What can Black men do to uplift, encourage, &/or support Black women?

        A few days ago, on twitter, I posed a question to my “followers” asking what Black men can do to uplift, encourage, &/or support Black women? I received an overwhelming amount of answers and most of the answers were valuable and very much needed. The Black women who responded suggested that Black men do a number of things to support, encourage, and uplift them such as respecting their humanity, validating their experiences, praising them in their beauty, etc. The tweets are provided below:

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Unarmed Black Man, Ezell Ford, Killed By Police In South L.A. #WeAreTargets

https://conquistanoir.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/lapd.png?w=593

by on Aug 12, 2014

On the heels of the Mike Brown tragedy, another Black man has been shot and killed by the police. The 24-year-old man succumbed to gun injuries after an encounter with police in South LA.

The incident happened Monday evening, shortly after a shooting was reported at the intersection of West 65th Street and South Broadway. The LAPD stopped a man walking on the 200th block north of the 65th block when things took a dangerous turn. According to a police statement, officers opened fire after “a struggle ensued.”

The man, who was later identified as Ezell Ford, was then transported to the nearest hospital where he underwent surgery but later died. Ford is one of countless victims who have recently died at the hands of police- who are to protect and serve the community.

Was Ford killed for simply being a young, African-American male – the very same characteristics that claimed the lives of John Crawford and Mike Brown?

The mother of the victim, Tritobia Ford,  said her son was lying on the ground and obeying the officers’ commands when he was shot. Multiple reports indicate he was unarmed.

Further details on the shooting is underway and will be investigated by LAPD’s Force Investigation Division. The LAPD is currently being sued by Marlene Pinnock, a homeless woman whose vicious beating at the hands of a still unidentified officer was caught on tape. Her lawsuit alleges excessive force, assault, battery.

Source: http://uptownmagazine.com/2014/08/ezell-ford-unarmed-black-man-killed-by-police-in-south-l-a/

Feminist : a man or a woman who says, “Yes, there’s a problem with gender as it is today, and we must fix it, we must do better.” – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

TED | We should all be feminists – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at TEDxEuston (transcript)

(This is a personal transcript. I take responsibility for all typos. The symbol “[–]” simply indicates African names and references unfamiliar to me.)

So I would like to start by telling you about one of my greatest friends, [–]. [–] lived on my street and looked after me like a big brother. If I liked a boy, I would ask [–]‘s opinion. [–] died in the notorious [–] plane crash in Nigeria in December of 2005, almost exactly 7 years ago. [–] was a person I could argue with, laugh with and truly talk to. He was also the first person to call me a feminist. I was about 14, we were in his house, arguing, both of us bristling with half-bit knowledge from books that we had read. I don’t remember what this particular argument was about, but I remember that as I argued and argued, [–] looked at me and said, “You know, you’re a feminist.” It was not a compliment. I could tell from his tone, the same tone that you would use to say something like, “You’re a supporter of terrorism.” I did not know exactly what this word “feminist” meant and I did not want [–] to know that I did not know. So I brushed it aside and continued to argue. And the first thing that I planned to do when I got home was to look up “feminist” in the dictionary.

Now, fast-forward to some years later. I wrote a novel about a man who, among other things beats his wife and whose story doesn’t end very well. When I was promoting the novel in Nigeria, a journalist, a nice well-meaning man told me he wanted to advise me. And to the Nigerians here, I’m sure we’re all familiar with how quick are people to give unsolicited advise. He told me that people were saying that my novel was feminist and his advice to me — and he was shaking his head sadly as he spoke — was that I should never call myself a feminist because feminists are women who are unhappy because they cannot find husbands. So I decided to call myself a “happy feminist.” Then, an academic, a Nigerian woman told me that feminism was not our culture, that feminism wasn’t Africa, and that I was calling myself a feminist because I had been corrupted by “Western” books, which amused me because a lot of my early reading was decidedly un-feminist. I think I must have read every single [–] published before I was 16. And each time I try to read those books called the “feminists classics” I get bored, and I really struggle to finish them. But anyway, since feminism was un-African, I decided I would now call myself a happy African feminist. At some point I was a happy African feminist who does not hate men and who likes lip gloss and who wears high heels for herself but not for men. Of course a lot of this was tongue-in-cheek, but that word “feminist” is so heavy with baggage, negative baggage. You hate men, you hate bras, you hate African culture, that sort of thing.

Now, here’s a story from my childhood. When I was in primary school, my teacher said at the beginning of term that she would give the class a test, and whoever got the highest code would be the class monitor. Now, class monitor was a big deal. If you were a class monitor, you got to write down the names of noise-makers, which was heady enough power in its own. But my teacher would also give you a cane to hold in your hand while you walked around and patrolled the class for noise-makers. Now, of course you were not actually allowed to use the cane, but it was an exciting prospect for the 9-year-old me. I very much wanted to be the class monitor, and I got the highest score on the test. Then to my surprise my teacher said that the monitor had to be a boy. She had forgotten to make that clear earlier because she assumed it was obvious. A boy had the second highest score on the test and he would be monitor. Now what was even more interesting about this is that the boy was a sweet gentle soul who had no interest in patrolling the class with a cane. While I was full of ambition to do so. But I was female and he was male, and so he became the class monitor. And I’ve never forgotten that incident.

