The Outlook

This isn't for the sensitive

Tyler Perry

2 posts on this blog in one day. Wow. Major record.

In this video, Tyler Perry discusses some of the criticism he’s recieved from people concerning some of the characters he has created, including Madea and Mr. Brown.

I feel what Tyler says here and I completely agree. As I said on Twitter:

 Black ppl have 2 STOP thinking every movie w/ black ppl in it has 2 reflect them

Over the last 30 years, we’ve seen quite a few types of black movies, ranging from Blaxploitation to movies about life in the hood. From stories of the upper echelon of black folks, to the very bottom. All types of black people have been portrayed, sometimes correctly, other times in correctly, in Hollywood.

I won’t go into the issue of whether or not black people are represented enough in Hollywood, because the answer is simple: we are not. The issue I have is this idea that black people seem to have that when they go watch a film starring/about black people, they are supposed to see themselves (and their 3 friends). That isn’t realistic. You and your 3 friends = 4 people, who are by no means representative of an entire group. I know we’d all love to see more films with black people of all types in it, the way we feel like we see films with all types of white people in them. I’d actually argue that there are plenty of groups of white people who are horridly under/mis-represented in film, but that’s another topic.

What Tyler Perry has long been able to do is make his plays relatable to his fanbase. TP figured out early on that there was a certain demographic within the black community who identified with his characters. They had a grandmother like Madea, an uncle like Mr. Brown. They too had a crackhead in their family, or had also dealt with spousal abuse. When they watch his plays and his films, they see themselves and their families. Those are the targets, for him.

If you don’t see yourself in any Tyler Perry film, that’s ok. Maybe his films aren’t for you. I don’t identify completely with Spike Lee’s “School Daze;” in fact, this film doesn’t describe my college experience at all, but I respect it not only because it’s a classic or because it’s a good film, but because there are many African-Americans who do see themselves in “Do The Right Thing” or “Crooklyn” or “School Daze” or any other Spike Lee Film. In fact, many black people didn’t like Spike Lee’s “Bamboozled” because they missed what he was trying to say. While not exactly the same, many people miss what Tyler Perry is trying to do: draw in an audience that is under/mis-represented in Hollywood with as he says, “disarming, funny, charming bait” and then he’s able to make larger points about God and love and relationships, for example.

There are plenty who argue that it’s not about who these films are or aren’t for, but that they gross so much money and make so much news on the backs of caricatures of black people that have been used for decades to degrade and humiliate an entire race of people. Look, I’ll be honest — if these movies were made by white filmmakers, we’d all be pissed and rightfully so. But that’s because there’s no way films like these could be made honestly. The caricatures and exaggerations that we reference when we call something “coonery” or “buffonery” are based on completely false stereotypes. Tyler Perry may exaggerate some things, but his characters are based stiffly and assuredly in someone’s truth, and if it’s not my truth I can be ok that it is’s someone’s truth.

Amos & Andy… (click the picture for more info on Amos and Andy’s history)

were not someone’s truth. They were completely falsified creations made up in a white man’s world based on the things white people thought were true about black people. Tyler Perry’s characters are based on people he knows, and if we’re all honest, people we know.

I think we need to get off Tyler Perry. He’s doing a lot of things no other black filmmaker has been able to do and I think it’s largely in part because he focused on a demographic that is incredibly loyal but had long been overlooked by most of Hollywood, even the black filmmakers. We can’t be upset with him for doing what no one else would and succeeding.

October 26, 2009 Posted by | Entertainment, Movies | | 1 Comment

(Black) Students Not Allowed

CNN is reporting on a story out of Chicago involving seniors from The Washington University in St. Louis, MO.

These seniors planned a trip to Chicago for their class with a culminating party at a bar in downtown, Chicago. They contacted the bar before they arrived, but when they got there, the white students were allowed in, and the black students were not. The bar claimed it was dress code violations that prevented the black students from entering, but the students not only claim they were told that even if they changed they would not be allowed in, but one pair of students two boys, one black, the other white tested the theory by switching their jeans. The white student was still allowed in, despite the fact that being 3 inches shorter than the black student, his new jeans were even more apparently baggy.

The students have contacted numerous organizations such as the ADL, and the Chicago Urban League. The chancellor of Washington University has written a letter to the mayor of Chicago.

