I Watched the Clinton/Trump Debate With My Kid and It Was EPIC

I can't believe someone was thinking EXACTLY what I was thinking! I literally just chanced upon this image! Source: worldofwonder.com

I can’t believe someone was thinking EXACTLY what I was thinking! I literally just chanced upon this image! Source: worldofwonder.com

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump faced each other in their first public debate vying for the position of ruler or the Seven Kingdoms where one of them will eventually govern from King’s Landing aka the White House. Seriously, if there was ever a better metaphor for Game of Thrones, it was the mess that unfolded before us on Monday night. There was Clinton – blond, cold and calculating as Khaleesi Daeneryys Targaryen herself, and Trump who couldn’t decide whether to channel Joffery Baratheon or Jeff Portnoy from ‘Tropic Thunder’. I mean… both characters are white dudes with blondish hair and erratics behavior, both with names that begin with a letter“J”, so whatevs and close enough as far as Trump was concerned.

I ended up watching the debate 18 hours after it aired because I value my sleep far more than I do investing my time to two wealthy white people spout platitudes and deny their racist proclivities (one more convincingly than the other), and by this time my oldest child had gotten home from school. She flopped onto my bed and gave me a quick hug.

“Whatcha watchin’?”

“The presidential debates.”

“Oooo! Mind if I watch with you?”

“Nope. Slide on under the covers.”

And that she did. By this time, Lester Holt had welcomed the audience to the forum, informed us that Clinton had won the coin toss and assured us that both candidates had agreed to the two minute time limit allotted to answer the questions put before them. The entire world already knew that Trump had zero intentions of sticking to these rules. The man doesn’t even possess enough integrity to pay his taxes, so sticking to a two-minute monologue was a pretty big ask. I knew this, every adult reading this blog knew this, but for children watching a debate of this style for the very first time – and having the cognitive maturity to understand what was going on – watching Donald Trump flagrantly disregard these rules was shocking.

My daughter is 11 ½ and her reactions were priceless.

“Why does he keep interrupting her when she’s talking?” Nadjah asked, clearly perplexed. My explanation was not swift enough. “Oh my GOSH! Let the woman talk!”

I chuckled to myself, and then I grew pensive. This was a good learning experience. The exasperation that she felt at this moment is something she would eventually learn to cope with. As she leaves our nest and eventually enters the work place, she too will be interrupted by men, be told that her years of schooling and experience is “bad”, and held to a moral standard that some douchebag in khakis and Sperry’s has never lived up to a day in his professional or personal life.

“Mommy. Why is he sniffing life that?”

Because he’s probably on drugs, baby. 89.99% of all wealthy white men do some form of recreational drug or another.

I didn’t say this, of course. I don’t want to spoil it for her when this reality smacks her in the face when she eventually enters the political realm and begins to walk in her aspirations. And for selfish reasons, I want to hear the shock register in her voice when she calls home at 29 and informs me that virtually every dudebro in her office is on one form of an upper or another.

“Oh my GOSH. Mommy! Did you see the way he just talked to the moderator? Did you see how he just snapped on him?!?”

Yes, baby. I did. That’s called Jim Crow…when white men like Trump would call Holt ‘boy’ and berate them for looking them in the eye. That’s how white men spoke to Black men routinely up until 1982.

I didn’t say that though. I said, “Yes, Nadjah. I saw that. He sure is rude.”

“Wait…didn’t George Bush start the Iraq war? Why is he blaming Obama for that?”

“Because he’s crazy, sweetheart.”

Dude. WHAT??

Dude. WHAT??

More time passes and the train wreck is only getting more gory. Nadjah’s face is twisted and contorted with pain every time Trump claims to have a good relationship with the “Blacks… I mean African Americans”. I can’t help but laugh scornfully.

“Oh my goodness. Mommy! Did he really say all of those things about women?”

“Girl. He’s been saying horrible things about women his whole life!”

“And THAT’S why he can’t keep a wife,” she concluded, lips twisted as they dripped the bitterness of this truth.

Neither one of us is a Hillary fan, but my daughter and I have grown to respect her in the previous weeks. I could never bring myself to vote for Hillary Clinton, but the reality is that she is the only CLEAR choice for the job. Trump simply isn’t qualified to serve in the position of President of the United States of America. He’s divisive, bigoted, sexist, a cheat and once this IRS audit is concluded, may possibly be unmasked as a criminal. And I think that is why so many Ghanaian men like him.

Just as I am amused and pleased by kid reactions to the debate (It means we are finally raising a generation of civic minded youth. Too bad these two candidates form the slimy stew we’ve asked them to pick through and determine a victor from), I am equally appalled by the reactions by Ghana’s male (aspiring) elite. A large majority of them – at least online – believe that Trump not only performed well in the debate, but that he was also more “personable and likeable” than Clinton in those 90 minutes.

WHAT?!?

You truly mean to tell me that if Hillary Clinton had responded in like kind, interrupting with accusations like “Lies!”, “False!” and contemptuously addressing the moderator with, “Now wait a minute…did you ask me a question?” you would find that behavior befitting of the leader of the free world? You don’t believe Donald Trump was either articulate or likeable or even lucid in those moments. You don’t believe that for a single second. The only reason Ghanaian men (and men all over Africa caping for him right now) support Trump is because he represents the very worst of toxic male masculinity that is only tolerated because of wealth. Dassit. Trump represents the guy that the reprehensible man buried not-so-deeply in these men wish they could boldly and publicly be: the sexist, cheating, unrepentant bigot shielded by privilege and powerful connections. These are men who pay lip service to the cause of equality and justice, but given the opportunity, they’d gladly trade the beggar’s rags of goodwill for a chance at stepping on the little guy. It is the ONLY reason someone like Donald Trump would be seen as a hero on an acceptable human being. If he’s gotten this far in politics and in his business dealings, it means that they have a chance as well.

