Uppity Updates: Week of February 5, 2012

Every once in a while, the news cycle of the life and times of the goings-on of America produces a completely blog worthy week–and usually that’s the week or so I didn’t blog.  For long, long time readers, you all know that last week was a wonderful week to be a blogger.  From Roland Martin getting suspended by CNN, to Dr. Cornel West calling MSNBC darling Melissa Harris-Perry a “fake” and a “fraud” and a seemingly return of Sarah Palin at the God-awful CPAC convention this was certainly week to be in the blogging business.

Luckily, there are Uppity Updates.

Here’s my rundown of what happened last week.

1.  Roland Martin Gets Suspended from CNN for his Tweets

When GLAAD, the pro-LGBT alliance group made the charge that Martin should be suspended from CNN for homophobic tweets he tweeted during the SuperBowl, I immediately rushed to see what exactly he had tweeted.  Specifically, he tweeted,

If a dude at your Super Bowl party is hyped about David Beckham’s H&M underwear ad, smack the ish out of him! #superbowl


Ain’t no real bruhs going to H&M to buy some damn David Beckham underwear! #superbowl

Roland Martin

Well, personally, I didn’t see either of those tweets at homophobic.  Not unless the definition of homophobic has changed, I understood the working definition to be any rhetoric or action that specifically disparages those who identify as homosexual.  I didn’t see Martin doing that with those tweets.  What I did see was Martin being anti-masculinist.

The anti-masculinist sentiment was that Martin seemed to be challenging the manhood of any man who wanted to see the David Beckham commercial.  Challenging one’s manhood doesn’t necessarily translate into alleging that one is gay.  Let’s remember words like “sissy” and “punk” do just as much about challenging one’s masculinity as they do to identify one as being gay.

In that regard, I think since Martin didn’t go out overboard with the tweet to say that any man who was hyped about the David Beckham ad was gay, I don’t think it’s fair to charge homophobia—for a few reasons.  If what Martin said were to wholly be categorized as homophobia, I believe that it negates a nuanced conversation that marginalized communities, such as the LGBT community, need to have to see true change occur in this country.  It’s as though GLAAD is a hammer, and therefore sees everything else as a nail, rather than a screw or some other tool.

More so for me, it negates a conversation that we haven’t really held in this country: one on masculinity, manhood and gender as separate entities from sexuality.  While yes all of these can be and are intertwined, we must try and raise the level of conversation.  In this instance, most persons didn’t hold the conversation about masculinity, which is what I particularly saw; everyone raced to have the homophobia discussion.  While one shouldn’t supersede the other, we must not forsake an easier target for one that is more nebulous in the public sphere.

The only article I saw was by a Charles Blow entitled “Real Men And Pink Suits” out of the New York Times that attempted to have this masculinist and manhood conversation.  I think where Martin lost his witness was when he advocated violence.  In a time and place where violence against gay youth in the form of bullying has led to youth suicides, Martin’s tweets had the finesse of a wild boar hunting for prey.

Martin shouldn’t have tweeted it, but I don’t think it was worthy of a suspension either.

2.  Melissa Harris-Perry, Cornel West and the “Fraud” Alert

Perhaps Dr. Cornel West is the guy who sits and red flags your debit or credit card when it sees and out of town purchase simply because you decided to go on vacation randomly.   Or perhaps, maybe Dr. Harris-Perry is a fraud.

Who knows?

What I do know is that yet again, West came under fire for a war of words from an interview with Diverse magazine (p. 14) concerning some of his fellow public intellectuals.  Specifically, Rev. Al Sharpton and Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry.  We all remember the rather public and vehement disagreement Al Sharpton and West had last year on MSNBC with Ed Schultz looking a bit befuddled.  The two were having the classic activist versus academic debate.  I remember watching a bit chagrined having respect for both gentlemen and saying to myself, so it was obvious, these two don’t talk often.  That is to suggest, how could neither of them not be working with the other.

However, recently, I had a long discussion with a friend about the nature of the rhetoric of the likes of Cornel West.  While I’m not the biggest fan of his “jazz improvisation” speeches, I think mostly what Cornel does is attempt to raise the consciousness of the masses.  The likes of Dr. Harris-Perry and Al Sharpton do nothing more than broaden the conversation.  And yes, I am specifically valuing these theories.  To raise the consciousness requires a different rhetoric, and usually is missed on the majority of people, and West’s, at times, bombastic nature, doesn’t help.

We can all agree, calling your protegé a “fake” and a “fraud” doesn’t help your case at all.

But, if I understand West correctly, I can see why.

If Harris-Perry is your protegé and primarily, you have issue with their level of scholarship, and then they turn around, leave the institution you brought them to only to bad-mouth you the first chance you get, and then to fall in lockstep with the liberal establishment–then yes, to West, you are a fake.  Granted, I’m highly speculating, but perhaps West knows that Harris-Perry sold out some of her core ideals for the sake of getting the MSNBC nod.