I’m not actually surprised that in 2009 these things still happen. These days, I’m surprised that people are surprised by them. Further, it’s disheartening to know that people and organizations feel comfortable committing these blatantly racist acts with almost no apology. Of course the bar denies any wrongdoing and sticks by their “it was a dress code issue” defense, much like that swim club in Philadelphia that turned away a group of minority children but stuck by their “our pool couldn’t accomodate the large number of children” defense, even though the President of the club wrote a letter that included a comment that there was a concern that the children would change the “complexion” of the pool.

Not only do these blatantly racist acts continue to happen, but they insult our intelligence with these lame defenses. Usually the defenses aren’t much better, but they’re short just one requirement of qualifying as a racist act and the perpetrators know this. To keep someone out of your club based on dress code is a regularly used tactic to prevent people of a certain demographic from coming in, all the while keeping everything just right of wrong.

Don’t get me wrong — sometimes required dress is important. It helps an establishment maintain a certain level of clientele. Some restaurants have dress codes, it seems every club in DC has a dress code (regardless of target clientele), hell, even Morehouse is implemeting a dress code for it’s students. But what does it say when your dress code systematically leaves out only one race of people? Does it mean only one race of people have an issue with dress, or does it mean your dress code is problematic?

As a note, the club is claiming that they take these allegations seriously and have already begun revisiting their policies as well as the training of their employees. I hope the students at Washington University also take it seriously to stay on top of this, or it will become yesterday’s news before today is over, like so many other similar situations.

October 26, 2009 Posted by | News, Oh the ignorance of the world, Thank-you racist people | Leave a comment

Black Students Stepping Up For Black Students

I recently read a blog post at Field Negro about a girl named Chanequa Campbell.  I encourage you all to check out his blog, he is always on point. In his post he links to the site he found the information from and from there I found this news article written from the side of the Black Harvard student community. I encourage you to read that article as well, as it’s the basis for my commentary. I’ve also seen other commentary about this story out in the blogosphere through the lens of what happened to Professor Gates a few days ago.

Many individuals are concerned that while Dr. Gates has been able to draw a lot of attention to his situation, Chanequa Campbell and others like her are ignored by the media because they are poor and their story resonates, the media thinks, with very few.

Allow me to sum up her situation: A Harvard student was killed in a drug deal gone wrong. The accused killer was, at the time, dating a girl with whom Chanequa was friends. The Harvard administration, by some accounts, put both Campbell and her friend out of the dorm and prevented them both from graduating. Other accounts say that only Campbell was kicked out and blocked from graduation because her friend came from “the right side” of the tracks and had the clout and support to prevent Harvard from doing that to her, while Chanequa, a black student from a poor neighborhood, was at the administration’s mercy.

If the only thing Chanequa did wrong in this situation was to have the wrong types of friends, then shame on Harvard. However, I have a feeling that’s not the case.

Harvard’s black community has begun to recieve a lot of flack from the general blog community for not standing up for Chanequa. Many feel that the black students should have organized in a fashion similar to what some of Chanequa’s non-Harvard friends have done and petitioned the administration to allow her to graduate. Chanequa herself has criticized them and said that they have shunned and ostracized her because of where she’s from.

I went to a PWI very similar to Harvard (in fact, we say Harvard is the northern version of us…) I know what the black communities at schools like these can be like. Sometimes too quick to call racism when there is none and sometimes not as protective of each other as we should be. I’ve heard stories of what Harvard’s Black community is like and I think in some ways I’m a bit envious. They have major clout with their administration, but I know that’s from a LOT of hard work, a lot of give and take. They have story after story of standing up for their own when an injustice occurred and so I take pause when I see a situation where they don’t.

The article linked above mentions that some of the black students stayed away from Chanequa early on because she involved herself in the drug trade on campus. While no one in this article or elsewhere suggests that Chanequa was the cause of the Harvard student’s death, there seems to be implicit comment that Harvard’s reaction was not off base.

“People are pretty sure she did something, they just don’t know what,” said a Black classmate in Campbell’s graduating class, who requested anonymity. “We can’t rally behind somebody we don’t necessarily believe in.”