Wanlov the Kubolor said something in an interview a long time ago that has always stuck with me. Paraphrasing, he said the average Ghanaian isn’t looking for equality or justice. The average Ghanaian is just looking for his turn on top.

That’s the only motivation an African Trump supporter can have. It’s not because he’s a successful businessman (because he really isn’t) and it certainly isn’t because he holds the “conservative Christian values” the lot of you claim to hold so dear. It’s because he’s a petulant douchebag whose privilege allows him to get away with anything he wants – including robbing children and the military by refusing to pay his fair share and calling it “smart”. That’s your role model. Never mind his opinion of you as a Black immigrant is so low that he’d see you targeted and abused by law enforcement on the street and then have you deported. Noooo…as long as he keeps women in their place and games the system, he’s your guy.

To quote Esther Armah, “Thank God none of you can vote.”

But know that you’ve exposed for the Black white supremacists that you are. Seek help for your self-hatred, okay?

 

Do you plan on watching the next debate, or did this one turn you off? Are you a Swing Voter? Did either candidate’s performance sway you? For our part, Nadjah and I will be up and ready on October 9th for more fun and shenanigans!

Which One of You Told John Mahama This Is The Season For Halloween?

President Mahama is on the campaign trail like it’s a trick or treat track and I want to know which one of you is responsible.

No.

No!

I know John Dramani Mahama did not contrive with these shenanigans alone. He has co-conspirators. He has collaborators. I want you to show yourselves! I refuse to believe that the Commander in Chief has taken to shopping for his wardrobe at Party City on his own counsel. Someone else is responsible for this travesty and the nation deserves to know who it is so that they can be publicly tarred and feathered. How did your father pay school fees for 18 years for you to give a whole president of the first sub-Saharan nation to receive independence this sort of reckless sartorial advice? I say show yourselves!

Or perhaps… No. It’s too fanciful a thought. It couldn’t be. Perhaps this is a decision my Dead Goat Syndrome suffering president made himself? Perhaps he alone came to the conclusion that dressing up as an Expendables reject was the way forward to winning the hearts and minds of the people of Ghana? I wouldn’t put it past him. I mean, this is a man given to gimmicks rather than implementing real solutions. Remember when the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Savanna Accelerated Development Authority were introducing a policy document to declare the first Friday of every month Batakari Day? And then our dear president was trotted out for the cameras in his fugu, grinning from ear to ear like the World Bank had just approved another loan? It was supposed to boost exposure and patronage of Northern culture, but it fell flat for several reasons – reasons/blunders that repetitively manifest themselves in any policy implementation (or the lack of) in Ghana.

Let’s not lose focus here.

I have my own theories about why John Mahama has been treating the campaign trail like it’s perpetually 31st October and I challenge anyone to fight me on this! I believe it all goes back to this image right here:mahama-rawlings

 

You see what former President Rawlings is doing here? You see his body language? You see President Mahama’s facial reactions to what is being said to him? Because pictures are worth thousands of words, I don’t even need to be privy to their conversation to know what was said. This picture is screaming all kinds of things at me, at you, at the world at large.

They call Jerry Rawlings the ‘Benevolent Dictator’, and I can just hear him – benevolently – saying the following:

Rawlings: Nigga, you know you ain’t sh*t.

Mahama: Oh. Massa. Why you for talk so?

Rawlings: See how your Team D ministers are playing you. At least Mills had a Team B string of aides, appointees and paraprofessionals. It’s like you went to the bottom of the sludge pool and found the grimiest barrel, scraped it and voila! Here’s your cabinet.

Mahama: That’s kind of unfair. Some of these people worked in your government too.

Rawlings: Yes! And I kept them in line! Look, we all did corruption…but I only let it go so far. Your guys dierrr. There’s a Ga proverb about hot needles and threads. You should look it up some time.

Mahama: Ok fine. I know what you are saying is true. But what would you have me do?

Rawlings: Look at the shirt you are wearing sef. Sitting up here like a broke down Nelson Mandela. Do you even have your own identity? You are asking me what should you do? Look at me. Look at me, John! What would *EYE* do? You know exactly what it takes…I just don’t think you have what Akyaa Nkrumah calls radical enough balls to do so.

John Mahama sits back, stewing over the quiet tongue lashing given to him by this lion in winter. He despises the erstwhile dictator for telling him the ugly truth about himself, and he knows he has to hit back in the only way he knows how, with the only tool in his arsenal. That’s right: Kumawood gimmicks to the rescue once again.

“What if,” John Mahama thought to himself, “What if I drew on inspiration from my book for this final run for the office of president? My First Coup D’état wasn’t about an actual coup, naturally. But what if I could trick everyone into thinking I had radical enough balls to start a coup if I wanted?”

And that’s how John Mahama’s tough guy persona was born.

See him here preparing to ride his motto like Chuck Norris going to dinner at the Ritz.

index

 

Then here again as Roadblock from G.I. Joe.

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Dude. You couldn’t even get someone to embroider your surname onto the pocket flap?

 

And then if you doubted how bad he could be, here’s our incumbent president dressed up as Idi Amin.

mahama-4

At least Idi had balls enough to decorate himself with honors and medals he never earned in combat or for valor. There lines involving protocol and the use of military garb and Idi crossed all of them vagrantly. Mahama saw those limitations and settled on caution. Why be cautious now? You outchea looking like a sentinel from The Nutcracker. Go ahead and affix some pins to your uniform! If you gonna do it, DO IT, Mr. Mahama! I once had an acquaintance who decided to quit school and become a stripper in a local Atlanta club. She lived with her grandmother, who had no problem with that decision on one condition. She said, “If you gon’ strip, then you gon be the headliner.”

