Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!!!

Okay, only in America can an obscure Celtic-Druidic harvest festival and excuse to rape and drink and sacrifice newborns and goats become a multi-billion dollar consumer orgy. Bandy-legged pie-faced Papists known as the Irish ;-) brought it here in the 1820s along with the concept of street gangs and an aversion to birth control, but it truly wasn't until the late 1970s-early 80s that it became a "holiday" commandeered from children by bored, craven adults. Perhaps it was the masterpiece 1978 film Halloween? Don't get me wrong, for movie lovers this is the best time of year thanks to AMC's "Monsterfest" and various documentaries, creature feature marathons, etc. Some say it was Reaganomics, the rise of the religious right. Some say it was the concomitant fear-mongering regarding serial killers and devilish pedophiles and black folks in masks burglaring homes? Or possibly economic dislocations and migrations and developer- and S & L-led building booms and busts, or people waiting to have to kids? This utterly skews the demographics of so-called stable neigborhoods. Hard to let kids trick or treat when you don't know or trust your neighbor...or you don't have kids!

Or maybe it was we baby-boomers (andI'm the young side of the post-war deluge, OK!) recalling the heyday of Halloween, now having the income to indulge their bullshit narcissism? BINGO!
See, we remember the "Ben Garrison"-brand flammable non-reflective cheesy costumes and plastic or paperboard masks. We remember when tribes of kids would roam neighborhoods en masse, in the DARK, and even get cooked food as treats! Schools had MASSIVE Halloween parties--no one gave a damn about Holy Rollers who thought it was demonic or left wing weenies who didn't want their kids "left out" if they didn't have a costume...
We, in turn, were soon running firms and businesses which might make a buck off Halloween. So we peddled this prurience to the masses et you have little girls wanting the same sex-charged costumes as their moms, and boys wanting to dress like the latest movie or computer game hero--duly licensed so everyone can make money. You can see it in the evolution of creatures like "Pinhead," or Michael Myers, Freddie Kruger, Jason Vorhees (who wasn't even in the first two Friday the 13ths--and didn't get the hockey mask till the third). They started as truly terrifying, fresh and original creations. Now milked to death and brand name pop icons. My generation has ruined this country...

My favorite hypocrisy is that of so-called pious black folks who associate Halloween with the Devil. Huh? Nothing is worse than talking to brothers and sister who I presume are educated, make a decent living and have some sense of history or perspective--and then they go and spout nonsense. One such fool, father of two, an attorney, upright brother, told he learned at Morehouse never to lower your dignity by putting on a costume! Interesting...considering his family's from the Caribbean and Catholic and this whole concept of Carnivale and communing with the dead and pre-Lenten festival attire was pretty much born there! But no--he became a Baptist at "The House" and told me his pastor had forbidden any mention of Halloween (they call it "Fall Party Night" for the kids, something silly like that). His wife--a former social worker and once a sharp, sexy woman, keeps her mouth shut and enables this crap. She's damn happy just to have a stable black man and "trophy" kids in BabyGap clothes and the huge pre-fab home of her dreams whilst her single girlfriends troll for the same. Mindlessly, she nodded in approval at hubby; she's told me many times her husband's full of shit. [They've moved back to the Atlanta area from DC so I don't much care if they read this and get offended Ha!] Wish I could say they were a minority within the minority, or there are pastors out there chuckling at Halloween and fighting the true evils out there: ignorance, poverty, war, crime, exploitation. Ahhhh...who am I kidding?
On the other side of the Bill Cosby-esque fence...while having coffee Monday and fresh from the trauma of another death in our extended family, I spied on a woman interviewed for a local newspaper. She was maybe in her early forties, obese (and I don't mean pleasantly thick) cigarette viced between two stubby fingers and corralling a horde of own kids, step-stair in age from toddler to possibly less than twenty years younger than she. Oh no, Halloween's for "them other folks," and she doesn't let her kids trick or treat, and she even told the school attended by two of her daughters not to have any Halloween celebration or allow any costumes. Her son looked to be a full foot taller than me, and was swathed in a black tall tee, black baggy jeans and his head squeezed into a tight wave cap, so tight that his short braids stuck out and ithad the look of a small black octopus sucking on the boy's head. He smirked and said he "di'n't need no Halloween to go out an' do what I [he] do," and the mom prompty told him to shut up (as the smarmy reporter and goth-looking photography chuckled nervously). But oh no--Halloween's demonic. Please.

So I'm going to enjoy the irony and stupidity and drive my wife nuts singing the annoying theme-song from Halloween 3: Season of the Witch (nothing to do with Michael Myers) now's the time for all you kiddies to put on your Silver Shamrock special mask...and DIE!!! AH-HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA AH-HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Monday, October 29, 2007

More Newsworthy than TI

Comments? Impressions? Musings? Let me know...
From the Associated Press:
NEW YORK - Stan O'Neal, the beleaguered chief executive of Merrill Lynch & Co., was reportedly close to resigning Sunday amid broad criticism for leading the world's largest brokerage to its biggest quarterly loss since it was founded 93 years ago.

In a week that included an $7.9 billion write-down related to subprime mortgages and O'Neal's unauthorized overture to sell the company to retail bank Wachovia Corp., the board of Merrill Lynch reached a broad consensus Friday for his dismissal, according to several media reports. He would become the highest-ranking casualty of the global credit crisis that swept through Wall Street's biggest investment banks during the third quarter.
An announcement of his departure could come as soon as Sunday evening or Monday morning, according to reports in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.
A Merrill Lynch spokesman declined to comment Sunday.
Merrill's 11-member board, which currently includes O'Neal as chairman, was expected to initiate a search to find a replacement that will include both internal and external candidates.
O'Neal, 56, came under fire Wednesday when Merrill Lynch announced a $2.24 billion loss as big bets on mortgage-backed securities were rendered almost worthless because of a global credit squeeze. His fate was also plunged into doubt after he initiated talks about a possible merger with Wachovia, according to the Times. Such a deal could have handed O'Neal a $250 million separation package if he wasn't chosen to lead the new company.
O'Neal, who rose to power five years ago, was known for shaking up top management and putting a greater emphasis on riskier bets rather than the safety of just selling stocks. That strategy — which handed Merrill Lynch record results during the market's peak — came with a heavy cost during the tumultuous third quarter. The company said Wednesday it didn't know what impact it would have in the current earnings period.
O'Neal shouldered the blame for the earnings miss.
"I'm not going to talk around the fact that there were some mistakes that were made," he said in a conference call with analysts Wednesday. Merrill Lynch shares plunged for two days, then spiked Friday amid speculation O'Neal might be forced out.
Investors, who have seen Merrill's shares slump by 30 percent this year, will now be keenly interested in who might take control. Widely tipped as a successor is Laurence Fink, currently chairman and CEO of asset manager BlackRock Inc. He's credited with being one of Wall Street's most powerful players in the fixed-income market, which has been slammed by a global aversion to risk as mortgage-backed securities lost significant value during the summer.
Fink had dinner with O'Neal on Thursday but has yet to meet with Merrill's board, according to a person familiar with the matter who was unauthorized to speak on the record. Merrill Lynch owns a 49 percent stake in BlackRock.
Internally, Gregory Fleming, Merrill's co-president, has been named as a possible replacement, as has Bob McCann, who heads Merrill's brokerage division.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


