Thursday, April 23, 2009


In a way I think the elders had it better. No TV, no internet. No hyperstimulation. You can reflect on a lot while shelling peas, or snapping beans, or shucking ears of corn. Maybe too much convenience is a bad thing. I'm not saying I won't ever pop something in the microwave or send a text message again. I'm just saying maybe I need to slow down on conveniences more often.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

anybody understand the bailouts?

I'm no economist, and my thinking on such matters is largely uninformed and simplistic. That said, I'm not blogging here as an expert but a citizen who's trying to figure out what is going on. But you know what I think that this government bailout is? Trickle down economics, or as the link I've provided later calls it, the "horse-and-sparrow theory" - feed enough oats to the horse, and eventually enough will pass through so the birdies will have something to eat too. Let the companies that are "too big to fail" not fail by propping them up with government money, so that they don't go out of business, so that "regular people" won't lose jobs and their life savings due to a soured stock market. Except instead of tax breaks being given out like candy to the businesses, as people usually think of when they think of the trickle down economics theory, this time it's accountability breaks. The businesses are supposed to use the money to do better work and stay working. That's supposed to keep the economy from kicking the bucket and kicking our butts.

When I first heard about it, it sounded like a necessary evil to me, you know? My understanding is that the government, especially a Republican administration - and when this bailout stuff started, it started under President Bush (though I believe Senator and Presidential Candidate Obama agreed with the plan) - wouldn't want to participate so directly in the marketplace by giving companies money by buying stock in them. My understanding was that capitalism is all about the best competitors excelling in the marketplace, while the inadequate competitors fall by the wayside, encouraging excellence in competition. So, I figured, if the government, first under Bush and then under Obama, was going to participate in the marketplace by basically "betting" on certain struggling businesses that would hurt the public good if they crashed... well then, this must have been really necessary and our only option. It was all gloom and doom in the news. The stock market had people wigging out. At the time, I wasn't thinking, "This sounds like trickle down economics."

But as time passes, and the money has been given out in amounts much larger than I can even fathom, I am hearing that unemployment is still on the rise, that people are still losing big chunks of their life savings, and that the Congressional Oversight Panel isn't quite sure what's really happening to all this money - only some of it is accounted for and we're still not sure whether the equity the country purchased in these floundering companies will turn a profit, according to Elizabeth Warren of the Congressional Oversight Panel, which is in charge of watching what happens to the money.

I believe we were told that this was the best thing the government could come up with at the time to avoid worse consequences, but that no one knew for sure whether or not it would work. I wonder, would the unemployment gains and personal net worth erosions be even worse if we hadn't done this? Or are the problems we're seeing indicating that this plan isn't working? Is it too soon to tell? Either way, we already know that the businesses have benefited - they got the money. But what about the economy for the rest of us who are trying to hold on to jobs and retirement savings? See, that's been one of the criticisms of trickle down economics. We never know quite exactly when the horse isht produces food for the birds.

Monday, April 20, 2009

don't have to wait

You don't have to wait to thank God for things that you have asked Him to do for you. He is timeless. Go church! for reminding me of that.

You don't have to wait until something scary happens to tell people that you love them.

You don't have to wait for something to change in your life in order to enjoy it for what it is.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

communal brain damage

The Field Negro featured a story last night about a young sixth grade boy who was teased in his new school for being active in sports, the boy scouts, volunteering and going to church. It went on for months - calling him gay and teasing his clothes - and it didn't end until he committed suicide. His mother complained to the school. His school hardly did anything. The bullies were relentless. It really hit home for me because my sixth grade bullying experience was so similar. Here is my two cents on the matter, which I originally posted in the Field Negro's comments.