President Mahama: We’re going to need you to be the headliner if you’re going to dress up in fatigues and ceremonial uniforms from now on. Make us believe you to be the blowman you want the nation to see!

But in your quest to Tough Guy Presidency, you have not forgotten the people. You clearly want the penniless to join in the fun. Here you are, dressed up like Neo from the Matrix pretending to be a Sultan of old passing out “leaflets” to the adoring, desperate masses. See how excited they are to get ahold of those “leaflets”. Far be it from you to hand out money to citizens with no jobs, quality sanitation or public facilities.

 

I took personal umbrage with that assertion. Who do your detractors think you are? The Joker?

2urber5

As for me, I believe you to be a hard guy paa. You came to the UN General assembly and gave a rousing speech, imploring the West not to force democracy on African nations. You asked them to give us time to develop our democracies, make our own mistakes and grow at our own pace. I understand why this was a critical point in the speech you made, because just last weekend, Fadi Dabboussi, author, journalist and NPP stalwart was arrested by the BNI for writing “unfavorable and critical things about the president” in his new book. Fadi has been denied access to his lawyers and communication with his family. It’s like we’re living in 1983 all over again. I bet your people are really proud. 80’s fashion is back…why not 80’s fascism?

source: citifm

source: citifm

Yeah… Tough guy democracy. Kw333. That’s why as for me, I will only write favorable things about the you and the NDC on this blog. I wouldn’t want to find myself in a cell playing out some scene from an African horror flick the next time I visit home.

Happy Halloween!

You Okay, Brother Paul?

Dear Brother Paul:

I am compelled to check up on you after that amazing interview with Abyna Ansaa Adjei burst through the airwaves. Not amazing as in “stellar”, mind you. More along the lines of ‘What the heck did I just watch and more importantly, WHY is this happening????’ Have you ever seen a Chinese contortionist gently force a boiled egg into the delicate, hollow space between her legs and then violently push it out, extracting it whole and undamaged from her nether regions with naught but kegel strength. Well I have, Paul, and if you’re sitting there with your jaw slacked and your brow furrowed, bewildered as you imagine an Asian woman squeezing poultry products from her vagina, then you have some sense of what most of us were feeling after the latest edition of Good Evening Ghana aired: befuddlement.

How was this allowed to happen?

I know that this conversation is between you and I, but this is the innanets and people are really nosey. Let me just pause while I give them a quick background on what has disturbed The Force so acutely.

Paul Adom Otchere is the host of Good Evening Ghana, Metro TV’s “award winning, very insightful and probing current affairs program. Featuring high profile personalities, politicians, civil servants, decision makers and all who matter in the socioeconomic growth and development of Ghana.” On Wednesday, Abyna Ansaa Adjei – author and an NPP policy advisor – was invited to give an analysis of the NDC manifesto that was launched last week. If you are not interested in Ghanaian politics, none of this is actually important. But if you are into horror shows, the exchange between Paul and Abyna will be just your cup of tea. It’s 30+ minutes of brazen lunacy, preceded by 6 zany minutes where a “prophet” screams about President John Mahama residing ‘far in the spirit’. No, really. If you enjoy carnage, you have to watch this train slowly pull out of the station of the station, quickly crash into several obstacles and then spontaneously combust without the slightest warning. You don’t need to know what’s going on here to see what’s going on here.

There was no redeeming this segment after the introduction of Ms. Ansaa Adjei.

And Paul. I mean, you tried. When you introduced Abyna, I was ready to thumb my nose at her detractors online; people like Nana Ama Agyemang Asante who said that the NPP needed to take a closer look at those whom they chose to represent them. I mean, here was a woman who as you said is the author of TEN books, was assigned to the ministry of education, served as special assistant to President Kufour and is an alumna of both the prestigious KNUST and the London School of Economics. A woman all Ghanaians should be proud of. I was already brimming with pride. You then promised we your viewers a “surgical exercise” in the analysis of the NDC manifesto.

Chale. Paul. You don’t need me to tell you that what we were treated to instead was a butchering. A graceless, convulsive, tumultuous analytical butchering. Having Abyna Ansaa Adjei on your show was like watching the comments section of Ghanaweb come to life. She was – in that moment – the physical manifestation of the most troubling aspects of the proletariats’ contribution to the Internet. This from a graduate of LSE? They should just come and give her back her money, rescind their degree and spare all parties the embarrassment and awkwardness. Damn that woman. Now once again, I am put in a position to express contrition to Nana Ama for doubting her assessment of an issue/performance.

But back to you, Paul. I had to check up on a brotha to make sure you are okay. I saw you trying to wrangle the proverbial herd of cats. I recognized your desperate attempt to put the caboose back on the rails. I saw the horror and disbelief in your face when this supposed savant shouted “Heeeeyyyy! More vim!” in response to the one commenter who said that you had met your match in Ms. Adjei.

Match how?

Match where???

The exact moment when Paul realized that there actually may be dwarfs responsible for the collapse of the cedi and they may be living in Abyna's house.

The exact moment when Paul realized that there actually may be dwarfs responsible for the collapse of the cedi and they may be living in Abyna’s house.