Thanks to consumerism, MTV/BET and the No Child Left Behind Act, high schools really don't teach literature, essay-writing, basic composition, etc. any more. So let's define the term. Allegory is an extended metaphor, the way an illustration's an extended, story-like example. It carries a literal meaning and a symbolic message..., five years after her son's murder, Jam Master J's mother Connie's still looking for answers. No leads. No clues. One thug who'd been living on J's sofa and likely witnessed the crime isn't talking to the cops or anyone. Connie blames the "don't snitch" sub-culture. J was one of the softer souls in Hip Hop, and in Run-DMC's music he will forever be a pioneer...
...and T.I., king of the durrrtySouth, is out on bail. The actual bond would buy a couple of houses even in this crazy D.C. market. Several of his fans were outside the courthouse, Michael Jackson-fan-style (by the way, did you know MJ's a citizen of our fair state, Maryland...sharing prime Chesapeake Bay frontage with Dick Cheney, author Tom Clancy and a couple of billionaires?). Their tee shirts read: "Let your haters be motivators." And what did this man who's "gettin; paid" do with his money to get him landed in the pokey? Stock fraud? Mis-stating a form 10-K? Nah. He brings machine guns and pistols with silencers to the BET Awards. Allegedly, of course...
...thus I pray the Connies out there will no longer have to grieve and lament. I pray our kids pick new heroes and real causes. Then again, they don't teach allegory in school anymore...
NEWSFLASH (yeah, and I tie it in, don't worry): The Turks vow to make the Kurds "grieve." It's so good to see our President inspiring yet more horseshit spillover from a horseshit war. Indeed, here's a quote from an old black man, a barber, down in Upper Marlboro, Md whose son just finished his stint in the Army and is now in a reserve unit: "The white trash and conservatives put Bush in office, let the white trash fight his wars and they can do it to a country music soundtrack. And let the conservatives pick up a rifle and put down their damn Blackberries and Bibles." By the way, this dude used to cut my hair, and I ran into him at Border's during the Capital Bookfest. He won a Bronze Star and Purple Heart in Korea (in case you wish to disparage him, Rush Limbaugh & Dittoheads) and yep, was once stationed in Turkey guarding an old missile base during the thick of the Cold War. He's one of the few regular folk out there who understands the centuries-long mess between the Turks and Kurds. And this dude barely graduated high school. But wait, didn't Dubya go to Yale? No affirmative action baby, him, right, so it must've been on merit. I'm sure they taught him something there, eh? ;-) Too bad TI's a hero to our youth, and not this old brother.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Me, unexpurgated

Compliments of Felicia Pride of The Back List, at toward the end of a long day at the Capital Bookfest. This is me, unexpurgated. Jeez...the camera indeed adds ten (twenty) pounds. Many of these views presented in the video aren't new; I've used the dessert-dinner metaphor since I was on the old BET News (remember BET had news) BET Tonight with Ed Gordon...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Affirmative Action on the front burner: My interview with Peter Schmidt

Peter Schmidt's new book is Color and Money: How Rich White Kids Are Winning the War Over College Affirmative Action (Macmillan hardcover, 2007). First heard of Peter's work during a conference of African American Princeton alumni in September '06. Some of us were discussing fellow blogger Field Negro's favorite lunatic Quisling*, Ward Connerly. Ward and his ilk happen to one of the many subjects Peter covers in his reporting and in Color and Money.
Peter is a deputy editor at The Chronicle of Higher Education here in D.C.; his subjects are affirmative action, state and federal higher-education policy, and historically black colleges and universities. He previously covered school desegregation, urban education, immigrant education, and education research for Education Week. He also has reported for the Associated Press, the Detroit Free Press, the Northern Virginia Daily, and the Ann Arbor News, The Weekly Standard, Teacher Magazine, and Detroit Monthly magazine. Peter apparently is a booster for Ambergris Cay, Belize--a place my aunt's been trying to get us to for years! You can get details on more of Peter's work and the conceptual framework of the book on his blog, Color and Money.
I spoke to Peter recently about his book and the issues it presents. Join us for this frank discussion, and please, besides buying Color and Money, you should take away some knowledge here that will cut the fog of lies, bombast and emotion on both sides of this debate. IT'S A LONG INTERVIEW, BUT YOU'LL BE TAKING NOTES, NO LIE...
Peter, welcome! Let's get right to it. Your choice of a title may make some parents and students uncomfortable in this strange milieu of Duke Lacrosse players and the Jena 6. Why did you pen this book, and why the title?

This book is in many ways a natural extension of my 20-plus-year career in journalism. Almost since the day I graduated from college in 1986, I have been writing about education and finding myself covering battles over education access. In one of my first jobs, as a reporter for the Associated Press, I covered a fairly pivotal minority student protest movement at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor—the movement that prompted the university’s administration to begin developing the affirmative action policies that would later be challenged before the Supreme Court in the Grutter and Gratz cases. I subsequently spent just over six years at Education Week, where I covered urban school districts, school desegregation—including the major Supreme Court desegregation decisions of the early 90s—and various issues related to the education of immigrants. I came to The Chronicle of Higher Education in 1996 and almost immediately began covering affirmative action, reporting on Proposition 209 in California and following the Grutter and Gratz cases from the district courts on up to the Supreme Court.

I’ll be honest with you. If my career as an education writer had pushed me into jobs where I had to review reading textbooks or use the term “pedagogy” 30 times a day, I probably would have gotten bored and found some other calling. But the debates over education access that I covered have fascinated me to no end. The temperature of these debates tends to be blistering hot, and they involve some of the most profound questions confronted by our society: Who should be part of our nation’s elite? How do we define merit? What kind of nation do we want to be? Writing this book has enabled me to take what I have learned from covering hundreds of such controversies and, more importantly, has given me a chance to tackle these bigger, overarching questions head on.

I guess I have an emotional attachment to this subject as well, because, at some level, I take injustice very personally. As a matter of background, throughout my grade school and high school years, I was generally one of the fattest kids in my class, and I put up with a lot of grief as a result. I won’t be an idiot and tell you my experience was anything like the experience of a black person—or any other racial or ethnic minority—in our society. But I can tell you I do know what it is like to get my ass kicked day in and day out—to be pinned down and have my face pushed into the ground and be told to eat dirt or grass or dog shit—simply because of what I look like.

