Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Are we becoming a nation of mediocre narcissists?

I was checking out two books the other day, one was titled  "Generation Me: Why Today's Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled-and More Miserable Than Ever Before," and The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement.  Basically both books make an incredible argument that our society has developed a bloated sense of self-entitlement.  This attitude is based upon a shoddy work ethic, a failing educational system, and the idea that consumerism, looks and "being special," is at the root of the problem.  I didn't know what to think about this idea at first.  I had always been taught that as a Black woman, I'd have to work twice as hard and know twice as much as the smartest person in the room.  I've always been told to adhere to a work ethic that supports self-sufficiency and that modesty is a virtue and bloated pride a sin.

However, I have noticed that many of the students at my university suffer from this attitude.  Just recently a report detailed how many students resent the influx of Asian Americans, women and other minorities into academia because they put Whites, especially White males at a disadvantage.  Mostly because they do things like "study," and "read."  I was shocked.  I mean, isn't that what college is about?  Studying?  Tests?  Lectures?  Readings????? Once, after a class lecture, which boasted a mix of grads and undergrads, the undergrads began to immediately complain, saying things like "Dude, he's not going to give us a study guide?  What are we supposed to be studying then?"  I was like "Um, maybe the last three chapters of the book we've been reading from?  Perhaps a few things from the class lectures????"  They continued the rant with "Damn.  There goes my weekend.  Don't professors understand we have to have downtime?"

This idea of entitlement, this increased sense of narcissism isn't good for us, either.  It may make us feel special and worthy, but I think it rewards mediocrity.  If students are not taught to work hard and compete, and are instead given a false sense of self, then our society will not be able to match other nations who have harder working and higher achieving students.  I look at shows like "The Office," and movies like "Idiocracy," and though they make me laugh, they also make me wince in horror.  I've had incompetent bosses and co-workers who seem to be continually rewarded for their stupidity.  These same people will deny their stupidity and trumpet the merits of their so-called intelligence.  Even our former executive-in-chief, George W. Bush, was rewarded for being a "regular Joe," with a "C" average.  People seemed to bask in his mediocrity, saying they could "relate," to someone like him.

I don't want mediocrity as leadership.  But apparently this is the sign of the times.  We're bombarded with messages saying that we're the best country in the world, and told that we are special, unique and better than everyone else.  But what isn't shown is the hard work and dedication needed to achieve those declarations.  But, this is just my opinion.  What is your opinion on this?   

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Education and the Individual of Color

I remember I had a conversation with someone about their son's education.  This someone stated that "Teachers needed to be more involved in the education of their children."  While I thought this was true, what about the parents?  What responsibility are parents taking up for their children's education, especially children of color?  My opinion is this:  We live in a society that is inherently racist and sexist, though we have come a long way.  Even so, parents, even White parents, should not leave their children to the whims of a broken educational system.  If parents are not concerned what their children are learning, their children will fail.  If parents are too busy to get involved at their children's school, their children will fail.  If parents do not make education a priority in their children's lives, their children will fail.

I was slightly incensed by this person's attitude, especially when they told me, "Well, his mom put LaShon (not his real name) in a school on the west side (of Chicago) now.  If he goes back to a suburban school, he may be behind."  I immediately asked what he and his ex were doing to ensure that his child did not fall behind, regardless of his location.  He simply shrugged and said, "Well, I don't know."  That's the kind of attitude that pisses me off.  Though inner city schools should be more effective, get more funding and for sure, be on track to get students into good colleges, there is a certain amount of parental involvement that's in the mix.  If you know your child may be behind, you must have a plan of action so that child's scholastic progress does not suffer.  I was not born in an upper middle class environment, but my parents were very involved in my education.  My parents knew what I was doing in school, what I was supposed to be doing and if I was slacking.  They had a relationship with all my teachers, and if a teacher was on some other ish, there would be hell to pay.