It’s like saying Trump is a “match” for Hilary, or like Obama Hotel is a match for African Regent, or like I’m a match for Usain Bolt just because we both have two legs. I mean, how? My brodda, I ask again: Are you okay????

photo-php_As for this one, your producer has to be blamed. He/she really needs to invest more time in screening the subjects you have on your award winning show if you want to keep winning awards. Ms. Ansaa Adjei’s performance was like watching an indigent wander off the set of Jerry Springer onto Christiane Amanpour’s show. I can’t help but recall the international disgrace that was Fauster the Fraudster. Remember him? The dude who photoshopped his face into a space helmet and claimed he won a Nobel Prize and could speak like 35 languages when he appeared on Moomen Tonight? Remember that? Don’t ever go down with banku on your face like Moomen did.

For the purpose of flattery or derision, there are some people comparing Abyna Ansaa Adjei to Ursula Owusu, labeling her as either “strong” or “rude”. Ansaa Adjei is no Owusu. Ursula Owusu would have been prepared with an actual message. Ursula would have sat up straight in her chair and actually listened to the question she was being asked. Ursula would have demonstrated cognitive dexterity and decorum. Does she come across as harsh with her facts? Yes…but at least she has facts. Abyna Ansaa Adjei came with a pamphlet, grievances and rhetorical questions like “so we should clap for them?”

And then started clapping.

Merciful God.

Dude, look. I’ve never seen your show before. Wednesday’s edition was my first introduction to both you and your platform. I like you and for some reason, I feel very protective of you. The cold-as-ice demeanor you demonstrate while talking about politics reminds me of a friend I lost a few years ago. Like, you can smell the BS, but you’re going to let the person who brought it keep carrying it around until they eventually get tired and drop it. Don’t ever change, Paul. Okay? Don’t you ever change!

Yours now and until you screw up,

Malaka

 

 

You NPP reading this: You really have to chose your representatives better. I appreciate that you want to empower women, but you sent a girl to do a woman’s job. Seriously. I’ve seen JSS 1 students explain the nuances of photosynthesis better Ansaa Adjei explained her party’s position. You guys have billed and marketed yourselves as “intellectuals”, as refined yet relatable. You’ve been marketing yourself as the party with a clear difference… and yet you unleashed this female Ayariga to speak on your behalf. Don’t make that mistake ever again. Live up to the measure and standard you’ve set. And remember: the incumbent doesn’t lose elections…it’s down to the opposition to win them. In other words, JDM/NDC just needs to do nothing to retain power unless you up your game.

T.I. Joins Exclusive Group of Visual Artists With Release of ‘Warzone’

Nina Simone once said that it is “the artist’s duty to reflect the times in which we live.” Ms. Simone was many things all at once: an enigma – an undisputed musical genius whose unpredictable mood swings made her a polarizing figure. These elements were often a volatile recipe for calamity in her personal life; but they were also responsible for the creation and unleashing a melodic hurricane that spoke of the anger and frustration of a generation. With provocative and haunting performances like ‘Strange Fruit’ and ‘Mississippi God Damn’ in the days of fire bombings, lynchings, and acquittals by all white juries, Ms. Simone indeed “reflected the times and the situations” in which she – and thousands of people of color all over the nation – found themselves in. There was a general sense of prevailing injustice where Black lives were concerned in America. I wonder if it would grieve Nina Simone to know that 50+ years on how relevant her music still is today for the very same reasons.

Music has always played a crucial role in story telling and the preservation of our history. We have long looked to musicians to play both comforter and chronicler of our pains and joys. Acts like Marvin Gaye, Nina Simone, Bob Dylan and Creedence Clearwater Revival wrote the soundtrack of the protest era of the 1960s. When my generation saw a resurgence of social apathy, corporate greed and police brutality we had no musicians cum socio-political stalwarts to look to. Ours is a generation that values profit over protest, and so it was with gratitude that we eagerly embraced D’Angelo’s ‘Black Messiah’ at the end of a tumultuous 2014, while the Black Eye Peas have been compelled to re-release ‘Where is the love’ (2009) because the world is so jacked up.

It is seldom that we turn to visual art as a political provocateur, as the most visible depictions of Black bodies in art are often seen oscillating between positions of contentment or suffering. As a tool for the purpose of protest, Black bodies in visual art have been employed to appeal to the soul and consciousness of the white mind, pleading for mercy and ascribing camaraderie where none generally exists.

Josiah Wedgewood, an English potter and abolitionist, commissioned one of the most recognized images in contemporary art history. The seal of the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade was the most famous image of a black person in all of 18th-century art. The art is framed around the narrative that one must do unto others what you would have them do unto you. After all, are we not all human? It would set the tone for future depictions of our bodies in art, a desperate attempt to humanize us to a group who has long seen people of African descent as pitiable, exploitable or little more than a curiosity. The art always in the service of the white gaze.

am_i_not_a_man

In recent years, there has been a dynamic shift from that approach, and this is where T.I. “Tip” Harris makes his mark and joins a peculiar set of artists who have disrupted this old narrative. Using ‘sacred’ American symbols and white bodies, these artists are no longer asking mainstream America to look inward for compassion. Rather, they have forced that gaze onto a mirror to see themselves in an alternate reality where white privilege no longer exists.

mv5bmti2ody1odcwml5bml5banbnxkftztcwnzyznzuxmq-_v1_uy268_cr30182268_al_The first time I saw this done was in a movie called White Man’s Burden starring John Travolta and Harry Belafonte. Released in 1995 and 89 minutes long, it makes for very uncomfortable watching and would therefore not be surprised if you haven’t heard of it. Naturally, reviewers rated it very low. It unflinchingly shows a complete role reversal, where white people are ignoble savages, predisposed to committing crime and utterly unsalvageable as far as the Black elite are concerned. Think “If he had only followed the officer’s orders, he might have lived” from callous, unsympathetic Black lips munching on green bean casserole in response to watching an 11 year old white kid lies dying in the street.

 

Laurie Cooper, Black Man in America.