I had known I wanted to someday write a book on subject of affirmative action as of about ten years ago, because I knew how well-positioned I was to do a book on this subject. What finally made me decide to write this particular book, with this specific focus, was the language Sandra Day O’Connor used in writing for the majority in the Grutter decision. In upholding the status quo in college admissions, and accepting the University of Michigan’s arguments that it had no alternative but to consider race, she wrote:

“In order to cultivate a set of leaders with legitimacy in the eyes of the citizenry,
it is necessary that the path to leadership be visibly open to talented
and qualified individuals of every race and ethnicity. All members of our
heterogeneous society must have confidence in the openness and integrity of
the educational institutions that provide this training.”

Knowing what I knew about how colleges actually worked—and how a huge share of this nation’s people will never get a realistic shot at a selective college education mainly because they were born on the wrong side of the tracks—Justice O’Connor’s words practically made me spit out my morning coffee. “Openness and integrity”? Who was she kidding? We are nowhere near to having the system she claimed to be upholding. And she had to have known that. I mean. After all, Sandra Day O’Connor is a Stanford alumna who became a member of Stanford’s board of trustees, giving her an insider’s knowledge of the place. Lo and behold, she watched two of her three kids get into Stanford, one of them while she was a board member. I don’t care how smart they were, Stanford turns down great applicants all of the time. If I gave you a buck for every person without connections who has watched two out of three of their children get into Stanford, I doubt you would end up with enough money to order a shot of bourbon at a dive bar. Four of the five justices in the Grutter majority were among at least two generations of their families to attend the same elite college. They knew full well what a legacy preference is, and I cannot believe it did not occur to them that the University of Michigan and other colleges could achieve a significant degree of racial and ethnic diversity without considering ethnicity or race simply by abandoning some or all of their many preferences for the wealthy and well-connected, who tend in our society to be white. I guess it is human nature not to challenge a club’s admissions rules if you are among those inside the club.

Now, as for the title of my book, I’m happy to hear it might make people uncomfortable. If people are uncomfortable, they are thinking, and I want to make people think. I firmly believe that, even if all my book does is get people to spend five minutes coming up with reasons to say I am wrong, I’ll be doing our society a favor by getting them to spend that five minutes.

In terms of your reference to the Duke lacrosse prosecution, let’s not forget that one of the Duke defendants, Collin Finnerty, had recently assaulted a man on the streets of Washington DC because the guy seemed gay to him. Let’s also keep in mind that Duke has a de facto segregated campus and a reputation for poor race relations, that the students in the lacrosse house had a reputation for being terribly disrespectful to their black neighbors, and that someone at that Duke lacrosse party told a black woman “thank your grandpa for my nice cotton shirt.” There came to be a point fairly early on where the Duke defendants were being prosecuted unjustly, no question about it. But I personally am not about to buy the argument that white privileged kids are the real victims of oppression on America’s college campuses, and that what happened at Duke is somehow reason to shelve the discussion of whether college admissions should be more fair and democratic.

I recognize that my title is provocative. But, since you have read my book, you know that I wrote it for a wide audience because I want to democratize this whole debate. I’m convinced that, if we continue to leave discussions of college admissions to the elite, the elite will continue looking out for itself while demanding sacrifice of everyone else. I mean, suppose I had called my book An Analysis of the Debate over Affirmative Action in College Admissions Based on First-Hand Reporting, a Review of Key Historical Texts, and an Examination of the Available Research on How Race, Ethnicity, and Socioeconomic Status Affect Educational Opportunity. How many people would have read it? Two dozen? Three? Four? And I’m guessing that nearly all of them would have been academics with a vested interest in keeping the status quo intact.

The only guilt I feel about the title is that it plays a bit of a trick on the reader. You see, as the debate over affirmative action in college admissions is currently framed, no matter what, rich white kids are going to win. Colleges use race-conscious admissions policy to create the illusion of equal opportunity and diversity when, in fact, their admissions policies overwhelmingly favor privilege (which generally is correlated with white skin) and in many respects their enrollments are not diverse at all. Many critics of affirmative action don’t really care much about socioeconomic diversity either, and if they force colleges get rid of race-conscious admissions without finding alternatives, the enrollments at selective institutions are going to become even more disproportionately wealthy and white. With a few exceptions, no one on either side of the debate talks much about making any sort of serious effort to dislodge the grip that the economically privileged have on such campuses.

I am glad that bloggers like you are paying attention to this book, because much of the mainstream press clearly is uncomfortable with it. You have to understand that many of our nation’s larger newspapers and political journals are essentially Ivy League clubs. Many of these people aren’t eager to see the world reading a book that reveals how many of the graduates of their alma maters are fairly dim and lazy, a book that exposes how the privileged game the system, and could conceivably make it harder for their own children to get into their alma maters. Much of the mainstream media also seems incredibly uncomfortable talking about affirmative action and issues of race. Some of our nation’s leading thinkers have raved about this book, and yet it has been incredibly difficult getting anyone to review it (even though the reviews that I have gotten have been overwhelmingly positive). For nearly two months Amazon has consistently ranked my book as a bestseller in a long list of categories, including public policy, race relations, minority studies, and modern U.S. history. Nevertheless, a few of the publishers who rejected this book told me flat-out they did not want to see the matters that it deals with discussed. I guess I have to give them credit for at least being honest.

I imagine that, three hundred years ago, you didn’t hear much debate about the best form of government among the world’s royal families. Those on the top of the pile don’t take kindly to any discussions of whether they belong there.

In the book and in other forums you allude to something called the “knighting effect.” Can you elaborate on this term with respect to low income minorities vis a vis middle class minority college applicants, and how “rich kids”may have “hijacked” this concept?

Well, I want to use this term “knighting effect” carefully, because if we misapply it we risk clouding the debate.

“Knighting effect” applies to the phenomenon in college admissions where the chance of being accepted by a selective college is actually quite good for someone who both comes from a financially impoverished background and very, very smart. The student is such an extreme case in both respects that the admissions officers can’t help being wowed, and pat themselves on the back for finding such a diamond in the rough. It is important to keep in mind that there is only a small population that this applies to. At least in one study of 28 selective colleges conducted by two Williams College researchers (and available on my Web site,, the knighting effect seemed to have no bearing at all on students whose families made more than about $24,000 annually, or who had SAT scores below about 1300 on a 1600 point scale. If you scored a 1400 but your parents made $35,000 annually, or your parents made $10,000 annually but you scored an 1100 on the SAT, you weren’t statistically shown to benefit.

Where colleges aggressively use race- and ethnicity-conscious admissions policies, I don’t think the knighting effect has much relevance for black, Hispanic, or Native American applicants—they’re generally smiled upon without it, regardless of family income, in some cases even when their academic credentials are well below the “knighting effect” threshold. Where such admissions policies have been banned, I am not sure the knighting effect helps a lot of lot of students, simply because there are so few black, Hispanic, and American Indian students from poor families who earn impressive enough grades and test scores to benefit. You have to keep in mind that, nationally, there are only about 1,600 black and 3,000 Hispanic students who post SAT scores in the top 10 percent every year. And, because academic achievement correlates with class, a disproportionate number of those kids are from families earning incomes well above “knighting effect” range. I suppose they might benefit from something similar to the knighting effect if colleges consider their race or ethnicity to be, in itself, a disadvantage. Given that (on just about every major test out there) the average score for the subset of black students coming from the upper-middle class is about the same as the average score for lower-middle-class white students, you can statistically argue that discrimination and its after-effects still hinder achievement, that race plays a significant role independent of class. But equating black skin in itself with disadvantage does not sit well with a lot of people, and there is a risk of feeding into stereotypes and perpetuating discrimination by doing so.

