Following Intuition

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One of my problems as a critical thinking academic is that I am constantly overthinking and overanalyzing everything. As Einstein suggests, I do not listen to my intuition, instead favoring my logical mind. In our culture, reason is privileged, thus to move “forward” or “progress” I ascribe to this dominant strain of thought. As a result, I do not pay attention to my intuition.

Intuition is commonly understood be to a gut feeling, often suggested to be located roughly three fingers below your navel. Malcolm Gladwell wrote a novel, Blink, on the power of intuition, suggesting there needs to be a movement towards favoring this feeling. However, it is one that I, as a member as a logic focused society, do not follow consistently and/or constantly.

In order to hear my intuition, I need to be still and calm. I also need to heal from previous hurt and pain and be more trusting of myself. I have to love and care for myself.

What do you think about intuition? Do you follow your intuition? Why are women, stereotypically, more in tune with their intuition?

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Honest First Date Ending

http://www.dailymotion.com/embed/video/xo797x
Upstairs by shawnwines

This video made me literally lol-laugh out loud-when I first saw it. I decided to share it with you all this Friday to add some comedy to your day.

At the same time, I hope that you think about (and recognize) what this video (re)presents in terms of: heterosexual relationships, male/female desires, female/male understanding of relationships, the terms of the relationships (meeting parents, gifts, sex), qualities that attract the two different sexes, and the sacrifices and compromises.

My list is not by any means exhaustive. In fact, I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions about the video in the comment section.

Have a great day!

Am I The Next Zimmerman?

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Unfortunately, the picture above is correct. There will be another Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, sadly. The names will change, but the crime’s root problem will remain. This narrative of racially motivated crimes and the criminalization of Black and Latino males is not new. In 1833, almost a 180 years ago, Fredrick Douglas wrote about the South’s tendency to impute crime to color. In other words, crime and color were conflated, thought of as one. Thus, the perpetrator of any crime was thought to be black. Accordingly, there were Whites who took advantage of this ideology and purposely ingrained it in our societal consciousness. There was a period when Whites would color their faces and then commit crimes. Black faced criminals. They would often commit these crimes at night and would get away. Then, when the sheriff began his investigation he would accuse innocent Blacks, who could not defend themselves legally, especially with an all white jury, or socially from the hooded viligantes known as the KKK. Such criminal actions of these White men in black face paint instilled and manifested our country’s negative assumption about its black brothers. Not surprisingly, those notions of Black, and now Latino, males are prevalent in our modern society. See any resemblance to the Trayvon Martin case. Yep, his story is not exceptional but the norm. The foundation has been set and we continue to build on that faulty, yet sturdy framework. Heck, whenever I see a group of teenage males, regardless of color because I know the violence that White males are capable of as well, I get nervous and suspicious.

Am I the next Zimmerman?

With the question, I am not insisting or implying that I would violently and nonsensically attack and kill a seemingly suspicious person. What I am suggesting though is that the narrative of violence against the other, and in our country the other is non-White, is so strong and prevalent that when I get nervous around those groups of young men, I am certain that I think a thought that led caused allowed Zimmerman to call the police 46 times about suspicious behavior in his neighborhood since 2011. I am certain that Zimmerman and I share similar stereotypes. How could we not? We both were raised in a White dominant culture, whose teaching of these narratives are prevalent and pervasive. Heck, we all know those stereotypes about each other, ranging from race to sexual orientation to religion. So when I see all of these people proclaiming and suggesting that they may be the next Trayvon Martin, I pause and ask myself, am I the next Zimmerman?

