Thursday, December 15, 2011

If I Were Black On the Internet

The Jerk

Since I've started learning more about money and the Internet, I've come to see how certain habits we as humans have translated from the real world to cyberspace. One specific example is our tendency to herd towards things that could potentially harm us, or have no affect on us at all, all in search of the thrill of seeing and discussing shocking, sometimes distasteful, and almost always taboo subjects and events.

Recently, a Forbes Magazine author posted an article called "If I Were a Poor Black Kid". News feeds all over the net had something to say about the article. Black publications on, and possibly even off, the net are publishing their own articles, essays, and Facebook comments in response to the buzz that this man's article has created. Of course within the Black community this has created another fighting ground between the political and social camps of those who agree with the author’s statements and those who disagree. Of course, everyone is a critic, and entitled to their opinion. Regardless of what the author’s true intentions behind writing the article, or what anyone may think about him or the article itself, one thing everyone seems to have forgotten is that someone (Forbes) is making money from the attention we’re giving it. It doesn’t matter whether he had good intentions or bad intentions behind writing the article. We’ve made it too easy for people outside of the Black community to make money from putting their 2 cents in about our community, its condition, or the reasons for its condition. When someone says something insulting or degrading about the Black community, we flock to their doors just to see/hear them say it again. It speaks volumes about how little many of us understand about how money is made on the internet.

This situation with this article and others like it – even in other forms of media - is the same. Online, businesses get paid based off the number of viewers coming to their site, as well as any products or services they may sell. So all the people who went to that page to read it just so they could disagree and post comments on the page, or posted the link for others to go back and read it are STILL PUTTING MONEY IN THE AUTHOR AS WELL AS FORBES’ POCKET. Kind of like when Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre made The Chronic dissing Eazy E. Eazy still got paid royalties for every song Dr. Dre made on that album.

If you hear gunshots or see smoke, you don’t run in that direction to see who/what/when/where/why. We run the OTHER way. It’s a survival tactic, right? Well the same way we apply that tactic to preserve our physical wellbeing, we should start applying it to our financial and mental well being as well. If someone says that an article, or other form of media is disrespectful to us and it goes viral, then as a people instead of leading others to go see/read it, we should ignore it. It can be viral in every other community all it wants to be, it should stop when it gets to us. Which would have some type of impact, given that studies show we have the highest online presence - especially in social media. Now of course, people will still read the article. The thing is, we shouldn't continue to include ourselves in those publicizing and discussing it. Now once the smoke clears, of course let's go in picking it apart to see (being honest with ourselves) what we can take from it to preserve or improve our condition – and leave the rest where it is.

The attention and money that companies get for publishing this kind of content takes away from the web hosts, writers, artists, and businesspersons who have something worthwhile to offer their communities, their respective social group, and the world. That’s not to say that we should only take in moral, uptight, or politically correct media and content ALL the time. But let’s make sure that we’re not helping the trapper by flocking to it.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Power and Discussion

Where do Black people fit into the Occupy Wall Street Movement? Although most would like to approach the OWS movement with a colorblind view, it's not realistic. There are problems that the Black community has that other ethnic groups don't have. Given that fact, the black community has to find some medium to discuss those problems and brainstorm viable solutions to them. This can't be done within the arena of OWS, or can it? Where there are similar problems we work to solve them with groups affected the same way. Where there are exclusive problems, we deal with them as an exclusive group.

Generally, when black politics are brought up in a racially heterogeneous setting most of those concerns and claims, no matter how legitimate, will be vehemently attacked. If we identify problems and their causes, people say we're complaining. If we identify solutions to our specific problems, people say we are being racist, divisive, exclusionary, and the like. Both types of responses are generally used to beat around the bush of the race issues in economics, politics, and society in general as opposed to dealing with the issue as it is. At least that is the experience that many blacks currently, or at one point, within the OWS movement have observed. The same goes for many who have attempted to present a black social or political platform to a mainstream audience in any setting throughout history. There's no doubt that there are plenty of blacks present at the Occupy protests in various cities. But are any problems native to the Black community being addressed? The short answer would be "No". The long answer is more complex.

The issues being addressed by the Occupy movement have a large impact on the economic and political well-being of the United States as a whole. The solutions that will eventually arise from the movement will undoubtedly have an impact on the Black community, as it will on all communities. But the question is what type of impact will it have? Given the possibilities, we should maintain a strong presence at the protests, general assemblies, and political actions when they are carried out. But to be effective, we must also work to address problems that are specific to our own community. For too long, we have allowed laws in the US to be made ABOUT us and not for us. There is a difference. A law made about black people can have a positive or negative affect. Regardless, it has some degree an intended affect on the black community.

The best way to do that would be outside of the OWS arena, in exchange for one that is more hospitable to the subjects of Black self-actualization and self-determination. But that discussion shouldn’t stay outside of the OWS arena. To ensure the success and widespread acceptance of the solutions to the problems that Black people face, I think it would be most effective to hold 3 different discussions: (1) a discussion on the solutions to our own economic and political problems, (2) A discussion on the solutions to problems of mainstream America that affect our community, (3) A discussion for how we can take advantage of the OWS movement whether our own resolutions pass or fail , and finally (4) A discussion that would involve tailoring our arguments and agenda in such a way that we don’t have to mention “black”, “African”, “African American”, or “minority” that can be presented and discussed in the arena of OWS. The results of the OWS general assemblies and the success of the new resolutions should be recorded and brought back to the independent table of the black community, and the process repeated until the movement ends.

