Capitalism is a scam.

I’m tired, y’all. I have to admit that Drumpf’s America is wearing on me. After 8 years under our glorious King Obama, I had bought into the notion that we were heading into the twilight of the worst inequality and that better days were ahead. Now I see that the ugliness of racism and bigotry is not going to go quietly, and is in fact still actively sowing seeds of hatred faster than we can dig them up.

I get why white people are mad. Truly, I do. I don’t get paid what I’m worth. The rent is too damn high and so are the utilities, the groceries, and the gas. I have an advanced degree and over $50,000 of student loan debt. I live in a six figure household and I don’t even have one full month’s income in my savings account.

But I don’t blame this on immigrants, queer people, or minorities because they haven’t done shit but try to survive and thrive in a system that is set up for everyone but the richest to fail. 22.5% of my income goes to federal taxes, while corporations pay a top rate of 21%. But given the wealth of deductions, setoffs, and loopholes, big businesses are only effectively taxed on profits, rather than gross income. I don’t get to deduct the gas for my commute, or the payments on my student loans. I can’t even deduct the cost of my bar license renewal and continuing education fees because they’re less than 2% of my income.

Love of money is the root of all evil, and that evil comes to bear in capitalism. The natural end of capitalism and a 100% free market isn’t equal pay for equal work, or even pay commensurate with productivity, skills, or experience. It’s slavery or at best, indentured servitude. Capitalism prizes profit above all else, which means that business will never, I mean NEVER, pay their debt to society. A safe workplace isn’t a natural result of capitalism because cutting corners to increase output makes more money than making sure the factory equipment isn’t going to cut someone’s hand off. After all, basic needs are priced so far above production cost that you’ll have no problem finding a replacement for your crippled employee because people have work or starve. Wage inequality hasn’t been this high since right before the New Deal, and before that, the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. Not to mention that at the rate global warming is progressing, parts of the world will start becoming uninhabitable within our lifetime. I don’t understand why people can’t, or won’t, see that we need to band together and fight for humanity as a whole. Capitalism is killing us and too many of us are refusing to fight back.

 

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Logic’s “Everybody” is the positive resistance album we didn’t know we needed

This is going to be a lengthy post because I’ve been a fan of Logic for awhile. Tex is super into rap, and so is Mr. Teenage Dream. So between the two of them I was kept pretty current despite my preference for soul and R&B. As a matter of fact, I’ve been put on to at least one artist on the XXL Freshman cover every year since they started. I knew about folks like Kap G (2017), Ty Dolla Sign (2014), Machine Gun Kelly (2012) and Wale (2007) waaaaay before they hit the mainstream.

Logic was on the 2013 Freshman cover, and of course, by that time I’d already added his mixtapes into my regular rotation. (By the way, Young Sinatra is still dope). I happily paid for each of his commercial albums so when I found out this week that his third album, Everybody, had dropped over a month ago, I made it my business to buy it immediately. Since then I’ve listened to it twice through in its entirety, and it’s stuck in my head. The concept, the production, the lyrics…it all blows my mind.

In a nutshell, the album is a musical journey based on a short story, “The Egg” by Andy Weir, which you can read here.  Logic explains it in the video below.

The TL;DR of all this is that the human race is just one being, reincarnated until it has experienced every walk of life and can evolve into a higher existence (i.e., become God). Therefore the universe is just an egg that we have to hatch from by maturing enough to realize that every time we hurt someone else, we hurt ourselves.

That’s a provoking and comforting thought in these troubled times. Some days it all seems so hopeless. I stay away from the news because it can really f*ck with my mental state. No matter how happy I am in my little bubble, there is a lot of hate out there. A couple weeks back I was walking through Target holding hands with my husband, feeling blissfully in love and chatting about some silly thing. A white lady came up the main aisle, in the opposite direction of us and nearly jumped out of her skin. Her whole demeanor changed–her eyes widened, she went from walking slowly to doubling her speed, clutching her purse and looking down at the ground as she passed  us. “How do you know it was a race thing? Maybe she was just startled,” I’m sure you’re thinking. Well, there were five or six white people she would have just passed and we were the only brown people in sight, so I’m pretty sure it was a race thing. Sh*t like that is just demoralizing.