On another note, I question what should happen to Zimmerman? While I am outraged at the fact that he was not arrested at the scene of the crime, which seems like standard procedure, I am not sure if he should go to jail and/or receive the death penalty. Prison is the de facto form of punishment in this country. With every homicide case there are strong emotional claims made by the victim’s family that the perpetrator should be punished, either by spending a considerable time in prison or by receiving the death penalty. Heck, I confessed a few days ago that I cannot even begin to imagine the pain and hurt I would feel if my son was senselessly murdered. I am not in any way detracting from the mountain of emotions that one must feel when losing a loved one to a crime. I do however question the need for an instant solution, which prison provides. Lock the “bad people” away from society is the motto. This accomplishes, according to Dr. Angela Davis, an escape of thinking of the root problem; it allows a solution to NOT thinking of the problem because the problem has been removed. While the problem may be moved, has it been solved? Our judicial system operates on revenge and punishment. And it does not work. In fact, the prison system replicates and reproduces the very ills of society. The civil death that prisoners encounter often leads them right back to the system or unable to ever fully regain full citizenship to our society; those punished are forever sentenced to a life of second-class citizenship. Oh, the prison is a system, structurally designed, according to Michelle Alexander’s new book, The New Jim Crow, to suppress Black and Latino males, which has innumerable consequences for our country. Thus, I am not sure if placing Zimmerman in prison will accomplish anything meaningful for our society.

So what should we do with Zimmerman?

I am currently reading Touching Spirit Bear, which within the storyline proposes a Native-American inspired reformative opportunity for a young male perpetrator. The healing circle, a council of concerned and invested community members including the victim and his parents, meet to discuss ways to reform the protagonist, Cole. They ultimately decide to provide him a chance to learn from his mistakes, with the faithful hope that he does. During his first attempt at redemption, he tries to escape the solitary island on which he was to spend time learning about nature and, more importantly, himself. Fortunately, he is given a second chance and this time around, he changes. The course of his learning takes roughly two years, which in our microwave/fast food generation seems like an eternity for justice. Though I am not finished with the novel, Cole has grown and is at a point in which he wants to help his victim heal. He learns that his healing is intrinsically tied to the healing of the one he hurt.

Imagine a reformative process, which allows Zimmerman to deal with his own personal demons, which he undoubtedly has. Once done, he then has to find a way to contribute to the healing of Trayvon’s family and community. The end result would be one that revolutionizes the concept of justice; making it a reformative opportunity, which ironically prison was initially constructed to do. This solution would actually solve the root problem for Zimmerman and help Trayvon’s family heal from their loss. Such a concept, based on love and forgiveness, is foreign and alien to us here in the United States, in part because of the time it requires.

Love, forgiveness, relationships, and healing all require time. There are many scholars who speculate that real change in our culture will take roughly five generations to happen. And that is if we start now.

U.S.A Hides the Real Issue

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US is scared.
As a result, US does bad things.
Ultimately, US hurts others because it is trying to figure things out for itself.

The US will forever be affected by the indelible mark of slavery and its consequences, mainly the formation of an oppressive society. US values some more than others. In doing so, US creates and maintains a healthy cycle of oppression, which is pervasively internalized and learned by all who grace its bountiful land. US hides behind other issues, other divides to ensure that it will not have to be accountable for itself.

US is scared to look in the mirror and be responsible for its sins, faults, and shortcomings.

The case of Trayvon Martin is a horrific tragedy that has become a common storyline in US. Our country’s history is littered with senseless, racially motivated deaths. The names change, but the issue remains the same; our oppressive society’s constant denial that there’s a racial problem. If one ever wondered what privilege looks like, one does not have to look far because US, specifically White mainstreamculture, is the epitome of it.

US does bad things because it is scared; its actions are physical manifestations of its anxiety, angst, and anger.

Unfortunately, too many lives have been lost, disrupted, and damaged with US’ anger, with Trayvon being the latest captured by our national media’s attention. This fixation on the Trayvon Martin case should lead to conversations about US’ racial issue and subsequent problems. Those conversations should begin the healing process that US desperately needs like a man dying of thirst needs a sip of water. But with any angry person, the blame has been displaced. Now our media’s gaze is turning to George Zimmerman’s close friend, Joe Oliver, a media puppet. Mr. Oliver is a black man whose faked promoted close relationship with Zimmerman seemingly validates that Zimmerman is not a racist, in an attempt to de-racialize the case. How could he be a racist with a black confidant, one who has not seen him since a week before the February 26th incident, yet proclaims on all these talk shows that Zimmerman sustained serious injuries, a broken nose and a laceration on the back of his head, during the life threatening scuffle with Trayvon that ended with Trayvon’s life lost. Mr. Oliver claims to be an “Uncle-like” figure, who has only talked with Zimmerman once since the murder and only with the assistance of Zimmerman’s lawyer. Mr. Oliver now dominates the Trayvon case.