Clout is like money. You can spend it or you can hoard it. For the black community to rally behind Chanequa, they would spend some of the clout they’ve earned with Harvard. That would be fine if they all felt she’d been wronged but for them to be uneasy about spending the clout on her speaks volumes.

Some have suggested this is actually a class issue. Chanequa being the first to say that because she came from a poor neighborhood in New York, her fellow black students don’t want anything to do with her. What struck me, however, was the listing of how involved in the black community she was. Black students are shunned at PWIs. It happens all the time. If you are shunned, when someone writes about you, they won’t be able to say you were very involved… black people take the blacklisting very far.

I think the reality is that Chanequa involved herself in some subpar activity that her fellow students knew about. When the murder occurred, I’m sure the rumors began and I’m sure the rumors were based in some facts. When Harvard laid down their punishment the black community looked at what they knew and decided that it was best left alone. I don’t blame them. In schools like these the black community’s relationship with the administration is paramount. That relationship can make things easier or harder for the students that follow.

I don’t want to sound cold-hearted; I actually feel bad for Chanequa. I’m sorry that she worked hard at a school like Harvard and won’t be able to reap the rewards. I’m sorry that the black community didn’t feel comfortable stepping up for her. Ultimately, there’s nothing about this that is good.

July 24, 2009 Posted by | News, Ramblings, What in sam hell is going on?! | 2 Comments

Students Afraid of School

Family Afraid To Send Kids To School After Racist Death Threats Found on Bathroom Wall

I couldn’t embed the video, but make sure you watch it.

In short, these 3 boys attend a middle school where they are 1 of 12 black students. The school officials found in the bathroom some racial epithets and threats with their names and 3 other black students’ names also written. They’ve been out of school for a week or so, now, because they are scared for their safety. It’s the school official’s response, however, that concerns me most.

I went to a high school where I was one of 16 black students in my graduating class. At the time, we were the largest group of black students in any one class. So I empathize with what it must be like to be one of 12 at a middle school.

My concern with this story is that it’s NOT being taken seriously enough. Ultimately, prank or not (but this isn’t a prank, so we’re clear) there are students who believe this sort of speech and action is ok. These are the kids who grow up and start attacking and assaulting people because of their race, only for their parents to get on tv and say “he was such a fine young man.”

When situations like this occur, I fear that the appropriate officials feign concern for the cameras, but secretly make light of it. The reporter says the school administrators in this story thought it was probably a prank, but were still taking precautions. That doesn’t make me feel good. That makes me feel like they’ll beef up security but when nothing happens, they’ll feel justified in their prank assumptions, let their guard down and some child will be harmed.

This is bigger than potential school violence though. I read a comment on someone’s blog once. A commenter said something like “Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. Even stupid ones.” and I agree. I don’t really care about people being racist. I’m not seeking the end of racism, per se, as much as I want people to understand that you can think what you want, but what you think need not ever invade my space or effect my quality of life. These poor boys are living in fear, having no idea who it is that’s targeting them.

I’ll add this to my “You need proof racism still exists?” files. Unfortunately, people still need proof…

May 22, 2009 Posted by | Thank-you racist people | | Leave a comment

Conservatism and Black folk

The concept of a black republican is not still the anomoly it has been, but it’s still something many other black people have trouble understanding.

For the record, I do not consider myself a Republican. I am, though, perhaps a little more conservative than I may have thought previous to my current job. In fact, most black people are conservative. Our community is a conservative one. I think that if we, as a community, made it a priority to be educated on the issues and vote for candidates based more on their stances on issues than anything else, we’d find more of us voting for Republicans than we thought.

But let me say now, this is in no way going to be a post meant to encourage people to vote pro-Republicans. I don’t think the GOP deserves the minority vote, at all. I’m tempted to say neither does the Democrat party, but I’ll give them credit for at least looking like they care.

I don’t read very many black conservative blogs. I’ve tried to, I want to know the opinions and sides on every issue, but so many of them become fodder for “I’m not like the rest of the Negroes” that it becomes stomach-churning. I just want the opinion, preferably with something to back it up, and nothing else.

In all that, there seems to be the implication that a “true” black Republican is not like other black people. The fact of the matter is, there’s no deep difference between a black person who identifies with the Republican party’s ideology and a black person who identifies with the Democrat one, just like there’s no such difference between the two types in white America.

