Category Archives: Motherhood

Testimony of a Reformed Child Beater

Note: Emotions and views surrounding corporal punishment are very strong and raw right now… but I’m not here to debate your feelings or coddle your visceral need to be violent towards people who are smaller than you. I’m here to talk about how we’re failing these kids.

Beating. Whuppin’. Whipping. Spanking. Choose whatever verb is most acceptable or familiar to you, it comes down to an adult hitting a child with something. Within the realm of corporal punishment, particularly in America, one may use either one of these words to determine the severity or assuage the guilt of inflicting pain on a child. Charles Barkley recently exemplified this when he make the distinction between a “beating” (which sounds awful – like something a cruel master would do to an insubordinate slave) and a “spanking” or a “whipping” (words which I suppose are supposed to conjure images of love?). Again, it doesn’t matter what you call it, the intent is to inflict pain on a child for some infraction, sometimes even imaginary ones.

Today, I’m going to keep my conversation centered around two groups: Black folk and church folk. If you find yourself in either category and are prone to offense, I’m going to warn you and give you the opportunity to stop reading now. Here’s a hint: my assessment doesn’t end well for you.

Still reading? Ahh, ok.

spankingThe conversation around the subject of beating children in recent days in light of the Adrian Peterson case has been absolutely heartbreaking, and quite frankly, revolting. The depths that Black folk and church folk have gone to to defend the act of taking a switch or belt or branch or extension cord to the tender flesh of their children has been staggering. I’ve seen comments where people say they’d beat the autism out of their kids, beat the gay out of their kids, beat some sense into their kids. These words are often written with the letters ‘lol’ following the statement, but you know the QWERTY Crusader opining on the issue isn’t sitting there laughing out loud. Their reaction at the thought of NOT beating their child for an infraction likely more resembles a smug, sinister grunt. And no one, I mean NO ONE, beats their children as frequently as church folk and Black folk. The numbers bear this out. 8/10 African Americans believe that spanking is an acceptable form of punishment compared to 7/10 whites who were surveyed. Asians numbers were even lower, with 47% of Asian males in favor of corporal punishment compared to 12% of Asian females. In the church, 8/10 born again Christians are in favor of spanking.

I understand these numbers, and before I became a reformed child beater (as of last week), I adhered to the reasons and social drivers that have contributed to these numbers. Blacks in America have carried on a tradition of beating their children into obsequiousness, often in the hope that it would keep them safe. Encountering a “sassy black gal” or “uppity negress” (terms which are still sprinkled over the internet today) would cause white lips to curl and often resulted in horrific rape and/or murder of the offender. In order to keep their children in line with society’s expectations that they be silent, second class citizens, Black parents beat their children at the moment sass, questioning or a challenge reared its head. The idea was – and still is – that if you beat the obstinateness, spunk and even the curiosity out of their children, it will somehow save their lives or set them on the course for future success. And yet, our prisons are filled with Black men and women who have had more than their fair share of beatings, while their absence is noted key decision making arenas across the country. May I humbly suggest that Black success experienced in this country is as a result of beating one’s children is in spite of its application, and not because of it?

The only thing beating your children does -or any living being for that matter – is it teaches them to fear their assailant…in this case YOU. Whipping someone is not an act of love. It is an act of rage. And before you get all “it’s a biblical principle” on me, let’s consider the two biblical principles that church folk are quick to quote in the midst of a good ol’ fashioned child-focused scourging:

  • Spare the rod, and spoil the child.
  • Pr 13:24 He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.
  • Pr 22:15 Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.
  • Pr 23:13 Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.
  • Pr 23:14 Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.
  • Pr 29:15 The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.

Notice I have no scriptural reference for the very first quote, because just like oft quoted “God helps those who help themselves” it’s not in the bible.

I went ahead and listed these without context because that’s what people who manipulate the bible for the benefit of their own agenda do. Let’s take Proverbs 29:15 for example, which implies that beating a child will eventually keep his mother from experiencing shame on account of his misdeeds. The same chapter goes on to say in verse 21 that “he who pampers his servant from childhood will have him as a son in the end”. So what are we to do? Pamper children into loving us or scourge them into obedience in lieu of it? Perhaps beating your children is not a biblical requirement. Maybe there are other, less violent ways to bring your children into alignment.

The average American Christian’s relationship with children (not just their own) is a reflection of their relationship with God, and usually it’s a screwed up relationship. Too many are locked in a cycle of breach of law, expecting severe chastisement from God, pleading for forgiveness and reoffending. They then impose this dysfunctional relationship on their children.

beatingI had a neighbor who had taken on the care of her 6 year old grandson named Shiloh. At 6, he was still wetting the bed. Her response was to whip his behind. At least 3 times a week, Shiloh would get a whipping for peeing in the bed because “he was too big for that”. She would often tell me with pride how she “beat his ass” every time he wet the bed. And yet, the more she beat him, the more he peed, which she then read as willful defiance. Eventually it was discovered that his incontinence was as a result of some pretty f*cked up potty training tactics he was subjected to when he was a toddler. How much pain and effort could both have them been spared if she had opted to investigate his background first and rely on archaic Negro/Christian ideas about how disciplining the child made her a good grandma last?