I often make the mistake of thinking that something that is obvious to me is just as obvious to everyone else. Now take my dear friend Louis, for example. Louis is brilliant progressive man and we would have conversations and he would tell me, “I don’t know what you mean by things being different or harder for women. Maybe in the past, but not now.” And I didn’t understand how Louis could not see what seemed so self-evident. Then one evening in Lagos, Louis and I went out with friends. And for people here who are familiar with Lagos, there’s that wonderful Lagos fixture, the sprinkling of energetic men who hang around outside establishments and very dramatically help you park your car. I was impressed with the particular theatrics of the man who found us a parking spot that evening. And so as we were leaving, I decided to leave him a tip. I opened my bag, put my hand inside my bag, brought out my money that I had earned from doing my work, and I gave it to the man. And he, this man who was very grateful and happy, took the money from me, looked across at Louis, and said, “Thank you, sir!” Louis looked at me surprised, and asked, “Why is he thanking me? I didn’t give him the money.” Then I saw realization dawn on Louis’s face. The man believed that whatever money I had had ultimately come from Louis, because Louis is a man.

Now, men and women are different. We have different hormones, we have different sexual organs, we have different biological abilities; women can have babies, men can’t, at least not yet. Men have testosterone, and are in general physically stronger than women. There are slightly more women than men in the world, about 52% of the world’s population is female. But most of the positions of power and prestige are occupied by men. The late Kenyan, Nobel Peace Laureate, Wangari Maathai, put it simply and well when she said,

The higher you go the fewer women there are.

In the recent US elections we kept hearing of the Lilly Ledbetter Law. And if we go beyond the nicely alliterative name of that law, it was really about a man and a woman doing the same job, being equally qualified and the man being paid more because he is a man. So, in a literal way, men rule the world. And this made sense a thousand years ago. Because human beings lived then in a world in which physical strength was the most important attribute for survival. The physically stronger person was more likely to lead. And men in general are physically stronger; of course, there are many exceptions. But today we live in a vastly different world. The person more likely to lead is not the physically stronger person, it is the more creative person, the more intelligent person, the more innovative person, and there are no hormones for those attributes. A man is as likely as a woman to be intelligent, to be creative, to be innovative. We have evolved, but it seems to me that our ideas of gender have not evolved.

Some weeks ago I walked into the lobby of one of the best Nigerian hotels. And a guy at the entrance stopped me and asked me annoying questions. Because the automatic assumption is that a Nigerian female walking into a hotel alone is a sex worker. And, by the way, why do these hotels focus on the ostensible supply rather than the demand for sex workers. In Lagos, I cannot go alone into many reputable bars and clubs. They just don’t let you in if you are a woman alone. You have to be accompanied by a man. Each time I walk into a Nigerian restaurant with a man, the waiter greets the man and ignores me. The waiters are products of a society that has taught them that men are more important than women. And I know the waiters don’t intend any harm, but it is one thing to know intellectually, and quite another to feel it emotionally. Each time they ignore me, I feel invisible. I feel upset. I want to tell them that I am just as human as the man, that I am just as worthy of acknowledgement. These are little things but sometimes it’s the little things that sting the most.

Now, not long ago I wrote an article about what it means to be young a female in Lagos and an acquaintance told me it was so angry. Of course it was angry. I am angry. Gender as it functions today is a grave injustice. We should all be angry. Anger has a long history of bringing about positive change, but in addition to being angry, I’m also hopeful because I believe deeply in the ability of human beings to make and remake themselves for the better.

Gender matters everywhere in the world, but I want to focus on Nigeria, and on Africa in general, because it is where I know and because it is where my heart is. And I would like today to ask that we begin to dream about and plan for a different world. A fairer world. A world of happier men and happier women who are truer to themselves. And this is how to start. We must raise our daughters differently. We must also raise our sons differently. We do a great disservice to boys in how we raise them. We stifle the humanity of boys. We define masculinity in a very narrow way. Masculinity becomes this hard small cage and we put boys inside the cage. We teach boys to be afraid of fear. We teach boys to be afraid of weakness, of vulnerability. We teach them to mask their true selves because they have to be, in Nigeria speak, “hard man.”

In secondary school, a boy and a girl, both of them teenagers, both of them with the same amount of pocket money would go out and the boy would be expected always to pay, to prove his masculinity. And yet we wonder why boys are more likely to steal money from their parents. What if both boys and girls were raised not to link masculinity with money? What if the attitude was not, “The boy has to pay,” but rather, “Whoever has more, should pay.” Now, of course because of the historical advantage, it is mostly men who will have more today. But if we start raising children differently, then in fifty years, in a hundred  years, boys will no longer have the pressure of having to prove this masculinity.

But by far the worst thing we do to males, by making them feel that they have to be hard, is that we leave them with very fragile egos. The more “hard man” a man feels compelled to be, the weaker his ego is. And then we do a much greater disservice to girls because we raise them to cater to fragile egos of men. We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, “You can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful, otherwise you would threaten the man. If you are the bread winner in your relationship with a man, you have to pretend that you’re not. Especially in public. Otherwise you will emasculate him.” But what if we question the premise itself? Why should a woman’s success be a threat to a man. What if we decide to simply dispose of that word, and I don’t think there is an English word I dislike more than, “emasculation.”

A Nigerian acquaintance once asked me if I was worried that men would be intimidated by me. I was not worried at all. In fact it had not occurred to me to be worried because a man who will be intimidated by me is exactly the kind of man I would have no interest in. But still I was really struck by this. Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Now, marriage can be a good thing. It can be a source of joy and love and mutual support, but why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same?

I know a woman who decided to sell her house because she didn’t want to intimidate a man who might marry her. I know an unmarried women in Nigeria who, when she goes to conferences, wears a wedding ring, because according to her, she wants all the participants in the conference to give her respect. I know young women who are under so much pressure from family, from friends, even from work to get married, and they’re pushed to make terrible choices. A woman at a certain age who is unmarried, our society teaches her to see it as a deep personal failure. And a man, after a certain age isn’t married, we just think he hasn’t come around to making his pick.

