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!

 

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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…

 

 

 

 

Is Marriage for White People?

The analyview returns! I got a free copy of Dr. Richard Banks’ book, Is Marriage for White People from the professor who advises the BLSA group at Orange Law. It was a good read and surprisingly easy to get through; despite my impending finals, I managed to get through in just a few hours.

Thesis 1: The “marriage crisis” is not unique to black folks.

Hallelujah! Finally somebody said it, and it was a man, so people might actually believe it (true, but *eye roll* all the same). Marriage has been on the decline for decades now, and a lot of it has to do with the “success gap”–women both white and black are surpassing their male counterparts in education and income. However, the negative effects of societal trends are exacerbated in the black community by racial baggage.

Thesis 2: Marriage is a market.

A) The Man Shortage. We see the usual suspects: high rates of black male incarceration, interracial marriage of middle class, educated black men, and the success gap. However, he points out that the men who end up in prison are overwhelmingly not the men that successful black women are looking for anyway. The interracial marriage statistics are a bit more worrisome though–black men outmarry at three times the rate of black women (more than one in five black men, vs. less than one in ten black women). Finally, traditional ideas of marriage promote a male breadwinner. But given that black women earn college degrees at more than twice the rate of black men, and a labor market in which high wage industrial jobs are disappearing, that’s increasingly implausible.

Banks opens Chapter 4 with a bit of sensationalism on “man sharing”. He includes an anecdote from a physician with a largely black female population who says “Women are not surprised by the fact that their men are cheating on them. .  .  .They’re not shocked and they aren’t mad.”  o_O Really though??? So white women never get cheated on and when they do, they go slash some tires? Moving on, a 1980s study done at the University of Chicago did find that African-Americans were the least likely of all groups to have a monogamous relationship. In one predominantly black neighborhood, almost two out of every five men had simultaneous relationships with more than one sex partner. Now, the footnotes (I’m a history major and law student, how can I not read footnotes?) do state that these conclusions were drawn from much smaller sample sizes than that of the study as a whole, and thus the inference may not lie with the greater population. I know from the experiences of myself and others that man sharing definitely does happen, but I don’t know if I want to believe that women are just meekly putting up with it. Unfortunately, the rising STD contraction rates of black women and articles like this aren’t coming from nowhere.

B) Purchasing Power and Brand Loyalty. The simple fact is that middle class, educated black women outnumber black men who are the same. So black men hold all the cards, and they exploit them. It’s nothing personal, just human nature. Banks points out that many women put up with philandering behavior because they don’t want to be alone but insist on getting something out of the deal. In exchange for their acquiescence, they want expensive trips, dinners and trinkets. However, this perpetuates a cycle of distrust and discord. Successful black men now have three major disincentives to marry: the numbers on their side, women are supposedly gold diggers, and black women will remain loyal no matter what. Meanwhile, women resent men for expecting a lack of commitment with no repercussions, given that a woman who can’t carry on with multiple men without being deemed a whore.

Thesis 3: More black female led interracial relationships will benefit black people as a whole.

The same way competition forces business to adjust their prices and practices, competition shapes human mating behavior. A man who is less attractive will try to make up for it through humor, accumulating wealth, or other such mechanisms.So it logically follows that if black women outdated and outmarried in the same numbers as black men,  black women would step their game up and adapt to the new competition.

One of the biggest problems with black women’s determination to marry within the race is the inequality. Tyler Perry movies tout the “Blue Collar Brother” as the answer but the truth is, how many bus drivers have the heart of a poet? How many mechanics have the talent, drive and ambition to open their own auto shop and thrive? Marriages are based on shared values, and a weed smoking high school dropout who lives with his mama, or even the electrician with the associate’s degree who grew up in the hood, likely have little in common with a woman who went to an Ivy League school and works for a multinational corporation. That’s not good or bad, it just is. Suburbanite that I am, I’ll be the first one to admit that I dropped a potential suitor like a hot potato because he did a little “dope boy magic” in addition to his college internship. If the choice is ride or die, I’ll just walk. Basically, compatibility in a marriage relationship goes far, far beyond race.

At the end of the day, it’s about the children. Marriage isn’t what’s good for children–healthy, functional relationships between the two parents are. However, it’s hard to provide this stability between two people who are ill suited to each other. White middle class men arguably have much more in common when it comes to values than middle class black women and blue collar brothers. Furthermore, since white men and women outmarry at more equal rates and white men vastly outnumber black men, the man shortage disappears. Black women don’t have to settle for a lack of monogamy, and they can avoid the health consequences that come with it.