If we think about the rod in Psalms 23, where David says the Lord’s “rod and staff” are a comfort, can we really (and logically) assume that God beating him in the Valley of the Shadow of Death give him the warm and fuzzies? Shepherd do not use rods to beat their sheep: they use it to change or keep them on course and out of harm.

I have been accused of thinking I am better than other parents because I no longer opt to spank my kids. I know that people making these assertions are doing so out of their own sense of guilt and reluctance to do the hard work of thoughtful childrearing. I don’t combat their allegations. After all, from the beginning of my life as a parent, I relied on spanking because it was the right thing to do. Spanking has been handed down for generations and I and many people inherited it. Women I respect have advised me on what instruments to beat my children with (wooden spoons, fly swatters and paint stirrers) in the quest to quell ‘foolishness’. However, after much reflection, I have discovered that there is a difference between foolishness and childishness. Childish behavior has everything to do experience and the lack thereof. Foolishness is generally the province of adults who have had the benefit of wider experience, and in my estimation, makes grown-ups better candidates for a good spanking. Too many parents are bullying and punishing children merely for being children.

My younger sister is my model for many things, and though I gave birth first, she has surpassed me in terms of being an exemplary mother. She recounted an exchange she had with her four year old son with me.

“Mommy, can I climb on shelf?” he asked.

“No,” she said firmly.

“But why not?”

As you can imagine, they have had this conversation numerous times before. She looked up from her whatever she was reading and looked him in the eye.

“You tell me ‘why not’.”

My nephew thought about it for a moment and replied, “Because I’ll fall down?”

“And then what will happen.”

“And then I’ll get hurt?”

“Do you want to get hurt?”

“No.”

“Are you going to climb the shelf?”

“No…”

“Okay then.”

And away he went.

Children are far more intelligent than we give them credit for, and they learn by repetition. As a culture, I think we would do better and go farther if we relied on our words more and our fists less.

Raising Enterprising Kids

I used to live in an apartment on Roswell Rd in Sandy Springs that featured one of those huge dumpsters when you first enter the complex. You know the ones I’m referring to: sometimes they’re “tastefully” hidden behind a wooden fence…sometimes not so much. There’s nothing like coming home from a hard day’s working and witnessing a 3 ton bin vomit its contents because some genius thought it would be a good idea to stuff his soiled mattress right at the bin’s opening.

If you haven’t gotten the idea, I used to hate taking out the trash. Fortunately, I lived with 2 other roommates, so we rotated the duty weekly. I suffered this task every third week until there came a knock on my door one Saturday afternoon. An unsmiling boy with brown hair and a red t-shirt was standing on our step.

“Hi,” he said.

“Hey,” I replied.

What did this kid want?

“I’ll take your trash out every week for a dollar,” he said, pointing to his wagon which was sitting at the bottom of the stairs. I nearly dropped my glass. Bless this child!

“Yes. Yes!” I said with the enthusiasm of a woman who’d just been asked to be married. This boy was my knight in shining armor, and his little red wagon was the token of his sincere affection. “When can you start?”

“Today,” he said. He didn’t elaborate.

Ahhh. A man of few words; a man of action! Good lad.

I scampered off to the kitchen, tied up my bag, and handed it to him. Then I rooted around my wallet and fished out a dollar’s worth of change. He took it, unsmiling, and set off towards the dumpster.

“What’s your name?” I called after him.

“Neil,” he replied…. and then he was gone; until the next week when he showed up to collect our trash. Unfortunately, it was not my week to take care of trash duty, and that particular roommate did not want to part with his dollar. Undaunted, Neil returned again until we established a pattern.

He took out my trash for the next two or three months when our lease expired. I never saw him again, and never told him how much I appreciated his service. I’ve always regretted that.

That was about 11 years ago, and Neil must be 18 or 19 by now. I don’t know why he suddenly appeared in my consciousness this morning. Perhaps it’s because I’m staring at this laptop I slaved for hours to procure funds for; a laptop which was once received with so much glee that has been precariously sitting on the edge of the dining room table for hours. Do I move it, or do I let it fall to its doom in order to teach its new owner a lesson? After very little thought, I decided to move it.

Image from Mattel

Image from Mattel

I sometimes wonder if my children would more careful with their belongings if they had to shoulder some of the financial responsibility. Something tells me “yes”. I took the girls to the Girl Scout STEM Expo this weekend where they were selling all kinds of GS paraphernalia, including a limited edition (polarizing) Girl Scout Barbie. No lie, Aya melted into a heap of blubbering, messy tears, so conflicted over whether she should break her $20 bill for a $12.99 doll that I finally told her to forget the entire thing and stop the crying. She had NO concept that the money she had in her wallet that day wouldn’t be the only money she would ever make now or in the future. She had $26 in her purse, the spoils and returns of lost teeth and birthday gifts. Would she have a different attitude towards purchasing that doll if I had given her more opportunities to make more money?