I asked this individual "Well, what's he doing in school?  What is he learning?  What are his assignments like?,"  He couldn't tell me.  He shrugged once more and said, "Well, maybe his mom might know."  But I later found that the mother didn't know.  To all the parents out there:  you have to know what your child is learning!  Take a look at the assignments.  If you didn't graduate from high school or can barely read above a certain level, that's still no excuse to not know what is going on with your child.  I have worked with parents of inner city youths who were always actively involved and though they didn't know calculus, could tell you exactly what their children's schedules were, what chapters they were on and what grades they were getting.

You have to know.  In today's world, black students are often slated for special education, are tracked into remedial courses and are often relegated to the educational trash bin, regardless of their abilities.  They are given a bad rap, told they cannot learn and educators refuse to give them the attention they sorely need.  So it is the job of the parent to fill in that gap, to find resources and free tutoring services that will allow their child to succeed.  Children need to feel as if their parents give a damn, and they are not doing this alone.            

Friday, September 17, 2010

No, I don't want to talk to you and other Urban rants.....

I was on the train the other day, minding my own damn business when some guy tries to talk to me.  I politely refused his conversation as 1. I was not interested  2.  I am in a committed relationship 3. His breath was rank.  All of these reasons combined should have created a nice molotov cocktail of: get-thee-out-of-my-face.  But nooooo...... He turns to me and says "But I don't see a ring on your finger."

Okay, what's up with that?  I've heard that more than once while out.  As if me not having a ring on my finger gives men the right to harass me.  So, I have to be chained to some unseen male force in order to get some creepy guy to leave me alone?  How is that right?  What if I just don't want to deal with a guy? Isn't that enough reason for a man, especially a stranger to leave me alone?  In this day and age why would any man think harassing a woman traveling alone is somehow sexy or inviting?  This has been an issue that's bothered me for sometime.  The sexist assumptions that have to be made in order for a male to turn over common decency and deny my personhood is astounding.  The statement that "I don't see a ring on your finger," implies that:

1.  In spite of my personality, background, individual idiosyncrasies and preferences I want to talk to you.

2.  In spite of my protestations, if I am unmarried I am fair game.

3. Any man has the right to impede upon my personal space if he sees fit.

4. I am a heterosexual woman who would ENJOY being pursued by a man, in spite of the possibilities that I may be gay or uninterested in romantic liaisons.

As a Black woman, I have so many worries and fears.  And the last thing I'd want is some guy I don't know to attach himself to me while I'm trying to get to my destination.  I should not have to worry about harassment while going to work.  I should not have to push off men who invade my personal space or touch me inappropriately on my way to school.  I have the right to say no, or better yet, to be left alone in the first place.  And I shouldn't have to explain to anyone why I'm uninterested.

For all the men out there who think this is cute:  I shouldn't have to tell you my status or anything else.  And no, I don't want your number.  No, I don't want to tell you where I'm going. And no, I don't want to talk to you.

Then I get the "But I just want to tell you how pretty you are."  Or, I get "Smile!"  What if I don't want to smile?   Or is it okay that I don't want you to elucidate all the reasons why you think I look so fetching?  These statements assume a lot of sexist, arrogant things.  One:  That I need you to validate me.  Though like most women a compliment or two is cool, but damn.  I don't want a whole conversation about it.  Especially if you're trying to get me to talk to you.  Cuz. I. don't. want. to talk to you.  Two: That my possible mood is your business.  I am a happy person.  Usually.  Most times I am not unhappy, but am simply absorbed in my own thoughts.  So telling me to smile so that I can brighten up your day isn't one of them.

It's okay to see a beautiful woman and think "I would like to talk to her."  But most people should look not at verbal cues but non-verbal ones as well.  If a woman is saying "Back off."  Do it.  Because just because you exist, doesn't mean I have to cater to you.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Movie to Watch....