Rich white kids have not hijacked the term “knighting effect,” they have turned it on its head. Properly used, knighting effect refers to the triumph of exceptional ability over impoverished circumstances. When wealthy white kids get admitted based on their connections or their families’ ability to donate, what we are witnessing is the triumph of privileged circumstances over a lack of ability.

Within the context of the book’s thesis, how did this “paradigm” of the “qualified, deserving white student” originate? Indeed, if I may play Bill O’Reilley or Sean Hannity, why should “unqualified, undeserving minorities” have some sort of preference in admissions, and, by extension of your thesis, financial assistance? What about “middle class” students of any race or ethnicity?

Your question prompted me to do a computerized search of my book to see if I had ever used the term “deserving” as you do here, and I was relieved to find that I hadn’t. The question of who deserves what in our society is a value judgment that I went out of my way not to make. I raise the question of who should be getting into our best colleges, but the closest I come to offering an answer is to lay out the options and describe what the consensus has been at various points in our nation’s history.

I think the consensus for at least the last 50 years has been that college admissions should be meritocratic—with valid exceptions. There is generally a consensus around the goal of meritocracy because it appeals to our belief in fairness and to our society’s interests. If you are going under the surgeon’s knife, you like to think our medical schools are selecting the best. If you hold stock in a corporation, you like to think the people running it got into business schools on their own merits. The Cold War and Space Race—and, subsequently, the emergence of global economic competition—have largely convinced this nation that it cannot afford to have its colleges rejecting top talent.

Most of the debate revolves around how we should define merit and what, if any, exceptions we should make to any definition of meritocracy. Just about everyone has some population that they would like to see exempted from the idea that college admissions should be based on grade point averages and SAT or ACT scores. Maybe they think you should take a person’s circumstances into account, so that a kid from an impoverished background with a 3.3 GPA will be considered worthier than a millionaire’s kid with a 3.4. Maybe they think it is important for a college to enroll great football players, regardless of whether they have the brains to be there, because they hate to spend their Saturday afternoons cheering a bunch of losers. Maybe they want their kids to rub elbows with the children of the rich and famous—out of a belief that the resulting connections will pay off—and therefore are more than happy to see them enroll in a college that lowers the bar for the children of movie stars, politicians, and business tycoons.

As my book explains, the reason minority students initially got admissions preferences, back in the sixties, was because our cities were being torn apart by riots, and the people running our selective colleges thought our society was going to slide further into chaos unless black Americans were sent a clear signal that they could move up in the world, that the nation’s top colleges and top jobs were open to all, regardless of skin color or ancestry. The belief was that, once black Americans could see other black Americans heading up the ladder and becoming part of the establishment, they would no longer be easily convinced that violence was the only way to improve their conditions, and the establishment had to be overthrown. The nonviolent, integrationist teachings of Martin Luther King would hold more appeal for them than the militancy of the Black Power movement. This desire to avoid more urban uprisings was hardly a trivial concern.

As time went on, however, the rationale for affirmative action evolved. With the Bakke decision of 1978, the Supreme Court decided that public colleges cannot be in the business of giving one group preference over another for the sake of bringing about social justice, that it is folly for government entities to be in the business of trying to decide who owes what historical debt to whom in our society. The only justification for such preferences allowed by the court was the idea that college students benefit educationally from the presence of diversity on their campus. The court accepted colleges’ word on this matter—it never really asked them to prove educational benefits. As time went on, college came to see the production of black and Hispanic graduates as a way to get financial support from corporations and government agencies. While not yet embraced by the court in a way that gives it the power of law—and somewhat morally troubling if one looks back at the Jim Crow-era argument that white businesses would lose their customers if forced to hire black employees—there is this idea that affirmative-action preferences are justified because the future of our economy hinges on the ability of companies to hire a diverse workforce.

One of the problems supporters of affirmative action face is that the current rationales for it don’t seem to have much public appeal when something like Michigan’s Proposal 2 or California’s Proposition 209 gets on the ballot. I mean, if I am middle-class white father who thinks my kid just got rejected from a college in favor of a minority kid, am I going to feel any better about the situation if someone tells me that college is filled with wealthy white kids from overwhelmingly white schools who need to finally be exposed to the racial diversity their parents had been sheltering them from, or that the financial well-being of Fortune 500 stockholders and executives depends on kids like mine taking it on the chin? If you look at the exit polls from when Michiganders voted on Proposal 2 last fall, the biggest supporters of affirmative action were people with advanced degrees—who had gotten about as far as they wanted to—and people who had never made it past high school. The people most opposed to affirmative action were those who had just a few years of college or, at most, bachelor’s degrees, people with some ambition who never made it to the top of the academic ladder.

Consider this illustration. In his book A Class Apart, Washington Post reporter Alec Klein related that in the case of a New York public high school for gifted children, Stuyvesant, Asian students were preparing for three years to take the entry test in underground academies; they dominate the student body far out of proportion to other groups in the school and their general presence in the city’s student population. Increasing swaths of black and Hispanic students are excluded despite near-misses at the test cut-off; black and Hispanic enrollments at the school have been in steady decline. Here’s the rub. The usual comments of “lazy” or “unprepared” minorities, and of “meritocracy” headlined any criticism of those who said Stuyvesant’s admissions needed to be reformed. That was until the true extent of Asian students’ predominance came to light. White students (Catholic, white Protestant, Jewish) began disappearing as well, and mysteriously, all talk of “meritocracy” disappeared from the debate. Suddenly the school board is discussing “remedies.” What’s your take?

Your illustration reminds me of a study discussed in my book. In the early 1990s, David Wellman, a sociologist at the University of California at Santa Cruz, conducted focus group interviews in which he asked students their opinions of various admissions policies, including race-conscious admissions. When he asked white students how black and Hispanic applicants were evaluated, many were adamant that admissions policies should be based strictly on grades and test scores. When he asked white students how Asian American applicants should be evaluated, the white students’ support for a SAT-and-GPA-based meritocracy evaporated. Suddenly, they didn’t think applicants’ SAT scores were nearly as important
as whether or not they were “well rounded.”

It probably should not shock anyone that there is a remarkable overlap between how people define “merit” and the self-interests of those doing the defining.

As an aside, I am often surprised by how colleges talk about Asian American students. I get press releases essentially saying “Good news: Our Asian American enrollments went down” or “Despite our best efforts, Asian American enrollments went up.” If colleges talked about any other population the way they talk about Asians, all hell would break loose, but they seem comfortable describing their growing Asian enrollments as some sort of blight, or a cancer that needs to be kept in check.