The prevailing school of thought is that it is imperative to give children chores in order to assist in their complete development, but the jury is still out on whether children should be paid for chores done around the house or if they should be expected to do so. I suppose every family needs to make that determination within the confines of their means.

So back to Neil. I don’t know if his parents sent him off that afternoon to go make his own money, or if he decided to do it on his own. No matter what the impetus was, the result was an 8/9 year old boy knocking on doors, trying and succeeding to drum up his own business. And even if it wasn’t a multi-million dollar organization, he was consistent and efficient in his delivery of his service. (Never mind it was never with a smile. We’re talking other people’s trash here!) If he kept/is keeping up the same attitude toward his other endeavors, I hope to see him on a Forbes list one day.

I think it’s important that we give children an opportunity to earn a living using their wits and talents. I recently hired a 13 year old to edit one of my short stories, instructing her to use “the full scope of her editing knowledge learned thus far”. Now, I don’t know what the “full scope” of that knowledge is, but the girl is sharp as a tack and has been on the honor roll since she was in kindergarten. I know I can trust my work in her hands…not because she’s experienced, but because she’s smart.

Yup. I definitely see a wagon in two little Grants’ very near futures.

Do you put your kids to work? What are your thoughts on paying children for chores? Have you recently encouraged a child in some enterprise? I’m sure we’d all like to know!

What Responsibility Do Women Play in the Enforcement of Rigid Gender Roles We Buck Against?

*Note: I’m just asking a question! And yes, I do understand that this query is akin to the “pull your pants up and you won’t get shot” argument – but don’t get all catawampus before we’ve had a chance to talk about this now!*

 

godadsThis morning somebody –and I’m not saying who – posted this picture of a father and daughter on twitter with the hashtag #GoDads. It was pretty innocuous in my estimation, but a small cadre of women took some level of offence to it. To summarize, they said it was a “look and clap for me move”. My husband agreed, and said it was rather narcissistic. A man who has fathered a child shouldn’t be trumpeting about this small accomplishment when he has a duty as a parent to ensure his child’s welfare anyway. I agree with my husband’s sentiments and those of the group of women who felt an aversion to this post, however, I do understand the spirit in which the post was made.

The unknown father and daughter in this picture are at a clinic in Ghana. Ghanaian fathers, like the majority of African fathers are not known to be hands-on when it comes to parenting. They are providers and disciplinarians, and that is generally where the concept of Ghanaian fatherhood begins and ends. Of course, we have to give room for outliers like my own father, who told me that he didn’t want to be the type of dad whose children run from when from him there is news that’s he’s home. I’ve visited homes where this was absolutely the case. Daddy comes home, the kids would courtesy or salute, parrot their evening greeting to their father and then disappear. The picture referenced above says to me that there is a new vanguard of fathers who want to change this perception or reality.

In the course of the conversation that quickly became male vrs female, one of the respondents asserted that the only reason gender roles in Ghana haven’t changed is because women haven’t allowed them to. He gave an example of a man trying to wash his own bowl and being chased away by a woman. Sadly, I can see that happening. On Adventures, a reader described to her horror how her own sister facilitated archaic gender roles in her home. Her sister had a daughter and a son, both close in age. One afternoon her son said he was hungry, and his mother called for his sister to go make her brother noodles in the kitchen. Our reader stepped in, grabbing her nephew by the hand and firmly advocated that he be taught to make his OWN noodles; after all, boys are just as capable of cooking as girls are.

Photo Source: Bee's Blog

Photo Source: Bee’s Blog

Let’s pause and think about it. How many times is this same scenario repeated in some manner all over the country? We stop girls from climbing trees because girls don’t do that, or we tell boys they can’t help in the kitchen because it’s not done. Even when it comes down to something as mundane as pounding fufu, it’s expected that the boy will pound and the girl will turn. And if we’re completely honest, it’s usually women enforcing these gender roles.

Can we then be justified in our vexation when we find ourselves locked on the outside of parliament and boardroom deals when members of our own gender have socialized our boys-now-men to think that there are some things the female gender can’t do? At the same time, members of our own gender have raised us to believe that men just aren’t capable (or can’t be trusted) when it comes to the day to day matters in raising children. We mock men when they put on the baby’s diaper backwards, or make the formula too thick (or not thick enough), or sniff test a dirty pair of trousers and hastily put them on a child before sending him on stage for the church play because Dad didn’t think to set the clothes out the night before.

Kinna Likimani recently hosted a conversation surrounding gender issues as they relate to women in Ghana. One of the panelists made a poignant remark, stating that if we are going to get anywhere, we have to change certain cultural norms that are harmful, even if it means doing away with some traditions that people hold so dear. (Or hold on to for the privilege of power.)