It’s easy for us to say, “Oh, but women can just say ‘no’ to all of this.” But the reality is more difficult and more complex. We are all social beings. We internalize ideas from our socialization. Even the language  we use in talking about marriage and relationships illustrates this. The language of marriage is often the language of ownership, rather than the language of partnership. We use the word “respect” to mean something a women shows a man, but not often something a man shows a woman.

Both men and women in Nigeria will say — and this is an expression I am very amused by — “I did it for peace in my marriage.” Now, when men say it, it is usually about something that they should not be doing anyway. Sometimes it is something they say to their friends in a kind of [fundly] exasperated way. You know, something that ultimately proves how masculine they are, how needed, how loved. “Oh, my wife said I can’t go to the club every night, so for peace in my marriage I do it only on weekends.” Now, when a woman says, “I did it for peace in my marriage,” she is usually talking about having given up a job, a dream, a career. We teach females, that in relationships, ‘compromise’ is what women do. We raise girls to see each other as competitors, not for jobs, or for accomplishments — which I think can be a good thing — but for the attention of men. We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are. If we have sons, we don’t mind knowing about our sons’ girlfriends. But our daughters’ boyfriends, God forbid. But of course, when the time is right, we expect those girls to bring back the perfect man to be their husbands. We police girls. We praise girls for virginity, but we don’t praise boys for virginity. And it’s always made me wonder how exactly this is all suppose to work out, … [applause] I mean, the loss of virginity is usually a process that involves two people.

Recently a young woman was gang raped in a university in Nigeria. And the response of many young Nigerians, both male and female, was something along the lines of this: “Yes, rape is wrong. But what is a girl doing in a room with four boys?” Now, if we can forget the horrible inhumanity of that response, these Nigerians have been raised to think of women as inherently guilty. And they’ve been raised to expect so little of men that the idea of men as savage beings with out any control is somehow acceptable. We teach girls shame. “Close your legs. Cover yourself.” We make them feel as though being born female they’re already guilty of something. And so, girls grow up to be women who cannot say they have desire. They grow up to be women who silence themselves. They grow up to be women who cannot say what they truly think. And they grow up — and this is the worst thing we do to girls — they grow up to be women who have turned pretense into an art form.

I know a woman who hates domestic work. She just hates it. But she pretends that she likes it because she has been taught that to be good wife material she has to be — to use that Nigerian word — very “homely.” And then she got married, and after a while her husband’s family began to complain that she had changed. Actually, she had not changed. She just gotten tired of pretending.

The problem with gender is that it prescribes how we should be rather than recognizing how we are.

Now, imagine how much happier we would be, how much freer to be our true individual selves, if we didn’t have the weight of gender expectations. Boys and girls are undeniably different, biologically. But socialization exaggerates the differences, and then it becomes a self-fulfilling process.

Now take cooking for example. Today, women in general are more likely to do the housework than men, the cooking and cleaning. But why is that? Is it because women are born with a cooking gene? Or because over the years they have been socialized to see cooking as their role? Actually, I was going to say that maybe women are born with a cooking gene until I remembered that the majority of the famous cooks in the world who we give the fancy title of “chefs,” are men.

I used to look at my grandmother who was a brilliant, brilliant woman and wonder how she would have been if she had the same opportunities as men when she was growing up. Now today, there are many more opportunities for women than there were during my grandmother’s time because of changes in policy, changes in law, all of which are very important. But what matters even more is our attitude, our mindset, what we believe and what we value about gender.

What if, in raising children, we focus on ability, instead of gender? What if, in raising children, we focus on interest, instead of gender? I know a family who have a son and a daughter, both of whom are brilliant at school, who are wonderful, lovely children. When the boy is hungry, the parents say to the girl, “Go and cook [noodles] for your brother.” Now, the girl doesn’t particularly like to cook [noodles], but she’s a girl, and so she has to. Now, what if the parents, from the beginning, taught both the boy and the girl to cook [noodles]? Cooking, by the way is a very useful skill for a boy to have. I’ve never thought it made sense to leave such a crucial thing, the ability to nourish one’s self, in the hands of others. [applause]

I know a woman who was the same degree and the same job as her husband. When they get back from work, she does most of the house work, which I think is true for many marriages. But what struck me about them is that whenever her husband changed the baby’s diaper, she said, “Thank you” to him. Now, what if, she saw this as perfectly normal and natural that he should in fact care for his child?

I’m trying to unlearn many of the lessons of gender that I internalized when I was growing up. But I sometimes still feel very vulnerable in the face of gender expectations. The first time I taught a writing class in graduate school, I was worried. I wasn’t worried about the material I would teach, because I was well prepared and I was going to teach what I enjoyed teaching. Instead, I was worried about what I was going to wear. I wanted to be taken seriously. I knew that because I was female, I would automatically have to prove my worth, and I was worried that if I looked too feminine, I would not be taken seriously. I really wanted to wear my shiny lip gloss and my girly skirt, but I decided not to. Instead, I wore a very serious, very manly, and very ugly suit. Because the sad truth is that when it comes to appearance, we start off with men as the standard, as the norm. If a man is getting ready for a business meeting, he doesn’t worry about looking too masculine, and therefore not being taken [for granted] [seriously?]. If a woman is getting ready for a business meeting, she has to worry about looking too feminine, and what it says, and whether or not she will be taken seriously. I wish had not worn that ugly suit that day. I’ve actually banished from my closet, by the way. Had I then, the confidence that I have now, to be myself, my students would have benefited even more from my teaching because I would have been more comfortable, and more truly myself.

I have chosen to no longer be apologetic for my femaleness and my femininity. And I want to be respected in all of my femaleness because I deserve to be.

