“Fruitvale Station” and the Need for Black Male Rebranding

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The film “Fruitvale Station” is the most powerful movie I’ve seen in some time.  The director (Ryan Coogler) and lead actor (Michael B. Jordan) should be nominated for Oscars. They were most successful in humanizing Oscar Grant and portraying him in a way we don’t often see Black males onscreen–and sometimes even in real life–as multidimensional. (PLOT SPOILER ALERT.)

As a recent Huffington Post article pointed out, Grant was both a saint and a sinner. He was a great dad, but couldn’t stay out of jail. He loved his girlfriend and momma, but cheated on and cursed them. He was in a gang, but was a loyal friend, right until death. He was handed very few opportunities in life, yet ruined the few that he had. His struggle to be a better young man, in spite of his tough circumstances, was very apparent. It was as if the actor and director were challenging us to find a young man, of any ethnicity, who wasn’t in some way like Oscar Grant.

That they made Grant dangerously, beautifully, and fully human should be the legacy of this film. Young Black males could definitely use more of that, as we have a serious branding problem! As a juror from the Trayvon Martin case–the one who “couldn’t identify” with him–recently reminded us, Black males are often seen as devoid of [full] humanity and undeserving of justice.

Even worse, it’s a view that decontextualizes so-called “black-on-black” crime, which many point to as an example of our moral backwardness and lack of humanity. What those who take that view fail to realize is that (a) all Americans are legally entitled to justice, regardless of whether they were victimized by someone from their community, and (b) a number of Blacks have internalized a unique sense of hopelessness and despair, which is often a militating factor in some Black folk’s decision to engage in criminal behavior and to view other Blacks as worthy victims.

Unfortunately, this is what comes along with 246 years of slavery, 100 years of Jim Crow segregation, and 50 years of broken educational systems, mass incarceration, mass influxes of drugs, and the mass exportation of urban jobs.  Put another way, it’s what happens when you’re seen as a threat to society and pushed to its fringes.

While this film certainly is not the magic elixir, it is a start–a start to the cultural push that can recast Black males in a new light.  If the 90s showcased a number of “in tha hood” movies that highlighted Black male frustration, anger, and violence, then the current decade is as good a time as any for an onslaught of films that portray Black males as hopeful, intelligent, positive, and likable.  Of course, movies alone, however well-intentioned, will not lift people out of poverty, or provide impoverished communities with better schools and jobs.  But they will inspire.  They can change people’s hearts and minds, just as The Cosby Show and Oprah Winfrey did a generation ago.  When people stop seeing Black males as thugs and criminals, they may start believing that it is unjust for the police to shoot us in our backs when we are laying face-down and handcuffed.  We have been viewed as “America’s worst nightmare” for far too long.  The time has come for us to be seen as America’s best leaders, thinkers, and creators.  We need a serious rebranding campaign!

R.I.P. Jaime Escalante (12-30-1930 to 3-30-2010)

Imagine sending your child to a school where Jaime Escalante is the math teacher, Mary McLeod Bethune teaches industrial arts and economics, John Henrik Clarke is the history teacher, Joe Clark and George McKenna are the administrators, and we’ll let that chick Erin Gruwell teach English.  R.I.P. to one of the most inspirational and skilled educators that institution has ever known.

1st Annual Kill a Descendant of Slaveowners Cook Out

That’s right Black people.  I’m very pleased to announce the First (of many more to come) Annual Kill a Descendant of Slaveowners Cook Out.  Bring your Toussaint L’Ouverture garb, as our opening theme will be:

Whatever defamation of character my enemies are spreading about me, I do not feel the need to justify myself toward them. While discretion obliges me to remain silent, my duty compels me to prevent them from doing any more harm. –Toussaint L’ Ouverture

Food and White people will be provided. We’ll be at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) this Monday (the 8th) where there are plenty of descendants of slaveowners and sympathizers of slaveowners.  We’ll drink “rum,” eat White people in effigy, simulate the rape White women, have sex with animals in effigy, not shower, spread diseases, and scream about how great freedom is just like the original denizens and citizens who started this great nation did.  Sign up for the Kill a Cracker Olympics.  Spots will go fast.  And remember: this is all just in fun.  There are no issues of race or racism here.  We’re just a bunch of young people having a bit of cultural-historical fun–nothing serious just like the “Compton Cook-Out.” 

Oh, and join us for other great celebrations: Genocide on Redskins Day, Kill a Kike Day, Partition Afrika Month (Afrika is a big continent), and Rape is Great Day! 

‘Fucking White people are out of their rabid-ass minds with the damned “Compton Cook-Out” and a noose hanging in the library.  This is just for fun?  Who the fuck are you kidding?!

University of California Fee Hikes

I’ve been following some of the arguments surrounding the University of California fee hikes.  Listening to my favorite conservative radio program (yeah I listen), callers complained that students were protesting, and that they don’t want to pay for students to protest and block traffic.  This is an absolutely asinine argument.

First, a 30% increase in fees would send anyone into a frenzy; however, this effects the poorest students most.  These are students who have the academics to warrant attendance to the nation’s top public university school system, but who do not have the financial resources to pay for it.  And, anyone who has gone to a university knows that paying for school is easier said than done.  Top students apply for tens of scholarships only to win one, and of course, there is no guarantee that even a top ranked student will be awarded any money.  Continue reading

Why I Listened When Mama Said “Get an Education”

Is this what happens when you jaw-jack about your employer, behave irresponsibly, show up late, and represent yourself poorly, then suddenly find yourself squared off against the vicissitudes of the current job market, coupled with minimal education, few tangible skills, and the initiative of an obese man who’s allowed his TV to stay on a  channel he cannot stand because his remote is 2-feet too far from his grasp?

I present to you several reasons why you should appreciate your job and its conditions…