Difficult questions here--how are flagship state/public universities doing with respect to recruiting and maintaining minority and low-income students , as opposed to private schools? Are the Ivies doing better? What about sectarian private schools, from Notre Dame or Georgetown to Bob Jones University?

I am going to have to dodge this series of questions for several reasons, but I hope I can shed some light even in doing so.

I don’t want to get into comparing specific institutions partly because the Chronicle has scrupulously avoided getting into the college-ranking business, which your questions seem to drag me into. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education does a lot of these comparisons, and I would suggest that your readers consult it if they really want to know how Bob Jones stacks up against Notre Dame.

In regard to the broader comparison you invite, the Chronicle has not sought to compare all flagship publics against all privates, in part because there is so much variety among both types of institutions such comparisons might be meaningless. Moreover, I think one has to be careful comparing institutions without taking into account the populations they serve. I mean, just as it does not take a great cosmetologist to make Angelina Jolie look beautiful, I am not sure it says all that much for an Ivy League college to have high minority graduation rates when that college has the luxury of cherry-picking the very best minority high school graduates out there. In this respect, I think a lot of HBCUs that educate large numbers of ordinary students from disadvantaged settings don’t get nearly enough credit.

Your questions do bring to mind one interesting phenomenon that I can share. Some research, including that described in the well-known book The Shape of the River, has shown that minority students have higher graduation rates at highly selective colleges than they do at less-selective institutions. Much of the explanation for this may be found in the intense academic support that such elite colleges can offer. Things seem to have changed since I was in college in the early 80s and I took it as a badge of honor that I graduated when a lot of kids in my class failed out or dropped out. Partly because U.S. News and other guides judge them on their retention rates, and partly because no parent wants to spend huge amounts on tuition sending their kid somewhere where they won’t graduate, these top colleges bend over backwards to try to make sure their students graduate. Their retention rates are often in the high 90 percents. Some critics say the desire to keep students in college at any cost has spawned grade inflation or a dumbing down of the curriculum. I have certainly heard plenty of people say the hardest part about Harvard was getting in.

As an aside, I note that your question asks about recruitment and retention but does not ask about achievement. I think focusing on the retention of minority students ignores a key problem, which is that the disproportionate numbers of black and Hispanic undergraduates fail to academically achieve at high levels. Some people say academic credentials are a lot more important than grades—a Harvard degree is a Harvard degree, whatever your GPA. But, without top grades, students have trouble getting into our better graduate and professional schools, unless those institutions also give serious consideration to ethnicity and race. (To shamelessly plug my own work again, see the article on my Web site with the headline “What Color is an A?”) Affirmative action has allowed colleges, and our society as a whole, to paper over gaps in achievement stemming from societal and educational problems we have not begun to resolve. Wherever and whenever affirmative-action preferences are banned, it is like a trap door suddenly opens under those who are not achieving at high levels. They go from surveying opportunities to being in a hole they have trouble crawling out of.

In your book you find support in the work of researchers like Anthony Carnevale of the Educational Testing Service. Minority students who gained a foothold based on their race/ethnicity don’t appear so “unqualified and undeserving” in the face of such research. Please give us a little background or Mr. Carnevale's study, and how it might reframe the whole debate over affirmative action.

Back in the late 1990s, Carnevale and some fellow researchers at ETS began looking for alternatives to using affirmative-action preferences to bring about diversity on campus. ETS, which administers the SAT test under contract with the College Board, initially supported this research out of self-interest, because people there thought there would be a backlash against the SAT if affirmative action went away and the SAT took on an even bigger role in determining who got into good colleges.

As part of their research, Carnevale et. al. were given access to data on students from 146 of the nation’s top colleges—mostly state flagships, top private research universities, the Ivy League, and solid little liberal arts colleges. Most people never get access to this type of information, because it is covered by federal privacy laws, but they were able to use it because they could be trusted not to produce results that personally identified any student. At one point, they decided to construct a fake admissions process based on what they knew about the minimum academic standards of these institutions, and then ran student profiles through this process, to see how many students made the cut based on things such as grades, SAT or ACT scores, teacher recommendations (scored on an index), and “leadership” (basically involvement in extracurricular activities, also scored on an index.) The researchers found that 15 percent of these students were white kids who did not meet the standards of their own institutions. Based on other research, Carnevale concluded that some were recruited athletes, but many others had gotten in because they were legacies, or connected to a major donor, or had ties to a politician, or were the child of a faculty member or administrator, or had some other non-academic “hook” (to borrow admissions office jargon).

You have to keep in mind that these 15 percent were just the tip of the preference iceberg, the students who clearly had the bar lowered for them. Throughout most of the applicant pool—or, at least, the reaches where applicants are not absolute shoe-ins—students with cash and connections elbow aside better-qualified students who lack those things.

Carnevale estimated that, without affirmative action, the share of the enrollment at these colleges that is black or Hispanic would drop from 12 percent to about 4 percent—an 8 percentage point difference. So it is clearly the case that a white applicant to one of these colleges has a much better chance of losing a seat to a less-qualified white applicant than a less-qualified applicant who is black or Hispanic.

I initially called attention to Carnevale’s 15-percent estimate in The Chronicle of Higher Education a few years ago, and our readership in higher education seemed to yawn and think nothing of it. When I called attention to it again a few weeks ago in a Boston Globe essay, it was picked up by a lot of liberal or leftist blogs and by blogs geared toward minority audiences, as evidence that people who blame affirmative action for their failure to get into college are attacking the wrong target.

One thing people have to keep in mind, however, is that Carnevale’s findings cut both ways in the affirmative-action debate. The Supreme Court has said that colleges must consider alternative ways to bring about diversity before giving extra consideration to applicants’ race, ethnicity, or gender. Carnevale’s research shows that colleges may not be trying very hard to find these alternatives. Other studies have provided additional evidence that colleges could marginally increase their racial and ethnic diversity—and substantially increase their class diversity—if they stopped giving preferences to jocks and applicants with cash and connections. If they rethought their reliance on academic criteria that arguably have some educational basis but also strongly correlate with class—SAT scores, the number of AP courses on a transcript, high-school reputations—they could increase such diversity even more. As my book shows, there is a long list of other college policies—too complex to summarize easily here—that work to the advantage of wealthy applicants. It is entirely possible the courts may someday consider all of these things and tell colleges that claim there are no alternatives to race- or ethnicity-conscious admissions that they have not been trying hard enough. Chief Justice Roberts of the Supreme Court spent much of his career in private practice representing colleges and higher-education groups. He knows the higher-education field well enough that it won’t be easy for colleges to pull the wool over his eyes.