Gender is not an easy conversation to have for both men and women. To bring up gender is sometimes to encounter an almost immediate resistance. I can imagine some people here actually thinking, “Women [–?]” Some of the men here might be thinking, “Okay, all of this is interesting, but I don’t think like that.” And that is part of the problem. That many men do not actively think about gender or notice gender, is part of the problem of gender. That many men say, like my friend Louis, “But everything is fine now.” And that many men do nothing to change it. If you are a man and you walk into a restaurant with a woman and the waiter greets only you, does it occur to you to ask the waiter, “Why haven’t you greeted her?”

Because gender can be a very uncomfortable conversation to have, there are very easy ways to close it, to close the conversation. So, some people will bring up evolutionary biology and apes, how female apes bow down to male apes and that sort of thing. But the point is, we’re not apes. [applause] Apes also live on trees, and have earthworms for breakfast, and we don’t. Some people will say, “Well, poor men also have a hard time.” And this is true. But this is not what this conversation is about. Gender and class are different forms of oppression. I actually learned quite a bit about systems of oppression and how they can be blind to one another by talking to black men. I was once talking to a black man about gender and he said to me, “Why do you have to say ‘my experience as a woman’? Why can’t it be ‘my experience as a human being’?” Now, this is the same man who would often talk about his experience as a black man.

Gender matters. Men and women experience the world differently. Gender colors the way we experience the world. But we can change that. Some people will say, “Oh, but women have the real power, bottom power.” And for non-Nigerians, “bottom power” is an expression in which I suppose means something like a woman who uses her sexuality to get favors from men. But “bottom power” is not power at all. Bottom power means that a woman simply has a good root to tap into, from time to time, somebody else’s power. And then of course we have to wonder when that somebody else is in a bad mood, or sick or sick or impotent.

Some people will say that a woman being subordinate to a man is our culture. But culture is constantly changing. I have beautiful twin nieces who are 15 who live in Lagos. If they had been born 100 years ago, they would have been taken away and killed because it was our culture, it was our culture, the Ibo/Igbo culture to kill twins. So, what is the point of culture. I mean, there is the decorative — the dancing — but also culture is really about the preservation and continuity of a people. In my family, I am the child who is most interested in the story of who we are in our traditions and the knowledge of ancestral lands. My brothers are not as interested as I am, but I cannot participate. I cannot go to a [–] meetings, I cannot have a say, because I am female.

Culture does not make people. People make culture.

So if it is in fact true that the full humanity of women is not our culture, then we must make it our culture.

I think very often of my dear friend [–]. May he and others who past away in that [–] crash continue to rest in peace. He will always be remembered by those of us who loved him. And he was right, that day many years ago, when he called me a feminist. I am a feminist. And when I looked up that word in the dictionary that day, this is what it said:

feminist : a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.

My great-grandmother, from the stories I’ve heard, was a feminist. She ran away from the house of a man she did not to marry and ended up marrying the man of her choice. She refused, she protested, she spoke up, whenever she felt she was being deprived of access of land, that sort of thing. My great-grandmother did not know that word, “feminist.” But it doesn’t means that she wasn’t one. More of us should reclaim that word.

My own definition of feminist is:

feminist : a man or a woman who says, “Yes, there’s a problem with gender as it is today, and we must fix it, we must do better.”

The best feminist I know is my brother [–]. He is also a kind, good-looking, lovely man, and he is very masculine.

Thank you.

Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hg3umXU_qWc

Hiding the Pain: The Emotional Repression of Men

By: @TheBlackVoice

 

Men aren’t supposed to cry. Men aren’t supposed to hug. Men aren’t supposed to say how we truly feel. Men aren’t supposed to be afraid. Men aren’t supposed to be wrong. I could keep going on with the long list of things men aren’t supposed to do, as I’ve had “man-laws” drilled into my head for decades. The worst law I learned in the school of manhood, is the one saying that men aren’t supposed to feel.

As men we are taught that any emotions other than anger or lust are signs of weakness. Weakness is like kryptonite to patriarchal masculinity, so no man ever wants to show any indication of it. Whenever our emotions do come up, we do our best to hide them. We front, so we won’t be exposed and have our manhood challenged.

I often hear the conversation about how emotionally insecure women are. I find this surprising because I believe that men are more or just as emotionally insecure as women. My logic behind this statement is quite simple. The patriarchal definition of masculinity in this society does not allow men to express our emotions. Emotions such as fear, pain, and sadness are swept under the rug. They’re not to be seen by society, because a man’s (defined by patriarchal masculinity) greatest fear is to be perceived as weak or soft.

The emotional crippling of men is destructive to the mental and physical health of men and society in general. All men feel, because we are humans. Feelings of empathy, fear, anxiety, patience, love, and compassion are not just specific emotions that women express. The human spirit contains a wide variety of emotions. Patriarchal masculinity attempts to suppress these emotions, which in turn creates broken men. Men who cannot express the fullness of their emotions are broken.

One of the biggest coping mechanisms of this emotional repression is foolish pride. Foolish pride enables us to shield ourselves from personal insecurities, rather than dealing with them. Basically it is a process of deflection. When we are afraid, we deflect. When we are hurt, we deflect. When are unsure, we deflect. Any emotion or action that goes against the “guy code” gets deflected.

This front is something men do conscious and subconsciously. The conditioning of patriarchy is so deeply rooted that the emotional repression of men has become normalized. As long as men continue to use the front, we will never be able to heal from the wounds of this emotional paralysis. We can’t heal if we don’t feel. Men have to feel and own our pain. As a community we must create spaces where men can feel comfortable expressing their emotions without being shamed. We cannot build a powerful movement towards self-determination with broken men. Masculinity must be redefined in a way that uplifts our humanity, the humanity in men, women, and other genders. It’s time to stop fronting and start healing. Stay Woke.

