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Archive for August, 2010|Monthly archive page

What’s in a Choice?

In Uncategorized on August 26, 2010 at 12:44 pm

“…and when you call God your Father, you just don’t get to pick and choose who your brothers and your sisters are.” Those were a few words of Connie Campbell’s testimony at last year’s Mississippi Methodist annual convention. With her partner Renee Sappington by her side, the two chartered unfamiliar territory with their testimonies, their openness, their vulnerabilities. They talked about choices; the ability to decide where to commit to God and to worship openly as a married couple, despite not being able to marry in Mississippi.

Missed opportunities—
Rarely does the same one come around again. This past spring Mississippi teen Constance McMillen made national headlines for suing her school district for not allowing her same-sex date to attend the prom with her. Mississippian Ceara Sturgis is suing her school district for removing her yearbook photo. What did she do? She wore a tux–the school district has a “policy banning young women from wearing tuxedos in senior yearbook portraits.”

So, here we are again; an opportunity to have an open forum on race, gender, and sex…we have the opportunity to put aside differences of opinions, ideals, theories, and certain hardened beliefs. To have a dialogue, not to agree, shout, yell, or curse, but essentially, the opportunity to gain understanding.

I remember my very first job as a teen; it’s that building with the golden arches. Well, in the interview I recall the manager asking me what would I do with an irate customer. I looked the manager in her eyes and smiled and said I would allow the customer to get out his or her frustration, give them what they were asking for, and then ask them how they were doing. This happened on more than one occasion and not to my surprise, I struck up conversations that showed me who those customers really were.

Many times we walk around with assumptions and stereotypes and before long we look for characteristics or behaviors to match what we already speculate. I’ve learned and am continually learning to look to the core of the individual, no matter who they are, what they look like, or what they may wear.

Connie is right, I cannot choose my brothers and sisters, but I can choose to gain a better understanding of life by walking the path with them, constantly engaging, enquiring, and learning from a different pair of shoes.

The Word

In Uncategorized on August 25, 2010 at 5:26 am

Sometime last week I received a call from a dear friend of mine from college:

Me: “Hello”

Dear Friend of Mine: “I was reading your blog to see your comments about Dr. Laura’s use of the N-word.”

Me: “Ahhh.”

Dear Friend of Mine: “No blog about it?”

Me: “Let me think on it some more…”

And I’m still thinking about this. Dr. Laura Schlessinger is no stranger to controversy. Among them include her opposition to same-sex marriage and now for her repeated use of one of the most controversial words in the English language: the N word. The N word does not include the following:
Nice
Neat
Not
Noise
Name
Natural
Negate
And I could continue.

This one word evokes a feeling within me that is very difficult to describe. Yet, the use of it can be found in our daily lives, our routines. Whether we use it as a term of endearment or affection, or whether we use it as a term to denigrate a race of people, or whether we use it in a song, the use of it surrounds us, wraps us, and breathes as we breathe; we give life to it. Now the question that Dr. Laura posed was why it is ok for African American rappers or comics to use it and not others. However, I believe that Dr. Laura missed a golden opportunity to have an open discussion about the use of the word period. Furthermore, there was an opportunity to discuss the dynamics of interracial marriages and relationships, what acceptable talk is and what is not, or the opportunity to address stereotypes.

As much as I hate to admit this, the word is embedded in our history, our minds. There is hurt, pain, even endearment in the word. Mychal Massie believes the continued use of the word as a term of endearment “is accepted only by those entombed alive at the bottom rungs of our communities. It’s easy to blame hip-hop culture for glamorizing the word, but I believe it is the overall destabilization of the black family that has led to this unsettling devolvement.”

In Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word Randall Kennedy quotes Professor Michael Eric Dyson as saying that “there is nothing necessarily wrong with a white person saying, ‘nigger,’ just as there is nothing necessarily wrong with a black person saying it. What should matter is the context in which the word is spoken — the speaker’s aims, effects, alternatives.”

And the debate continues…I debate with my friends and colleagues…and so Dr. Laura has left her post as a talk show host, yet the debate continues. And this one word, when one looks at it, appears harmless, yet has a deep-seeded controversial history with a double meaning.

Ethically Speaking

In Uncategorized on August 17, 2010 at 8:15 am

They are institutions in their own right. Representative Charles Rangel (D) of New York and Representative Maxine Waters (D) of California are fighting back against an institution. It is almost as if two battering rams are going toe-to-toe, not a one budging. Both mainstays in the House are facing ethics charges. According to Linda Feldmann of the Christian Science Monitor “The two cases, involving African-American members of Congress, have fueled charges that they were targeted because of their race. Waters herself has raised the allegation…The cases couldn’t come at a worse time for the Democrats, who are fighting to maintain their control of Congress in the Nov. 2 midterm elections. The image of two of their own mounting a vigorous public defense of themselves keeps alive the ‘culture of corruption’ story line that Republicans are gleefully using in the campaign.”

