Wednesday, April 11, 2007

know thyself and choose wisely

i am disgusted that at least the first five minutes of my local tv newscast tonight were about the controversy surrounding that radio personality and that new jersey basketball team. i'm sure you've heard the story by now. he and his producer were yucking it up about the ladies on this team being nappy headed hos.


let me first say that i didn't find his comment amusing. i understand why those young ladies would be offended, and why others would be offended on their behalf. i think that when statements are made that have the effect of encouraging reprehensible attitudes, words, and actions, those of us who are offended should definitely speak out - go on record as calling out ignorance for what it is, lest that ignorance go unchecked, letting that which is reprehensible become commonplace.

that said, i have issues with this situation that have nothing to do with the man who issued the words. first, a little background: people in my city are dying at an alarming rate. we have more homicides in this city since the year began than there have been days in the year. i read an article decrying the lack of a qualified pool of job applicants in this city - a situation which has been brought about by the migration of low-skilled jobs out and the influx of specialized-skills jobs in, despite a school system that is strapped for cash and graduating students who can't compete in the workforce. i've read my fill of anonymous posters on local message boards condemning black people to death for a supposed cultural lack of values, because it's much easier to attribute the crime on eugenics than it is to admit that the apathy of law-abiding citizens allows the conditions that inevitably lead to high crime.

understandably, as i face the rest of my adulthood and my desire to have stability and a happy home life, my thoughts turn to home ownership. i am excited about getting ready for my own house... but i am concerned about crime, education, jobs, taxes, and while we're on these topics, the city's upcoming mayoral race. i want to know what is being done - or what i can do - to make things better here. conversely, i want to know if it behooves me as a future mother to get the hayle out of here before things get worse.

when i turn on the news, if i see people up in arms about something - marching, carrying signs, chanting, demanding accountability about something, i want to see that being done about something that will help keep our kids from harm. better education. better job training. better welfare-to-work programs. government accountability. that's what i want to see.

i don't want to have to roll my eyes when i hear one of that team's players say, in the flood of news coverage on this story, that she's been scarred for life by this insult. bless her heart. i don't know what country she grew up in, but just last year we had that michae.l ri.chards thing. before that, there was the james byrd thing. let's not forget the rodney king thing... i know she may have been in elementary school when that happened, but somebody had to have told her something. i wanted to put my arm around her and say, "my sister, i feel for you, but on the real? you need to D up." i find it hard to believe that nobody ever told her that no matter how talented, intelligent, or beautiful she may be, there will always be some misguided, hard hearted, ignorant somebody who will refuse to see her, or me, or our current secretary of state as anything but a black bitch. maybe someone did tell her and she didn't believe it, because she has been blessed with a life full of support and love. but now, i would advise her to chalk this up as a lesson learned: if you don't know, now you KNOW.

of course, this doesn't excuse ignorant, rude, crass, insensitive, boorish, base, shameful behavior. neither does this mean that we should enter the world with the same chip on our shoulder for which our loud, aggressive stereotype with her hand on her hip is so famous. from the moment our foremothers were first chained, stripped of all clothing and fondled and groped on some auction block centuries ago, we've been on notice: be strong and resilient in this place, and remember your dignity comes from within. those women knew scarred for life. being called a nappy headed ho is an incidental scratch. every black woman i know is bigger than those words, and it's our job to know it from within, no matter what that unfortunate soul said on the radio.

in any case, my point is that i never see al sh.arpton and friends unless he's fighting some b.s. battle over something that won't make it less likely for a young man be to be uneducated, unemployed, or shot to death. i don't know if that's because the media only selectively covers him when he's whining, or if it's because no matter when you catch him, that's all he ever does anyway. and unfortunately, it seems like i only see outrage over stupid isht like some disrespectful words, instead of over important issues, like when our children will finally be given the tools and instruction to get them reading at or above grade level. THAT is what is outrageous. i couldn't care less whether this radio jock gets fired or not. let's get some of these raggedy police commissioners who won't protect the public from criminals fired.

protecting our women from racism and sexism is important. so let's put our battles in their proper perspective. let's keep illegal guns from flooding our streets. let's shatter glass ceilings. let's stop predatory lending. let's find ways to employ our women and their boyfriends and husbands and sons. let's concentrate on stopping the spread of HIV. that's the kind of protection that can save lives and communities.