 

8 Reasons Young Americans Don’t Fight Back

 How the US Crushed Youth Resistance

 

Republished from alternet.org
By Bruce E. Levine

Traditionally, young people have energized democratic movements. So it is a major coup for the ruling elite to have created societal institutions that have subdued young Americans and broken their spirit of resistance to domination.  

Young Americans—even more so than older Americans—appear to have acquiesced to the idea that the corporatocracy can completely screw them and that they are helpless to do anything about it. A 2010 Gallup poll asked Americans “Do you think the Social Security system will be able to pay you a benefit when you retire?” Among 18- to 34-years-olds, 76 percent of them said no. Yet despite their lack of confidence in the availability of Social Security for them, few have demanded it be shored up by more fairly payroll-taxing the wealthy; most appear resigned to having more money deducted from their paychecks for Social Security, even though they don’t believe it will be around to benefit them.  

How exactly has American society subdued young Americans? 

1. Student-Loan Debt. Large debt—and the fear it creates—is a pacifying force. There was no tuition at the City University of New York when I attended one of its colleges in the 1970s, a time when tuition at many U.S. public universities was so affordable that it was easy to get a B.A. and even a graduate degree without accruing any student-loan debt. While those days are gone in the United States, public universities continue to be free in the Arab world and are either free or with very low fees in many countries throughout the world. The millions of young Iranians who risked getting shot to protest their disputed 2009 presidential election, the millions of young Egyptians who risked their lives earlier this year to eliminate Mubarak, and the millions of young Americans who demonstrated against the Vietnam War all had in common the absence of pacifying huge student-loan debt.

Today in the United States, two-thirds of graduating seniors at four-year colleges have student-loan debt, including over 62 percent of public university graduates. While average undergraduate debt is close to $25,000, I increasingly talk to college graduates with closer to $100,000 in student-loan debt. During the time in one’s life when it should be easiest to resist authority because one does not yet have family responsibilities, many young people worry about the cost of bucking authority, losing their job, and being unable to pay an ever-increasing debt. In a vicious cycle, student debt has a subduing effect on activism, and political passivity makes it more likely that students will accept such debt as a natural part of life. 

2. Psychopathologizing and Medicating Noncompliance. In 1955, Erich Fromm, the then widely respected anti-authoritarian leftist psychoanalyst, wrote, “Today the function of psychiatry, psychology and psychoanalysis threatens to become the tool in the manipulation of man.” Fromm died in 1980, the same year that an increasingly authoritarian America elected Ronald Reagan president, and an increasingly authoritarian American Psychiatric Association added to their diagnostic bible (then the DSM-III) disruptive mental disorders for children and teenagers such as the increasingly popular “oppositional defiant disorder” (ODD). The official symptoms of ODD include “often actively defies or refuses to comply with adult requests or rules,” “often argues with adults,” and “often deliberately does things to annoy other people.”

Many of America’s greatest activists including Saul Alinsky (1909–1972), the legendary organizer and author of Reveille for Radicals and Rules for Radicals, would today certainly be diagnosed with ODD and other disruptive disorders. Recalling his childhood, Alinsky said, “I never thought of walking on the grass until I saw a sign saying ‘Keep off the grass.’ Then I would stomp all over it.” Heavily tranquilizing antipsychotic drugs (e.g. Zyprexa and Risperdal) are now the highest grossing class of medication in the United States ($16 billion in 2010); a major reason for this, according to theJournal of the American Medical Association in 2010, is that many children receiving antipsychotic drugs have nonpsychotic diagnoses such as ODD or some other disruptive disorder (this especially true of Medicaid-covered pediatric patients). 

3. Schools That Educate for Compliance and Not for Democracy. Upon accepting the New York City Teacher of the Year Award on January 31, 1990, John Taylor Gatto upset many in attendance by stating: “The truth is that schools don’t really teach anything except how to obey orders. This is a great mystery to me because thousands of humane, caring people work in schools as teachers and aides and administrators, but the abstract logic of the institution overwhelms their individual contributions.” A generation ago, the problem of compulsory schooling as a vehicle for an authoritarian society was widely discussed, but as this problem has gotten worse, it is seldom discussed.

The nature of most classrooms, regardless of the subject matter, socializes students to be passive and directed by others, to follow orders, to take seriously the rewards and punishments of authorities, to pretend to care about things they don’t care about, and that they are impotent to affect their situation. A teacher can lecture about democracy, but schools are essentially undemocratic places, and so democracy is not what is instilled in students. Jonathan Kozol in The Night Is Dark and I Am Far from Home focused on how school breaks us from courageous actions. Kozol explains how our schools teach us a kind of “inert concern” in which “caring”—in and of itself and without risking the consequences of actual action—is considered “ethical.” School teaches us that we are “moral and mature” if we politely assert our concerns, but the essence of school—its demand for compliance—teaches us not to act in a friction-causing manner.  

4. “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top.” The corporatocracy has figured out a way to make our already authoritarian schools even more authoritarian. Democrat-Republican bipartisanship has resulted in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, NAFTA, the PATRIOT Act, the War on Drugs, the Wall Street bailout, and educational policies such as “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top.” These policies are essentially standardized-testing tyranny that creates fear, which is antithetical to education for a democratic society. Fear forces students and teachers to constantly focus on the demands of test creators; it crushes curiosity, critical thinking, questioning authority, and challenging and resisting illegitimate authority. In a more democratic and less authoritarian society, one would evaluate the effectiveness of a teacher not by corporatocracy-sanctioned standardized tests but by asking students, parents, and a community if a teacher is inspiring students to be more curious, to read more, to learn independently, to enjoy thinking critically, to question authorities, and to challenge illegitimate authorities. 