I have always understood, however, that the work that I am about requires this and that, not one or the other.  A movement needs people who can work in the system and those outside of the system.  However, tension constantly will arise.  While West clearly stands outside of the larger system critiquing the system itself, the likes of Harris-Perry and Sharpton even to some extent, operate within the confines of that system.  It’s hard for an intellectual ideologue such as West to critique the system when people such as Sharpton have to operate within the system.

To West’s point about the lack of critique that Sharpton and Harris-Perry give to the Obama administration, I have to agree with him without any reservation.  I believe praise should be given when it is earned, and criticism should be given as well.  The moment we fall lockstep into any system, we have compromised ourselves; we are indeed a carbon copy, living on the ends of strings pulled by another.

Or else, he’s saying none of her work is her own.

Whatever, the case, I do think it should be noted that Harris-Perry is the only sitting tenured professor with a news program and that does say something about public intellectualism entering the broader discussion.

3.  President Obama, Birth Control and “Religious Freedom”

Since, I’m not Roman Catholic, I really don’t give a damn about contraceptives as it relates to religious beliefs.  And since I believe public health care should be considered a right under the law, which means I was, am and will always be in favor of a public option, I’m sure you can figure where I come down on this topic.

I really don’t know what Obama’s political strategy was in waging this debate in favor of women’s health knowing he was probably going to have to compromise on the topic.  I don’t know if it was a hat tip to pro-choice and other women’s groups going into the election cycle or was this a true political blunder.  I think the White House can use it in a general election as far as saying Obama stood his ground but was blocked by the GOP operation, blah blah blah.

However, it gets spun, I think women overall lost the debate.  Even those women who were against it in the first place.

I think if you want to offer a health service to the public, you need to play by public rules.  But, let’s remember much of the hubbub was coming from a party where current and former presidential candidates created a hypothetical scene where a non-insured injured person would be turned away from a hospital’s emergency room.  Catholic priests were alleging that their “religious freedom” was being trampled, and suddenly you started seeing black suits and white clergy collars appearing on all the news talk shows.

First things first.

Why are people taking sexual cues from a body of predominantly older white males who have taken a vow of chastity?  Even if they are off having sex somewhere, doesn’t that even still nullify the previously nullified position in which to sit and critique.  And let’s not mention, this is a seriously flawed body of men when it comes to the issue of sexual actions.  The Catholic priest sexual abuse cases still are not over yet.

Secondly, I fail to recognise how is one’s religious freedom opposed when forcing to provide a service for the public.  If the Catholic sponsored hospitals only hired Catholics, I could see how they could make the argument, but we all know that’s highly discriminatory and illegal in a public sector such as health care.  Or even if Catholic hospitals only treated Catholic patients, I could buy this, but we all know how ludicrous it is.  Out of all the debates I heard, none of them really made sense.  The various priests I saw on the news programs spoke as thought they were a part of divine aristocracy in which the rest of us had better get on board.

I do think the deeper, and much more legalistic debate is truly whether or not what precedent does this set as to what rights does a government have about forcing a religious institution to provide a service or a good that given other avenues is free.  To that end, I encourage you to check out another blogging source, Constitutional law really isn’t my strong suit.

Finally, and of the most importance to me, I thought it was quite curious that the country immediately jumped into the conversation about “religious freedom” as a means of protecting this concept, to which I immediately asked where was this level of conversation four years ago when Obama’s church and Jeremiah Wright entered the public sphere.  No one argued religious freedom when the concepts of Black liberation theology were discussed and dissected.  If you let the conservatives tell the story, including the likes of Rick Warren, just the basic tenets of liberation theology are heretical.

All in all, I think the White House could have handled it better, but still, the Catholic church was more of the loser in this case.  Yet, again, the Catholic church came off as a old curmudgeon wielding the same power Constantine exerted over his dynasty.  The fact that I live in a country that legislates policies on contraceptives while at the same time hollering about teenage pregnancy, HIV/AIDS rates and from an institution that comments on children born out of wedlock is mind boggling indeed.

4.  Sarah Palin is Still Here.

This one will be short and sweet.

As to why they decided to trot out Sarah Palin from under whatever rock Fox News had her hidden is beyond me.  Her digs were per usual at the President and full of venom filled one liners that would make a rattlesnake jealous.  What bothered me, was the presence of this character called Peter Brimelow who was asked to speak on a panel entitled ““The Failure of Multiculturalism:  How the Pursuit of Diversity is Weakening the American Identity.”  This guy is considered a white nationalist by some accounts.  Check out the clip below.

And to think Herman Cain was on a stage with the likes of Peter Brimelow.  Diversity indeed.