I think many black Republicans would argue with me and say they are attacked, and they are trying to defend themselves. I’d agree with that on some levels — but let’s consider a few things:
1) After Reconstruction, when black people were voted into Congress (and before Jim Crow laws all but slid that to a halt, in the South and eventually in the North) they were all Republicans. Why? Republican was the party of Lincoln — it was the party that had freed the slaves.
2) The shift of the black vote from Republican to Democrat has it’s roots in the move of the Dixiecrat party. In the 1930s, the Dems ideology shifted to one in support of many things they are known for today, such as civil rights and economic intervention. It was Harry Truman’s support to, essentially, end racial segregation that ran many Southern Democrats out of the party. These Dixiecrats would ultimately become Republicans.

It’s hard to imagine a person supporting a party that at one point was adamant about keeping their community down. It would be like a person who was a victim of a heinous crime, advocating for prisoner’s rights. Not too far-fetched, but definitely hard to understand. I think a lot of black Republicans struggle with explaining their stance in the face of what I like to call “black guilt.”

At last year’s Essence Festival, I recall a friend of mine recounting how he was all but harrassed to sign a petition in support of Barack Obama. At that time, he had not decided which potential Democrat nominee, Clinton or Obama, he wanted to support. He recalled the assertion many made that he wasn’t “black enough” because he didn’t immediately jump on the bandwagon. As black people we have a very “groupthink” way of going through life, and it’s not always good.

I’d like to see us as a community start to consider that what’s good for the goose isn’t always good for the gander and really start to get educated on the issues. But more importantly, we should empower each other to do that even if it means being different and not ridiculing each other. At the same time, I’d like to see black conservatives make a better effort to talk about why they hold their views. Not that this is about changing anyone’s ideologies, but you sure can attract more flies with honey than vinegar. I get the feeling, from far too many black Republicans, that they look down their noses at more liberal black folks. What’s that about??

May 13, 2009 Posted by | Politics | 1 Comment

Race in a Post-Racial Society

I really like J. Smooth. You should check him out (Google him, baby) and subscribe to his youtube videos. My man is the truth.

I like his comments on how Asher’s Twitter misstep is an interesting look in where we are, right now.

For anyone who has not yet been told, we are, contrary to initial reports, NOT in a post-racial society. I actually don’t think we’ll ever be in a post racial society; race is too much a part of who we are and what our history is. I don’t know that that’s a good thing, but I can’t say for sure that it’s a bad thing. In any case, it seems to me that a lot of people are waiting for us to get to a place with, essentially, no boundaries, like J.Smooth was talking about. Where we no longer have to care how our words sound to other people.

I presume it’s easy to wish for that, especially when you often find yourself in awkward situations. Just this afternoon, a co-worker of mine was trying to describe the black paint that her boyfriend sometimes wears under his eyes (the athletic black paint football players use). She misspoke and said “black face.” I knew she misspoke and I knew that’s not what he really wore, but the whole room paused and everyone turned to look at me. This idea that it would be, the lone black person, who decided if it was ok to let it slide or if there needed to be more. Everyone in that room knew it was an honest mistake, but it was up to me to decide for sure.

We’re never going to live in a society where race is truly not an issue. I think we shouldn’t even be working towards that. I believe we should be working towards doing away with the ignorance that makes race a problem. The ignorance that allows stores to send their employees to follow black people around stores, or allows Hispanics to be beat up and killed because they’re presumed to be illegal immigrants.

Our black president doesn’t change the fact that we have serious issues. What having a black president hopefully does is open up dialogue. I think we should get to a place where people aren’t afraid to speak their mind, no matter what, but also understand that there are still boundaries and lines we don’t cross. I’ve never understood why a white person would want “permission” to say the n-word, or why someone would want to be able to tell a race joke in mixed company and everyone find it funny. We should live in a society where that’s not what people want.

How about we find a place where we acknowledge race and how it brings us together and makes us excitingly different?

May 11, 2009 Posted by | Ramblings, Thank-you racist people | , | 1 Comment

Students Have Rights Too… Right?

Source: Seattle Times 

A Dean of Students at a school in Washington state turned over surveillance video of a student whose parents had asked that they be notified of any “unusual” behavior.