5. Shaming Young People Who Take EducationBut Not Their SchoolingSeriously. In a 2006 survey in the United States, it was found that 40 percent of children between first and third grade read every day, but by fourth grade, that rate declined to 29 percent. Despite the anti-educational impact of standard schools, children and their parents are increasingly propagandized to believe that disliking school means disliking learning. That was not always the case in the United States. Mark Twain famously said, “I never let my schooling get in the way of my education.” Toward the end of Twain’s life in 1900, only 6 percent of Americans graduated high school. Today, approximately 85 percent of Americans graduate high school, but this is good enough for Barack Obama who told us in 2009, “And dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It’s not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country.”

The more schooling Americans get, however, the more politically ignorant they are of America’s ongoing class war, and the more incapable they are of challenging the ruling class. In the 1880s and 1890s, American farmers with little or no schooling created a Populist movement that organized America’s largest-scale working people’s cooperative, formed a People’s Party that received 8 percent of the vote in 1892 presidential election, designed a “subtreasury” plan (that had it been implemented would have allowed easier credit for farmers and broke the power of large banks) and sent 40,000 lecturers across America to articulate it, and evidenced all kinds of sophisticated political ideas, strategies and tactics absent today from America’s well-schooled population. Today, Americans who lack college degrees are increasingly shamed as “losers”; however, Gore Vidal and George Carlin, two of America’s most astute and articulate critics of the corporatocracy, never went to college, and Carlin dropped out of school in the ninth grade. 

6. The Normalization of Surveillance. The fear of being surveilled makes a population easier to control. While the National Security Agency (NSA) has received publicity for monitoring American citizen’s email and phone conversations, and while employer surveillance has become increasingly common in the United States, young Americans have become increasingly acquiescent to corporatocracy surveillance because, beginning at a young age, surveillance is routine in their lives. Parents routinely check Web sites for their kid’s latest test grades and completed assignments, and just like employers, are monitoring their children’s computers and Facebook pages. Some parents use the GPS in their children’s cell phones to track their whereabouts, and other parents have video cameras in their homes. Increasingly, I talk with young people who lack the confidence that they can even pull off a party when their parents are out of town, and so how much confidence are they going to have about pulling off a democratic movement below the radar of authorities? 

7. Television. In 2009, the Nielsen Company reported that TV viewing in the United States is at an all-time high if one includes the following “three screens”: a television set, a laptop/personal computer, and a cell phone. American children average eight hours a day on TV, video games, movies, the Internet, cell phones, iPods, and other technologies (not including school-related use). Many progressives are concerned about the concentrated control of content by the corporate media, but the mere act of watching TV—regardless of the programming—is the primary pacifying agent (private-enterprise prisons have recognized that providing inmates with cable television can be a more economical method to keep them quiet and subdued than it would be to hire more guards).

Television is a dream come true for an authoritarian society: those with the most money own most of what people see; fear-based television programming makes people more afraid and distrustful of one another, which is good for the ruling elite who depend on a “divide and conquer” strategy; TV isolates people so they are not joining together to create resistance to authorities; and regardless of the programming, TV viewers’ brainwaves slow down, transforming them closer to a hypnotic state that makes it difficult to think critically. While playing a video games is not as zombifying as passively viewing TV, such games have become for many boys and young men their only experience of potency, and this “virtual potency” is certainly no threat to the ruling elite. 

8. Fundamentalist Religion and Fundamentalist Consumerism. American culture offers young Americans the “choices” of fundamentalist religion and fundamentalist consumerism. All varieties of fundamentalism narrow one’s focus and inhibit critical thinking. While some progressives are fond of calling fundamentalist religion the “opiate of the masses,” they too often neglect the pacifying nature of America’s other major fundamentalism. Fundamentalist consumerism pacifies young Americans in a variety of ways. Fundamentalist consumerism destroys self-reliance, creating people who feel completely dependent on others and who are thus more likely to turn over decision-making power to authorities, the precise mind-set that the ruling elite loves to see. A fundamentalist consumer culture legitimizes advertising, propaganda, and all kinds of manipulations, including lies; and when a society gives legitimacy to lies and manipulativeness, it destroys the capacity of people to trust one another and form democratic movements. Fundamentalist consumerism also promotes self-absorption, which makes it difficult for the solidarity necessary for democratic movements.  

These are not the only aspects of our culture that are subduing young Americans and crushing their resistance to domination. The food-industrial complex has helped create an epidemic of childhood obesity, depression, and passivity. The prison-industrial complex keeps young anti-authoritarians “in line” (now by the fear that they may come before judges such as the two Pennsylvania ones who took $2.6 million from private-industry prisons to ensure that juveniles were incarcerated). As Ralph Waldo Emerson observed: “All our things are right and wrong together. The wave of evil washes all our institutions alike.”

 

Bruce E. Levine is a clinical psychologist and author of Get Up, Stand Up: Uniting Populists, Energizing the Defeated, and Battling the Corporate Elite  (Chelsea Green, 2011). His Web site is www.brucelevine.net

Light skin vs Dark skin

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By March 12, 2014

ONE DAY while walking with some family members on Philadelphia’s South St., I said, “I love those light skin girls with that long hair. They look beautiful.”

It bounced off my 15-year-old tongue effortlessly, landing in the eardrums of my aunt.

She quickly responded, “Oh you like those light girls. You one of those House Niggas. That’s what your name is. House Nigga.”

My jaw dropped as I tried to win my Black Card back. “I didn’t mean in like that.”

I was young and already walking the streets with a color complex constructing my attraction to girls based on the shade of their skin. My aunt called me “House Nigga” for the next 10 years, constantly helping me relive that moment. I was influenced by the images in my environment, mainly from television screens and magazines.

I thought back to that moment on South Street last week while I was reading the Willie Lynch letter to a group of students in a classroom.  The conversation was intense.

“Have you all seen the stuff on social media where people are posting ‘Team Dark Skin’ and ‘Team Light Skin?’