In the end, we should have developed an understanding that these resolutions would benefit us without exclusively mentioning so. These would give our communities leverage by which we could secure enough power to become independent and self-determined as a people. This is how the ruling class has done it for centuries. They only made laws and rules specifically mentioning whites after they had secured enough power to limit intervention. If we expect to survive in the current political and economic climate, we’ll have to learn to adapt and take advantage of the same method. All in all, it would be foolish for us to completely neglect the OWS movement, but also equally ignorant to ignore using the momentum to fuel our own. The Occupy The Hood  movement seems to be heading in that direction.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Preserving the Black Family

I've been looking for more information on this author all week. She was pretty controversial back in the 80s.  She discussed a lot of the problems that we have that cause us to have failing and unhealthy relationships, single-parent homes, lack of leadership and other issues that cause us to pass down problems to following generations. She wrote quite a few books, but the two books that were the most controversial were the relationship manuals she wrote for black men (The Blackman's Guide to Understanding the Blackwoman)
and black women (The Blackwoman's Guide to Understanding the Blackman).

From what I know about mainstream feminism, there is the idea that women shouldn't be required to play a specific role within the [nuclear] family, if they choose to have a family at all. For black women, they have issues to deal with on two fronts being both black and women. And their hooking up with the white feminist movement kind of help take the black man (who, being black has common problems), out of the driver's seat and create a more submissive role for him in the family and relationships in general. The best example I can give in response is the quote "being a strong black woman doesn't mean 'have a bad attitude'." And a lot of times, families break up because of drama caused by either the man or woman being so "independent" that they felt they didn't have to respect themselves or each other. The child is just there soaking it all up and that's how the following generation gets left to fend for itself socially, intellectually, and/or financially. Not only that, but these types of problems are even indirectly supported by the government through the requirements needed for aid programs like housing, medical, and other forms of assistance that may require the man be absent from the home. If our families and relationships were more functional, we as a people wouldn't need to depend on such programs to the degree that we do.

For those who caught on to her jargon, Shahrazad Ali is a member of the Nation of Islam (NOI). According to the NOI and their idea of the most efficient family structure, the black man (original man) is the leader, provider, protector of the family. The woman supports him (shares the same goal/idea, and showing it through her actions) and teaches the kids. From that, many feminists would say that the woman is being treated like property, or a subject of the man. That's not to say that there's no room for individuality, but one person's individuality doesn't take precedence over the good of the family or community. Personal freedom is good, but should be limited when it comes to maintaining the welfare of a relationship or family unit. And that goes for both men and women.

According to Malcolm X, each member of the family had a set of classes related to their role in the family.  They basically have 3 sets of classes. One for the men to learn subjects relative to their primary role(self-defense, how to get/keep a job, how to keep a woman, etc). One for the women to learn about subjects relative to their primary role (general housekeeping, raising the children, how to keep a man, and how to act at home and abroad). And finally one where they both congregate at the same time. The men also have to take a section of the womens' classes which includes general housekeeping duties and how to act at home and abroad. The idea is that a man can't expect a woman to do something that he can't do when it comes to maintaining the house and family. So it's not that one can't perform the generally accepted tasks of the other. They have their own respective duties that allows their partner to handle their own responsibilities. Of course a member of the NOI could explain their perspective on relationships better than I could, but the points that Shahrazad makes are still valid in repairing our relationships today. The historic concepts and forces that she explains and points out throughout her videos are still relevant, 20 years later.

Polygamy and inter-racial relationships are added to the discussion on a talk show in this video

A continuation

 Finally, I end with another video of Shahrazad's discussion coming to a more positive end.

Notice that when she's speaking by herself the message gets across clearer than it does when she's on talk shows. Once we can get past the sensationalism and compulsive habits in our everyday, personal conversations then we can start progressing toward healthier relationships and stronger families - the economic and political power will come with that. But we have to start by looking at ourselves first, acknowledge the good and the bad, and change to make the relationship work.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

They're ALL the Same

With the upcoming elections and criticism of the current political regime, we still have a lot of problems that have yet to be resolved. And people are mostly making a shift from a Democratic vote to a Republican vote. The thing that we should understand is that  both parties are really fighting for the same goal, they just have different views on how the country should get there. Unless you factor in credit, there has only been so much money to go around. The rich have most of it, the working class are struggling for the crumbs the rich drop.

 Democrats take money from the rich to give to the poor in the form of welfare, better working conditions, and a raise in wages. In return businesses raise their prices and claim that they had to do it in order to make a profit.

Republicans let the rich keep their money and hope they're nice enough give the poor jobs. Then the poor can't afford to pay the companies because they don't have much spending power, or end up losing their jobs to technology or outsourced jobs. Either way when it comes to foreign policy the goal is the same for both of them... keeping America and friends on top of the global political and economic weather.

