Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The "Either Or" Conundrum

Obama said it. Cosby yelled it. O'Reilly tried it. Romany Malco wrote an article about it. The "it" in question is Black accountability. All received both praise and criticism. I posed a question about prioritizing the fight against "systemic racism" and the "need for personal accountability". While not a large sample size, the results were interesting. Most people, regardless of race, saw accountability as a bigger priority. Those who saw racism as a priority didn't deny accountability as an issue.

Oh THAT'S Romany Malco...

Now, let's look into this a little further. Barack Obama is often criticized by the right as a "race-baiter". Which is interesting because some on the left says he doesn't speak on race enough. He's biracial so I'm sure he's used to the duality (that was a joke...his ethnicity isn't the reas...nvm). During his commencement speech at Morehouse (which was only lightly covered by the media) he called for the graduates to take responsibility for their communities and avoid the impulse to make excuses. Bill Cosby has been VERY vocal in recent years about the state of the Black community and the need to take responsibility for our condition. O'Reilly recently did the same, as did Malco. Different responses for different reasons.

This points to a mentality that I think is problematic. You're either on one side or the other of the debate (nuance is not what you get if two of your uncles find wives). Either Black people are completely blameless or completely responsible for their collective condition. Why? In most complex issues there's an intersection of responsibility. For those who say "racism was forever ago, shut up about it"...no. It's effects are long-lasting and far-reaching. Your disbelief doesn't change that. HOWEVER, pretending (at least publicly) that there aren't people who don't even attempt to do for themselves is just as ludicrous (please read "ludicrous" in Mike Tyson's voice. PLEASE). We all know someone (whether family, friend, or associate) who does nothing but complain while making no effort whatsoever to improve their situation. Please know...that's not just Black people. There are lazy people of ALL races/ethnic backgrounds. If you don't believe THAT...you might just be racist. Really. Own your shit.
It's possible for both sides to be wrong you know

We spend a LOT of time arguing about what the REAL problem is, and not enough time working on solutions. BOTH are problems. BOTH require work. For those of you who think racism is no longer an issue (or like Larry Elder says..."not the main issue") cool. Work on being individually accountable. If you get a little extra energy, perhaps you can join one of the MANY (also not often covered in the media) programs available to teach money management/parenting skills, or even those programs working to end drug dependency/violence. Those programs exist. Some are government funded. Some are privately funded. Most do good/important work. Those who think systemic racism and the laws (both formal and informal) that support it are the only problem, cool. Work on putting pressure on the lawmakers to change those laws. Work on forcing the media (by not watching and not supporting their sponsors) to provide fair coverage to positive images of all races. Work on not ATTACKING artists, but holding the labels accountable for offering more balance. Making the radio stations accountable. Teaching those in the community how the law works, and how to avoid the pitfalls of a system that appears to be slanted. We're all trying to achieve "better". Fighting people who have the same goal, but a different approach...nah. When a bully is too big, sometimes you gotta "jump" that bitch. Hit him high and low at the same time. We're letting the bully walk away while we fight each other. Let's work on that.

Full disclosure, I don't ever worry about "tone" when i read what someone says. I try to determine whether or not what they're saying is valid based on the facts. The messenger isn't important to me. I'm not suggesting you do the same. I'm telling you that's where my perspective comes from. Facts are facts and if you're not trying to make them fit your argument, they are useful to get an accurate picture. Fact, racist attitudes still exist in the world. Debating to what degree they exist is tiresome and does little to change those attitudes. Fact, there are lazy people of all races. Debating whether they are few or many does nothing to stop it. I've personally made a decision to no longer engage people who fight people trying to progress. Go stand in your holier than thou section with the rest of your "my way or the highway" homies. I'm supporting anyone attempting to move the dialogue AND the community forward. The rest of you can keep arguing over who knows best.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Logical Fallacy or "That SOUNDS good but the math doesn't add up, chief"

Recently the pro-profiling crowd have used a common meme to support their behavior. Not just in support of George Zimmerman, but in support of Stop & Frisk, Muslim profiling by the TSA, and others. It goes something like this: "Of course all black men aren't murders. BUT, since black men commit more murders, it's logical to be afraid/profile". Sounds about right. I mean...if there's a behavior that is clearly occurring at a high rate in a particular community, then of COURSE when you see a member of that community it's reasonable to assume they engage in that behavior...right? Wrong...and math will help us get there!