Nearly all of the students said yes.

“Ok. I got it,” I said. “Y’all know about it. How do y’all feel about it?”

“I don’t like being dark skin,” one of them said. “I know I’m black. I just feel so heavy with blackness. I just don’t like being black. In the summer it’s the worst. I turn into the Grim Reaper.”

His words turned the room into a quiet asylum. There was no refuge from the words he had just shared. After years of teaching I am sad to say his words did not shock me, but the boldness with which he spoke them did. With his face wrinkled in disgust he pointed to his skin, barely wanting to touch his arms while expressing his disdain for his tone. We watched him as his self-esteem was being placed in a coffin of hatred.

Another student said, “I don’t like light skin people because they are stuck up and conceited. They think they better than us. When I was pregnant I said to my stomach don’t let this baby come out light skin. Don’t you know that baby came out light skin? I was mad!! Until the baby got a lil’ chocolate a couple months later.”

The students’ laughter bellowed against the walls. I whispered a muted anger blended with frustration inside.

I then read Lupita Nyong’o’s words: “I tried to negotiate with God. I told him I would stop steeling sugar cubes at night if he gave me what I wanted. I would listen to my mother’s every word and never lose my school sweater again if he just made me a little lighter. But, I guess God was unimpressed with my bargaining chips because I never woke up lighter.”

The classroom fell silent again like an atomic bomb of reality had just mushroomed, destroying all we knew. We sat staring at one another with a new beginning. All of us. It was an unexpected moment of silence. A moment where I could no longer hear the term, “House Nigga.” Just the wheels of learning turning.

We have to teach these young people how to love, how to dream, how to plan, how to archive before it is all lost. We even have to teach them to love themselves.

The discredited value of blackness is deeply engrained in these young people, and as we strive to hold on to the heritage, culture and self-love we have left, it’s imperative we show our children that the value of their person should not be determined by the shade of their skin. That value comes when you discover you personal power and cherish every breath you have….

Source: http://www.solomonjones.com/light-skin-vs-dark-skin/


corbin thumbnailGreg Corbin is a poet and teacher. He pens the Real Talk feature for Solomonjones.com

 

 

 

George Zimmerman signs autographs at Orlando gun show

ORLANDO, Fla. —George Zimmerman was shaking hands, smiling and signing autographs at a central Florida gun show Saturday

Zimmerman greeted people and autographed photos of him posing with his dog. He appeared at a scaled-down version of the New Orlando Gun Show at the Arms Room store on East Colonial Drive.

The show was originally set to be held at the Majestic on John Young Parkway, but organizers said the venue canceled late Thursday after getting negative feedback about Zimmerman’s planned appearance.

“They told us they canceled for community pressure,” said Mike Piwowarski, a show organizer. “They were getting phone calls and backlash, and didn’t want that kind of person there.”

Piwowarski said he was angry the Majestic canceled the event and he plans to sue for an estimated $300,000 in lost gun sales.

He said he supported Zimmerman during his trial in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin and after he was acquitted.

Zimmerman offered to return the favor and support Piwowarski’s gun business, which led to today’s appearance, he said.

Trayvon Martin Still Lives Within Us #BLACKLIVESMATTER

COMMENTARY: In the Wake of Trayvon Martin’s Death, Black Men Are Still Under Fire

Today marks the second anniversary of Trayvon Martin’s senseless death. The unarmed teenager was gunned down by security guard/wannabe cop George Zimmerman on February 26, 2012 in Sanford, Florida while walking home from a convenience store.

Although told to stand down by police after reporting Martin as “suspicious” Zimmerman followed the teen and confrontation ensued. He shot Martin in the heart, saying he felt threatened by a slim, good-natured 17-year-old carrying a bag of Skittles. Acquitted on all charges by a Florida jury, to this day Zimmerman has not expressed one ounce of remorse for the tragic killing. So what have we learned in the two years since Trayvon’s tragic death?

 

We have learned that it’s still open season on black men – young and old – as white men are firing on black men for no apparent reason and then using “Stand Your Ground” laws as their sorry defense. Sadly, in some cases, the “Stand Your Ground” law is working. And we have learned that for some whites, black life – and the lives of black males in particular –means absolutely nothing.

There have been many rallies, vigils, protests and sermons about Trayvon’s death and, no doubt, there will be more. Today, I reflected on a statement by President Barack Obama after he was criticized by some conservatives last year for weighing in on Zimmerman’s acquittal.

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“The death of Trayvon Martin was a tragedy,” Obama said. “Not just for his family, or for any one community, but for America. I know this case has elicited strong passions. And in the wake of the verdict, I know those passions may be running even higher. But we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken. I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son.”

“We should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities,” Obama said. “We should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis. We should ask ourselves, as individuals and as a society, how we can prevent future tragedies like this. As citizens, that’s a job for all of us. That’s the way to honor Trayvon Martin.”

It’s no secret that Black Americans have always been distrustful of the nation’s racially skewed judicial system.

“Our kids are still defined by the color of their skin,” Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon’s mother, told me last year.

I remain concerned for the safety of young black men while, regrettably, watching history repeat itself: First there was 14-year-old Emmitt Till, who was murdered in Mississippi in 1955 by white men who claimed Till was flirting with a white girl. In 1963 in Mississippi, NAACP field secretary Medgar Evers was shot to death in his own driveway by a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

And now there’s Trayvon Martin and more recently, Jordan Davis, another unarmed teenager who was shot and killed in Jacksonville, Florida, by Michael Dunn, a white engineer, simply because Jordan’s music was too loud. And let’s not forget Garrick Hopkins, 60, and Carl Hopkins Jr., 61, two brothers from West Virginia who were shot and killed by a white man, Rodney Bruce Black, 62, who thought the Hopkins brothers were trespassing on his land – when in fact, they were inspecting a shed on their own property.