 Regardless of which party's candidate is in power, the working class loses it's ability to keep its head above water, as a whole. Yes on an individual level people need to budget and save their money, etc. But if bills, and just trying to take care of your family, takes up most of your income, if not all of it, then what do you have left to save? Depending on your wage and what the economy looks like in your immediate area, that little "save $5 a day" rule eventually goes out the door for low income households because you didn't have the $5 to save in the first place. Up until the global warming and "alternative energy" issues came up, when politicians say they're creating jobs, they usually mean making it easier for corporations like McDonalds, Walmart, and temp agencies to put out more low paying jobs. A job is a job, but they might as well stop pretending to be helping us with jobs you can't even keep the lights on with.

When it comes to insurance, those companies have a lot of power that they really shouldn't have. They determine (directly or indirectly) a lot of the economic policies that the consumer, or the worker eventually pays for.

 The private sector has never kept the economy going. leaving everything up to the private sector is why you have the concept of the "99% vs the 1%." When an unofficial list of demands came out for the Occupy Wall Street game, most of the demands in the list revolved around closing corporate tax loopholes, decreasing the amount of political influence corporations have, and stopping congress from being able to give itself a raise. I don't know what they're doing now beside just randomly drawing attention to themselves. Most of the ruling class had a handout that put it ahead of everyone else in the game. The country's economic system is not about "how hard can you work to get ahead", it's about "who can you work hard to get where you want to be". Exploitation.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Discipline and Punish

Discipline and Punish

On September 21, 2011 the entire United States witnessed the lynching of a Black man. The execution of Troy Davis should serve as a wake up call for whites and others to a couple of factors many Blacks and other minority groups have known for decades. One, racism in the form of white supremacy is still just as powerful as t has always been. As much as people would like to ignore it or deny it, this is a known fact. Two, the entire criminal justice system, from the police to the courts, to the prisons, is flawed and easily corruptible. It is geared toward imposing the will of the white ruling class on the lower classes. The Troy Davis case proved both of these points.
The situation reminded me of Michel Foucault’s (pronounced me-shell foo-co) book Discipline and Punish. In the book, Foucault explained the evolution of capital punishment and the development of the prison system. He explained that originally governments used public torture and executions as the primary form of punishment for crimes. The idea was that the condemned would serve as an example and deterrent to other criminals – even for the smallest of offenses. The media’s depiction of medieval executions is somewhat inaccurate. During such public executions, the public would be comprised of those who supported the execution and those who opposed it. After the execution, riots would erupt between the opposing groups. Those executed were often seen as martyrs. When groups become organized and gain dominance during riots, those riots become revolutions. The fact that these riots occurred proved that public executions weren't an effective method of dealing with crime or dissident activists.
A more effective method of dealing with criminals was needed as society evolved with new forms of government and industrial technology. This led to the development of chain gangs and labor camps. The labor camps and chain gangs put the inmates to work deemed useful by the government and other special interests, there was still always a change for rebellion and escape. The chain gangs punished prisoners by assigning them to jobs that reflected the nature of their crimes. The prisoners were said to pay their debt to society by physically working to improve the aspects of society that they had previously damaged. This method of punishment was supported by many reformers because it was more humane than public torture and executions.
Over time, governments developed the prison as the main method of punishment. Prisons became a way of using the same method of punishment for all crimes. By observing, training, and controlling every aspect of the prisoner’s life governments and prison authorities sought to impress a generic ideal of discipline to all f its convicts. Foucault explained that this method of punishment was meant to create people who would easily return  society to hold positions in institutions that required the same discipline such as schools (as students), (blue collar) jobs, and the military. The general function of all four of these institutions is to break a person down mentally and/or physically so that those in control of those institutions can build the subjected people up to be who/what the institutions were designed to make them. In capitalistic countries, the ruling class wanted (and still wants those convicts to serve as the manpower behind the institutions that keep the ruling class in its position at the top rung of the economic and political ladder. Needless to say, prison also has a secondary affect on one’s financial health. It affects not only the prisoner’s ability to generate income, but forces his family to fill the void of financial support that is left by the inmate’s absence. And without the financial ability to join the ruling class (primitive accumulation of capital), according to Marx, one has no other choice but to become a member of the working class (which includes both the middle and lower classes), or the lumpen (the criminal segment of the working class). This explains why many of the people who are released from prison often return.
Most of the forensic methods used today are primarily for the purpose of finding a suspect guilty of a crime. Forensic evidence maintaining one’s innocence is mainly the other side of the coin. The criminal justice system operated the same in the early days of America and developed similarly leading to the current day. Discipline and Punish explained this process for the entire Western world. As a friend of mine put it, “Michael Foucault is the white man that every Black man needs to read.” (The same goes for Karl Marx and The Communist Manifesto as well.) Despite the evolution in the methods of punishment, little was done to secure safety nets for those who were wrongly accused, let alone provide effective methods of repairing the damage done to such individuals. Such is the case for Troy Davis and many other political prisoners like Mumia Abu-Jamal and Leonard Peltier.
Troy Davis’ case was questionable to begin with, given that 7 of the 9 primary witnesses claimed that they only testified against him due to pressure (meaning intimidation or threats) from the police. One witness was told that he would be charged as an accessory to the murder if he refused to testify against Davis. It’s actually very common for them to use such methods to extract information from someone, whether that information is correct or not. I’ve seen it personally a few times before I was educated on what was going on. Obviously, neither the police nor the courts would ever take responsibility for such actions. Needless to say, many will try to use the fact that 7 of the 12 jurors were Black to rove that Troy’s case is not an issue of race. The thing many don’t realize, or choose to ignore is that anyone of any race can be used to support white supremacy directly or indirectly.
To those who understand the concept of being “safe” when it comes to race, it’s obvious why Obama decided not to say or do anything to help. He was most likely advised not to comment, whether he personally wanted help or not – and he took that advice if that was the case. Regardless, Obama has never spoken out in favor of Black men, not even during his campaign when Diop Olugbala posed the question “What about the Black Community”. Although he ironically was a member of a church that, according to the media, supported Black Nationalism to some degree, he seems to have distanced himself from those circles.
Hundreds of thousands of people called for Troy’s clemency. Celebrities (such as Big Boi of Outkast), regular citizens, a former FBI director, and even George W. Bush (of all people) opposed Troy’s execution. The flood of calls, emails, Tweets, and petitions finally won Tory a temporary delay of his execution minutes before he was to be executed. The PEOPLE did that. The Supreme Court took hours reviewing the case only to maintain Davis’ guilt. Maybe they saw something no one else saw or paid attention to. And if that is the case, then those who opposed Davis' execution should study the court transcripts the same as every other court has. Otherwise, the highest court in the land refused to admit that the justice system failed and killed an innocent man.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Hip Hop and Tupac Pt 1