Finally, Peter, I’d like you to comment on this. A tenet of your thesis is that too often colleges with huge endowments are not honoring pledges to recruit minorities and provide financial assistance. Hence, an overrepresentation of “wealthier” white students…many partying hardy rather then studying. It’s been my personal experience the Admissions program at my alma mater, Princeton, as well as other Ivies, are strongly committed to recruitment, retention, financial relief—drawing down much opprobrium from conservative alumni. Concurrently, local D.C. schools such as American University or George Washington University with lower endowments appear to correlate with tuitions higher than the Ivies, and ...I'm prepared for the bloody howling AU and GWU will shoot my way on this next claim...traditionally low minority and low income enrollment. Am I setting up an inapt comparison, or are there some points here that hold water?

Your question draws attention to two truisms in life—it is easier to be generous if you are rich, but it is harder to become financially rich if you are too generous. It is absolutely the case that some Ivy League institutions have recently taken the lead in trying to hold down tuition and provide more aid to low-income students, largely because their endowments are big enough they feel they can afford to do this. Meanwhile, a lot of colleges with smaller endowments do not feel financially secure enough yet to take such steps.

A few wrinkles you have to keep in mind, however. First of all, there are plenty of colleges with large endowments that have not taken such steps. Secondly, all the recruitment and aid in the world won’t make a difference if students are not being admitted, and as long as colleges continue to evaluate applicants based on criteria that reward privilege, there won’t be a huge increase in the number of low-income students who get through the door and qualify for these aid dollars. Finally, you have to keep in mind that these colleges generally have not been curtailing their non-academic preferences, so any increases in their numbers of low-income and minority students is coming at the expensive of working-, middle-, and even upper-middle-class white and Asian American kids who lack cash, connections, or the savvy or cynicism to use them. Because colleges generally don’t call attention to their preferences for the privileged, the anger of the rejected gets directed at policies that advantage minorities. The political backlash against affirmative action intensifies.

By the way, I am not saying that everyone who rejects affirmative-action preferences does so out of self-interest. I have heard valid arguments against such preferences based on the principle that any racial or ethnic discrimination is wrong, and I have heard valid arguments against them based on pragmatic concerns over whether they are accomplishing their goals. But in the political realm actions trigger reactions. If people become convinced the deck is stacked against them, eventually, they rebel.

Peter, thanks so much for joining me here, and for those of you aren't in academia, you can find Peter's work showcased in The Chronicle of Higher Education, a periodical dedicated to features and editorials covering critical issues facing colleges and universities, from research grants to, well...affirmative action. Again, the book is Color and Money: How Rich White Kids are Winning the War Over Affirmative Action.

You Demand Better, I Give it To You...

* Quisling was the Norwegian government official who, in 1940, collaborated with Hitler and then invited the German Army to invade his country. He ran Norway as a vassal state of Nazi Germany until 1945, when he was hung or shot. Don't recall which. Hear, that Ward? At least Clarence Thomas' emotional and psychological problems (and wife) explain his stridency...

Coming tomorrow--Peter Schmidt!

Interview with educator and author Peter Schmidt: Color and Money. Thursday October 18th!!!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Ellen, shut the hell up!

Maybe if you and girl-wife Portia adopted a meth or crack baby and the baby died, I could see why you'd be in such anguish. Or maybe if you attempted to get the GOP to stop attacking gay marriage and Dick Cheney decided to lie about his daughter...yeah, some tears of rage'd be appropriate. But enough about this stupid dog! Kids, this is NOT akin to the Vick stuff. What happened to those dogs, when coupled the usual attendant crimes like racketeering, drugs, murder, etc, is a major crime and Vick's paying the price thusly. But in this Ellen crap we see intersection of false news-a-tainment, hype, distraction from the critical issues facing our communities and are families, and a disturbing condition whereby the white housewife audience--yeah, I "played the race card" as this type of nonsense appears aimed at this demo-- seems to care more about pets then fellow humans. Watch for other moronic celebs to cry on camera over furry creatures. Ratings uber alles. Jesus...

Monday, October 15, 2007

A word on the presidential circus...

Before we get to my interviews with actress Victoria Rowell, Peter Schmidt, Stacy Patton and Nathan McCall, I just wanted to announce my current first choice for president. Seeing that either the Karl Rove/Fox News wingnuts or Hillary have planted this dangerous and silly Obama-is-a-radical-Muslim lie for the rednecks of South Carolina, and per usual he's said nothing--just exuded hope. I am convinced he is indeed a lightweight as stated in previous posts. John Edwards is a bit of a cretin as is Joe Biden; Bill Richardson's great but has no shot at winning. On the GOP side...please. Even if my boy John McCain redeemed himself, he still carries the stink of the war and his earlier kow-towing to the Bushites. Hank McCoy. Yeah he's a mutant, but hell, he's knows the issues, he has no agenda dictated by shadowy handlers. And he's even an intellectual. Frasier Crane with fangs. Literally.

Check back soon.

Friday, October 12, 2007

How they see us...or how we really see ourselves?

All in the name of entertainment, or gettin' paid? Sort of the way murderers and dealers go free because we don't want to "snitch." What a courageous folk we've become...waiting on white yuppies to gentrify a neighborhood before the scum are removed when we could have done it ourselves. Oh and our intellensia like Prof.Dyson (who's over here at Georgetown now) justifies it all with beautiful lyric poetry on Bill Maher's HBO show as he says "white people are the orginal gangstas," and cites Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton's duel in Weehauken NJ with flintlock gatts as an example. Yeah I agree they were. They are. So? Think of the murders in cities every day, and this bamma spectacle above, and tell me we can't stop it tomorrow if we wanted to, white folks or no.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

HALO 3 as allegory

Never underestimate the power of human stupidity. ---- Robert A. Heinlein

This is a different kind of post for me. Usually I could give a crap about games. But I asked one of my writing students about Robert Heinlein and he hadn't a clue--and this is after he regaled me with tales of Master Chief (and how some fools didn't know that "master chief" is a US Navy enlisted rank). Well, I'm wondering why Robert A. Heinlein's widow and estate have not sued the hell out of the creator of this game. See, Robert Heinlein wrote a novel in the 1950s called Starship Troopers. Yeah, that same story that Paul Verhoeven butchered into a film with heavyweights Casper Van Dien and Charlie Sheen's crazy ass wife. Kids, the novel was nothing like the movie. And kids, this book...yeah, a book...was one of the the seminal sci fi stories of all time. You can trance plot lines, terminology and iconic phrases in everything from Star Trek to Star Wars and back again...hell, even Full Metal Jacket...back to this novel. That's not my opinion. That is fact.
Of course, we have a generation of dweebs and layabouts who do nothing but play these games and do not expand their minds on the literature and history that gave them rise. But there's something our non-reading generation's not hip to, behind the scenes. My sister's boyfriend is getting his degree in game design, and guess what? Required courses in literature, history, mythology,philosophy and religion are the order of the day. Do the techno-nerds whine when faces with this? Hell yes. Are the games better now because of this liberal artsy-fartsy focus? Hell yes.
Look, we have parents who gave their kids the day off from school to buy this damn game, and no one knows it's a rip off of Starship Troopers right down to the body armor, deployment and even the weapons (recall Heinlein wrote this in the 50s, when the weaponry of the game was even more out-there!) The game's creator reminds me of the authors of "street fiction" and rauchy stuff in African American Lit. It's all about the "me," as if they invented something fresh and enduring! Ha! ell at least HALO dude's getting paid, as if getting paid's ever an excuse for this. Look, I've even been told that books are dead...hey, HALO 3's arrival is the second coming of Christ almost. This, by the same sort of consumerist zombified crap that hypes Hannah Montana as bigger than the Beatles. No. Master Chief is the second coming of Johnny Rico. Who's that Johnny Rico? Read the damn book...