For Perry Bacon, Jr. of the Washington Post, it is the defense against the ethics charges that have raised eyebrows. “While Rangel’s speech was unorthodox, Waters’s performance went further. Most members of Congress, including Rangel, rarely discuss the details of their ethics controversies, deferring to attorneys. But in an unusual news conference in the Capitol that lasted more than an hour, Waters answered a series of questions about her alleged role in securing millions of dollars for a bank in which her husband was a major investor.”

We may not know the true effects of these charges until November–whether or not voters will lash out against the machine–a rage if you will. The mid-term elections usually are an offseason also-ran, but for now, the stage is being set for a rather interesting performance.

They call him Mr. Collins!

In The Black Man on August 10, 2010 at 10:16 am

I met him when he was a “shy” freshman. I use shy very loosely. He is neither arrogant nor difficult to be around. He is a pleasant gentleman–has always been since the first day we met. He is respectful, idealistic, a great dresser (I’m a sucker for bowties) but a planner. He’s a visionary and a dedicated worker. He’s a mentor, a friend, a son, a brother, and he’s not one to shy away from any sports debate. He’s what I would want my son to be.

Nigel Collins is his name. He’s entering his final year at Mississippi State University. I have always admired Nigel. It is not difficult to admire the young man; he has an infectious personality. As I did with many incoming freshmen I asked the standard questions: “Where are you from? What’s your major?” Nigel proudly said “I’m from Senatobia, MS. Do you know where that is?” I smiled and said “yes.” I grew up not far from there. Connection 1. I told him we played Senatobia in basketball when I was in high school. He said “Oh, you like sports?!?” Connection 2. “Well, what’s your major, Nigel?” I asked again. His response, “Industrial Engineering.” Connection 3. “Stay with it, Nigel.” I had met quite a few students who wanted to be engineers, but by the second semester of their freshman year, they were on to something else–like many college students (I changed my mind several times before my first day of class freshman year). Connection 3: Although I was no engineering major–I have a desire to see more minorities and women enter into the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields.

For Mr. Collins, he seemed prepared to accept the challenges that lay ahead, undoubtedly, his commitment to his faith and his relationship with his mentors prepared him to take these challenges in stride. According to Dr. Calvin Mackie, African American professionals face a “cultural tax…This tax may manifest itself as heavy committee work on the job, as excess work to destroy “affirmative action” stereotypes, or as substantial community service in an effort to remain attached to or give something back to the community. Regardless, there is a tax borne by Black professionals that does more harm psychologically than it does monetarily.” In his article The African-American Engineer in the 21st Century: A Burden, Challenge, and Opportunity, Mackie issues a charge to African American engineers, yet this charge is not to be taken lightly and the work needed is not simple.

Nigel has accepted this charge.

Note:Congratulations to Dr. Donna S. Reese, Mississippi State U. professor and interim department head of computer science and engineering for receiving the Tau Beta Pi 2010 McDonald Mentoring Award. Click here to read more.

Chhhhhhhhaaaaannnngessss!

In Uncategorized on August 4, 2010 at 8:39 am

Dubbed the Great Recession, the current economic crisis has brought about many changes, according to a Pew Research Center report. For Robert Samuelson of the Washington Post of the 11 recessions post-WWII, the Great Recession “has been the most egalitarian of all.” Samuelson continues, “In various ways, it has touched every social class through job loss, pay cuts, depressed home values, shrunken stock portfolios, eroded retirement savings, grown children returning home…”

The Pew study found that overall Americans are less optimistic about the future, which includes their children’s future. Americans are borrowing less and spending less, and the concern about the economy rebounding still looms over the American psyche. The Pew study finds that just about all social classes have been, as Samuelson says “touched” by this recession, Blacks and Hispanics as well as young adults have “borne a disproportionate share of job losses. Middle-aged adults have gotten the worst of the downturn in house values, household finances and retirement accounts. Men have lost many more jobs than women. And across most indicators, those with a high school diploma or less education have been hit harder than those with a college degree or more.”

The American psyche is fragile, is bruised and in need of some healing. Small victories along the way will boost consumer confidence; and as has been demonstrated before, Americans are resilient. Recovery may not be simple, but possible.