Today marks the 15th anniversary of the death of Tupac Shakur. From the time I heard my first Tupac song, to the day I got my first album, to today – Tupac has played a “big brother” role throughout my life and I’m sure the lives of many others in my generation. When Pac died I was 7 years old. I didn’t have much exposure to rap at the time, but I had heard a few songs (California Love, 2 of Amerikas Most Wanted, and How Do You Want It) at different times that burned his name and sound into my mind.
I was in the 7th or 8th grade when I got “The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory” (everybody called it “Mackavelli”). I had already built an interest in reading up on Black history, and eventually researching the artists that I listened to became a part of my self-education. I had heard the names of the Black Panther Party, Huey P. Newton, Malcolm X, and Black Power, but I didn’t know much about any of them in detail. Listening to Tupac’s more socially conscious music led me to study those names and more as a teen. Those studies and the messages in Tupac’s, as well as the lessons that can be learned from examining his life are what led me to my current understanding of Black Power. And without that world view this blog probably would never have been created.
Despite the events that took place in Tupac’s life that would raise eyebrows for many about Tupac as a man, and Hip Hop itself, few can argue against his artisic genius. From the feelings of sympathy, sadness, and desperation in songs like “Brenda’s Got a Baby” and “Lord Knows”, to the hyped, partying mood in “How Do U Want It”, to a pissed off but empowered feeling from “Letter 2 the President”, “White Man’s World”, “Panther Power”, and “Soulja’s Story”, to moments of introspection and hope with “Who Do U Believe In”, “Better Dayz”, and “Thug’s Mansion” – Tupac’s music is mood altering.
The brother’s lyricism and symbology have led to thousands of web sites, books, and YouTube videos analyzing his words. Fans looking to understand references he made to past and (at his time) present personalities, events, and concepts to drawing connections between opinions Pac stated when he was alive to things going on today. One thing I always try to remind people of when they get too caught up in the “illuminati killed Tupac” and “Pac being alive” hype is that it doesn’t really matter if Tupac is dad or alive. He put the messages in his music and tailored his persona and sound the way he did for a reason. From experience, I’ve seen that when you go too deep for too long on sociality or politically conscious issues, you can quickly lose the interest of groups ranging from preps to jocks, to thugs and wanabe’s. Tupac tailored his music so that the conscious message was still present in most of his songs, but it didn’t turn off the average listener who wasn’t interested in such subjects.
Whether you understood or agreed with his message or no, you still heard the message; the seed was still planted. Whether those seeds take root through conversation, experience, or your own study is up to you and chance. Regardless, Pac put the messages in his music not for us t argue whether he was dead or not. He wanted us to feel the way he felt about the issues he spoke about and act on those feelings. Tupac said “I may not change the world, but I guarantee you I will spark the mind that is going to change the world.” I would like to think that I am one of those minds. R.I.P. and Thank You, Tupac.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Lessons From 9/11: Spitting Truth to Power

Today, many people will take the time out to mourn those lost on 9/11 and celebrate the people who acted to save lives on that day. When 9/11 happened, I was in the 7th grade. The science class (my first class of the day after home room) had barely started when the teacher was called out of his room. After a while he came back and announced that the World Trace Center had just been attacked. The first thing that came to mind was paratroopers gliding down and running through the streets. I had no clue what the World Trade Center was, what the attacks means, or why they happened.

After that, we would hear speeches in various classes about the terrorists attacking because they were jealous of our freedoms and hated how great of a country America was. I had been told better, and learned more from doing research over the years. The teacher who had been the main one telling us that patriotic BS saw me as one of her favorite students. I wonder how long that would have lasted if she had heard what I was really beginning to think about the attacks. Back then I couldn’t articulate what I thought at the time. I could repeat what I had heard, but couldn't debate anything yet.