Wait, what?

What about Trayvon?!

Well played, US. One can never underestimate your displacement public relation skills. Similarly, the attention is turning to the Sanford’s police department many mishaps and mistakes. Now, an investigation will probe their police department, searching for who leaked information to the public.

Enough already, US!

US, you we cannot continue to blame and fault others. Healing requires taking responsibility for one’s actions. At some point, if this country wants to heal, it will need to look in the mirror. Too many people are angry over this issue, rightfully so. But anger gives others control of you.

US regain control. Forgiving allows for that to happen. However, in order to forgive, America must first deal with the real issue, itself. And that process necessitates an honest look in the mirror. No more conspiracy theories, friends, hoodies, distractions. Only America in our gaze.

Defending Geraldo Rivera?

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Once again, Lil Homie is back with a controversial and thought provoking piece: understanding/making sense of Geraldo Rivera’s hoodie comments. He will undoubtedly raise the eyebrows of many who read this opinion piece. Quick side story: Lil Homie approached me via twitter with this idea and within minutes, one of his friends threatened, “your color card will be in jeopardy.” Thus, I salute my friend, my brother with sharing his thoughts openly, even though it is risky. As with all my posts, I hope that it evokes thought and incites riots conversations among the readers and with whomever they share it. The floor is all yours, Lil Homie.

Defending Geraldo Rivera?

Wow. Writing that just made me cringe, and that inflection at the end of that (awful) declaration did nothing to quell my anxiety of people reading this post, immediately hating me, taking my hood card away, and never talking to me again. Please, before all of that happens, hear me out for a second. To preface this post, I DO NOT AGREE WITH RIVERA. As a man of color that has been unfairly targeted because of his appearance, I am utterly appalled that Geraldo Rivera would say such a thing in the wake of a national tragedy. To posit that a hoodie caused a young, black boy (Trayvon Martin), who was simply minding his business, to be killed by a vigilante neighborhood watchman gone wild (George Zimmerman), is completely ridiculous. But there is something about Rivera’s comments that struck a real chord with me, and something I’d like to explore and get others’ opinions on. In the literal sense, his statement is unintelligible. An article of clothing has absolutely nothing to do with one’s racist association of skin color and criminal activity and it is pure folly to equate this magical hoodie with Zimmerman’s prejudices that caused the heartbreak of February 26th, 2012. But as I took a couple of days to think about Rivera’s comments more deeply, this is what I gleaned from his trying failing to reasonably articulate a cogent point: stereotypes are real, and as people of color – and men of color, in particular – we need to always be mindful of them and how we present ourselves to the larger society. Or at least I think that’s what he meant.

“Its not blaming the victim Its common sense-look like a gangsta & some armed schmuck will take you at your word.” – Geraldo Rivera

Let’s be clear: Geraldo Rivera is a raging sensationalist, kind of like these four fools. He’s smart enough to know what he’s saying and how his actions will be perceived. People are commenting and talking about it; articles are being written about it; and blogs are being posted by the second (thanks, Big Homie). So congrats, Rivera, you got us all talking. But back to the issue at hand, this funny thing called stereotypes. I’ve had my fair share of run-ins with this terrible infection. Once, as a young 16 year-old coming home from my private school in a very tony and ritzy part of town, I was approached by an “undercover” police officer (much like that rogue, Zimmerman), that essentially asked me what I was doing in that neighborhood. Apparently, using a student metrocard and wearing athletic gear after basketball practice in a zip code that only houses elite private schools is a crime. Now I won’t get into what happened afterwards, but just know that a gun was almost pulled and I’m thankful to be alive writing today. But what that incident taught me was that I always need to be careful. I need to be careful about where I am. I need to be careful about how others perceive me. I need to understand the very act of being a black man causes anxiety for a number of people. This is why I’ve mastered the art of code-switching; why I’m attentive to how I talk and act and dress when I’m in certain places; and why I work every day to change the world, because incidents like Trayvon Martin happen all too regularly.