Black Man in America

Black Man in America

Cooper is a Philly based artist whose work showcases the special qualities of Black features. The image of an unmistakably Black man being strangled by the American flag makes a salient point: To be a Black man in America is to slowly have the life drained from you by a system and entity that has identified itself as a paragon of freedom, liberty and life. The juxtaposition is arresting, and if it looks familiar, it’s because Nate Parker borrowed the concept for his marquee art for Birth of a Nation.

 

Tyler Shields’ photo series ‘Historical Fiction’ (2015)

Lynching

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When Tyler Shields began to share the controversial photo of a naked black man hanging a white Klansman from a tree branch, his friends expressed dismay. It was “too much”. Indeed, it is a lot to process. Harkening back to a time when men in white robes could and did execute Black men, women and children without fear of repercussion, to see a Black man refuse to conceal his identity behind sheets like a coward in order to execute the same murderous treatment undoes everything we have been indoctrinated with about race and power. ‘Historical Fiction’ walks viewers through the daily injustices that African Americans face with white bodies on the receiving end.

 

Beyoncé

Formation

Formation

Think pieces have been written in abundance about the song and the video that police unions have denounced as “anti-cop”. At the conclusion of this video Queen Bey drowns a cop car with her body, calling to mind the ultimate sacrifices that Black women have made throughout history in the fight against oppression. But perhaps the most pivotal moment in the video is when a carefree Black boy in a hoodie – a garment that Geraldo and his gaggle of co-horts on Fox & Friends believe renders the wearer worthy of street execution – dances in front of a row of police officers in riot gear lifts his arms and compels them to do the same in surrender. Folk did not like that at all. And by folk, I mean Bill O’Reilly n’ dem.

 

T.I.

Warzone

“The new racism is to deny racism exist”. In a brilliant response to the insipidness that is the ‘All Lives Matter’ mantra, T.I. uncorked his bottle of dambs and poured out every last one of them. The man responsible for bestrewing the tragedy that is Iggy Azalea on the world of hip-hop and the world at large has re-earned my respect with this offering. I have to admit, I was concerned for Tip for a moment.

There’s a lot to say about ‘Warzone’, but I won’t spoil it for you if you haven’t already seen/heard it. Viewer discretion is advised.

 

*Are you comfortable with witnessing white bodies experience Black pain? Discuss.

From Tyler Shields' Historical Fiction

From Tyler Shields’ Historical Fiction

Education: The Missing Piece of the Reparations Conversation

The topic of reparations is never far from the minds of most people in America. Even if it’s not a subject dominating the conversation, it is always niggling at the subconscious of the population, and just about every one has a strong opinion on the matter: Either reparations is owed to the descendants of slaves or it isn’t. It’s tempting to assume that race primarily plays a factor in attitudes for or against (the most vocal opponents of any reparations initiative are frequently white), but there are quite a fair number of people of color who oppose the idea that the descendants of African slaves in America are due any sort of pecuniary redress because “slavery was a long time ago” and we’ve had ample opportunity to pick ourselves up by our bootstraps. In his book Enough, Juan Williams paints those who pursue the cause as those looking to exploit the blood sweat and tears of slaves and the current suffering of Blacks in inner cities and impoverished pockets of the nation as wanting to line their own pockets. He calls the reparations conversation ‘dead’.

As long as there is racism in America – as long as violent racial tensions exist in the country – the reparations conversation will never truly die. I say this because the topic is far more complicated (at least in my mind) than ‘for or against’; because the idea of reparations, like the successful institution of slavery, requires deep thought, much effort and a clear vision about desired outcomes for the future.

Every once in a while, an event from America’s ugly past makes headlines and necessitates a conversation about reparations. Earlier this year, a story revisiting the 272 slaves that were sold by Georgetown Jesuits in 1838 in order to pay off a debt (briefly) took over the national conversation about what the descendants of slaves are owed, if anything at all. Esther Armah discussed the Georgetown incident with her co-hosts for the day on her podcasts The Spin in a refreshing look at the topic from the both the African and African American perspectives. It is here that Christina Greer explores her complex feelings on the topic, particularly where Georgetown is concerned. For her, the idea that naming a building after the ill-fated slaves in the 1838 purchase, or giving university applications of their descendants a “closer look” does not even begin to mark redress for the tragedy their ancestors endured. Yet it seems this is where Georgetown has begun and ended their monologue. It was a ‘monologue’ because the descendants were never brought to the table to discuss reconciliation or acceptable steps moving forward.

The great-grandfather of Rochell Sanders Prater was a slave sold by Jesuit priests to help keep Georgetown University afloat. Source: OEA

The great-grandfather of Rochell Sanders Prater was a slave sold by Jesuit priests to help keep Georgetown University afloat.
Source: OEA

I’ve recently had similar conversations with Chriss Tay, one of the most brilliant academic minds I’ve had the pleasure of encountering. Mr. Tay is of the opinion that the key – and missing – element of the reparations conversation is not money, it is education.

He says, “Should there be monetary compensation to the descendants of slaves? Absolutely. But that alone is not remedy enough for the ills that the Trans Atlantic Slaver Trade unleashed globally. Monetary reparations won’t stop a cop from shooting a child playing with a toy in the park or from choking a man selling cigarettes…but education WILL. There is something that this man has been taught about Black people to see them as a threat and a menace first, rather than human.”

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As a professor of history himself, he asserts that the history and horrors of slavery, Jim Crow, the Civil Rights movement, the Flint water crisis and so on must be taught accurately and beyond platitudes. This history – poorly taught – affects current attitudes, and not just in America, but globally. How does he know this?