Over the years I've come to understand what I had learned then, and more about why those attacks and others occurred. It came to the point that I stopped watching the news because I understood the science behind why terrorist attacks occur. I didn’t need any indoctrination to se the attacks the way I was expected to see them.

The people who took action to save lives that day and the victims who died should be commended (for those who survived) and remembered (for those who died). But it would do those heroes and victims more justice if the people and organizations who were supposed to be responsible for our protection never held accountable for their failure. They failed to protect us form attacks that they had been WARNED were going to happen. They also failed to show us the role that they played in causing or motivating the attacks in the first place.

Although many would like to think otherwise, the concept of power and freedom between countries are closely related to resources in function: Thee is only so much of either to go around. When one country has more freedom and power than another, it is because the rulers of the more prosperous country have done something to take power, resources, and therefore freedom away from the other country. It has never been a secret how America got its power and continues to maintain that power. Corporate and political control and influence over foreign governments and military violence (when the first two fail) are how the US and its allies keep their power, even today.

For the objective thinkers, here are some questions and fats to think about, and then possibly take action on. While the rest of the country mourns, unresolved questions like these leave the opportunity for future attacks and disasters like 9/11 open to happen again...

1) The Miseducation of the American Citizen: The terrorists of 9/11 placed a mirror in front of the US. The attacks exposed the not-so-civilized nature of the average American citizen. After the attacks religious and ethnic slurs, along with grossly distorted descriptions of Arabic culture and Islamic teaching flooded the internet, general conversation, and the radio. Most people didn’t, and still don’t know anything about Islam or Arabs, alone given the differences between the views of traditional Muslims and Muslim extremists. Closed minded people refused, and still refuse to this day, to learn more. Regardless of their lack of understanding, Americans called for blood to run in the streets of the Middle East (and they got it).

2) Why did no one fight back?: Each plane had 2 – 4attackers only armed with box cutters and martial arts training. They were up against a flight crew with a locked cockpit, and 100+ other passengers. Why did the passengers of only one plane decide to fight back? A person can be as good as they want to be at martial arts, they are not invincible. Can 2 people really beat 10 people fighting them at one time? Fear is a powerful tool.

3) The Third Building: The government has still failed to answer why the third building at the World Trade Center collapsed although it was never hit by any planes.

4) Fear is a Powerful Tool: Bullies use fear and violence to control the feelings and actions of others. They are usually shocked when they come cross a “victim” who is willing to fight back (or gained the ability to do so despite the bully’s pressure). It has been so long since the US had been attacked on its own land that it was shocking. The US was usually attacking other people’s homelands. The fear and hatred that this put in people’s hearts and minds allowed for the government to respond by providing the people with wars that would “end” terrorism. They also managed to take away many of our Constitutional rights and imprison many innocent people in the process. Every war the US has ever fought in, there was a "terrorist" attack that preceded. From the Revolutionary war to the War in Libya. They were always found to be inside jobs after the war had been started.

5) The War on Terrorism Can’t Be Won: As long as there are “Haves” and “Have Nots”, there will never be peace in domestic or foreign lands. As long as those two classes exist, the Haves will always have because they have taken from and disenfranchised the Have Nots. In the eyes of a desperate man in one of those US occupied counties, a US citizen reciting patriotic rhetoric can be seen as responsible for that man’s conditions. They their patriotism shows a passive agreement with their government’s actions. Therefore, if or when he decides to attack, he won’t discriminate against who he hurts in the process. Religious, political, racial, and other forms of extremism are always born out of extreme conditions. One man’s terrorist will always be another man’s freedom fighter. People are always looking for catalysts for change to improve their conditions, whether the methods are right or wrong.

6) Remembering the Dead: Mourning the loss of a loved one, though painful, can and should also be used as a learning tool for the living. Learn from the mistakes they made (how and why they made them) while living so you can better yourself. And to the best of your ability learn how unnecessary losses such as these can be avoided in the future. Hold your elected officials and local/national corporations and businesses accountable for the decisions they make that affect you. In a democratic country, what you don’t hold your elected officials accountable for, you and your loved ones will always be the ones who suffer the consequences.

Here are some other sites and books to check out for more info.

How to Hustle and Win, Part One: A Survival Guide for the Ghetto

9/11 We Know - FAQ

Fahrenheit 9/11

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tribute to Aaliyah

I know I'm a few days late from the anniversary of Aaliyah's death, but I'd still like to dedicate this blog post to her career and memory. Let her death be a reminder of how the decisions we make now can affect our lives and the lives of others tomorrow.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Science of Police Abuse Part 1

A billboard along Hwy 290 in Texas. You already know what that flag really represents...

In light of the recent police shootings in San Francisco and London, I though I'd do a post on my most recent run in with the laws(police). For those who don't know what's going on: in late July, San Francisco police shot a 19 year old (Kenneth Harding, Jr.) who tried to run from them after he was confronted about not having a bus ticket. There are viral videos all over youtube with the aftermath. In London, members of the working class have been rioting all week due to the shooting of an unarmed man (Mark Duggan) while working. Bored police are a dangerous police, and they are trained to be suspicious and intimidating, they're naturally paranoid, and have the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the law.

