All Lives Matter Doesn’t Make Sense

All Lives Matter (and why it makes zero sense to say that)

Picture this scenario – Anytown, U.S.A., which has a small population of Black and Brown people who generally try to live by the same rules and regulations that everyone else around them abides by. These are folks who go to work, pay their taxes, try their best with parenting, and even participate in their community. By and large, these are people any community would be lucky to have.
Black and Brown community members are regularly harassed and dismissed (simultaneously!), however, by the white people around them. The same people who are solidly doing their jobs and being good citizens remain in constant fear that some event will befall them that ends their life prospects, their economic future, or their lives themselves for no other reason than being Black or Brown. Some of it is because there are stereotypes associated with being a person of color, such as being historically made out to be a threat or a menace. Some of it is because of pure, irrational racism that drives home unfounded (and normally proven to be untrue) assumptions and beliefs about people of color ranging from them being international terrorists associated with Al-Qaeda to being domestic terrorists associated with the Crips. These Black and Brown folks have become accustomed with this manner of living, with a regular worry that something needlessly oppressive will occur and that they will have no recourse to avenge any wrongs or injustices.
Over time, there was a buildup of these injustices and no reckoning. Black and Brown people (and even some white ones) noticed the pattern of injustice, who it continued to follow and negatively effect, and the policies enacted to maintain and protect oppressive institutions. Rather than remain resigned in their collective disappointment of their local government and community, they decided to engage the public at-large via massive demonstrations and a media campaign to re-educate the masses regarding the plight of Black and Brown people. The best method of quickly explaining that mantle, they decided, was to scream out with all of their souls, “Black Lives Matter!” They were met with a heavy police presence despite the largely peaceful protesting (an oxymoron in itself), something considered appropriate since there were a lot of Black and Brown people who were (justifiably) angry at the continued oppressive state they lived under. Quite frankly, when Black people get mad, white people get nervous.
One way they responded to the nervousness was to claim that “All Lives Matter” in defiance of “Black Lives Matter.” Fortunately, in Anytown, U.S.A., bad things can happen to anybody, and a young white woman met her unfortunate demise in Anytown as a result of police misconduct – she was gunned down needlessly while unarmed and not resisting or posing any danger. One might expect that there would be a response, since she was a victim of injustice. Perhaps a march down Main Street shouting, “All Lives Matter,” holding signs with pictures of her. But in Anytown, U.S.A., there was no march down Main Street. There were no signs with this young woman’s picture on it. There was a news report and a quiet firing of the officer, with rumors of a civil suit emerging in the aftermath. Anytown continued with business as usual, unconcerned with lives mattering as justice has been done (to some degree).
Business as usual in Anytown included regular dismissal and hostility towards homeless people and the poor. It included dismissals of women’s claims of sexual abuse. It, of course, included regular discussions behind closed doors regarding the problems of Black culture and ways to capitalize off of it. But this young woman’s death ended up a quiet nonstory in Anytown, a simple reminder that All Lives Matter only when people yell out Black Lives Matter.
At a recent Democratic Presidential debate, a fan question came in that asked, “Do Black Lives Matter or All Lives Matter?” The candidates responded, some saying the former, others the latter. Nobody stopped to address the elephant in the room – doesn’t this question sound like it has to be one or the other, not both? Is it impossible for Black lives to matter…precisely because all lives matter? Better yet, doesn’t all lives matter sound trivially true and practically false? Let me explain what I mean.
All lives matters seems to be obviously true. Everybody matters. Everybody’s special. Everybody’s got a place in the world, right? That really all hinges on what we mean by “matters.” What it means to matter can go a number of different ways based on what kind of criteria it takes for a life to matter, and what kind of mattering is being discussed. Here are a few examples of ways you could matter: to your family, to God, to your community, including your country, with respect to rights, and with respect to justice. This list isn’t meant to be exhaustive, but should give a pretty good example of the many ways we all could matter in some respect. Some of these collapse upon each other, since rights are usually conferred or protected by governments – so if you matter to your country, the protection of your rights matters as well, being one of the ways a country can show that someone matters to it.