Let's use my previous example. Black men commit MORE murders. True. Of the approximately 13,000 murders committed in 2011, 52% were committed by black males. Around 6700+ murders. There are around 42 million Black people in the USA. Approximately half are male (21 million if you're lazy or bad at math). Assuming every murderer only murdered one person...1 out of every 3100+ black men is a murderer. Or... 0.03% chance of a Black man around you being a  murderer. So let's go back...it's reasonable to be afraid of someone who has less than a half of a half of a percent chance of being a murderer statistically? Perhaps my understanding of "reasonable" is different than yours. (Side note: in 85% of murders committed by black men, the victims is black. If you're NOT black, the chance that a black man will murder you goes down to 0.004%). Math doesn't lie.

Too much math? Ok...let's do an easier problem. Most tall mountains are capped with snow. Therefore, it's reasonable to assume that if I see snow, I must be on a tall mountain. Except.... Look, you can be afraid of black men if you want. You can blame the media. You can blame misunderstanding of statistics. You can blame it on the rain (sorry Milli Vanilli...or whoever actually sang it). But in the end, there is no amount of justification you can use other than "I'm scared and it makes me feel better. The statistics don't justify your fear. It rarely does.

Base Rate Bias is the name of this logical fallacy. It says you will ignore the overall statistics when you can zero in on something that groups the statistics. I get it. "More people without college degrees are billionaires", therefore it's better financially to NOT have a degree. Wait...THAT one doesn't make sense to you? But it's the same reasoning you used before...Too deep? Ok Ok Ok... I'll make it simple. The overwhelming majority of black men do NOT murder people. Even those who DO don't murder non-black people. So no, you can't use that statistic to justify your fear. You can use your fear to keep looking for justification, though. Or...you can use your logic to overcome your fear. What ya gon do?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Black American, Black, American, Black in America...What's the difference?

I've lived with an open secret all of my life. I'm not who you see. By "you" I mean...everyone. As the years go on, I'm more and more..."me"...but still not fully myself.

When I'm around Black people? I'm comfortable. I easily communicate either using colloquialisms, or standard English. I say nigga without concern for being perceived as a hypocrite or self-hating minion. I listen to music that is offensive. I grasp the nuance. When I'm around other races? I'm comfortable. I easily communicate using standard English. I never say nigga because I recognize the weight of the word. I listen to music that doesn't offend. I grasp the nuance. Both of those people exist. In me. All of the time.

"why the black side gotta cry?!" calm down, it's a joke
I've read Shakespeare and listened to Dead Prez. I've worked in corporate America and read the Autobiography of Malcolm X (and Behold a Pale Horse). I hate it. Shakespeare did nothing for me. Who talks like that? Yes, I grasp the explanation of the human condition...and I grasp it even better by listening to Earth, Wind, and Fire. I hated working in corporate America. Putting on a facade for people so they would feel comfortable in my presence. Removing the "edge" from my voice so I wouldn't appear threatening. Laughing at jokes that weren't funny (to me). But...I wanted to succeed so, I "played the game".

That's what my life WAS. Playing a game. Holding on to my "self" while trying to improve my situation. Feeling the need to assimilate because "that's the only way they'll allow you in". Guess what? I don't want "in" like that. I'm a dope person. I mean...REALLY dope. You should want to be around me. As I am. Ask yourself why my beard bothers you. Why the tone of my voice intimidates you. Why my music scares you. Let me help you...it's because you don't understand it. So instead of trying to understand, you ask ME to change. Nope. I'm good. My beard is flourishing (it's beautiful). I'm passionate, so I speak with a fluctuating tone (and often with exaggerated hand gestures). My music speaks to a struggle that still exists...often far away from your neighborhood. I'm not assimilating. You will love me like this, or you can lose out on all this (waves hand all over my body) dopeness.
Ok folks..."Take Care"

But hold on....I also LOVE doing certain things that are "mainstream". Hell, as a comic, I've been embraced by more middle aged conservative audiences than the so-called "urban" audience (by urban i mean minorities because...duh). I watch Friends (Chandler is funny...sue me). I have a few hipster friends who keep me abreast of what the plaid shirt and tight pants generation is doing. I think Bill O'Reilly is a brilliant man. I disagree with him more than occasionally, but he's entertaining and at least puts some thought into his arguments. And i won't hide THAT either. Black people saying we're not monolithic means I can go skiing AND play basketball. I like hockey (NJ Devils) and listen to classic rock.

That's my secret. For years I was playing a game. I was never really being myself. I felt like I was hiding my "blackness" around white people, and hiding my mainstream tendencies around black people. Fuck all of you and your judgmental asses. I'm me. I'm dope. I mean...REALLY dope. The question is...are YOU dope enough for me to want to be around?