Logic gets it. And while many people are quick to throw it in his face that he could pass for white, that didn’t insulate him from many of the same struggles that poor black kids face growing up, along with the unique struggle of being called a racial slur by your own mother. Despite that, he maintains a positive outlook and his music is always hopeful. And hope is what we need right now.

Are you a Logic fan or never heard of him? If you listened to the album, what did you think? Let me know!

Bills, Bills, Bills

False equivalencies irk me. I try my best to ignore clickbait and purposely inflammatory social media posts, but every so often one gets to me enough that I have to pull out my soapbox. This is one of those times. You’ve been warned!

It’s hard to fit nuance into a Facebook status, but this one is woefully lacking. The TL;DR of it all is that this is ultimately a class issue (although race always plays a part in that because this is America). I don’t know any black people with well off parents who were not, or would not have been allowed to live at home and get back on their feet when they didn’t get a job right after graduation or when they got laid off from their first job. After Tex got laid off, we lived with his parents for 7 months and didn’t pay any rent, bills, nothing. If it had been much longer than that, they probably would have asked us to chip in for groceries but I wouldn’t have felt it was unfair. Conversely, I’ve known lower income white kids who lived at home and got part time jobs in order to contribute to expenses.

Truthfully, the vast majority of Americans (Black and white!) are living paycheck to paycheck. One recent study shows that about 60% of us don’t even have $500 in savings. That was a small sample size, but if that large a percentage of us don’t have even that small amount, how many don’t have the recommended 3 months’ living expenses? If your financial situation is that precarious, imagine the burden of supporting an adult child who is no longer eligible for Medicaid, must be registered separately on your car insurance, no longer eats 2 of their 3 meals a day at school, and is now at home 8 hours a day with the lights and A/C on. Together, that easily costs another $500 a month.

For parents who earn $250,000 or more a year and have inherited wealth, that picture is completely different. An alumni legacy scholarship and proportionally lower tuition kept them out of college debt. A trust fund from their parents allowed them to put 50% down on their first house, enabling them to pay it off in 10 years, buy a new home and rent out the old one (creating a second stream of income). So when little Becky wants to take off a year between high school and college, it’s no problem for her to spend her time going on spring break and overseas mission trips on her parents’ dime. When Timmy graduates and has to take an entry level job that only pays $30,000 a year, he can stay in his parents’ rental home until he makes enough money to get his own place (which will almost certainly be a house, not an apartment).

Comparing this situation to Black parents who didn’t buy a house until their child started kindergarten, have 15 more years on their mortgage, had to co-sign loans for college tuition, and have to contribute to the cost of a nursing home for their parents (who had no retirement savings) is just unfair. Couple that with the average person’s complete lack of financial education and it creates a vicious cycle.

I really think that financial education should be part of the K-12 curriculum. Every kid has to take calculus even though only a small percentage will pursue careers that require its use. But they don’t know how to balance a checkbook or create a budget as every adult will have to do? That’s madness. I got those lessons throughout life from my parents, and enterprising teachers who taught me about the stock market and income taxes. But that should be available to everyone.

State of the Union

It’s 2016 and election fever is in full swing. (I’m amped up to vote for Bernie Sanders in the primary). Sadly, that means the Obama era is at an end. This was a once in a lifetime experience! Even if it doesn’t take another 220 years to elect the second Black president, Barack Hussein Obama will always be the first.

Of course, even though a lot of people tout Obama’s presidency as the beginning of a postracial era it was nothing of the sort. Instead, it put a magnifying glass over tensions that had been left to simmer for years. Minorities and women getting ahead is okay as long as the economy is booming, but the Great Recession exposed America’s true colors. But I think the time has come for Black people to have some real talk with themselves.