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Upcoming interviews

Peter Schimdt, author of Color and Money: How Rich White Kids are Winning the War over Affirmative Action. Nathan McCall's Them, and Stacey Patton's memoir of foster care hell, That Mean old Yesterday.
Happy Cristobal Colombo Day. If he'd run into the Caribs rather than the Aarawaks, well...

Friday, October 05, 2007


Marion Jones is likely going to serve nominal time and pay a fine, forfeit endorsement skrilla, forfeit her soul. Now, some of you might howl, seeing that George W. Bush and the CEO of Blackwater are still roaming free, but this is the such is the world we have made. Notice I didn't say the world as it is, I said the world we have made. It's a world where we pedestal'd Barack Obama as our new winged Mercury, our new school brown JFK...and he's proven to be an utter lightweight. Yeah, I said it!
A prominent writer is upset that I plan to make a comic book hero out one of his relatives. I say we need heroes now. Is it any wonder that our kids and teens and twentysomethings--African Americans or in the general public--read the garbage books they read, listen to garbage music they listen to, have the attitudes they display?
Marion was supposed to be a soldier in the fight against this crap. She was the real deal. She had the added bonus of having a husband who was Da White Man's/Mr. Charlie's/Our Favorite Hobgoblin the Man's wet dream. He was dark skinned, big, scary. She dumped him. He was a "liability" so likely said the white PR flacks. What hay was made over that, folks. What a true "universal" (e.g., for the masses on The Today Show ) heroine she became for kicking that evil scary spook to the curb, eh? Now she's the female Mike Vick in some folk's eyes.

But hell, even opprobrium is more bullshit showbiz now. Imagine if Shoeless Joe Jackson were (1) black and/or (2) living in the media-rich (media with a lower case "m") late 20th/early 21st century?
We live in a culture where turds like Lebron James roll into a Cleveland Indians playoff game wearing a New York Yankee lid--then tells the fans...his "home" f- off. Like he's entitled to do whatever he likes because he's getting paid. Getting paid makes him the hero in his mind, and in the mind of too many kids. I'm not picking on sports, I'm just saying such is the world we have made.

I want heroes. They are all around us but there are a few I want to elevate into a new Legion of Superheroes--beyond what Gary Phillips and I are gving you in The Darker Mask soon enough. Beyond whatI am doing with this writer's family member. Not "flawed." Just human. What Marion did was human in a way. The bullshit comes when the fame started flowing in. I'm sick of giving Mr. Charlie or disturbed individuals like Clarence Thomas (and his wife) more ammo. want to put my foot deeply and wetly into Mr. Charlie's fundament. I will. Despite my flaws, despite Marion's and a whole host of other black folks who are more concerned with bullshit than reality...

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Mixed Up Mixed Folk? Or Clueless Literati

"After the literary critic Anatole Broyard died in 1990, his family arranged a memorial reception at a suburban Connecticut yacht club. It was a club that claimed to have no black members until, after Mr. Broyard’s death, his mixed racial lineage was made known. After that, the club cited him as evidence of integration." Don't you love the many levels of racial commentary and irony rife in this passage from Janet Maslin's review of Bliss Broyard's One Drop? That's in the NYC glamour millieu, between Sex and the City's Kristin Davis (who is an honorary sista owing to her ample butt) and Ethan Hawke (who became an honorary negro in Training Day). ;-) The perfidity of the club in that quote is truly inspiring. However, if you're "black," then the club's response is also carries a whiff of well, banality. Some white folks would shrug and say "Huh? How is that banal?" I wonder what mixed folk would say? Would it be an ambivelant tug: confusion, yet mixed with an uncomfortable, knowing twinge?

Switch gears with me on my offense rant-mobile for a sec. See, one thing more annoying than snooty insouciance, limousine liberalism, hypocrisy and smarmy tribalism of Hollywood is the snooty insouciance, limousine liberalism, hypocrisy and smarmy tribalism of the book world.

Bliss Broyard is a critic and used to be an editor at the New York Times Book Review. The NYT Book Review is Mt. Olympus, Asgaarde, The Happy Hunting Grounds for lit types; oh to have wink or nod or blurb directed at you as an author you've truly arrived. Might not translate into sales from the sweat pants and flip flop crowd who now make up the book buying market at Costco, but it'll get you noticed by the insiders. Bliss's colleague, Jant Maslin, truly bites cheese: "[Anatole Broyard's] smart, tough-minded daughter, Bliss Broyard, [wrote] “One Drop,” an investigative memoir about her father’s life. (Mr. Broyard was a longtime book critic and editor for The New York Times and an essayist for its Book Review.) As this fascinating, insightful book makes clear, Mr. Broyard left a legacy of racial confusion and great autobiographical material, not necessarily in that order..."

I wish I had friends like that, enabling my manufactured self-examination and family hypocrisy and allowing me to make some bucks off of it. See, her daddy was a sorta mean, sorta siddity fellow who passed for white and sprinkled his family with the best the elitist literati millieu the Manhattan-Hamptons-Connecticut axis could offer. Here's what Bliss says, now she's a sista, fo' sho': "At first, I felt a lot of pressure to give the 'right' answer. Now I think there is more than one way of being black. Look at Barack Obama." Jesus Christ! Of course then she goes on to say she's actually "mixed." And in interviews she does the usual "mixed is exotically cool...but race doesn't matter anymore" dance. Sort of the way Halle Berry does, or crazy-ass Mariah Carey, or ambiguous Jessica Alba.

Well then, if it doesn't matter, Bliss, then why'd daddy try so damn hard to squelch it? Y'all weren't living in Tennessee in 1898 and tried to ride the white car on train with Mr. Plessy, after all! If the blackness part is uncool and unexciting, then why write a book and promote that dark (hahaha) angle? White folks are buying it so there must still be something to this black thing despite it being passe or not important anymore. Like Halle's thing. Oh this race thing doesn't matter, she says on Oprah to the applause of the chunky white housewives in the audience. Yet in the same breath she says producers never think of casting her first. She always has to come in and audition while a dingbat blonde Cameron Diaz type gets the part automatically. Oh yeah, the blackness thing.

