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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Not All Nerds. . . Just You

Last weekend, actor/comedian Donald Glover, aka musical artist Childish Gambino, headlined Saturday Night Live. He also released a brand new single and music video, “This Is America”. I don’t know if he just cemented his relevance at the right time, or people felt just that strongly about seeing him dance shirtless for five minutes, but he seems to have reignited the “black girls don’t like nerds” debate (which is just a subset of the “girls don’t like nerds” debate). The truth is, it’s not all nerds. It’s YOU.

I have strong feelings about this subject and I consider myself an expert. I’ve been a nerd my whole life and I went to college at Georgia Tech, arguably one of the nerdiest schools in the country. Half of my family and 90% of my friends are nerds. I know plenty of nerds with thriving love lives, and it oftentimes boils down to three things.

  1. What’s wrong being confident?

    It’s true that, on balance, school age nerds aren’t getting checked for like that. But the popular kids were maybe 10-20% of the class and everybody else was just there. I’m not here for a grown ass man complaining about how the head cheerleader laughed at the Valentine’s card he gave her in th grade. GET OVER IT! Sure, I was bullied in middle school. And back in high school I got curved by a couple of nerds too. But I didn’t attribute any one guy’s rejection as an indictment of my lifelong undateability. Stop letting other people determine your self-esteem!

2. Stay in your lane

I don’t care to find the episode, but the tv show Friends actually had a good theory on what scientists call “assortative mating”. That is, most relationships occur between people who are more similar than not. Friends‘ take was that if you rate the entire population on a scale of 1-10, you can only successfully date within two numbers of your number. So if you’re a 6, you probably can’t pull anyone above an 8, but you won’t be happy with anyone less than a 4.

 

Blerd = black nerd, ICYMI.

My whole life I’ve seen nerd guys strive for the sorority presidents, homecoming queens, and Instagram baddies of the world and ignore cute nerd girls that they hung out with every day.

3. Pretty Pays

Urkel was a solid 4, who somehow managed to get caught in a love triangle with two 8’s. But that’s TV, and when Urkel transformed into Stefan he was an 8 himself. Which brings me to my third point…attractiveness matters.

 

Now there are certain things–height, body type, facial features–that are hard or impossible to change. Life is a lottery and we don’t all win. But even if you are, objectively, less attractive than the average person, there are things you can do. Half of the allure of Stefan was confidence. He knew what he wanted, and went after it. He stood up straight and made eye contact. And I’m convinced that potion had some Sudafed in it too because Stefan wasn’t a mouth breather and didn’t speak in a nasally whine!

Now, it’s clear from the picture above that when he tried, Steve Urkel was actually a 7 not living up to his full potential. All those things men say about wanting a girl who “keeps herself up”–staying in shape, hair done, nails done, cute clothes–apply in reverse. You may not look like Idris Elba but you damn sure don’t have to look lia mess. Find some clothes that fit you properly and make sure they’re ironed. Get acquainted with Proactiv. Find a good smelling cologne or after shave, and don’t forget the deodorant. Keep your hair cut and groomed in a style that flatters your face (you’re not Killmonger or The Weeknd, so don’t try it).

So what’s the takeaway?

 

All that being said, the heart of this “nerds never get the girl” argument is entitlement. And it’s the same entitlement that forms the core of the extremist “incel” (involuntary celibate) community that has spawned several mass shooters. You are not entitled to anyone’s time or affection. Companionship and an active sex life are not rights. All you can do is put your bait out, and see what bites.

Be Pro, Not Anti

I started to title this post “Nobody Cares What You Hate”, then decided to scrap it because it would completely negate my point. I still think it’s catchy though.

Anyway, the internet has basically become a free for all when it comes to people’s opinions. And whether it’s due to a natural cognitive bias, or just the fact that people are more likely to share negative feelings in order to get them off their chest and feel better, negative opinions run rampant. A glance at any social media outlet will show you that entire friendships have been formed on the basis of mutual hate. We are all Silky Johnson. Nothing but hateration and holleration in this dance soiree.

What set me off was the return of Game of Thrones, which has basically become nerd football season. The show’s popularity has now seeped into the mainstream, but it’s one of those shows you either love or hate. And as the fanbase has grown, so have the voices of the detractors. Every Sunday, without fail, I would see posts on my newsfeed about how annoyed the GoT-avoiders were by our obsession with Westeros. Then there were another dozen or so people whining, “Am I the ONLY person who doesn’t watch Game of Thrones? [eye roll emoji]”.  Now we’re heading into actual football season which has prompted the predictable memes declaring that anyone who doesn’t like sports should just sit down and shut up until February.