If we are going to be serious about eliminating gender roles and bulldozing obstacles to a level playing field, we are all going to have to get comfortable with the concept of men doing certain “female” tasks and not just charging to the rescue when things have reached critical mass. This includes men functioning as stay-at-home-dads and working part time; bosses making an allowance for dads to be the first on call for when there’s a problem at school (I still don’t know why I am the FIRST person the school calls when there is a problem!); and a general expectation that men are just as responsible for the way his child turns out as a woman is.

What is the first thing we all say when a child acts out in public? Go ahead…say it with me:

Chile, where is your MOMMA??! She ain’t give you no home training, did she?

 

Hmmm. I suppose it’s hard to blame dad’s, when society’s default expectation for Black fatherhood is perpetual absenteeism.

Please, discuss ↓

The Beauty of a Truly Grateful Heart

I am not what you would call “the nicest of persons”. It’s shocking – I know. Nevertheless, this is something I have come to accept about myself. Knowing that I am capable of tremendous c callousness has led me to expect the same in my children. After all, the adage ‘The apple never really falls far from the tree’ was coined for a reason, right? You expect your children – or any person with whom you share a nurturing relationship with – the pick up a least a few of your peculiarities. But is it also in the nature of children to do something outside of your expectations and beyond that charted course you’ve laid for them.

My daughter Aya is perhaps the sweetest child I’ve ever met. (Bear in mind that I don’t spend my waking hours purposefully seeking out the company of children, so that doesn’t give me much of a sample to choose and make comparisons by.) My other three children are just as I would expect them to be, having such a mother: loud, unruly, selfish when necessary (and it’s always necessary) and shrewd. They take and take and are always looking for more. I have accepted this as normal behavior…or at least I did, until I started paying more attention to Aya’s antics. The girl is proof that sometimes, the apple falls from the tree, rolls down a hill, falls into a pond, goes through several stages of genetic mutation and comes out a coconut. Yes, both are round and firm, but couldn’t be more different than the other. Where I am callous, she is tender and where I have a cold view of the world, she sees light and goodness.

I worry about the child.

If what the Spirit tells us is true, we share particular attributes with the living God. These include the capacity to love, hate (as in a disdain for anything that would harm something/one you love), joy and so on. The bible, particularly in Psalms, talks about a grateful heart and the power of thanks giving. It alludes to the pleasure the Lord takes in our thanks. Most of these scriptures never resonated with me until I got older, saw the world and ultimately became a parent. Have you ever done something for someone- bought a gift or performed a random act of kindness and in place of receiving a “thank you” had these words follow instead:

“Oh, this is nice, but I would have much preferred if you had got the bigger/other one instead.”

Or

“Oh. You only bought one? We are six in the house. You should have got one for each of us.”

After a while, you just stop trying to please certain people, and eventually, you may begin dodging them altogether! But when you encounter someone who is truly grateful, truly appreciative of even the small things, you find yourself looking for ways to bless or give to them. I think it may be the same way with God.

Interacting with Aya has revealed a lot to me in this area. As we were sitting in church on the first Sunday of the month taking communion, she whispered a series of questions to me.

“So…this bread is Jesus’ body, Mommy?”

“Yes.”

“And the juice is His ‘blood’?”

“Yes.”

I went on to explain the mechanics of the crucifixion. The kids had – to my horror – seen a clip of Passion of the Christ which was slightly traumatic for them. Still, it was a good tool in that moment.

“God used to require a blood sacrifice to cover our sins…things we’ve done that are bad,” I explained in as elementary a fashion as I could. “Jesus’ blood was the ultimate sacrifice. He did that so God wouldn’t be mad at us anymore.”

She raised her eyes in surprise and smiled, mulling over the words. “Oh. Well, that was nice!”

Then she earnestly took her communion.

Aya is always looking for ways to share and to help others. Last year, she spent a good part of second grade helping one of the kids in her class who was struggling with math with his classwork of her own accord. No one appointed her to the task. She doesn’t want to see anyone left behind or missing out. This morning was the kids’ first day back to school, and as I lay in bed, still in the throes of my Nyquil induced coma, she told Stone to go back to the bathroom and re-brush his teeth. My husband asked her why.

“I want him to have a good first day at school. I don’t want anyone to tease him,” she replied.

See what I mean? If it had been up to me or Nadjah, we would have told the boy his mouth stinks of sulfur and to handle his stank breath! The result would have been the same, (i.e. Stone would go to brush his teeth) but the impetus is completely different. Aya didn’t want Stone to have a bad day, whereas we wouldn’t have wanted to smell his bad breath. See the difference?

That being said, I’m always looking for additional ways to show Aya that I appreciate her kindness and her gratitude. The first words from her mouth are always “thank you” whenever she receives anything, and she is very timid when it comes to asking for more. But because she’s ALWAYS so grateful, she gets more. It’s a vicious cycle of blessing!