Let me preface this by saying that I don’t absolve white people of their responsibility to act like decent human beings. There is no excuse for racism, the same way there is no excuse for rape.  But if we’re waiting on white people to collectively apologize for slavery or issue some kind of reparations, it’s not going to happen. The fact that many white people are awakening to the reality of racism and bias in various areas of life is a victory. a lot of folks denounce Bernie Sanders as not being enough of a progressive because his platform is based on class and economic issues. Well, guess who makes up a disproportionate share of the poor in this country? At this point, it’s like we’re cutting off our nose to spite our face. As vindicating as it would be to get reparations, it’s a pie in the sky dream.

The Oscars boycott is a recent example. The Academy Awards have been “so white” since day one. But what are black celebrities doing about it? I’m a firm believer in DuBois’s Talented Tenth theory. The best of us have a responsibility to reach back. The African American Film Critics Association was founded in 2003, but most of us have never heard of it. Last year,  the BET Award for Best New Artist went to Sam Smith- a white singer who didn’t even attend. Granted, most of us don’t have the resources of the 1% to affect policy and invest in our communities on a large scale. But Oprah, Will & Jada, LeBron James, etc. do. In addition to pushing for governmental policy changes, we should be demanding our own give back. It would be more productive to encourage our own people to create opportunities for those who come after, than to continue to beg the establishment for recognition. Essence magazine is no longer black owned and it’s basically 100 pages of ads for Walmart, lotion, and hair care products along with 3 articles on how horrible it is to be a black person. Yet when the sale happened, we didn’t boycott.

Things need to change. We need to build bridges with other people of color and stop playing Oppression Olympics. The experience of every minority culture in America is unique, but Blacks, Latinos and Asians share a common struggle of being treated as lesser than the white majority. We need to get out and vote–not every 4 years for the president, not every 2 years for Congress, but every. single. year for the mayor, city council members, comptroller, superintendent, whatever. So much policy is made at the state and local level–sales tax, property tax, school districting, zoning laws are all decided every year by old white people, because the rest of us (not just black people, but EVERYONE!) don’t vote.

Trayvon, Eric, Mike, et al : Where do we go from here?

2014-15 was when Millenials collectively figured out that white people are still racist, the political system is rigged, and the justice system is crooked af. So what are we going to do about it?

If you were to compile a list of victims of police violence, and only include those who got media coverage, you’d still come up with a list as long (or longer!) than Bi.ll C.osby’s so-called groupies.*

There’s a lot of protests and social media buzz, and I’m not mad at that. Times have changed, the media and the way we consume media have changed. Our civil rights movement is not going to look like that of yesteryear. However…I think my generation risks throwing out the baby with the bathwater. We still need to vote, attend city council meetings, write to our representatives, and volunteer with the youth so that they know this stuff matters too. And before you say “politics doesn’t work, we’ve tried it” have we really? Only about 1/3 of the eligible voting population turns out for PRESIDENTIAL elections.

The truth is, citizens have much more power at the state and local level than federal. The President controls the army and foreign policy. Congress passes a lot of laws, but how much it affects you depends on how much you’re bothered by other people’s ability to marry the same sex or get an abortion. But state and local government basically run your life. Sales tax? Local/state government. Property tax? Local government. School district zoning? Local government. Police reform? Local government. See where I’m going with this?

You can only get so far with raising awareness. At some point, you’ve got to give people a job to do. The Black Friday boycotts are a great start, but that only happens once a year. And as much as I enjoy supporting black business year round, there’s not a black owned, non-chain grocery store or drug store where I live so Kroger and CVS are going to continue to get my dollars. I also think that we need to think multiculturally. The NAACP can’t do everything (and haven’t been doing much of anything lately). What about the Urban League, the ACLU, the National Action Network and the Anti-Defamation League? Traditional political processes are slow and bureaucratic, and we want instant results. But policy doesn’t happen overnight. And you get things done a lot faster when you can bring a coalition together to accomplish a single goal.