"that wasn't just homophobia. that was communal hatred of the pursuit of excellence. i relate to this boy's story - i went through the merciless teasing that happens when you're the new kid in a school and you stand out for the pursuit of excellence. if i had been a boy, they would have called me gay, too.

the teachers knew i was being teased because of how they fawned over me, but they didn't care, and they continued to do it. i was depressed. i tried to hate myself because everyone else did. i was 10/11 years old. my only resources were my parents. there were no counselors at my private school. and i imagine that this boy begged his mother NOT to come to the school, just like i did, knowing it would only have made the situation worse with the other kids.

he knew the school wasn't going to do anything about the teasing - adults don't take child teasing seriously. they don't see a line between friendly teasing and the chronic kind between enemies that makes you depressed and suicidal. they don't even think kids would get depressed like i did, or suicidal, like this young man. they think eventually the bullies will tire of the game, and that the victim will get over it with the resiliency adults think all children have. i can tell you that is not how it works. it took me years to get over what happened to me in the sixth grade. years.

and part of the problem is that black people, in fact low-income people of any race (whether or not they have pastors) often don't take mental illness seriously. it may not have occurred to this boy's mom that a shrink was necessary. she probably had no suspicion that he was so far gone that he would ever be tempted to kill himself. and her son probably covered it well by continuing to put on a front that nothing within him was changing. that's what i did. sometimes i would cry or complain, but when i realized nothing could be or would be done by adults, like when i was molested by another child, or when i was teased mercilessly at school, i got real stoic, and covered my inner turmoil as best i could.

some of our children are suffering in silence because they don't see any other way.

and too many adults don't think of bullying as life-or-death, wellness-or-illness dangerous to the well being of a victim. especially in low income black communities, where hazing is done both within the home and in the neighborhood from early ages, to harden children and make them tough enough for a world seen as inherently hostile. nobody wants their kid to be the soft one, and in the minds of parents like these, whoever their kid is picking on could probably use the toughening up, anyway, since the victim's parents obviously didn't do a good enough job of it. i have a friend whose three year old son is being targeted - not by strangers but by his own grandmother and father - as needing to toughen up. they don't want him to cry or ever act like his feelings are hurt. at three.

homophobia is part of the problem, yes, because of the 'gay' label, which children aren't just using for labeling homosexuals, but for any behavior they see as out of the stereotypes of what it means to be black, or appropriately hard - sometimes it doesn't have anything to do with gayness, but the fact that it connotes gayness is an added emphasis or bonus to the slur. 'not only are you acting like a soft white boy, but you like boys, too.'

this is a multifaceted problem that can't be solved by a lawsuit, or prayer without action, or a bunch of shrinks. it is a societal and cultural problem."

I survived my situation by the grace of God. I suppose I was resilient enough to keep taking it everyday without losing myself in the process. I got a into a fight with one of the popular girls, and afterwards, they respected me a little more, even though they still didn't like me. I shouldn't have had to physically fight and get in trouble to get respect - I was lucky it was one on one and that I didn't get jumped. I managed to make a few friends, which made avoiding the bullies easier. After a year, the worst of it passed. The next two years weren't as bad as the first. Mercifully, I then made it to high school where the teasing wasn't nearly as bad, since everyone there was reaching for good grades and college. But I was affected by distrust of my peers, insecurity, low self-esteem, and unsolicited hostility as a preemptive measure at least for the next four or five years after that. And looking at this young man's situation, I guess I got off easy.

Friday, April 10, 2009

fade to... well, not black

It's fair to say that when I was growing up, I watched way too much television. I was a bookworm and I wasn't an athlete. I preferred my own company to the company of some of the catty little girls who lived on my block, so that kept me in the house. So I loved watching television. Unlike my mom and dad, who grew up either without television, or with few and fleeting blacks on TV, there were lots of shows I could watch that had either lead black character or majority black casts that were either taping or were in syndication.