There are different approaches to getting, and each has its own benefits. There’s taking by force, birthright, a sense of entitlement and what-have-you. I think that these methods are what we are accustomed to in society. But as a mother, a woman and a retail associate, I can tell you that being sweet and grateful will get you much further than privilege and brute force ever will. Yes, you may get what you deserve with an entitled attitude, but you will get MORE than you deserve when you consistently show appreciation. This latter attitude has led to an abundance of kiddie wealth, as Aya’s grateful heart has benefited her siblings on several occasions.

 

Have you encountered anyone who inspired you to show more appreciation? Do you find yourself running away from people who never/rarely show thankfulness? Should your giving be a function of the other person’s reaction, or should it not matter? Discuss! ↓

gratitude

 

Are You a Candidate for a Transgendered Relationship?

*Note: This isn’t a blog about abortion. Rather, it’s a blog about Black men’s perceived attitudes towards abortion. I’m sure by the end of it, there will be plenty of offence to go around. You are all very welcome.

 

hollywoodLet’s just be very clear: the type of Black masculinity we see parading around in the streets and on our television screens is manufactured. Robert Townsend told us as much in his groundbreaking 1987 film, Hollywood Shuffle (which I see is on Netflix and will be watching today!). Portraying an aspiring actor, Townsend finally lands a gig in a Blaxploitation film as a gangster. As he delivers his lines, his White/Jewish director commands him to be “more Black”.

“What do you mean?” asks Townsend.

“You know…grab your crotch. Slur your words,” the director says enthusiastically. He demonstrates the appropriate portrayal of ‘street talk’, grabbing his crotch, hunching his back and slurring his words.

If that sounds or looks familiar, it’s because every Black boy who grew up without a father in the age of television learned what it means to be a Black man from a Hollywood Jew. Sadly, Black men in belted jeans and polo shirts pounding away on their keyboards don’t make for very exciting television. Someone could script and cast a complex Black male character who hacks government files and enjoys a glass of red wine at the end of a hard day of data mining, but like 18th century Negro doctors and inventors, we know those don’t exist.

Likewise, Black fatherhood has been portrayed as something to avoid at all costs. Apart from Bill Cosby and James Evans, there have not really been many models for strong Black fatherhood on television. I guess you could lump in Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper, but I don’t think that was his kid. We would be kidding ourselves if we denied the power of media over the choices we make and the behaviors we employ. Every time I use the word “amazing”, I want to slice myself, simply because I am completely aware that “amazing” is the only word the Kardashian Klan is capable of using to describe any positive experience, no matter how miniscule. Now, if I in all my Magna Cum Laude amazingness am that susceptible to hypnotic, grammar crushing powers of the Kardashians, how much more the average 18-35 year old male?

The images Black males see reflected back on television screens and the pages of magazines don’t exactly scream power and responsibility. You can have power – yes – but it must only be over your bitches and ho’s. Your responsibility begins and ends with keeping yourself iced out and throwing your ‘thirsty’ she-rabbit a few carats to keep her satiated and silent. Of course, you and your doe will be expected to have sex, and while doing so, it must be hot, heavy and aggressive. A Black man is only a man if he can ‘lay the smack down’ on that azz. Sex would – ideally – be unprotected. You’ve heard somewhere on television or one of those ridiculous misogynistic morning shows that you can’t climax with a condom on. Alas, your little bunny gets pregnant. The solution is obvious.

“You need to handle dat,” you tell her callously, head cocked to the side with your hand on the same, mustering as much bravado as possible. Alternatively, you never bother to look up from your Play Station.

“What?” she screeches.

“You know…go get an abortion.”

You explain to her that you’re not ready to be a father, and that you never really had a choice in the matter (something else you heard some dimwitted television character say), and repeat that she needs to take care of dat.

“Besides…we can’t afford no kids no way.”

She’s looking at you like you’re insane, because you seem to have forgotten that you’re a 35 year old man and not some witless 17 year old with no possessions and nothing but his sexual stamina to his name. Then she looks around at all the junk you’ve purchased in the last 3 months: new rims and a sound system for your car, a big flat screen TV, a trove of sneakers in the closet. She silently walks out of the room and 9 months later, you’re a father. Tada!

Let’s go back to a certain sentence in this conversation. You said “I never had the choice” when it came to becoming a father. On the contrary, sir, you did. Men know pretty early on whether they want to have kids at some point or not. Men who don’t will go to extreme lengths to ensure that they are never (ever!) responsible for a pregnancy. 30 minutes of out-patient surgery will guarantee that you never sire a child. Men who want to leave themselves open to the possibility wear condoms. Then there are the men who think their penises are a part of an elite military corps, where they can dive in and pull out at the most critical moment. Finally, there are those dudes who blissfully, carelessly, wantonly bust their nut and wonder 6 weeks later how “this happened”. Their bewilderment is always amusing.

I know quite a few of that last group of guys, and even though some of them have gone on to become wonderful fathers, I can’t help but wonder if they would be excellent candidates for relationships with transgendered women. No, seriously. If the idea or reality of being a parent causes you that much grief, there ARE other dating/relationship options available to you.