This surveillance video, meant to keep students safe, recorded this female student kissing another girl. The parents promptly removed her from the school when they learned of it.

Parents have the right to parent their children however they feel. So while there are a lot of things wrong with this story (like what constituted her kissing another girl as unusual) I want to focus on this idea of whose responsibility it is to monitor what your children are doing at any given time of the day.

Sure, teachers and babysitters and whomever else of authority that come into contact with your children everyday should be making sure they are safe, by any (generally speaking) means necessary. However, the parents were wrong for asking the school to spy on their daughter and the school was wrong for agreeing to do so. 

What about the student’s right? I’m one of those people that thinks we give children so many rights the parents don’t have any wiggle room to do their job, but come on already. Spying on your child at school via an administrator? What is that?? That’s not helping you be a good parent. A good parent would raise their child so that they could send them off and not have to be worried about what the child is doing when they’re not around, while also realizing that children and teenagers will do crazy things sometimes. What happened to letting kids grow up and learn from their own mistakes? Am I that old school?

Ultimately, I feel bad for this girl. She’s clearly got overprotective parents and that never bodes well in the long run.

May 8, 2009 Posted by | Could we overreact any more?, News, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Wake Up!

By now we’ve all heard of the foiled skinhead plot to kill Obama. Hopefully, we’ve all also, by now, come to terms with what this means about what lays ahead for Sen. Obama. Whether he is elected President of the United States or not, this man will forever have a target on his back. His wife will be marked as will his children. Why? Because there exists a faction of Americans who don’t think a non-white person, a person of color, is fit to run our country. Nevermind all the great contributions people of color have made, nevermind the fact that this country was more/less built on the backs of these same people of color, nevermind that our current state as a nation is due in LARGE part to the old white men who this faction thinks are the only ones fit to run our country.

However, I won’t focus on the racism. That’s self-explanatory. I want to focus on the relative surprise with which this story was recieved. My home state is Tennessee. I grew up in TN, and went to college in TN. TN is the home of a lot of great things, country music (Music City, USA); the late great singer Bessie Smith was from my hometown; good BBQ (Memphis); great football (TN Titans). The state’s nickname, The Volunteer State, comes from all the Volunteers who went to TX to help with the Battle of the Alamo. Alex Haley spent his first years in TN and is buried here. I could go on and on — but one thing TN is known for that I hate to admit is that the Ku Klux Klan was founded here, not far from where I went to school. So it came as no surprise to me that the skinheads who wanted to assassinate Obama AND murder some 88 black students and behead an additional 14, were from Tennessee.

6 days from today we may very well make history and elect our first African-American President. And when we do that, the target on his back will only grow larger. Black folks know this, we’ve known it since it became clear he would get the Democratic nomination and that he might actually win. It’s the all the white folks with their heads in the sand who worry me. These people who want to kill Obama will not go blabbing their plan to every Tom, Dick and Harry they see, especially if Tom, Dick and Harry are black. But they will share it with other whites who they assume share their feelings. I NEED everyone to be alert and accept that our country is a great place, but there are still people who haven’t moved into 2008 and most likely never will. I’m not concerned with holding up a mirror to their ignorance. I want to make sure that as long as they’re still living in the past we do our best to keep them behind us and not in front of us with guns.

October 29, 2008 Posted by | News, Oh the ignorance of the world, Ramblings, surprise, Thank-you racist people | Leave a comment

Congress and Scandal

A USA Today article discusses how Ted Stevens (R-AK) is not the only Congressman who’s campaign may be affected by scandal.

I say: surprise, surprise. We all know that for the big show Congress always puts on with tougher laws and cracking down, behind closed doors they’re breaking some of the same laws they helped create. It’s almost the nature of the beast. Powerful people attract manipulative people. You can look to any portion of anyone’s life and see that. Think back to something as simple as who was popular in high school. If they themselves weren’t manipulative, they were surrounded by manipulative people who wanted access to the power and privilege.

I don’t mean to suggest we should pardon lawmakers who think they are above the law. In fact, I think they should have separate, harsher, punishment. There is no reason to break the law “cause you can.” I think Ted Stevens shouldn’t be allowed to run for, let alone return to his Senate seat. In fact, I think that it’s absolutely absurd that he very well may be re-elected. It’s also causing me to wonder what the hell goes on in Alaska.