   Yesterday a coworker and I were driving home from work. We were on the road around 2am, since we work the night shift. A car that was in front of us suddenly pulled over at a crossover on the highway. The car didn't turn, it just waited for us to pass it. It turned out to be a Texas State Trooper. He pulled out and started following us. He would pull up close behind me, then give me a little room. When I changed lanes, he pulled into my "blind spot" and then backed up. Then he pulled up next to us (looking in the car) then backed into my blind spot again. I'd seen it before, usually with officers working at night. I knew better than to drive straight home, so I drove to the closest gas station (5 miles down the road) where I knew there would be lights, cameras, and witnesses to whatever it was he ws planning to do. He followed us the whole way, driving in my blind spot.

   When we pulled into the parking lot, the officer stood in front of our car waiting for us to get out. He asked where we were coming from, and we said we had just got off work. He asked where we worked; I told him and asked if I needed to call my supervisor. He said no and asked where we were headed; I said "in the store". So the officer opens the door for me and follows me around the store. When I go to check out, the officer goes back outside, gets his flashlight out and starts looking in my car. My coworker went outside to ask him what he was doing. After I finished checking out, I asked the cashier for some paper and a pen. I got the officer's name, badge number, and his license plate number. I'll file a written complaint soon.

   I started off with the story, now let's look at what was going on between the lines. The officer had no valid reason to pull me over, which is why all he could do was follow me then wait until I stopped to ask questions. The way the officer was driving when he first started following us was his way of making his presence known. he wanted to see if he could provoke me to act suspiciously (ie. ducking onto a backroad off the highway, speeding off to evade him, or throwing shit out the window) to give him an excuse to stop us. I acted like I wasn't paying him any attention and kept the same speed.

  When we got to the store, the officers initial approach was legal. He asked questions and I answered. Usually, I won't answer any of an officer's questions. I say "I'm going to remain silent" from the jump, even to the most trivial questions. Legally it puts me at a slight advantage, but out there on the street it can usually make things worse. I've learned from experience that you have to be able to tell when it's best to answer the (trivial) questions and when not to answer any questions at all. I/you should never answer any of an officer's questions or statements that imply criminal activity or probe for signs of guilt (It doesn't matter if you're doing something wrong or not). Now, once the officer let me go into the store, legally, that should have been the end of the encounter. Since I wasn't being detained I could've gone straight into the store from the start, but again, you have to pick the best strategy dealing with bored police officers. In the store, the officer pretended to shop, but always moved to keep me in full view. Stalling, I walked around picking up items, putting them back to get others, and getting stuff I knew I couldn't afford. When I got to the register, I had about 3 or 4 items. I used my bank card to pay first (which I knew didn't have any money on it), then paid for only 1 of the 4 items with change and left the rest.  After my coworker went to see what the officer was doing he said the officer was checking the door handles (to see if they were unlocked). After I got his information my coworker and I went back into the store to talk with the cashier and another local resident until the officer left before heading home. This was clearly racial profiling and harassment, but the situation played out a lot better than what could have been. I could be in the hospital, in jail, or dead.

   The officer crossed the line when he started looking in my car while I was at the register, especially trying to open the doors without my consent. Once he let me enter the store, that should've been the end of the altercation (I was free to go), but he decided to see if there was anything he could find as an excuse to harass us some more, and hopefully make an arrest. Though the police are sworn to protect and serve the citizens of the country, their functional purpose to date has been to serve and protect the interests of the ruling class. Other than that, many of them serve and protect not a goddamn thing. Of course there are plenty of individual exclusions to that statement, the general, practical, function of law enforcement on all levels says otherwise. I've got plenty of stories like this and I tell them to people all the time because there are a lot of people (especially foreigners and upper class, or conservative blacks) who just don't believe or are naive to the nature of police, the affect they have on our communities, or the fact that these conditions can be changed if more people get involved with finding solutions to issues of police abuse.

Part 2 coming soon.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The African Renaissance: The Greatest Story Never Told Part 1

Aya - symbol of endurance and resourcefulness

In Destruction of Black Civilization the author,  Chancellor Williams, discusses the economic, social, political, and environmental factors leading up to the destruction of the ancient civilizations that our African ancestors had established. In short, environmental and political issues (ie. soil becoming  unfavorable for farming, Arab, Asian, and European invasions, etc.) caused the inhabitants of these established societies to migrate.

  As the people became further engulfed in the nomadic life these large groups of people began to splinter off into smaller groups to the point that each group had its own spoken language, customs, and territory. After some time, few of them realized they had once come from the same civilizations. Over the generations the old written languages were forgotten; they had little time to develop written languages as they were always on the move. Eventually, some groups would begin to conquer another, or they would willfully combine to form larger groups. Some of these large groups would often settled to establish new civilized societies, while others continued their nomadic lifestyle (and began to splinter again as a result).