The sad truth is that black men are no strangers to racial profiling.

Almost all of my black male friends have been racially profiled at some point during the lives – and that includes me. So what have we learned on the anniversary of Trayvon Martin’s death? We have learned that unfortunately, some white men will always see young black men as thugs and will shoot first — and then call a lawyer. And we have learned, I hope, that we must fight collectively to repeal “Stand Your Ground” laws in Florida and in other states across the country to prevent these pointless murders of young black men.

If we sit back and do nothing, shame on us. What do you think?

Source: http://blackamericaweb.com/2014/02/25/commentary-in-the-wake-of-trayvon-martins-death-black-men-are-still-under-fire/2/

Renisha McBride Killed After Asking For Help In White Neighborhood

Black Woman Killed After Asking For Help In White Neighborhood

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(pic courtesy of Fox 2 News)

You might be reading this headline and think that I am mistaking Renisha McBride with the name of Jonathan Ferrell. You will recall that Jonathan Ferrell is the 24 year old man killed by Charlotte Police after surviving a serious car accident. Ferrell was murdered after a resident called 911 when Ferrell knocked on her door for help. The police arrived and shot at unarmed Ferrell 12 times, 10 of those bullets hitting Ferrell. Sadly just a few months later a similar situation has happened.

Renisha McBride, a 19-year-old young woman from Detroit was involved in a car accident around 2:30am Saturday morning in the predominantly white Detroit suburb Dearborn Heights. McBride’s cell phone was dead and she knocked on the door of a Dearborn resident for assistance. At this moment McBride’s life was ended by the resident who shot her in the head right on his front porch.

The police are already up to their shady tricks, as they refuse to release the name of the resident, and have given mixed stories about whether or not McBride’s body was dumped somewhere other than residence. The police are saying that the shooter mistook McBride for an intruder and acted in self-defense (Michigan is a “stand your ground” state). At this moment no formal arrest have been made against the shooter. I don’t know any intruders that knock on doors, or stand on porches waiting for the residents to come the door. I would say that the resident should have called the police, but who’s to say the police wouldn’t have shot Renisha down in cold blood too? Let’s remember that the police were the ones that killed Jonathan Ferrell.

The real question is what steps will the people take? Renisha was only 19 years old, she was someone’s daughter, niece, cousin, and friend. Do we just add her name to the long list of Black lives eaten up by a vicious system that devours whenever it feels hungry? Or do we finally say enough is enough, and awaken, organize, and fight? If we choose to fight we must remember that we must not only fight individual acts of racism but institutional racism. These despicable acts of individual racism are reflective of deep rooted systemic racism, like symptoms of are reflective of a disease. In order to stop the symptoms we must cure the disease. The best thing we can do at this very moment is get Renisha’s story the attention it deserves. Pass this story onto every individual you know. People need to see the evil that still exists in this country. Our children need to know what they are facing every time they walk out the door. This time it was Renisha, next time it could be you or your loved one. Stay Woke

Please see Rania Khalek’s original post on Renisha McBride (http://raniakhalek.com/2013/11/06/black-detroit-woman-shot-to-death-while-seeking-help-in-white-neighborhood-after-car-crash/ )

About blacksankofa

Taurean Brown is an author, poet, speaker and activist. “You don’t have to agree, but I want you to think. Just trying to speak what I believe is the truth, and it is always out of love.”

Tonight by Cierra Farquharson

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I don’t want to play peace maker to my apathy and empathy and explain to people why I even feel the former in the first place …

– C. Farquharson

 

Tonight i dont feel like being an activist
I dont want to raise my right fist
And fight for rights we disillusioned ourselves into believing we had
I dont want to gather march rally
Or carry a sign
With a clever slogan
or the names faces and dates
Of those slain
I dont want to think about how my brother
Likes juice and candy as much as the next kid
Or how my sister and i shared a joke about orange juice
How both of them look so different
But are still considered niggers
No a ah uh
To soften the blow
I dont feel like being a teacher or a therapist
Imparting lessons I dont even believe anymore
To children ive been conditioned to think
Are guilty because of their choice in clothing
Or  judge them based on their latest social media posting
Telling them, “if you know better u do better”
Then trying to explain why even with training a wallet or a hair pick still looks like a gun
I dont want to tell students it was never safe to run
Or stand still
Or hide or fight
That “standing your ground” currently only works the White way
Or the green way
However you want to see it.
I dont want to have empathy
Or any feelings for the family of the childs body that still laid on the ground
After school was dismissed
Or offer desensitization and rap lyrics
As reasons why kids still traced the bloody outline
After the police finally came
And took him away
I dont want to play peacemaker to my apathy and empathy
And explain to ppl
Why i even feel the former in the first place
I dont want to tell them Trayvon has existed before
That his last name used to be Bell or Hawkins or Harlins, Wallace, or Shakur
That he emigrated from Africa
Thinking hed have it better over here
I dont want to explain my little laugh at the thought
Or find excuses for my cynicism
I dont want to feel tonight
Like i have to carry a borrowed race on my back
And my actions speak for the culture
Or God forbid the culture’s actions speak for me
I dont want to feel angry or disgusted
That ‘Trayvonning’
Is trending
I dont want to feel
Like i do all the other nights
Like i should find a common ground
Or create a middle space for ppl like me
Caught between tryna make it out of my hometown
And not forget where i came from
But knowing neither side accepts me anyway
Tonight…
I dont want to be different
Or the same
Or called out of my name…
By my own people
Cuz white folks aint even callin me
Tonight,
i just want
to be.

Written after ‘the Verdict’ 7-14-13

Copyright CFarquharson 2013