Look, we're all mixed with something. And according to the genetic history of the human race, if you trace our mitochondrial DNA back far enough all homo sapiens are more or less cousins. Screw science. Let's talk real life. I'm the last person to begrudge or bemoan bi- or multi-racial people...despite what I say above hahahaha. I clearly don't look black (to a lot of silly whitefolks); I am thus mixed as you can get. "Light-skin-ded wid dat Good hair" as Richard Pryor's "Mudfoot" once expounded. And I'm proud uncle and second cousin to a whole slew of our family's own little brood of kids who carry the blood of many cultures--my sister in law is white, as is my cousin's hubby. But this makes me cringe: people who to prattle on about their mixedhood, or identify themselves, disingenuously or selfdelusionally (n.b. Tiger Woods) so to a cloying degree. Indeed Tiger and may of these folk often play into the hands of racists: not black folks who are insance, but old fashioned white right wing clowns with agendas. And don't tell me blackness doesn't matter when you loak yourself in the profits and attention you get by exploiting this thing that supposedly doesn't matter. Tiger'd just be a phenom if he wasn't BLACK. Now he has that extra dimension that made him the stuff of ratings and readership. In the film Things We Lost in The Fire, why couldn't Halle have beenmarried to a successful BLACK man. Why my Princeton classmate (who snarkily missed our big Reunion) David Duchovny? Oh, because race does matter. Then it would be a Tyler Perry-bamma-esque flava'd romp that just happened to include Benicio Del Toro and we in Hollywood, just like we in the book world, have a marketing and stereotype template for that, so let's NOT mix it up. I can see the producers eeting over soy lattes now: Let's fit Halle in somehow but still keep it a white movie. Ahhhhhhh. Now I see...

Okay, so I cringe at that. I FALL-OUT at folk like Bliss who says she's an "Obama" negro. I wonder what Barack's saying to that?I guess he feels a little less "black" and more mixed based on that analysis. Outside of Hollywood and the hip hop world run by white institutional investors by the way, or the literatti orbits in Manhattan, it's still a burden to be black. if you're mixed I can understand the allure of not totally commiting to the bruvahs. Yes, there is history, both brutal and beautiful. There is heritage, both inspiring and horrid, or in some instances utterly embarassing. We have our dirty laundry in that vein and thus it becomes YOUR dirty laundry too, mixed folks. By declaring and profiting off you mixedhood, that doesn't erase the history and the heritage, or you obligation to clean the dirty laundry. Indeed, you ARE part of the dirty laundry when you point out, as Bliss does, that her father's folk were "Creoles" a la Jellyroll Morton, and thus had this paperbag test disdain for the evil blueblack liver-lipped crowd, I suppose. Well even as flawed as he was, Jelly contributed to his peeps' (where they then, is peeps? This is soooooo confusing!) culture and in the process gave black folks and in turn the world, the only truly American art form: Jazz. And back to my thesis--then you turn around and make money off of it? Jelly made a living not from running away from or minimizing or exploiting his "black" blood. He embraced it. It drove him nuts, but he did it. He tried to understand what it meant to be the descendant of slaves in the New World. It was reflected in his passion and pain. I just want Bliss to immerse herself in that passion and pain...yes and conflict, ambivalence...just for a little while. Then go call yourself whatever you wish and I'll buy your book and applaud you.

I's about the time you should really be calling me an asshole. But isn't it better to get folks to stop bullshitting each other or themselves--even if that bullshit is accompanied by a wink and nudge? And please don't show me true temerity by getting PAID for this bullshit. Don't softball your colleague, as Janet Maslin did for Bliss. Hell, I say let "Skip" (Prof. Henry Louis) Gates, who "outted" (and that's the term Bliss and white folks use) Bliss's daddy and God bless him for it, write the review! Yeah, a BLACK person, or someone who identifies him/herself as so in their hearts, if not in their blood. Think of the insights. The debate. The passion. But alas, most of these essays on race are not truly written with "blacks" in mind as the audience. After all, it's the New York Times Book Review. Us niggahs don't read no New York Times! Wez snatching The Source off the newstand with that copy of King whut got dat bitch Megan Goode's titties 'n ass on the muvf*ckin' cover, and then we gonna play HALO all muvf*ckin' night till we roll out to da club...and then go to church on Sunday...

Be yourself. Know yourself. Just don't play. Don't believe one thing, hide behind those beliefs, then create a whole 'nother ethos that you profit from. That's just plain Mixed Up...

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Thanks a lot, brother...

As if brothers don't have enough to answer for.
Yes, answer for. We've been hiding behind this "woe is me, the Man's marked me for genocide and sisters diss us" crap. Oh yeah, folks what us hung and flayed like a prize elk. But have we been stepping up? Of course. Millions of us. But millions more emulate clowns like Isiah. Or Diddy for Godssakes. Or rappers and athletes and others who literally either buy into or get paid by the gatekeepers of this white ethos that we are dumb brutes, loud slicksters. Carnal beasts. Urban thugs. Dirty ol' Fred Sanfords. Cheating, snarky smarmy Buppies. Wave-cap headed bammas. "Money Over Bitches." That is what's portrayed because that is what we reflect back to these people, rather than bust the mirror.

So Madison Square Garden's going to have to pay MILLIONS for Isiah's nonsense. My boy Steve Mills, a Princeton brother, should have reined this little bastard in. I hope the Knicks fire Isiah. Yeah I know this sounds like the get Vick rant, but folks, we need another body on the pyre to show all of our men to stop the bullshit. Mr. Charlie can get away with it. We can't, we shouldn't. Games must end. There's no reason why Halle Berry, crazy as she is, shouldn't be having a beautiful African American baby rather than the spawn of her pet white prettyboy who "understands" her. For too many brothers, "understanding" our women, our mates, means "let's have a Christ-centered life," or "let's have a crack centered life." Jesus or crack, we need some sort of external force to help us focus and relate. I don't need Jesus to do that. I don't need drugs or macho or some vampire preacher or some made up mumbo jumbo from a Motherland that treats women worse than America does. I need a shared spirit with my black woman. That comes from inside.

The reverse, the other side, can be truly scary. While the vast majority of couples consisting of brothers with non-black females (or males, hey) are based on mutuality, love, respect. You have some fools who still like to avid sisters based on the notion that white women won't sweat you. Or that sisters are cruel and demanding or are golddigging tricks. Hmmm. Many white women will dump you in a nanosecond for reasons ranging from banal and ridiculous to deep seated fear. And yeah, many of them are crazy, too. Look at Clarence Thomas's spouse. She is a right wing lunatic who likely edited the manuscript of his already insane memoir. She was especially hard on Professor Anita Hill, who's done nothing but call Clarence the liar he is. Read between the lines. Stay away from my sick-head blackman, you black women! Well, we may come to a point when sisters say: "Go ahead and have his lame, crazy ass!" They may be nuts themselves, but sisters have hung in there despite our immaturity and public clowning. How long, though. How long? Don't give aid and comfort to the enemy, brothers.

So Steve--pay that women her damage award and cut Isiah loose. Please...