Now again, this is not to defend Rivera’s comments. In fact, I abhor his very being for off-handedly mentioning in his 140-character rant that a young boy was asking to be killed because of his attire. But his comments made me think about how careful I always am – and have to be – living in this country, the home of the free (thinly-veiled sarcasm).

“If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.” – President Barack Obama

Nothing made me prouder than hearing Savior President Obama make those comments. He didn’t have to. He could have been silent, again, like he was with the Troy Davis case last year, but the gravity of this situation really forced his hand. The fact that the President of the United States, the Commander-in-Chief, a Harvard-educated lawyer, said that his son would look like Trayvon sent chills down my spine and throws Rivera’s comments for a loop. Obama is right: his black son would probably look like Trayvon, and his black son, the son of the leader of, arguably, the most powerful and influential country in the world, would still be targeted because of his skin color. Talk about stereotypes, huh? And I love how pundits, athletes, and ordinary citizens are getting involved to expose the ridiculousness of Rivera and his comments.

So I write all this to say this: stereotypes matter. Will people perceive you based on stereotypes? Absolutely. Will they treat you differently because of them? Yup. Is this fair? Of course not. Unfortunately, we live in a society where people like George Zimmerman exist and Geraldo Rivera is able to say the things he does. But what may be even more troubling than Rivera’s decree is that people actually subscribe to this type of thinking. I’m not saying that we need to change our appearance because some extremist feels the need to expose his insecurities in a very perverted and deadly manner or some commentator feels the need to be controversial. What I am saying, though, is that because we (people of color) understand the world we live in, let’s take Rivera’s comments my attempted articulation of Rivera’s comments with a few hundred thousand grains of salt. Let’s critically examine – if that’s possible of a Twitter posting – what he is saying and continue to offer counter-narratives to this offensive type of thinking.

Thoughts?

Is Jay Z the Greatest Rapper?

I have been thinking about this post for the last couple of weeks; what makes Jay Z, considered by many, the greatest rapper of all time (GOAT)? It is a critical question to understand the requirements and prerequisites for such an honor. But one thing I have learned about the music industry is “like = slang-for-penis riding” and “dislike = hating.” Let me reiterate, this post is not “hating,” I am big Jay Z fan. At the same time, I like to challenge the norm and, additionally, have a difficult time passively accepting the norm.

“Is this a serious question?”

“Rhetorical question.”

“If you do not know by now, then you will never know.”

Those were some of the initial responses that I received from my inquiry via twitter. As one can see, the question, which implicitly doubts Jay Z’s greatness, was met with disbelief and wonder. I knew even posing the question that two things could occur: I would never be welcomed to any Brooklyn BBQs and hang outs and/or I could lose a friendship or worse, my Black card. Even with those high risks, I pushed back against my friends, and surprisingly only a handful responded. The lack of response highlights that many foresee Jay’s GOAT-ness as a given, as an indisputable fact. For those brave ones that did respond, the following answers dominated: longevity and cultural relevance.

Notice that no one mentioned the success of his records. Over the span of sixteen years, Jay has released fifteen albums (including the collaboration albums with Kanye, R. Kelly (2x), and Linkin Park). During that time, he has released some commercial duds and albums not embraced by his fans. In fact, after the Blueprint album, Jay Z has flip flopped between classic album and…umm…not so classic album (Blueprint (C), Blueprint 2 (NSC), The Black Album (C), Kingdom Come (NSC), American Gangster, The Blueprint 3 (NSC)). His consistency can be questioned here, but one cannot have a classic album every time, especially when the most questionable album, Kingdom Come, was rushed to help save Def Jam at the time. His classic albums are often his most intimate, which undoubtedly take the most out of him. Jay, from a distance, does not share himself easily, and one can hear it on his albums. However, the few times he did take an emotional risk (read: discussing his personal demons), he reaped the benefits of it (see Black Album, Blueprint 1, The Life and Times Vol. 1).