“Look. If you put a big ship at the harbor today in Ghana and wrote ‘Slave Ship – Destination: America!’ indigents would be fighting among themselves to get their spot on that ship. They have no concept or understanding of the types of things African slaves went through on board and after they got off of those ships in the New World. This is because of a lack of education.”

He and I had this talk in June of this year. If I had any doubts about his assertion, they were all put to rest when I saw this video of African migrants jubilating at their first sight of the Europe after they were rescued from the coast of Libya on BBC:

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If only they knew what they were in store for, eh?

The reasons why these migrants and all minorities are little better than second class citizens go back to the systems that were erected to keep them there; and I believe it is those systems that need to be eradicated, rather than having money thrown at them.

We know that money has never really solved a problem. Not at its root cause. It is integrity and intention that brings about true change. Giving Black and brown people in America 40 acres and a Hyundai today are not going to resolve the issues of chattel slavery. Why? Because most people aren’t going to know what to do with those types of resources…because harboring this level of ignorance has been by design. Furthermore, Black people and communities who have historically shown themselves to be entrepreneurial and self-sufficient have had their work and efforts destroyed, forcing them back into positions of need.

I am against any sort of lump sum pay out per head for slavery. I believe it would be a disaster from both ends of the equation. First, I believe that for white people it would signal the end of the conversation. America declared itself “post racial” with the election of Barack Obama, something the news and interactions in your WalMart parking lot tell you is nowhere near the truth. Can you imagine what a payout of $xxx would signal to them? “Well we’ve already given you money you didn’t earn. What more do you want”  The second problem is what to do with the money itself. I can’t say with confidence that an individual payout will help communities of color if there is no plan for community re-investment.

When Hurricane Katrina happened, we were all privy to the number of victims who ended up in Lennox Mall with their emergency money in hand buying Luis Vuitton bags or scheduling cosmetic surgeries. These people had never been taught the value of investment and long-term thinking. They have lived hand to mouth with moments of mirth sprinkled in, just as their predecessors had. This was not an accident. From Reconstruction to Second but Equal, the creation of a second-class citizen and a blunted mind was intentional. And if white people in general and the elite in particular want to throw off the shackles of the White Man’s Burden – his self-appointed directive to ‘civilize’ the world – then this corps is going to have to do just that. They will have to put in the same effort that made slavery and the many forms of effective subjugation that followed successful into the effort of demolishing these old systems and the erection of new ones with the partnership of people of color. Probably more effort. Everyone knows it’s more difficult to undo a knot than it is to tie one.

Let me give one example. The DeWolfs – a prominent family in Rhode Island – made their fortune in the shipping and selling of slaves. James DeWolf (1764-1837), was a U.S. senator and a wealthy merchant who was reportedly the second-richest person in the country when he died. In the 1790s and early 1800s, DeWolf and his brothers virtually built the economy of Bristol.* In reading about the DeWolfs, I discovered that their wealth generation was not a straight line: it was a web. People from all walks of life in their New England community invested in DeWolf slave ships for a handsome return on that investment. Blacksmiths, bankers, even preachers earned capital from those investments. So when folks use the excuse that their ancestors never owned slaves to absolve either themselves or their family from the great stain of slavery and its aftershocks, it simply doesn’t wash. We see here that you didn’t have to own a slave to be a beneficiary of slavery.

This is just ONE community that invested its time and resources into making the institution of chattel slavery a success; efforts that went on for hundreds of years. The Civil Rights Act was just passed into law in 1965. That was only 51 years ago. Do you think slavery was the efficient monster it grew to become after its first 51 years? No. African folk were still running away, talking back and thinking their ideas counted for something. The enslaved mind had to be made and that inheritance passed on to their descendants. The undoing of that effort is the new White Man’s Burden. Teachers, the TSA and Theresa May will need to invest their resources into revolutionizing not just the minority mind, but “mainstream” thinking as well. If Black people could have done it alone, we would have done it by now. But we’ve been appealing to white consciousness with very little effect for centuries. See the ease with which people blame the Trayvon Martins of this world for their own deaths.

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Unlike Juan Williams, I do not believe the reparations conversation is dead, but I do believe it’s time for it to evolve. I suggest that the conversation move away from reparations to restoration. What financial compensation can be offered for the fracturing of families? How many dollars is displacement worth? Can you put a figure on what it means to have your identity ripped away from you? And yet, that’s what’s required to bring this quarrel to a close: a restoration of what was lost in those centuries of colonization and slavery. Put back what you stole. Give people back their dignity. Give them freedom over their affairs. Stop cheating, experimenting and poisoning whole communities. Commission effective programs that will give people a real world skill. Allow people to feel safe in their own communities. Restore the humanity that was and is still being siphoned away today. And just like the triangular slave trade, this must be a global effort. The aftershocks of slavery have not affected North and South America alone. Everyone from Cape Town to Copenhagen has a part to play in this process. Whether for pain or pleasure, we are all the heirs of our ancestors’ actions and have a responsibility to work towards righting any wrongs for the sake of our progeny.

 

Let’s here from the scholars. What are your thoughts?

 

*source PBS.org

Her Dress Is Not the Problem… Your Mind Is

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Last week we saw #TeacherBae briefly captivate our online attention. #TeacherBae is the hashtag that became Patrice Brown’s – an Atlanta public school paraprofessional – digital appendage after pictures that she posted of herself at work and/or at play on Instagram went viral. She’s a beautiful woman with a full, curvy body. Black Twitter did not disappoint with the jocular commentary that we’ve come to expect during such occasions. A fair number of men jested that they might have paid attention in class if she was their instructor. Most of the comments I saw from women were positive, expressing their admiration for Ms. Brown’s fitness and confidence. Naturally, there was a fair amount of shade, but that’s to be expected. This was a (Black) woman’s body that was being dissected in public by the public. And then Ms. Brown’s images went mainstream all hell has broken loose. It would not surprise me if we were to hear in the coming weeks that Patrice Brown has vacated her post as a teacher – a position she has performed with such distinction that she been reportedly recognized and received awards for – either voluntarily or under duress. APS does not have the strongest track record for supporting its teachers, and have reportedly already coached and reprimanded her for “violating” the employee dress code.