I know everyone's psyched to see "The Lottery Ticket," with Lil Bow Wow and Ice Cube, but the movie we should really be watching is "The Lottery."  The Lottery tells the story of a group of children hoping to get into a charter school via lottery.  Lotteries are just that, with school officials literally picking names out of a hat.  Those unlucky enough not to get picked have to deal with overcrowded schools, schools mired in financial ruin and gangs battling over turf while students try to carry on the school day.  I've worked in the Chicago Public School system and can tell you first hand that public education in this country is a travesty.  Though charter schools offer some modicum of hope in the barren field that is education, not everyone can get in.  What about those who don't get chosen?  What becomes of them?

It's a shame that as an "industrialized" (With our present health care situation, I am debating this moniker), nation, a quality education is becoming something only the rich can truly afford.  Public education should be the mainstay of our country, and should churn out bright and enthusiastic students from all walks of life, regardless of color or class.  What most people don't understand is that without a solid foundation in the basics, (such as reading, writing and mathematics), higher education is definitely out of reach.  I've heard of schools in poor neighborhoods with no heat in the winter.  Students who deal with overcrowded classrooms and outdated textbooks.  But then we point to these same students and say "You all got to do better!"  I truly believe that people of color get the short end of the stick when it comes to education, as most schools in low-income areas are seriously underfunded and disproportionately African American or Latino.  

What many people don't understand that in our "Land of the Free," economic and racial inequalities begin with our educational system.  Property taxes dictate how much money a school receives, which means that one school gets a high-tech computer lab, while another can barely afford to cover the cost of desks.  That's strike one.  Strike two begins with the educational experiences afforded to most students in elite school districts.  They are given polo matches, soccer and music classes.  In urban areas, students can no longer even afford to have recess or classes dedicated to art and literature.  Strike three culminates with the closing of local schools that don't meet mandatory test goals.  Testing has become so pervasive in education that many districts have lost sight of the true meaning of what being educated means.  Many teachers simply "teach to the test," and subjects such math and science are being pushed aside in lieu of reading and language.  

With all this going on, it's no wonder America is falling behind educationally.  We wonder why there is a dearth of American medical doctors, scientists and mathematicians and why most Americans are not equipped to handle even the most basic of mathematical equations.  Those in power often see the problem as an "urban" one, and don't realize that everyone is affected by the way education plays out.  It's an American problem, with the problem spreading across the country like the plague, pulling us farther away from global competitiveness.  So this weekend, research this movie.  Sit down and think about what's going on with our broken educational system.  And maybe, just maybe we can start seeing some change.       

Thursday, August 26, 2010

It's Thursday Folks.....

Yep, it's Thursday y'all!!!  You know what that means (well, of course you don't, LOL.)  It's Back Track Thursday which means I'll post music I loved from back in the day.  Feel free to comment on what got you up and dancing back in the day....

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Black Women and Rape

I was researching rape for my graduate studies program, and focused on rape in communities of color.  I had to search, really, really, hard for information.  I was disappointed that people are not aware of the alarming statistics regarding women of color and rape.  While investigating a youtube clip on rape  in communities of color, specifically of Black women, by filmmaker AfroLez, titled No!, I was amazed at some of the comments.  They ranged from sympathetic (very few), to apathetic, to racist and sexist and beyond.  One commenter suggested that by focusing on the rape of Black women, rape as a subject was somehow devalued.  I promptly responded to the statement by asserting that rape anywhere, is of concern as the dynamics that fuel it are often prompted by the same sexist norms.  The young lady sent me a private message, arguing that by accusing her of dismissing Black rape, I was calling her a racist.  My first thought was....well, if the shoe fits.....but I was responsible in my reply.  

I tried to encourage a dialogue between she and myself by asking her what is so offensive about documenting the rape of Black women.  She promptly replied that rape occurs in White communities too.  This got me to thinking.  Whenever I've attended feminist or pro-womanist meetings concerning rape, the stories are often of White women and their experiences.  It is as if White is normative, a color which is a stand-in for all others, and therefore, those experiences are considered more valuable.  These experiences are for the most part, considered to be more relatable, than the experiences of women of color.  But why can't a Black woman's experiences be just as relatable?  Many of the stories of the women in the documentary mirrored those of many White women I have seen and spoken to.  Why can't the voices of Black women be just as valuable?  When I adamantly asked the commenter about these issues, I encountered resounding silence.  