"Orange Is The New Black" New York PremiereA transgendered woman has everything men of this sort need. Let’s face it: transgendered women are just as hot or hotter than your run of the mill born-with-a-vagina woman. Necessity dictates that they invest a lot of time into hair, make-up and clothing. You will never have to worry about your transgendered girl looking scruffy! From what I hear (from this guy who sleeps with a transgendered woman), they are skilled in the art of and provide excellent fellatio. And finally – and most importantly – you will never have to worry about impregnating a transgendered woman. She will never have a period, PMS, cramps or ensure your progeny through child birth. If you play your cards right and act now – make that switch before it’s too late – you’ll never have to worry about car seats or school fees for the remainder of your days. And no, you will not be “gay”; you’re still with a “woman”. You will, in essence, have the best of both worlds.

It’s something to think about.

Are you a candidate for a transgendered relationship? Is the idea of fatherhood so appalling that it might inspire you to consider a new type of romantic partner? We could be looking at the future of Black relationships. You heard it here first! Discuss. ↓

Fame

fame-298x300

(Fame) I’m gonna live forever

I’m gonna learn how to fly (High!!!)

I feel it coming together People will see me and cry (Fame)

I’m gonna make it to heaven

Light up the sky like a flame (Fame!)

I’m gonna live forever

Baby remember my name (Remember, remember!!! x 10,000,000)

Do you remember that show from the 80’s? I believe they made a remake of it a few years ago. It’s not nearly as popular as the original, of course. It was folly to remake Fame, just as it was foolish to remake the Karate Kid. Why ruin perfection?

Anyhow, I have been giving quite a bit of thought to the concept of fame – or rather how much importance society has put on it – for the last few weeks. It’s as if there is a gnawing, growing hunger and thirst that cannot be satiated with each passing generation. It’s like a virus or a famine, devouring everything in its. We haven’t escaped it our house, what with my oldest daughter stating repeatedly that her only quest in life is to be “famous”.

Like thousands of other children across America with the same goal, the girl has some talent, but not enough to compete with the likes of Quvenzhane Wallis or one of the Smith babies. We just can’t afford to divert the resources to get her to that level just yet…and that is what has me concerned about this Plague of Fame sweeping the country.

I visited with my sister-in-law a few days ago. She asked me how things were going with my book. I told her sales were slow, but that was because I hadn’t devoted a lot of time to marketing. Marketing, speaking, and all the accoutrements that go hand-in-glove with becoming a “famous author” are the things that many writers hate doing. I don’t want to market my books: I just want to write something people will enjoy and repeat that process 35 or more times over. This is why I will probably not become a “famous author”, at least in my lifetime. There is a possibility for fame after death, but we’ll come back to that.

As I was saying, I was chatting with my sister, and I asked her what was going on in her life in turn. She told me about a kid in her neighborhood who had done the unthinkable.

“He was a really sweet kid,” she said half way through our conversation. “He was a straight A student, had a ton of friends in his high school, and was well-liked in our neighborhood. He never did anything, except study, go to his after school clubs, and came home.”

“What do you think drove him to it?” I asked. My mouth was dry and my heart was heavy with sadness.

“Well,” she said slowly, “I think it was because when he went off to college, he wasn’t the biggest fish in the pond anymore. He was just another guppy in a huge lake.”

“He became a number…”I murmured.

“Exactly. And because everything had come so easy to him at home for so long, in his classwork…he had a set method of success that wasn’t working in this new environment…he couldn’t handle it. He wasn’t doing well in his studies. No one knew him. So he came home during Spring Break…”

And shot himself in his bedroom with a rifle, from lungs to neck. He didn’t survive. His life was cut short so soon, mostly because he didn’t have faith in the person he might have become.

This is one of the more extreme examples of the lengths young people will go to in order to reconcile the sense of failure they feel with “fame” or “renown” eludes them. I imagine there is no small amount of depression that precedes or accompanies these feeling as well. I distinctly recall scoffing when I read the story about Danny Bowman, a young teen in England who became suicidal after repeatedly failing to take the perfect selfie. It seemed silly – asinine, really – at first, but then you realize that this need to capture the perfect image of one’s self has less to do with self-obsession and more to do with how you think the world views you. (Please feel free to disagree with me on this point in the comments section.)

I think many of us Generation Xers who suffer from our own brand of Peter Pan Syndrome have done a piss poor job of preparing our kids for disappointment. In a way, I understand why. We still think we’re invincible: we rode bikes without helmets, lived in homes swathed in asbestos and lived to tell the tale, so why shouldn’t our children be just as unbreakable? Because our kids don’t/will never have the benefit of having the strength and intelligence of our Baby Boomer parents. We have cushioned our kids from any semblance of dissatisfaction, minimized almost every opportunity for them to experience delayed gratification, and set them up expect success with minimal effort on their part. One has only to go to Chuck E Cheese and watch an eight year old fall to pieces because he can’t get his balls in the skee-ball hole and retrieve his tickets!