*Sigh*

This is not the first nor will it be the last time this week that a Black woman’s features will be deemed “inappropriate”. Let’s not feign confusion about this matter. It’s not the dress that is “inappropriate”… it’s Patrice Brown’s body IN the dress that so many people have taken umbrage with. It’s is a quintessential Black woman’s body. We have the lowest waist to hip ratio of all ethnic groups. We are (in general) naturally built as close to an hourglass as you can humanly get. Just like melanin affords us the gift of slowed aging, genetics means we have big hips, small waists and a full bosom on top. If you had put an average Asian woman of the same height and weight in the same attire as Patrice Brown (or Peace Hyde or Beyoncé) had worn, the visual results would be drastically different and probably more tolerable to the general public. So it’s not the dress that her detractors are dissenting to…it’s her body. This is an argument that Preston Mitchum lays out brilliantly in an article he wrote for The Root.

There is a certain level of disdain for/fear of/envy that is specifically accorded Black women’s bodies that is frankly, really bewildering for us. We are human; and are there some of us who crave attention? As humans, absolutely. But just like the vast majority of white women do not get up in the morning eagerly anticipating having our sartorial choices dissected, ridiculed or sexualized, neither do we. We’re not looking forward to the catcalls, the “Ei guhl, you lookin’ good in dem jeans!”, or the unsolicited comments or groping that thousands of women have to endure each day. The task of dressing “modestly” is not one that easy for women who are built any way other than waiflike and elfin is not only mind-blowingly difficult – it’s expensive. Women who are top heavy have it even worse. (I got you, Tia!)

I know from personal experience the pain and disappointment of buying clothes off the rack. I am 5’5” and at my fittest, my proportions were 36-24-38. After having 4 kids and failing to snap back, I’ve gained a considerable amount of weight, but my ratios have remained the same. Only curvy women know what it’s like to have pants fit you in the hips only to have to suffer that intolerable gap in the waist. Only curvy women know what it’s like to scour racks for hours in search of jeans cut in such a way that the denim will not cut off circulation in your crotch. Materials with stretch have been (and will continue to be) our salvation. These blends are literally the only thing we can wear comfortably and still have a sense of feeling fashionable. You know why? Because the fashion industry ain’t checkin’ for US. Tim Gunn said as much in his op/ed for the Washington Post. 

The fashion industry denizen says:

“In addition to the fact that most designers max out at size 12, the selection of plus-size items on offer at many retailers is paltry compared with what’s available for a size 2 woman. According to a Bloomberg analysis, only 8.5 percent of dresses on Nordstrom.com in May were plus-size. At J.C. Penney’s website, it was 16 percent; Nike.com had a mere five items — total.”

Brotha Tim: WE know this and we thank you for making it plain. It is for these reasons among others that some of us have had to take matters into our own hands… literally. Such was my sister’s frustration with shopping off the rack that she has taken it upon herself to learn how to sew her own clothes. Between buying material, a fit mannequin, two sewing machines and the man-hours involved in making the garment, this is a costly pursuit. But if a curvy/plus sized woman wants to wear something flattering and modern, she’s going to have to:

  1. Make it herself
  2. Pay someone else to sew for her
  3. Find garments with stretch that move with and hug her hips

The latter-most option is the one the majority of us opt for – which incidentally is what a certain mulish section of society finds offensive. You can all kick rocks. You have no idea about this struggle. Your opinions are nonsense, invalid and unwelcome. Did we not all watch Leslie Jones’ struggle to find a designer to dress her full-figured body for her red carpet premier? Even the so-called elite among us is not spared this humiliation.

Much has already been written and discussed about the policing of women’s bodies, but it seems everyone wants to be and has appointed themselves as the Black Woman’s constable; not just in America. It might both sadden and comfort Ms. Brown to know that she is not the only teacher to come under fire for “indecently” attiring her assets. These two teachers in Zimbabwe were reprimanded and publicly shamed for being too “sexy” in the classroom.

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This teacher was rebuked and sanctioned for dressing too sexy for work.

Where you gonna find a skirt to "appropriately" fit THAT??

Where you gonna find a skirt to “appropriately” fit THAT??

Critics say that their clothing is a distraction for children. I say you see what you want to see.

 

To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted.

                                                                                    – Titus 1:15

There is an image – an optical illusion that made the rounds after a study was conducted exploring the links between perception and experience a few years ago. It always comes to mind in moments like these. What do you see when you look at this?

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Like those who participated in the study, most adults will see two people caught in an erotic embrace. They will struggle to find the dolphins. The children who participated in the study, however, saw dolphins first. They had no sexual memories of point of reference to immediately recognize a lovers’ embrace.

America has dubbed Patrice Brown ‘the sexiest teacher alive’. You all imputed that standard on her. You’re the problem; her dress is not.

 

*Have you ever been made to go home and change your clothes? Have you ever been denied entry into a club because you weren’t in heels? Have you ever been admonished by your boss to cover up because ‘your nipples are showing’, meanwhile, the office A/C is on full blast? (That last one was my personal experience. I wanted to kick my manager that day.)

Fist Bumps to the So-Called Social Media Feminists!