  Once nation in particular was Kuba. Kuba was a nation located in central Africa, southeast of the Congo. The nation was founded as the result of alliances between the Bushoong tribe and 17 other smaller tribes. Between 1475 and 1630, Kuba developed a democratic republic state, and  which included a king(comparable to the president) and councils of Elders and chiefs representing their respective tribes and clans(families). The tribes within themselves were also democratic. The idea of Kuba being a melting pot of cultures would put the US to shame. Individual tribes were praised if their group excelled in a particular area with techniques or customs that were unique to that tribe. These customs would become adopted as part of the mainstream Kuban culture. Although the Bushoong tribe made up roughly 80% of the population each group was also equally represented under the government. There were a type of checks and balances that prevented any tribe from having the advantage of a "tyranny of the majority". 

  One of the greatest achievements of Kuba was its economic revolution. This revolution was started by Shyaam the Great who became king of Kuba around 1630. Before Shyaam Kuba's Economy was on the level of subsistence, the nation only produced what it needed in terms of goods. Whereas previous kings(and queens) had focused on conquering land, Shyaam turned the national focus inward to improve the economy. Shyaam set the momentum that led to the success of his successors in establishing Kuba as the most advanced African nation of the time.

  The people of Kuba began to experiment with a larger variety of crops. Many of these crops had been grown in the territories of respective tribes and were now being grown on a national level, being grown in different areas of the nation. New and more efficient methods of production for crafts and tools were developed. Better yields of crops and higher production and new styles for the arts and crafts led to surplus production, which opened the door for national and foreign trade. Caravans began to form. Except for agriculture, masters of every trade began to form guilds. Farming was common, everyone farmed the land in addition to their own professional trade. Although agriculture was important, more emphasis was placed jon the professional trades since they were what strengthened the national economy.

  One of the most interesting, and maybe the most important, fact about this renaissance is that it occurred exclusively in Africa. For Africans, by Africans. Although the Europeans and Arabs had gradually conquered the coastline surrounding Kuba and the rest of central Africa, the people of Kuba had never had any contact with any other races. Their nomadic ancestors who had adopted the nomadic lifestyle before settling in the 1470s were the last to come in contact with Arabs or Europeans. The whites would not come in contact with Kuba until the 1800s. By then, Kuba had since been on a gradual decline from its revolutionary spurt of political, cultural, and economic development of the1630s.

A history lesson for those who think the Africans were better off being conquered and enslaved... Part 2 will discuss the problems the Kubans faced that eventually led to the downfall of the civilization.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

BlackMind (Game) Development

The first step in creating any kind of video game or phone app is a game design document (GDD). For the bigtime game companies the GDD is usually 30+ pages typed. Right now I'm brainstorming and developing a design for a game. No development team, sponsors, or partners yet, and still working at the dead end day job. There's about 15 pages etched out in a notebook, I haven't started typing it yet. It's still a ways to go with the GDD before development starts, but when I'm done I'll have enough plans to make a text-based(that means no animation) or graphic computer game or phone app. Can't afford to make a console game yet, you need to buy a license from the manufacturer. I'm new to the business of game development, but I'm going to keep news of my progress in the business, on the game I'm working on, and information I learn along the way here for others to use. Beginning C++ Through Game Programming is one of the books that got me started.

Another site that's good for references is Sloperama.
For more info on game development companies in your area you can also go to the International Game Developers Association's web site.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Ballot

Today I wanted to talk a little about voting and how we as a people can use it to our advantage. Whenever election time rolls around (for anything) we all hear the average person on the street, and people in the "conscious" community say "I don't vote because voting doesn't work" or xyz excuse. Really, if you understand how the system we're living in works, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We as a people get screwed over between elections (and every other day), so we don't vote. Since we don't vote, the people who DO vote are the ones who either make the decisions, or choose the people who will make the decisions. And 9 times out of 10 they aren't going to work with our best interests in mind. So, we get screwed over and voting doesn't work (for us)... because we didn't vote. Nothing happens TO us. Only what we did or didn't prepare for.

There are different ways to vote, different issues to vote on, and different areas of life where voting and elections are a part of the decision making process. The 2 that I focus on here are government and business. In government, we vote for the candidate we believe will represent our best interests. That's the idea we're told at least. The candidates may not live up to the "word is bond" principle by doing everything (or anything) that they said they would do, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't vote.  Don't like Democrats or Republicans? On all levels of government (local, state, national), there are many other parties besides the Democratic and Republican parties. There isn't much difference between the 2 parties anyway, they just have different ideas on how the same goal should be achieved - overextending America's influence... aka dominance. The other parties usually don't get as much airtime in the media because people don't look into them, or look for them, like they should. Other organizations and parties have other methods of resolving political issues. Some with candidates who may be more open to listening to our demands and working with us to make them happen.

As a people our past experiences with voting have been bitter sweet. From poll taxes to reading tests and threats, to "zoning", registration, and ballot issues we have had to struggle for our right to vote from day 1.

But, whose fault is it when their elected official's fail their word? It's ours. Because they are elected officials, they are suppose to represent us in the government. Politicians work for 2 things, money and votes. If you're not giving them contributions to their next campaign, sponsoring a program that they came up with, or voting for them, then your opinion doesn't really matter. Part of "civic participation" involves keeping your elected officials in check. Attending meetings, contacting them, telling them about the problems you have in your neighborhood or community (and possible solutions), fighting for minority businesses to be contracted by the government on all levels - all of those fights are fights that voting citizens have the influence to fight. If you put a politician in the position where he has a choice between being reelected and a pissed off voting bloc, he will work to solve their problems. Elected officials are supposed to, or claim, that they serve us, so it's up to us to make sure they do that.