 

 

 

 

 

*I was being cute but don’t get it twisted, I know he’s a r.apist.

Dollars and Sense

It pains me that raising the minimum wage is even a debate. In a capitalist society, you’d think that more money for everyone to spread around would be a good thing, but apparently not. Seems that a lot of folks are surprised, appalled, and even downright pissed that fast food workers dare ask for $15/hr. When it comes to money, it seems a lot of people can’t (or won’t) apply logic and just do the math. I swear Americans despise poor people because we’re all convinced that one day we’re gonna make it to the 1% even though statistics say that’s nearly impossible. I mean it’s the 1%, not the 99%, for crying out loud! I’ve seen a lot of chatter surrounding this thanks to the “Fight for $15” strikes that happened this week. I’ve got more to say than will fit in a tweet or a Facebook status, so I decided to dust off my blog and cut through the BS.

First, the entire point of creating a minimum wage was so that every person who made the effort to work full time would be able to feed themselves and their families. The analogy used by the Supreme Court in addressing that this law was constitutional was that if wages fall below a certain point, you are basically doing  slave labor.  Post- industrialization, women’s lib, and desegregation, the types of jobs that are relegated to minimum wage have changed. Factory assembly line jobs are  almost defunct. What hasn’t changed is that minimum wage jobs are typically thought to be disposable. The fact is, somebody has to take out the trash. Somebody has to flip the burgers we eat two and three times a week. Somebody has to fold the cheap clothes we buy from Target and Old Navy. Somebody has to be the mall security guard. Somebody has to drive the metro bus. For whatever reason, it’s easy to ignore the issue because fast food workers are apparently not worthy of a living wage.

There’s a lot of talk about how raising the minimum wage will destroy ambition. That has not and will never be true. Minimum wage is still minimum, and $30,000/yr is just  barely comfortable for a new college graduate. It certainly isn’t enough to support the kind of lifestyle that most people would be content with living forever. And I’d bet money that raising the minimum wage would get more people into the workforce and off welfare. Why? Because in some states, you can actually live just as (un)comfortably on food stamps and Section 8 housing as you can working a full time minimum wage job- and you’ll have a lot more free time to boot. If you already grew up in the projects, why work harder to stay in the same place? Hell, there are professional women quitting their jobs to be homemakers because their $50,000 salary won’t cover the daycare they need to be able to work, much less the additional food, clothing and shelter costs children entail.

“But fast food isn’t meant to be a career”, you say.” Well, teenagers can’t work full time because they have school. Most retirees don’t want to work, and age discrimination screens out most of the rest of them. To reiterate, as long as we demand cheap consumer goods we need low wage workers to provide them. Some of those workers will inevitably be adults with families. Well, as discussed above, there’s a demand and a need for minimum wage jobs. No economy can support a 100% white collar workforce. At that point, the cost of living would skyrocket because we’d be importing groceries and paying jacked up rates to keep the lights on. Even if everyone could afford to attend college, not everyone would want to- and that’s perfectly fine. Doesn’t mean they don’t have a right to live. But even if college was compulsory, we’d just end up with a whole bunch of degreed burger flippers.

What’s sad is that is seems like people need someone to feel superior to. Sure, maybe you make only marginally more than the Wendy’s manager- at least you have a degree, so you can call yourself elite. In reality we need a raise in wages, minimum or not, across the board. Subsidies and tax breaks for corporations have kept the prices of consumer goods low, but wages have remained stagnant. Even wages for professional jobs have not kept up with inflation because corporate profit margins are bigger than ever before. Nobody wants to advocate for bettering the lot of the poor because we all believe that someday we’ll be millionaires. Truth is, if you don’t own real estate, stocks, bonds, and a trust fund, it’s just a matter of how many missed paychecks it will take for you to end up on welfare.

The lesson of the day? Stay woke. Capitalism will chew you up and spit you out.

 

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