PS. I'm going to eat fried chicken and cry about Kovalchuk retiring (he played for the Devils...smh)

Monday, July 1, 2013

Zimmerman and the Legal System are BOTH on Trial

I've avoided writing/tweeting/vlogging/fartin about this Zimmerman trial, since Zimmerman was arrested. Not because I'm apathetic (I'm not outraged, but I'm more than a little interested)...but because I didn't want to fan the flames of irresponsible/uninformed opinions already being bandied about all willy and nilly like. But...

Here we are. I was outspoken before about the "need" for Zimmerman to stand trial. He's standing trial. I've been quiet. Because...I mean...all we REALLY wanted was an opportunity for the case to be heard. A chance for the family to know what really happened that night. Right? Except...I've lived in this country for a loooooooong time. I know better. YOU know better. Regardless of your race/ethnicity/religion/sexuality/choice of breakfast meat, we've all seen cases of the legal system failing. But, once again we suspend reality for another "case of the century". How many examples of innocent men being found guilty, only to be released years later when DNA evidence clears their name? How many guilty men are found "not guilty" because of a procedural issue (or jury bias)? How many times do we have to see it before we acknowledge our legal system is flawed because...WE are flawed as humans?
Guess When I was 100% Legal

This is a case about a man who killed a 17 year old boy. Yes, he's a boy. He's still legally a minor. He can't buy cigarettes, sign a contract, or join the military. Our country considers him a child. Those are facts. I've seen him called an animal. A thug. And other things I choose not to repeat. All of these strongly held opinions about a child whom none of us ever met. "He smoked weed. Look at his pictures...he looks like a thug. He got put out of school". So? Guess what...I smoked weed. I still look like a thug to some. I got put out of school for punching a kid in the nose (true story...senior year in HS...he called me "boy"...i reacted.). How many of you believe I deserve to die?

Zimmerman is also a stranger to me. All I know about him came from the same media sources that gave me only partial information about Trayvon. So let's be honest...this isn't about what we know. This is about what we've always believed. Young black kid in a hoodie. Smoked weed. Had problems in school. He probably started the fight. Or is it...wanna be cop with a racist bent, murdering a child in cold blood and being protected by other racists in his community? And THAT is where the legal system steps in. To give us the facts, not the media hype.

But, I know better. I know that this case SHOULD be about whether or not Zimmerman murdered Martin or acted in self-defense. I've read what you think. Those who think it's murder say "he had no right to follow Trayvon". Those who think it's self-defense say "it's not illegal to follow someone". I say, if you follow me...at night....in the rain...and I don't know you...you better have a gun. But that's me. And I'm not you. And that's why this legal system is flawed. I'm just as convinced that I have the right to walk home without being followed as you are convinced that you have the right to follow me. What does the jury believe? We'll find out. But until then...we're just talking.

So let's talk. For those of you saying "this isn't about race"...you're right...kind of. It shouldn't be. No case SHOULD be. Yet, here's ANOTHER example of the two ways that 'Merica views anything. A lot of black people (and some of other races) are convinced that Zimmerman is a racist and Martin was targeted. Geraldo Rivera (yeah yeah, i know) even alluded to this when he suggested that wearing a hoodie makes brown/black children reasonably subjected to suspicion. That's ridiculous. But it's reality. How many of you think you know what a thug looks like? To be honest, I dressed much more conservatively when I was doing illegal activities. I'm also in a news station looking at 2 young white guys in hoodies who NO one would accuse of being thugs...(because they're white...duh). It's not the hoodie. It's. Not. The. Hoodie. Ok...what about the rest of it? He WAS put out of school. Yep...for having marijuana on his person. Are hippies thugs? Baby boomers who grew up in the 60's and early 70's smoked all of the weed. Now they view weed smokers as...hoodlums? Why? It's not the weed. It's. Not. The. Weed.
It's because I'm BLACK! 

Trayvon Martin is black. And for some of you, that's enough to remove "benefit of the doubt". George Zimmerman isn't black. And for some of you, that's enough to remove "benefit of the doubt". Justice may be blind, but the people charged with meting out justice are sighted den a mufugga. I don't know if justice will be served in this case or not. I DO know that we still have a LONG way to go with race relations in this country if justice continues to be polarizing, nearly 20 years after OJ killed those 2 people and walked (yes, black people KNOW he did it...we were just amazed that he got away with it). By the way, if you bring up OJ anytime a black person mentions the unfair legal system, shhhh....relax. One case in 400 years of being in this country...that's called the "exception proving the rule".  Anyway...if you see me walking through your neighborhood wearing a hoodie, I'd suggest you stay in your vehicle. There won't be a trial. I don't trust the legal system.

PS. I didn't mention the actual trial because...we ALL thought Casey Anthony was going to jail, and you see how THAT turned out. I'm not really into speculating.