The real question is what can we the people do about it. The reality is that our democratic system isn’t all that democratic. Some of it is with purpose, some of it is, again, the nature of the beast. But we have all got to get educated on the facts. We have all got to understand where we stand on issues and then make it a point to know where our elected lawmakers stand. We do not vote people into office so that we can call them up and tell them what to do. It’s the other way around. They tell us what they want to do and based on that we send them to represent us. Too often people misconstrue “public servant” for something other than how it really manifests itself in our nation. Get to know who is representing you. In this day and age, you could find out what they did on the day they turned 5 — so the least you can do is make it your business to discover they’re opinions and stances and vote accordingly.

Many will, and do, argue that your vote doesn’t matter. If you believe that, then it doesn’t. But if you get involved the best you can, you write to your representatives, you stay abreast of the issues and you stay on top of how it all effects you, you can make a difference. But step number one is that we can no longer accept the way things have been running. We have either got to start electing officials who will keep it honest or demand our current ones keep it straight. The trial of Ted Stevens (who has become the most recent poster child of corruption on Capitol Hill) only goes to show that the latter plan probably won’t work.

October 29, 2008 Posted by | News, Ok. That was stupid, What in sam hell is going on?! | Leave a comment

Racism between Minorities

Just read a blog that discussed this article. For those of you (like me) who hate having to pause from reading one thing to go read another, let me summarize:

A wealthy Indian businessman named Chiman Rai contracted for $10,000 to have his black daughter-in-law killed. Sparkle Rai was ambushed by men pretending to be dropping off a package (wow, so people really do that) and stabbed to death with her 6-month old daughter in the next room. Police questioned the husband, Ricky, and he said that his family was “a little racist.” Turns out, he had told his wife and her family that his family was dead rather than just deal with the fact that they HATED black people. Oh, and I think my favorite (dripping with sarcasm, for those unaware) part is that now, the Rai’s daughter is being raised by Sparkle’s family because Ricky has gotten re-married to an Indian woman and would rather not deal with his bi-racial child…

I do believe that the more I consider this story and what all had to happen for this to come to fruition, the more I get pissed off — so I hope I can remain articulate through the rest of this…

A) Let’s first deal with Ricky’s decision to LIE about his family. I’ve been in an interracial relationship (IR) and they’re not easy; heck, no relationship is, but in the case of an IR, it is ESPECIALLY difficult when one person keeps something like that a secret. I can deal with dating a guy who’s family doesn’t like me for my race as long as he’s up front about it. I mean, this brings in a whole host of other situations that I’m not dealing with right now, BUT at least he’s honest and at least I can be prepared for whatever might happen should I run into them/have to deal with them. Ricky withheld this important information (and this might have saved Sparkle’s life had she known HOW racist his family was) and as a result, an innocent young mother was brutally murdered. My other concern is that Ricky still seems to be in denial about HOW racist his family is. I mean, your father paid $10,000 to have your wife (whom I assume you love and cherish) and child’s mother killed… and for what? Because it brought shame to the family?

B) If Ricky thought enough to deny his family’s existence (which suggests to me sub-consciously he knew the truth) then how did his father know where his family lived? Why did he never take further precautions to keep his family safe?

(If you can’t tell, I think Ricky should be in jail right alongside his racist father)

C) (and this is the point that INFURIATES me) How DARE Ricky Rai think it’s ok to dump his daughter off on his former in-laws because he’d rather start over in a nice Indian relationship. That’s YOUR DAUGHTER and she has YOU TO THANK for the absence of her mother. You’ve just gotta be kidding me. I mean, I refuse to believe any of this… except it’s 2008 and this madness is still happening on the regular.

This racism between folks of color needs to quit. We get it enough from the outside (and if you’re blessed to be Black then you get it from the inside too) but why are we doing it to one another. Is it not hard enough to just be a minority in America that we have to HATE each other enough to want to kill? This is crazy and all I can think is that this poor 6-month old little girl will grow up with no parent. One was killed through the thoughtless and naive choice of the other. Thanks, but no thanks.

June 30, 2008 Posted by | News, What in sam hell is going on?! | 1 Comment