Humbleness, Humility, and Their Racial Connotations

I have issues with people’s obsession with humbleness and humility. Nine times out of ten people only talk about those traits when discussing PoC & even then what they really mean is something different. What people really mean is they want you to be submissive and self deprecating to the point of developing self esteem issues.

I also know damn well I’m not the only one who’s noticed that those terms only seem to come out as insults when talking about confident PoC.

When Beyoncé made Bow Down, how many people came out the woodwork to say they though she was “arrogant”?

How many people say the same thing of Nicki Minaj? Folks say she’s “full of herself” and they want to “take her down a notch” all the time.

How many discussions center around the fact that people hate rappers bragging about what they have while ignoring context for why they are?

How many people straight up hate Kanye without even taking the time to really look at his actions or look at his backstory?

People talk shit about Rihanna day in and day out about how they hate her cockiness.

On the flip side of that, how many people (some of the same people) praise white celebrities for their confidence? It’s been talked about before, but look at how obsessed people are with Robert Downey Jr. There’s a whole meme on tumblr about how people can’t tell the difference between Robert Downey Jr. and Tony Stark and people fucking love it. I’m being dead ass serious when I say I’ve never seen anyone, especially anyone in the media, say that Robert Downey Jr.  needs to be more “humble.”

Why is cockiness acceptable from Robert Downey Jr. but not from Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Kanye, Rihanna, or any rapper ever? That question is largely rhetorical because I’m sure we all know the answer to that.

I’m not gonna make any friends saying this, but I really feel like it’s a subconscious form of racism. It’s so subtle that I see that type of speech/thought coming from PoC (Black people in particular) just as much as white folks.

This is one of those times where I’m kinda left questioning myself. I’ve seen it so many times though that I’ve detected a definite pattern and I’m pretty damn sure I’m right.

UPDATE: 9/28/2013

Based on the reaction I got for making this simple observation, I’m now 100% positive I’m right. I had Black men in my mentions telling me I should be more concerned about Black men choosing to date white women or claiming that I was “defending Jay-Z’s white gaze.” Along with that kind of nonsense though, I got a flood of people telling me that they’ve noticed the same thing. The very strong reactions from people on both sides of this issue tells me that there is definitely something here. If we’re gonna make any process on the anti-racist front, this is definitely a topic worth exploring in depth.

Totally Biased: Kamau Speaks with Tim Wise (Extended Interview)

One thing Tim said in this interview stuck out to me in particular:

“If you don’t like white allyship in general, that’s a problem. If you don’t like the fact that every now and then, those of us who are trying to be allies screw up, then you’re not really prepared for this work because that’s what people do. They make mistakes, they screw up, they don’t treat each other very kindly. We’ve got a lot bigger fish to fry than to sit and fight amongst each other about who has the best and most responsible Facebook page or the most responsible and respectful twitter feed. The history of white allyship is way too important for me or anyone else to sort of walk away from it because we get beef with somebody.”

What the holy shit is that?! He just insinuated that if we don’t like white allies, we shouldn’t be doing anti-racist work. He just insinuated that if we don’t like the fact that white allies constantly fuck up, we’re not “ready” for this. He just insinuated that the criticism that white allies (namely himself) gets is based around Facebook pages and twitter feeds.

This is the man that people herald as some type of “savior” to the anti-racism movement! This man just went on national television and tone policed a massive swath of the movement, dismissed his most vocal critics (who just so happen to be WoC) as “trolls,” downplayed everything he’s done up to that point, and spewed out some of the most hypocritical statements I have ever heard come out of a human mouth. While he did this, Kamau sat there and ate that mess up like it was a three course meal from a five star restaurant.

