will he have to ask for forgiveness?

Obviously this is in light of the Tiger Woods’ press conference last week. He slept with several different women, lost the trust of his wife and lost many fans. Now he’s in a rehab program for sexual addiction just down the interstate 55 in Mississippi.

His press conference did nothing for me but make me even more frustrated about the entire fiasco. So, he has sex with a lot of women. What millionaire who has access to women wouldn’t? Since when do we need an apology for infidelity and betrayal to his FAMILY? Newsflash, America: He doesn’t owe us anything but a great game of golf.

Yes, he was a role model with endorsements. And yes, when you’re in the limelight, you automatically become a part of the Role Model Club. When will we as people, parents and communities stop giving human beings so much credit? No one is perfect. No one is without wrongdoing.

I sat on my bed in disgust as sports commentators and ex-fans analyzed the “sincerity” of his apology. Seriously, people? Did he slap your mama, steal your last $20 or trip your child in the mall? No. So, why should he be sincere? Let Ellin handle that, and she is–very well, might I add!

So, while I could mug Tiger in the back of the head for being so stupid (getting caught), I think the media and his peers  have taken him for a walk for long enough. Perhaps, this was just an easier way to bring him “down to earth,”  as his golfing skills are superb. It’s clear he lacks guidance from the proper people, especially since his father passed away. (I won’t address the “Caublasian” issue. Sigh)  As my pastor said a few weeks ago, “We are winners in Christ, but sometimes in this life, you will lose. It’s life.” I guess Buddha forgot to share that with Tiger.

Ladies in Waiting

Earlier this week, I was IM’ing a friend. I consider her to be a little sister of sorts even though we’ve never even met in person.  She’s only about 20 years old. The conversation entailed me giving her reasons not to lurk around on her ex-boyfriend’s Facebook page (as if I could talk), since she’s dating someone else. She made a note to stay focused, and then she made this statement:

“I don’t wanna be in the club at 30 looking for a husband. I’d rather drop dead.”

I wanted to laugh because it’s funny (30 sounds like a light years away when you’re under 25), but also because I know what possibly lies ahead. Time flies whether your having fun or not. You wake up and realize that 30 is a lot closer than you thought it was. I responded to her with something to the effect of, “Well, I hope you have someone to catch you, just in case, because it happens.” I know, I’m so encouraging.

The reality is these days you find women at the altar for prayer more than for marriage. This is not a post about Black women’s exceedingly high expectations leaving us manless. I don’t buy it and I’m so over it. There are many other factors that influence the eternal singlehood of women, and this is a major factor:

Men are waiting to get married. Women are, too, but honestly, we can’t marry a man until he is ready and willing. So, that leaves us….waiting or not marrying at all because our patience has run out.   The National Marriage Project at Rutgers University reported that men are waiting until the age of 27 on average to get married; whereas, women generally wait until 25. Why, you ask?

“Men don’t need to get married to get what they want these days — mainly sex — so they feel comfortable in putting off that long-term commitment until they have a few bucks in the bank, and a mortgage to pay off.”

-via ABCnews.go.com

Shocker. If this is news to any women reading this, do yourself a favor and go play in traffic NOW. I figure if a man can get unlimited sex by several different women while trying to establish himself (ballin’ on a budget), why would he want to marry and take on more emotional and financial responsibility with just one woman? I hate to say it because it’s so unfair to us, but it makes sense. (Dodging bullets). Selfish, but logical.

Over time we have gotten it confused. There is power in the P*, indeed. A man has to wait for a woman to say yea or nay to sleep with her, but a woman has to wait for a man to say ‘I do.’

Meanwhile, we’re chomping at the bit, growing more frustrated by the second, as if we can actually hear our biological clocks ticking away–and it sounds like a time bomb. And you wonder why we have such attitudes? Hormones are a bitch.

It’s a dirty game, but somebody has to play it. How can we meet each other half-way so both parties can win? At what point do we consider each other’s lives, futures, wants and needs and sacrifice for those things? I have no idea, but compromise must be apart of the solution.

This Ish Right Here

As I was getting dressed this morning, I saw a segment on Good Morning America about an organized snowball fight in DC gone wrong.  Apparently, a guy’s Hummer was attacked during the snowball fight and the driver no likey. Not only that, but turns out, he was a police detective–Detective Baylor–to be exact, in plain clothes. He’d had enough of the foolishness, got out of the truck and drew his gun. Um, okay. I really had no thoughts on it…until I saw the video.

It was a black dude. FAIL

Now why didn’t that surprise me? Only a black man will get out of his car in a damn blizzzard, ready to bust his gun at a group of kids throwing snowballs at his car. I find it funny as hell, yet embarrassing and stereotypical all at the same time. I mean, they were yelling, “Don’t bring a gun to a snowball fight!” Must the black man be pinned as the “violent beast” always? On the other hand, dude was as crazy as a box of rocks for getting out, pulling a gun and roughing one of the guys up. Should he be fired though? Uh, no. 

According to ABC News, someone in the crowd said, “We don’t feel safe with him here,” supposedly in reference to Baylor, a detective in DC.

Oh, the irony.