A July article written by Betty Kankam-Boadu and (re)published on Starr FM made the social media rounds yesterday afternoon to the mirth and amusement of all who chimed in to comment on Ms. Kankam-Boadu’s contribution on the conversation surrounding feminism in Ghana. My initial reaction after I read the article entitled “To the so-called feminists on social media; the struggle is real!” was one I struggled to unriddle, until I went to sleep and drifted off into dreams of my children. Betty Kankam-Boadu’s (who shall at some points in this post be referred to as ‘BKB’) written attempt at shaming what she calls “social media feminists” (and it was such an attempt) reminded me of watching a toddler waddling into rush-hour traffic on a long holiday weekend. It left me alarmed and tense. Like, who let you outside of the safety of your crib and into these dangerous streets? You ain’t Barry Allen. You ain’t the Flash! You ain’t equipped to be here! Bless your heart…

In Betty Kankam-Boadu’s somewhat waffling analysis (which you can read here) she takes potshots at the advocacy efforts of feminists like Lydia Forson when she says:

“Let me give this to them, I like the fact that they get people talking about whatever issue is being discussed. But after jumping on Hamamat Montia’s viral red carpet “situation” by telling all women to get naked and do whatever they want with their bodies any day any time anywhere, how do you measure results?”

There were a few other people on Twitter/Facebook to support Ms. Montia’s choice to wear whatever she bought and paid for at a celebrity event – since she IS a sentient being and all – but they are not as visible as Lydia Forson. So yeah…It’s safe to assume that Betty was dissing Lydia specifically for not having measureable results. She then goes on to cite the work of a bunch of people with whom she has no social or cultural connection (Brandon from Human’s of New York, a barefoot Julia Roberts at Cannes, etc.) who are doing what she feels is tangible and therefore more admirable activism. It’s really disappointing (and telling) that Betty couldn’t point to a single Ghanaian/African feminist activist to drive home her argument. Perhaps our local champions are not good enough, eh? Kinna Likimani, Dorcas Coker-Appiah and Jessica Horn are all women doing the work on and offline…and more importantly, doing it with respect to our cultural context.

Which brings me to my next point.

becca1Maddddaaaaaam. Come ON! How much does Accra have in common with New York? How does Cannes even compare to the VGMAs? Sister…please. You say Julia Roberts showed up barefoot at an event in silent protest to women who were previously turned away for not wearing heels. Just this weekend, Becca showed up on the Glitz red carpet preening in a plunging neckline, greedily posing for pictures next to a grand piano until the morality police swooped in and demanded both an explanation and an apology for her attire. It could have been her moment as an African woman to reclaim agency not over just her body, but stand for women whose bodies are routinely poked, commented on and commodified all over the nation. Instead, Becca threw her stylist under the bus, blaming her for the now-deemed fashion faux pas all while playing the victim. You know who came to her defense? Those ‘social media feminists’ you so clearly disdain. Don’t try to deny your revulsion for this group. Obviously, the term – like ‘armchair researcher ‘and ‘Instagram model’ – is used as a pejorative and not meant to be complimentary… shaming people into ceasing behavior that you take umbrage with.

Here’s the reality we live in today: Our veritable lives are lived out online and often through and/or social media. Heck, it took the creation of Pokemon Go just to get droves of millennials – who spend the better portion of their day online – just to go outside for a few minutes. Brick and mortar businesses are closing shop all over the world and focusing their retail sales efforts to online channels. Whether you want to believe it or not, a hashtag CAN bring an organization to its knees. Reputations are won and lost online. For the first time in history, people can participate in the political process in real time thanks to social media. So it would ONLY make sense that there would be social media feminists who concentrate their advocacy efforts to online spaces. It’s often the only spaces that these voices are ever heard. Right now, a hoard of feminists are in Bahia plotting ways to create a feminist internet, so BKB and any other like-minded individuals had better get their minds right and their hearts ready.

The idea that these women (and men) speak up are “just in for the cheap popularity” is absolutely laughable. The sought popularity Betty Kankam-Boadu so glibly assigns to these women often comes in the form of online and threats of physical abuse. There is a very good reason that very few of Ghana’s celebrity or civilian core speaks up publicly about hot button issues in this patriarchal society. It’s more beneficial to stand with the oppressor than to number yourself with the oppressed. Wanlov the Kubolor is only one of the few names in entertainment I can think of to take such a stand repeatedly, and we’ve seen how Ghana’s music industry has treated him and the FOKN Bois duo over the years. So no: I very much doubt anyone does their social media activism for the benefit of cheap fans. If anything, it comes at a great cost. That’s why Becca and Hamamat chose to cower and cast blame on stylists and photographers: they’ve deemed the cost of seeking self-actualization as too high and therefore sought real cheap popularity by kowtowing to the whims of a fickle public..

Since Ms. Kankam-Boadu spoke so boldly about her objection to social media feminism, I expected to Google her name and find a list of great activist exploits revealed to me. You know what I saw? Some social media activism. One thing on #MarchAgainstMisogyny (a hashtag and online movement created by Philip Ashon) and…nothing. Even her LinkedIn profile is devoid of any tangible work she’s doing as a self-proclaimed feminist. She’s a journalist…period. But she admonishes others “You better get on your feet and do the hard and uncomfortable stuff.” Does SHE have a cause she’s leading and she can rally feminists to? I’m sure everyone would love to hear it. Because if BKB were to be judged by the same standard she’s upholding others to, there’s going to be Big Trouble in Little China.

To conclude, I’ll leave you all with quotes from these three brilliant women whose reactions sum up the matter succinctly. Listen, all ye who have ears, and perhaps learn.

 

Ask again oooo...

Ask again oooo…

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Prrrrreeeeaaaccchh!!!

We are all grateful!

We are all grateful!