5.  Chris Brown Come-back or Female Insensitivity

There was immediate backlash amongst those who felt that Chris Brown shouldn’t have been on stage at the Grammy’s last night nor should he have received any awards because it displays that domestic abuse is okay.  I disagree.  I have always disagreed with this line of reasoning.  What I’ve noticed in the three years since the incident happened between him and Rihanna is that women, in generall (emphasis on in general) are going to take a hardline approach as it relates to how they interpret justice in matters such as this.  Men, on the other hand, take a much more restorative approach toward justice.

I think, I comfortably fall in the latter part.

Part of the reason is that usually when I read these blog posts and status messages and tweets that are decidedly anti-Chris Brown, I don’t see them offering any type of logical ways for reconciliation, just retribution.  Many are saying he needs to be in counseling.  Okay, but for how long?  What type of counseling?  Does he need to be medicated?  Hospitalized?  Institutionalized, even?   Some say, he shouldn’t be up on the Grammy’s performing.  Okay, why not?  For how long?  What’s an appropriate punishment.  Usually these are questions that are never answered in their discourse.  If you’re ready to mete out punishment, that means that there will be a time when the punishment ends and then what does that mean for re-introduction back into society.

Moreover, what does that mean for Chris Brown doing what he does?  The music industry isn’t one controlled by a board where you can be demoted or what not as a means of punishment.  As far as I am concerned the Grammy nominating committee nominated who they thought was a good artist, not as a socio-political statement to say domestic abuse is alright.  The Grammy nominating committee isn’t, or rather, shouldn’t be judging based on one’s moral and ethical character, but rather the musical talent and offering of an artist.

Obviously, we have the black female blogosphere to judge Chris Brown’s moral and ethical character; the Grammy nominating committee need not offer their two cents.

Keep it uppity and keep it truthfully radical, JLL

4 thoughts on “Uppity Updates: Week of February 5, 2012

  1. This is a sexism offense and you I identify with the male in this case. If this was a racism offense say from Ms Palin, could you ever identify with her point of view? Offense is always a matter of point of view and therefor forgiveness will always be a matter of point of view. In other words, if I were God I could foregive everybody.

    Everybody is offened, but is anybody fore-giving? One world, one love. Thanks.

  2. i don’t think that roland martin’s tweets were homophobic if one takes into account the actual wording, but i think the sentiment is problematic. the “measuring” of masculinity in itself denotes the need to clarify that there is a scale and that “real men” register at a certain level on said scale versus men who are more “suspect.” this need to clarify, to rank and separate, denotes a level of discomfort with being lumped in with those “suspect” men. the only thing that could truly form a distinction between “real” and “suspect” men is sexual orientation because otherwise you would just line all men up along a spectrum and regard them in terms of height or weight or color of skin or level of income. it’s that distinction between “real” and “suspect” that makes martin’s comments if not homo-phobic than certainly homo-aversive. “real” as he uses it in his tweets can only mean cisgender and heterosexual. the overt references to fashion and more oblique references to the imagery in the beckham ads make that pretty indisputable. so essentially martin invited his straight male followers to slap any friend fo theirs whose behavior could be construed as “gay.” this is offensive, even if he didn’t intend it that way. i don’t think he deserved to have his career ruined over it, or his reputation, but i do think that black people, and especially black men, should pay attention to it and perhaps learn from it. the compulsive “measuring” of masculinity in black male conversation, public and private, speaks to a level of insecurity about public perception of black manhood that you all collectively need to find a more intelligent and productive way to express. the tweeting was silly. it was inconsequential to the super bowl. that says to me, though, that the fear of being misunderstood or misread is so pervasive in black men that it spills out at times and in places where the fear isn’t even rational. that’s the real conversation to me. that’s the realy “issue” rather than martin’s supposed homophobia. i wouldn’t label anyone a homophobic unless i knew for a fact that they were overtly and habitually hostile toward gay people. that’s not what this is per se. it’s really adolescent behavior masking a really old fear that needs to be dissected and dealt with. that’s just my opinion.

  3. Why must Cornell West’s public criticism have to include disparagement and name calling? It is one of the reasons I dislike him, and have little interest in his opinions. His lack of graciousness is rendering him irrelevant.

    1. @Zekke

      I would encourage you to look past his name calling and really address the meat of his opinons, I still he has something worth saying and is a voice in the wilderness crying out at times. Unfortunately, I do believe that in today’s pop culture when it comes to public intellectuals, it’s an issue of branding. Cornel West, like any other political and cultural pundit that’s out there, black or white, female or male, from the right or left and eveything else, they are required to brand their message in a way that’s appealing to a broad population. Unfortunately, public spats as what went down beteeen him and MHP are sensational and make good TV and make ratings go up.

      I advocate that we look past the sensational and address the substantive issues that are at play.

      And in all fairness, both sides could stand to be more gracious.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s