Notice that no one mentioned the numbers of records sold because Eminem, 50 Cent, and even Nelly all outsold Jay Z during their popularity’s zenith. Here is where longevity places a huge part: Jay officially entered the rap game with the release of 1996 debut, Reasonable Doubt. After sixteen years, he is still relevant lyrically in the game. When was the last time any one mentioned 50 Cent’s or Nelly’s music? Other than Eminem’s recent resurgence, Jay has outlasted the many competitors to the GOAT crown. Last year’s Watch The Throne, was easily one of the biggest albums as he matched wits, lyrics, and airtime with Kanye West.

Wait, what about Eminem as the GOAT? Lyrically, he is comparable to Jay Z (some would argue that Eminem killed Jay Z on their one song together, Renegade, which actually used Em’s older lyrics from a previously unreleased song with Royce Da 5’9″–told you I was a rap head). Em has changed the way that rappers enunciate their words, banking on the clarity of his words because it makes it easier for the audience to rap along. In fact, one can hear his cadence more readily in the crop of rappers, from the promising Kendrick Lamar to the violent-nature of Hopsin and Odd Future (notably all three are from the West Coast). He sells records at an exuberant rate; his second album, The Marshall Mathers LP was certified diamond, amassing more than ten million sales (Jay has never sold that many albums, topping out at 3 million for one album). He’s been in the game since 1999, only a few years after Jay.

However, the biggest factors against Eminem are his lyrical content and cultural appeal. His drug heavy, overly misogynistic, and bloody lyrics do not strike the same chord in the listeners as do Jay’s lyrical exercise over beats. Jay seemingly speaks over tracks, his cadence reflective of his natural pattern of speech. Whereas, Eminem’s flow often follows the constraining iambic pentameter, which does not mimic speech’s casualness. On another note, Eminem does not yield the same cultural relevance in hip hop. For example, when Jay Z said that collared, button-up shirts were in, everyone in the hip hop world neatly put away their throw-back, authentic jerseys and made their way to the local department store, grabbing a handful of button-ups. Eminem has never exuded that kind of cultural dominance. No one else has.

The only suitable competitor to Jay’s GOAT-ness, according to my friends on facebook, was the late and great Christoper Wallace, aka Notorious BIG. It was his patent recording style–not writing down his lyrics, but reciting it over and over, mentally writing, and then spitting it in the booth, which was adopted by Jay (and later other rappers like Lil’ Wayne and T.I.)–and his story-telling prowess that makes him a meaningful contender to Jay’s crown. In fact, while BIG was alive, he wore the crown, literally and figuratively. In his short career, he only made two albums and his relative lack of material does not hold a candle to Jay’s fifteen albums worth of battling, breaking, and manhandling beats with his words.

Jay is the GOAT. I cannot find an argument or competitor that can even sustain a strong argument against Jay’s GOAT-ness. I just wish others were not so ready to appoint him. In doing so, they rob Jay of what makes him special, his dominance over an extended period, nearing two decades. In challenging the presumptive answer, one sees that Jay is truly special, and my appreciation for him has increased. *raises glass to the GOAT*

Jay has boycotted the Grammys, became an executive, and branched out to other businesses. He has become the poster child of success in the rap game. More impressively, he’s done it all while building his brand, extending his reach into other aspects of hip hop cultural life.

Love

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Tell your loved ones that you love them today and everyday you have the chance. Relationships are tricky for an assortment of reasons, but expressing your love and gratitude is one of which you are in control. The person receiving that love may not react the way you expected, s/he may not react at all. But know that you shared something special with them.

Also, tell yourself that you love you. You need to hear it and feel it more than you think.

Have a wonderful and safe Sunday.