In my very humble opinion, it is way past time for people to stop being lulled into a false sense of security by Tim Wise’s words and actually listen to what this fool is telling you. He’s shown us time and time again that he is no “ally” in the true sense of the word. What he’s telling us is that he is an attention loving white man who thinks that white “allies” like him are, and should be, front and center in the anti-racism movement. He thinks that white “allies” are so damn important that if you don’t like them or you have questions/comments about them, you need to get the hell out the movement. He does go on to say that white allies shouldn’t look at this as “missionary work,” and I do believe that he does think that’s true. He doesn’t look at this as “missionary work” at all. No! He’s here to get his name in the news and make some good ass money while he’s at it.

“Black children have no value in the eyes of White America.”

That was a phrase I wrote about six months ago that garnered a lot of controversy. People rushed to tell me how wrong I was. Countless amounts of people told me I was exaggerating, I was making things up, and that I was the racist one for pointing this out. However, that statement is one that I still stand behind to this day because it still holds true.

Just this morning there was a story about a white Dallas man who shot an 8 year old black child in the face while he was playing tag outside his apartment complex. This story isn’t an outlier unfortunately. There are so many stories of white people deeming Black children a threat or nuisance and either assaulting or killing them.

However, every time something like this happens, it get dismissed as an “isolated incident.” We get told over and over that it was just one person doing something horrible and there’s no pattern involved. When we try to point out that things like this have happened before, and the continued dehumanization of Black children in the media contributes to it, we’re told that we are “imagining things.” Meanwhile, the media tries to understand and humanize the killer while demonizing the victim. The most famous example of this to date is the Trayvon Martin case.

Anyone who paid even the slightest bit of attention couldn’t help but notice the character assassination carried out by the media and society at large on Trayvon, and later Rachel Jeantel. People were quick to brand him a thug, gang member, and threat to George Zimmerman. Lies were spread about how stole from the convenience store he went to and how he was armed when he confronted Zimmerman. Pictures were spread on the internet of “Trayvon” wearing a grill and with tattoos, but it was soon proven those pictures weren’t even of him.

Rachel Jeantel, a woman who speaks three languages better than I can speak one, was called ghetto, combative, and uneducated. People, both Black and white, made fun of her weight, her hair, the way she spoke, and her skin tone. Society was ready to assume so many things about Trayvon and Rachael simply because they were Black teenagers. Even though all those assumptions were proven false they still persist to this day.

Things like this happen on a daily basis, both on the national scale and in our day to day lives. So six months after I first said it, that statement still rings true. In some ways, I feel the need to expand it. Black children, Black teenagers, and even Black adults have no value in the eyes of White America. We are, at best, an inconvenience and at worst an outright threat to their way of life.

My problem with the #femfuture retreat

My issue with the #femfuture retreat is the partly the fact they made it barely accessible to people and partly the messed up history of #femfuture itself.

Yes, they are offering a travel scholarship, but it’s only up to $500. If you live a significant distance away from New York, $500 isn’t going to cover a one way plane ticket, let alone a round trip one.

Yes, they are offering childcare for potty trained kids between the ages of 4 and 12, but what about the parents who have kids not in those categories. They say they’ll help you find local childcare, but will it be free? If not, who will have to pay for it? What if the parent finds childcare but can’t afford it? Are they then stuck in Rhinebeck, NY with their child and not able to attend the retreat?

Then there’s the whole selection committee. You can submit your application, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll be selected to attend. They say they’re doing this to create a “safe space,” but we know from past experience that the “safe spaces” #femfuture and their handlers create excludes Women of Color. Not only have they known to exclude Women of Color, they have also actively denigrated us. So my question is, will any Women of Color be selected to attend? If they are, how will they be treated? We have seen in the past that WoC who have dared to criticize #femfuture and it’s handlers have been treated with dismissal and disrespect. Will the same happen at that retreat? If they do pick two or three WoC to attend out of the 20, will they even feel comfortable speaking up?

The whole thing just feels like the same old gatekeeping of feminism just packaged in a different container.

Twitter Rant of the Day: Unpaid Internships and Underpaying Jobs

Unpaid internships (and any type of unpaid work) really do need to be destroyed. You expect people to work for you, do the things you don’t want to do, spend their energy and time, completely for free?