On my quest for information, I voraciously searched the web, journals, articles, everything.  And I found something disturbing:  most people just don't believe that Black women can be raped.  Shows like Maury Povich, music videos and movies fuel the idea that Black women want to be fondled, groped and assaulted.  A glimpse at some of the comments I found (which I will NOT post here), shows how pervasive this kind of thinking is.  People often used the evidence of out-of-wedlock babies and pregnancy rates in the Black community as evidence that we are an oversexed and irresponsible group of people incapable of containing our urges and as such, cannot be victims.  

The recent hullabaloo concerning Antoine Dodson and his angry rant concerning the near rape of his sister, highlights the phenomenon of how our society brushes the sexual assault of Black women under a rug only to focus on other things.  I remember years ago in Chicago, a man was raping Black women standing on bus stops on the South Side, causing many to fear for their safety.  Nothing was done about it until a newspaper columnist called for heavier police enforcement and investigation into the crimes.  It all pointed to one thing:  No one cared.  The intersectionality of racism, classism and and inferences of irresponsibility should be addressed.  There is should be no reason why so many Black women will experience rape or some form of sexual intimidation during her lifetime.  There should be no reason why the voices of these women be silenced.                

Monday, August 23, 2010

Following the Fad: Today's Fashion Gripe

Skinny pants are in.....for SOME people.  Just like anything else in the world, everything ain't for everybody.  So why do I see women who aren't skinny wearing things like skinny pants?  And I'm not trying to get on anyone here.  I, myself am an hourglass, and therefore cannot adequately rock the skinny pant.  And you know what?  I'm cool with that.  I wear only what I know looks good on me.  Yet, like sheep, (or lemmings off a cliff), women often want to wear what they think is in.  What's hot.  What's new.  What's the trend right now.  I'm not like that.  I hate wearing anything just because Jennifer Lopez did it in her new movie.  I often wear retro and vintage reproductions and just about anything that flatters my frame.  It may not be what the celebs are wearing, but hey, I've got to do me.

Why do people obsessively follow fashion fads, even when it's obvious (or not so obvious to the wearer) that it is a style that just doesn't work?  I cannot tell you the number of fashion don'ts I have spied around Chicago, trying earnestly to look "in" and cool, even when it is apparent that they'd look so much better wearing something else.  And who is complicit in this treachery?  Why aren't mothers, sisters and best friends saying to these women, "Girl, please don't wear that in public."  Who is lying to them and saying "Hey, those pants are really cool," only to chuckle inside as muffin top, bulges and other unsightly horrors push themselves into the consciousness and eyesights of everyone within ten feet.  And I repeat:  I am NOT skinny.  I am more Beyonce/Buffie the Bod than I am Jennifer Aniston.  It's not about being skinny, as even the slimmest of women, if wearing the wrong size, style, or fit can experience these things.  And yes, I know women who are full figured and yet they can outdress even the most obsessive fashionista any day.

It's about embracing who YOU are.  Accepting yourself, regardless of weight or size.  Because honestly, there are a lot of skinny fashion don'ts walking around Chicago too.  But sometimes instead of creating a long and enviable silhouette, the styles they wear come off as skeletal and anorexic.  So anyone and everyone has a unique and specific body type that they must flatter and adorn.  You have to figure out what works for YOU, and not the latest supermodel/singer/celebutante.  Think about it:  they have a team of stylists, photographers and publicists to mold and sculpt them into the fashion icons they are.  They have teams of people that scour stores and boutiques to find just the right item for them.  And sometimes, even they don't always look good wearing some things.  So don't let them dictate what you should be doing.  Do what's good for you.  Live well and dress well my fellow fashionistas!!!