Okay . . . . . . . . . . . . .

WHY ARE Y’ALL LIKE THIS?

 

I know snark is practically a currency now, but why must everything anybody likes (or doesn’t like) be shitted on? We have an objectively incompetent president, global warming has contributed to two devastating hurricanes in the past month, and apparently N@zi$ are making a comeback. If you’re going to complain, there are better things to complain about than the fact that people like Beyonce.*

These are hard times, and everyone has struggles no matter what brave face they put forth to the world. You can’t control a crazy boss, or freeloading coworkers, needy kids or a sometimes thoughtless significant other. And talking about the things that are really bothering you can feel too personal, too vulnerable. Complaining about insignificant things vents off a little pressure, and there’s usually a chorus of friends who hate the same thing cheering you on. Another culprit is isolation. When I was younger, I only had a handful of classmates who enjoyed reading books as much as I did, and most of them wouldn’t publicly admit to it. So my way of empowering myself was to define myself as the anti-cool kid. I was special, but in a way nobody understood. Once I got to college and met like minded friends who were nerdy and confident, I started shedding some of those tendencies.

Sometimes, though, our complaints stem from pure jealousy. We often look down on people who are relentlessly positive on social media and accuse them of not being real. But how much of that is people pretending not to have problems at all, versus choosing to focus on the positive? There’s not reason to be envious. Happiness is not finite. The fact that someone is (or appears to be) living their best life does not make the likelihood of me being happy any less. There is so much bad out there that I enjoy a laughing baby video, a photo of someone’s freshly planted garden, or hearing about a law school classmate’s victory at trial. I need those moments of levity to get me through.

So let me know your thoughts. What do you love that other people love to hate on? What’s something that’s making you happy this week? Let’s sprinkle some good vibes up in here!

 

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.

Get off my (digital) lawn!

overshare

It seems like we’re in the Age of the Overshare. Fortunately, Facebook and Twitter have developed features that allow me to filter out most of the nonsense because I use my social media for keeping in touch with people who I otherwise probably wouldn’t hear from. I love seeing pictures of my of my aunt and uncle’s anniversaries, my older cousins’ babies, and my younger cousins’ first weeks at college. I love sharing links to news articles and having intellectual debates with my old college classmates. What do I hate to see? When people air all the details of their relationships on social media. Especially when these same people have “don’t judge me” as their battle cry. It’s not right to judge, but humans fall short all the time. You can’t air out your dirty laundry for everyone to see and get mad when people react to it.

People seem to have lost all sense of propriety these days. My parents grew up in the 1950s so I was raised to be a lady who wore stockings, knew the importance of foundation undergarments, and let men chase her instead of vice versa. I don’t feel that any of this conflicts with my modern sensibilities because for me, all of that is more of a guideline than a blueprint. I’m not a slave to the notion that all women have to be prim and proper, and not every rule applies to every situation. But some things, like modesty, shouldn’t be thrown out. Booty and boob pics on Instagram? Tweeting about your favorite sex position or how much & how often you get it in? Ugh. Shut up and go away! Nobody but you, the person(s) you’re sleeping with, and a few internet creepers want to know all that. Some things are best kept to yourself.

Another feature of the Age of Overshare is the nude picture leak.  There’s a celebrity one every month now, and every day, some poor woman’s pictures are getting shared and uploaded without her consent. Still, folks keep foolishly putting their trust in the cloud and thinks their partner would NEVER do that to them. You don’t know what people will do when they’re hurt or angry.  99% of relationships don’t last forever, and even the ones that do have rocky periods. Everybody has a right to privacy. Unfortunately, once you put any type of sensitive information out there, it’s liable to be used against you, so why give them ammunition? I don’t even sext with my husband, and he has no problem with it. He can look at me in person when he gets home. Of course, not everyone is a victim of an unscrupulous partner. There are just as many folks out there purposely putting themselves on display. But why though????

dislike

I don’t get it. It seems to me that sexuality is becoming increasingly commodified. Your body isn’t a temple whose holy of holies could only be accessed by the worthy few, it’s a hotel running a 50% off Groupon special. Sex isn’t something special between lovers, it’s something that has to be doled out in increasingly risque doses to even compete in the dating game. What happened to less is more? What happened to embracing your sexuality but knowing that you don’t have to flaunt it at every opportunity? What happened to wanting to be seen as a whole person, not just a fat ass or bulging biceps? I suppose this is how the Victorians felt when the fashions changed to allow women to show their ankles. The difference is that at this point, there’s literally nothing left to show. The only reason you don’t see nether regions in public is that it’s still illegal. But I guess I’ll just be sitting on the porch with the shocked and appalled senior citizens…