Among them were Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, Gimme a Break, The Jeffersons, Good Times, The Cosby Show, A Different World, 227, Amen, What's Happening, What's Happening Now, Benson, and Sanford and Son, just off the top of my head. Eventually I guess the major networks got tired of shows featuring blacks and the only place to find them were on the fledgling networks, which at that time included Fox, the WB, and UPN, which later merged with WB to become CW, by the time I was a teenager. These shows included New York Undercover, In Living Color, The Wayans Bros., Living Single... Occasionally, a major network show would pop up, like Family Matters, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, or rarely found black dramas, like City of Angels. I remember this one drama about a family with James Earl Jones in it - that didn't last long at all. There was another with Terrence Howard and Anna Maria Horsford that didn't get off the ground. There were lots of shows with black casts that didn't stick around long or like The Smart Guy and Girlfriends, got shuttled from network to network. The biggest sitcoms at the time didn't have any black characters in them at all. And most of the blacks you did find would be in multiracial ensemble casts, like on ER, or Boston Public, a trend which continues with Heroes, 24, House, Grey's Anatomy, Scrubs... I could go on. I guess we stopped being funny or interesting when I was a teenager.

We must really not be interesting now. In recent years, I can count network shows with black casts quickly and easily, and except for The (still underrated) Bernie Mac Show, they were all relegated to the fledgling network, CW. Girlfriends. Everybody Hates Chris. The Game. One on One. All Of Us. If you want to see black folks on TV, you better catch some old shows in syndication or get yourself some cable, 'cause all but one of those shows has been cancelled, and the one - ONE - remaining network show on TV with a majority black cast, The Game, is hanging on for dear life. I can't say it enough - ONE. It's not completely lonely on TV if you have cable, though. Tyler Perry's sitcoms - you know, the ones I can't sit through - are on TBS and running in syndication already on the fledgling MYNetworkTV. And I hear there's an actual family drama on the ABC Family channel called Lincoln Heights that's still in production for a couple more seasons. That's nice, and somewhat shocking. Of course, if you're into reality shows, there's plenty of black folks on those. Ray J/Flavor Flav meet supposedly-unscripted 'hoes", supposedly-unscripted "hoes" meet Ray J/Flavor Flav. Notice I haven't mentioned BET. As I understand it, they just seem to have reality shows in production. I'm talking about drama and comedy. Thank goodness for relative newcomer TV One, which picks up all the shows we miss that were cancelled too early, moved to bad time slots to be destined for failure, or simply not promoted well. But right now who is actually writing and producing stories about blacks and their families?

Anyway, I just want to say that I'm glad I grew up in what seems to be shaping up as the golden age - the peak, if you will - of being able to see black folks on television. There are people trying to save The Game now, by trying to convince the network to change it into an hour-long drama (since CW wants to quit sitcoms), and I hope it works. If it doesn't, there won't be any more majority black casts on TV. Wow. Unless, you know, one of the fledgling networks - which is pretty much just MYNetworkTV at this point - comes up with something for the 2009 fall season only to make enough money off advertising to black viewers to afford dumping them in 2011 to produce something more "mainstream." Which is funny to me because it's well known we black folks tend to be more loose with our disposable income than others. You'd think we'd be an audience worth keeping. And you'd think that the "mainstream" would be just as entertained by black casts now as they used to be when I was a kid. Oh well. What do I know?

I guess I better snap up some black shows on DVD for my unborn children.

Friday, April 03, 2009


I'm bout sick and tired of seeing Michelle Obama's name in the same sentence as "style" and "fashion." I'm not saying that she isn't stylish or fashionable, or that I think it's a bad thing per se to mention that she is. Shoot, I love to see pictures of her in the press myself. But something doesn't sit right with me about all the chatter about fashion. Seriously, it's like I'd rather they not mention her if all they're going to say, again, is that she's fashionable. Now I know that it's a conscious choice that she's making on her part to be a major policy advocate or to take an official advisory role in the President's administration. And maybe if she served more in that capacity, then maybe the press would have more occasion to talk about something other than what she's wearing. But still. I don't know. It's just starting to sound like a broken record. Is it just me?

edited: i meant to say that she made a choice NOT to be a major policy advocate or advisor. guess i was typing too fast. my apologies.