You tell these people it’s for “exposure,” “experience,” or “for a good cause” like that’s gonna pay their rent. Y’all do realize folks have bills to pay, right? You do realize folks have to eat, right? It’s not like the ppl you want to take these unpaid internships can just get a second paying job. Not with the hours you want them to put in. You expect someone to work for you from dawn to dusk, and sometimes later, but you don’t want to pay them. How is that fair? And the people/companies asking for unpaid interns know good and fucking well they have enough money to pay them! You up here making hundreds of millions of dollars a year but don’t want to pay your interns? That’s bullshit!

If you want people to work for you, to spend their time and energy, compensate them appropriately! The apartment complex won’t take “experience” as a rent payment. The government won’t take “exposure” as student loan payment.

This goes for more than just unpaid internships too. This goes for folks who run websites  and blogs looking for writers too. You expect people to write about the most painful and personal things and do it for free. Then, when they (rightly) turn you down, you simply troll their tumblr, twitter, and wordpress accounts for what you want and use it without their consent. Or you ask for interviews saying their words will be used one way and then do something completely different, betraying their trust. Or, if you just don’t feel like asking at all, you steal their words and try to pass it off as your own on your blog/website. Then, after you’ve been called out for doing the fucked up shit you did, you try (and sometimes succeed) to paint yourself as the victim. That shit is not right and we definitely see you.

Hell, even the jobs tha do “pay” don’t nearly pay enough. The last job I had payed $7.55/hr. I easily should have been making at least $10-12/hr (if not more) for the type of work they had me doing though. I was only a sales associate but they had me setting prices, doing inventory, resetting parts of the store, training new hires, setting up displays, unloading & setting out new merchandise, working the cash register, doing returns and layaways, and so much more. When the people from the corporate headquarters in Chicago came to visit, they made sure to schedule me in because I was one of the only people who knew what the fuck they were doing.

I had my hands on damn near everything in that store. There were times where I quite literally did my manager’s job. I did all that work but was only getting $7.55/hr and they made sure my Black ass did not get full time hours, let alone overtime. There were times I looked at my schedule and I’d have 38.9 or 39 hours. If it looked like I might go over, they made me go home.

Before this argument comes up, there’s no way in hell I could’ve gotten another job. They way they scheduled me made that impossible. Add to that, I didn’t have a car so I’d have to rely on a city bus to get me from one job to another & back home. That was just not feasible.

So I was stuck at a job, making $7.55/hr, part time (which meant during the holidays I’d get around 35hrs/week but any other time of the year I’d only get 15-20hrs/week), with little to no chance to advance and after a year there I was looking at a 5 cent raise. No, you did not read that wrong, the oh-so-generous yearly raise was FIVE CENTS. One whole nickel. Oh, and those times I only got 15-20hrs, they’d routinely call on my days off to have me come in. If you said no, you’d basically be telling them to fire you. To put the cherry on the cake, I was actually doing better than a lot of the people I knew. Minimum wage at that time was $6.50/hr. I was making $1.05 more than most folks. Let that sink in for a minute.

So tell me, how the fuck is anyone supposed to live like that??? How? I’m just really fucking fed up with the state of affairs in the US work environment right now. People expect folks to work their asses off FOR FREE in unpaid internships that may or may not get them a job in the field they spent tens of thousands of dollars they didn’t have to get a degree in, or they expect you to work your ass off for a few dollars and change per hour, while getting shit on constantly by customers and other folks who simultaneously think they own you and their better than you because they have the office job or they’re in school, while you take it with a smile. If you don’t you’ll lose this shit ass job that barely fucking covers your bills and leaves you enough for food.

How is that living? That’s not even surviving. It’s just existing and I’ve been there for years and I don’t want to fucking go back there but I have to because once again I’m left with no fucking choice. And please, do not get me started on the jobs/people who don’t take you seriously if you don’t have a very expensive piece of paper from the “right” college or university. I’d be here all night and my blood pressure would be through the roof.