Thesis 4: It’s more than just numbers. 

A) Desire. At the heart of the interracial dating issue is the fact that many black women are either not attracted to white men at all, or just have a strong preference for black men–the way some men have a preference for women with light skin, long hair, or big boobs. What’s so wrong with it? Nothing really, and there’s no way to make someone feel attraction where there is none.

B) The Black Family. Some black women (like myself, admittedly) feel they have a duty to preserve the black family. As interracial marriages increase, we are moving closer to a beige America and some of us want to preserve the culture in our own small way. But the big issue is loyalty. Some women also feel that it would be a slap in the face to their beloved fathers, brothers and grandfathers to marry outside the race. The world still looks down on black men and it’s our job to lift them up, right? Well…not really. At least, not in the way that we’ve been doing.  Marrying outside the race doesn’t mean that you think black men are unworthy, and you don’t have to stop supporting the black community just because you marry outside of it. Black men feel no such loyalty to their women; marrying a white/Asian/Latina woman doesn’t mean to them that they love their mothers, sisters and cousins any less.

This is the really complicated bit. My sister is one of the few intrepid souls to try dating a white man; coincidentally, so is her best girlfriend! And they’re happy together. My brother and father don’t feel in any way put out by her choice. But many families aren’t as open as mine; in fact, some of my extended relatives still look at her boyfriend as an exotic and expect the drama to pop off at any moment. But even if they were to break up, that doesn’t mean interracial dating is a failure. Most relationships don’t make it to marriage, regardless of the two people’s race. Still, it’s hard to go against a lifetime of social conditioning, much less do so amid the objections of the people you hold dear.

C) Reciprocity. A study by the dating website OkCupid revealed that black women got the least responses to their personal messages. Closer examination of the data showed that other minority men–Native Americans, Asians, and Latinos–were all very likely to respond to black women, but black men were the least responsive, with white men in second. The racial divide goes both ways, and many white men think that women won’t be attracted to them. And black women are afraid of being treated as a fetish object. Their fears are not unreasonable–just look at the decades of sexual exploitation at the hands of white slaveowners, and the hypersexualization of black women that still saturates the media of today

Although Is Marriage for White People is a rather slim volume, Banks packs in a ton of information. I’ve merely summarized the main points of the book,  but I still highly recommend that you give it a read. While interracial dating is presented

Out of Sync

I feel like I’m destined to live my life in reverse order of everyone else.

I’ve been a big fan of astrology since I was younger. I put no stock in horoscopes–I believe that psychics exists but I don’t believe that anyone can predict a person’s day to day life based on his or her sign. When I was 11 or 12, I got a mini astrology book for my birthday. I’m a Capricorn, and most of the personality traits fit me perfectly. But none of that is what I’ve remembered from that book.

Sixth grade was a terrible year for me. I was being teased mercilessly at school, to the point where I spent the last two months of the year doing my work from home. I ended up attending a private school for the next two years–I learned that sometimes, just walking away from a bad situation is the best thing you can do for yourself. But I digress. Needless to say, I was feeling alienated from my peers. I just didn’t get why I was being singled out. Sure I loved school, and I cared about doing well–but I also liked *NSync, and playing with makeup, going to the movies, and all the other typical middle school pursuits. The little astrology book said something to this effect: Capricorn ages in reverse. As others grow more settled in their ways, Capricorn becomes more youthful and carefree. Capricorns truly come into their own in the second part of life.

Those lines stopped me cold. Finally, an explanation! Maybe it wasn’t my fault that I had trouble relating to kids my age–I was just ahead of my time. That stayed buried in the recesses of my memory until recently. I find myself branching out and wanting to do many of the things that I didn’t before, and taking life less seriously. My classmates agonize over class rank while I think “Eh, it’s just a grade.” I’ve never seen the appeal in parties but I want to go to a lounge for my  next birthday. But it goes the other way too. Most folks start dating & sexing in high school and don’t get married until they’re approaching 30. I started dating at age 18, and am engaged at 23 to the same guy I’ve been dating since I was 20. It seems that while everyone else is starting to care more and more about what other people think, I’m starting to care less and less.

This is purely anecdotal, of course. But I still feel like I’m destined to swim upstream.