The next method of using the ballot to our advantage is in the business world. When you buy stocks, you become a partial owner of that company. Many businesses allow for stock holders to vote on certain decisions the company will make. The issues shareholders can vote on depends on the company, but some of those issues include selecting the executive board/board of directors, deciding on company policies such as whether to develop reports disclosing their spending habits and political support. Just as in the political world, the more people you have voting together for the same cause, the more power and influence that group will have. Buy stocks, and vote.

Stop making excuses to not get involved and stay on top of what the people who influence your life are doing. If you leave someone else to make life-changing decisions for you without checking them, then you can't say anything when they reap the benefits of your work, too. Government and business are supposed to be here to serve us, not give us toys and dreams to chase while they take off with the spoils of our wok in the process.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Child Support Aint No Punk

As much as our celebrity and individual cultures glorify promiscuous sex, very few of the music, movies, or any other industry we get ourselves into have much to say about what happens after all the fun and partying is over with. The most we get from these industries is "watch out for the traps some women set" and to "strap up". Very little of it goes into detail describing what life is like once "complications" come up, after the AOP (Acknowledgement of Paternity), or birth certificate (depending on where you live) is signed. If those complications prevent you from staying with the mother, chances are you will end up paying child support.
In Texas, child support starts out at 20% of your check, before taxes are taken out. Every 3 years, or whenever you get a substantial change in your income (large increase or decrease) you will go to court to have your funds and sources of income reviewed, and you will be assigned a new monthly child support rate. The woman can also ask for more money if her financial situation changes. Whatever the case may be, the matter is taken to court, where a judge will decide whether to raise, lower, or maintain the CS payment rate.

Don't have the money? Well, the judge can give you time to get it (usually 30 days, but then again, it's up to the judge). Still don't have it? That's a felony with 6 months jail time. What kind of jobs are out there for felons? You can (or will) also lose your driver's license or any other kind of license you have (commercial driver's license, hunting license, conceal and carry license, certification, etc.), and take hits to your credit. After you get out of jail, you will still owe the woman the original amount, plus 12% interest to the state, which can also be compounded. (That $5000 can turn into $10k real quick.) And remember, all of this is taken out of your check BEFORE taxes. You may not even get one. Then whose car, house, business loan, credit card, or student loan can you get with no money and bad credit?

Also, even if the woman doesn't put you on child support right away, she can still file to place you on child support at any time up to 3 months before the child turns 18. You will have to pay child support for all the years that you "missed", plus (again) the 12% interest to the state, per month. There is also no guarantee that the money will be spent on your child(ren) - but that depends on the woman. What if you could PROVE in court that she wasn't spending the money on your child? You still have to pay. You might not enjoy seeing that new car, jewelry, TV, etc. that she bought for her and her new boyfriend, but if all that is what "coming up" means to you then you should be proud to know that you bought it for them. You can try to fight for custody if you want. If you have permanent custody of the child, but 97% of the time, you will spend a lot of money losing that case. Most of the resources I found on winning a custody battle as a father involved dramatic and (legally) unreliable or irrelevant arguments. (Example: writing own what times you picked the child up, what time you read to them, which books, and how long, etc.) You also still have to pay child support even if the mother refuses to let you see the child, including if she moves out of state.

With all the horror stories (that I've heard from people on child support now, and a brochure from the government) where does this leave us?

1)      Watch where you stick your d*ck. If you’ve gotten to know the woman well enough to jump in the sack, you should know if she is the type to put you on child support, or not. If so, you should know if she will put the money to good use or if she will use the courts to cut your manhood to make a living off you (and/or whomever else she gets pregnant by).

2)      Be present to educate your kids. The boys need to know how to avoid putting themselves in that position in the first place. That means going past their feelings to learn about the women that they form relationships with, since they all have their own patterns and habits. and how to handle the situation if he slips up and falls for “the trap”. For the girls, they need to know how to live independently so they don’t have to depend or prey on any of the men that they form relationships with. Child support was originally meant (or should only be) used against parents (women can be placed on child support, too) who aren't living up to their responsibility.But to know that, that boy and/or girl needs to know what a man taking care of his family is supposed to look like. That example should come from you, and others in the community.

3)  Fix your own problems to maintain your family. We all have insecurities and vices that we fight every day. When we beat one, another comes up. The key is to be aware of how and why these vices and insecurities cause problems, and how to resolve them. At the least, keep them from interfering with ou own growth and family life.

Although we should be trying to maintain our own families, child support can be seen as a fire being put under our asses to make sure we at least make an effort to maintain them. Is the state doing this because they care if our families stick together? Honestly, only to the degree that stable families (or dysfunctional families for that matter) either help or have a neutral affect on the state itself. We should use the pitfalls explained in the stories above as motivation to rise to that occasion once we enter a relationship, or become parents. If not fear of the pitfalls, then the children and their future. Maintaining the family structure is part of how the Black community is to get its power and freedom.

*The details used in the description of child support came from stories of men on child support, and from the state(Texas) issued brochure on child support, custody, and visitation rights of noncustodial parents.