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be famous or to be exceptional and what you do. I wish more people would pursue exceptionalism, rather than mediocrity. (Maybe we would have evolved to grow wings by now, who knows.) My concern is how we have been conditioned to experience fame; i.e. when it supposed to be valuable to us.

zora-neale-hurston_sSome of the most famous people in popular culture today only became so because they died. John Keats died a penniless, depressed dope head and gave us some of the most amazing poetry in English lit today. Johann Sebastian Bach might have fallen into antiquity and forgotten memory if not for Amadeus Mozart, who was an ardent follower and admirer of Bach and popularized him as a composer. Similarly, Alice Walker revived the work of Zora Neal Hurston when Walker reintroduced the 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God to a new generation who had no idea about of Ms. Hurston. The examples are endless. Could any of these people have imagined in the depths of their drudgery, when all their work seemed as though it were in vain, when they received little or no recognition for their brilliance that 200, 100, 15 years thence they would be celebrated for their work?

In months when I haven’t sold a single unit of my book, it’s hard to imagine. For the kid who can’t figure out how to make his app work or get that technical dance move just right, it might feel the same way. This is when it becomes oh-so important that you – as an individual – recognize your worth and your brilliance and your beauty first. Don’t wait for the world to validate you. The world is fickle: they will sing your praises one day and call for your head the next.

Just ask President Obama.

What do you think, Reader? Do you think the timing of fame is more important than its achievement? Would you rather be a celebrity in your lifetime or have a legacy that outlived you? Do the spoils of your toil matter if you are not there to witness or enjoy them? Discuss! ↓

 

The Public Shaming of Justin Ross Harris

“Black folk don’t get lice. That’s something nasty white folk who don’t wash and live in trailers get.” – Some African American woman I met once when I was a kid living in Labone.

And yet there I was: a Black child, in Africa, with lice. I had caught lice from a cousin who’d gone away to boarding school and spread it to us at home. If not for her, I would never had experienced lice, and would be inclined to agree with the large, sweating Afro-American visiting my house.

This is one of the earliest conversations I can recollect around the theme of judgment. I don’t even know if it’s fair to call this course of thinking “judgment”. If there is a singular word for ‘a lack of empathy that displays itself through and makes utterances predicated on presumed superiority’, then that’s what behavior is. I find that when tragedy strikes, many American’s aren’t ‘judgmental’ per se, they do whatever this unnamed rhyme and dance is.

I have already stated my unwavering support for Justin Harris, and until a prosecutor can prove beyond reasonable doubt that he intended to murder his child, that is not going to change. Did Justin’s actions lead to the death of his child? Yes. No one can dispute that. The question that is before us now is did he purposefully do so.

First of all, let me say that I am not naïve about what the likely outcome of this case will be. The Cobb County judge will likely find him guilty, because he doesn’t want to be seen as soft or wants to avoid the same criticism the judge in the Casey Anthony case did. It’s just easier this way: to lock Justin up for 20 years and forget him like a bad memory. However, we will all find in the end that doing this will not be that simple. This case interests me as I’ve said before because:

1)      I’m a parent

2)      I’m married and

3)      I’m educated

Just like the Supreme Court ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, the outcome of this case has implications for us all. Now that’s they’ve ruled that Hobby Lobby does not have to cover certain medical expenses because of religious beliefs, what is the ricochet effect of that? What else can a company decide not to cover because of their beliefs or mores? Your answer may be: “Well, just don’t go work at a Christian company.” Life, as we know, is never that simple. I know many a church girl who has ended up on the pole because she needed to make ends meet.

I’m going to discuss a few areas that are particularly troubling to me as regards to this case, starting with

The Media

Media treatment of this tragedy has been absolutely and shockingly shameful. From the beginning, they have sought to find Just Harris guilty in the court of public opinion before he’s properly been to trial. The two areas they have focused on are his search history and now his alleged sexting. Reports have indicated that he was sexting during the hours his son lay dying in the car. They have also said he and his wife searched on how long it takes an animal and/or a child to die in a hot car. What they have released is WHEN these searches took place. Was while his wife was pregnant? Was it the day the baby was born? Was it a few hours before he left his child in the car? Why can’t they say when? So you know when he was sexting, but can’t say when these searches took place? Sounds fishy to me…

Internet Searches

Critics of the Harris couple have proposed that they are both guilty of killing their son because they both did a search on kids in hot cars (at some point, again we don’t know when), and have sought to implicate his wife in this tragedy. Now, as someone who is married – and is married to a web developer – this could be troublesome should any tragedy befall us in our home. Again, let me tell on myself.

We have 3 tablets, 3 laptops, 3 smartphones and 2 desktop computers in our home. Once in a while my husband and I tweet or Facebook each other while we are in bed. Together. There have been numerous occasions where I have said “Hey babe! When you get a chance, Google xyz on your laptop.” And you know what? We’re not the only crazy couple in America who does this. Yes, yes…I know all you perfect couples gather ‘round the fire at night and commune in order to share the chronicles of your day while sipping hot cider, but we don’t. We share links and text each other.

Under what circumstances did this married couple search the same topic? How does that implicate intent to murder a child? Furthermore, what OTHER topics (like schools, vacation spots, poison control, etc) have they collectively searched? Do they have a pattern of doing so?

Note to MX5: Don’t send me anymore links to anymore crazy stories and then ask me to research them for our coffee chats. Just looking up information could implicate our guilt a tragedy!

 

Justin uses ‘Big Words’, therefore he’s Guilty

A police officer testified that when Justin Harris was informed that he was being charged with murdering his son, his objected incredulously by saying “But there was no malicious intent!”

That had people fuming.

“Who says that?” one internet user spat. “Who says ‘malicious intent’? You don’t say that if you’re innocent…you start crying!

Really lady? You sound really stupid. Whether he said “But I didn’t mean it!” or “But it wasn’t intentional!” or “But Gawd knowed it weren’t my desire to do dis to muh baby!”, there is something about the word “murder” that triggered the use of the verbiage “malicious intent”.

Part of that has to do with your exposure and your educational standard. Not every blokes response to duress is to cry. I’m sorry, but I have to throw out the Dumbass Card on that one.

The Rear Facing Car Seat

Out of ALL the nonsensical reasons I’ve heard people say points to evidence that Justin Ross intended to murder his child is the recent purchase of the rear facing car seat for his toddler son, Cooper.

Jesus be a leather glove so I can slap somebody.

When Aya was around 18-20 months, we had a scheduled pediatric visit for what seemed like quarterly shots. They went down a checklist of items we have in our home.

Do you have any fire arms?

Do you use tobacco products?

Is her car seat rear or forward facing.

I remember I was especially excited that her seat was forward facing, because now I could see her face and pass her crackers and milk with more ease.

“Is it a 3-point harness or 5-point harness?” Aya’s doctor asked.

I replied it was a 3-point harness. Why did she want to know?

“Because federal guidelines state that it has to be a 5-point harness,” she in replied. When I objected, saying I had JUST bought the 3-point harness car seat and whined about how much it was going to cost to get a new one, she said she understood, but I still needed to get it.

And being that parent, the one who wants to do everything right for her kids, I decimated my entire shoe fund and went out and spent it all on a new car seat to replace the new car seat.

So I ask: Why did the Harris’ buy a new car seat? And could it be that the reasons aren’t as sinister as the conspiracy theorists and pseudo-Sherlocks would have us all think?

Sexting as Evidence of Guilt

sexting-nation-fiDo you know how much Americans spent on porn last year? TEN BILLION DOLLARS. That’s more than the NBA, NFL and NHL combined. And so while everyone is ‘shocked’ that Justin Harris was sexting while he left his child in his car, they should not be. You don’t build a $10 billion industry because no one is consuming that product/service.

I used to work with this guy at a recruiting firm years ago that was heavy into internet porn. He was our only sales guy, but he never made any calls. He would just sit in his office and watch porn all day long. I never had much dealing with him, but the other recruiters said it was like he was in a trance when he was back there alone. He just couldn’t break free of it! I walked into his office to deliver something (I was the office admin, fresh out of college) and stood there for an eternity before he even realized I was there…and that was only after I clapped my hands and said:

“Hey. Chris! These came for you!”

Chris was married to a *good* woman named Alexis. She came into the office every so often. Alexis was super sweet, very educated, and probably made a good home for she and Chris (they didn’t have kids). But she was absolutely not a freak, and her husband –like millions of other men in America – had acquired freakish appetites that happened to include internet porn. Justin Harris had acquired a taste for sexting and was doing so while he was on his way into work – and if his attention span is anything like my old co-worker Chris’ – I can completely see how he walked away and forgot his son in his car. Porn and sex demand your complete and total attention.

There are not many Americans who have the moral right to judge Justin Harris as an intentional murderer because of this consumption of sexual fare. Shoot, I write for Adventures From the Bedrooms of African Women. All we talk about is sex. If (heaven forbid!) a tragedy befalls my kids, are the headlines going to scream “Sex blogger murders child while she creates sexually explicit content in her home!!!”

Possibly, and that’s why this Justin Harris’ case is troubling to me. Because now, according to public opinion and the banana court of law, I could be Justin Harris in a split second. Nothing about my life is perfect. I don’t always cry when loved ones die. I use language in certain situations that typical 8th grade leavers do not. I research a lot on the internet. Add the fact that my home is constantly in a state of disarray and we’re packed in like sardines, I am the perfect candidate for the negligent Black mother if ANYTHING should befall my kids!

So again, I do not believe Justin Harris intentionally murdered his son. I believe he was negligent and he slipped in the moment. He might be what I call a Gomer Pyle Personality, and have a history of slips, but none with results as tragic and fatal as this… and I’m sure with the public eye trained on him so severely, we’ll eventually find out everything. Why? Because people in society today lust information and relish at the thought of ‘judging’ someone else in order to make themselves feel more superior.

Don’t forget…Black people never get lice.