Let’s assume that in matters of justice in the United States, all lives matter. Then Black lives have to matter in terms of acquiring justice when confronted by something unjust, such as voter suppression tactics (which intimidate Blacks from using one major application of being a citizen and participating in the democratic process), a mass incarceration program that is directed towards Blacks (which, again, limits their ability to vote among other rights), and institutional racism that prevents many Blacks from accessing the resources and opportunities needed to flourish. There’s no way to slice it – if all lives matter in terms of justice, then Black lives (which HAVE to be a subset of all lives) matter with regards to the injustices that have happened and rectifying the injustices that have occurred. This claim doesn’t hold up if you have a different view of what All Lives Matter means.
Giving a charitable read of the All Lives Matter argument, I’ve come up with something like this:
1) Everybody deserves justice.
2) By focusing on the perceived plight of Blacks, it ignores that everybody deserves justice.
3) By focusing on the perceived plight of Blacks, it ignores that everyone is the same – color and race don’t matter in terms of justice.
4) Since everyone deserves justice and color and race don’t matter, Black Lives Matter doesn’t make sense.
Conclusion: All Lives Matter, not Black Lives Matter.
If this is the view, then Black Lives Matter doesn’t work at all for a number of reasons, chief among them its divisiveness in a country that is beyond color and race politics. This assumes that this is a country beyond race, which seems to be patently false. The call to be beyond race is often made by those who would stand to benefit from the end of race because it ends any form of historical guilt or those who think they will benefit from the end of race because it ends any form of contemporary discrimination. But if All Lives Matter, even from this particular stance, why hasn’t there been any marches for the dead white woman? Because from this particular viewpoint, there isn’t any systemic problem of police violence, it was one bad agent who happened to be a police officer. This is how any issue such as racism or sexism is viewed – one bad actor who may be in a position of authority.
Crucially, All Lives Matter is a position of critique and, in and of itself, critique isn’t a bad thing. It’s necessary to refine crude ideas into diamonds that our culture live by. Critique done with the purpose of undermining a status quo shaking position, however, doesn’t serve to strengthen our culture…unless you believe strongly that the status quo is effective. As many say, America is the greatest country on Earth, which assumes that because you’re the “best” that you’re not above improvement or that you don’t have to improve until the competition improves. LeBron developed a three, after all.
Here’s another problem with saying All Lives Matter – do mosquitos lives matter? Or the cow and pig that we ate today, do their lives matter? Plants are alive – do their lives matter? It strikes me that if their lives matter, they matter only relationally to ours. Plants should be afforded independent lives as long as their existence is needed or if we can turn them into paper. Bees’ lives matter only because of their relative importance to pollination and creating honey. All lives on this planet don’t matter, even if we said strictly human lives, as there would be much more concern for global politics and deplorable living conditions. All lives certainly still don’t matter if we say humans in the US, as the local homeless person you step over does not matter in terms of their justice claims. These latter two problems can be viewed without a racial lens, which prompts the question: do All Lives Matter or Some Lives Matter?
Without a question, some lives matter. It’s much less illegal to say you’ll kill me rather than saying you’ll kill the mayor of whatever city you reside in because political figures matter more to the community than Joe Schmo’s like me. Rich people’s lives, presumably because of their necessary existence for the success of the capitalist market, matter more than poor people’s lives, who suck on the teat of the rich for their existence according to some. A less abrasive example would be your interest in justice for your loved one or friend if he or she were a victim of an injustice compared to your interest in a stranger across the country being a victim of injustice. Some lives hold more perceived value than others; our decisions regarding who deserves justice are informed by their perceived value to us, our community, or our culture. Assuming this, hollering Black Lives Matter actually makes sense as a program to change the negative perceived value of Black lives. Hollering All Lives Matter is more like yelling, “The world is flat,” something that seems trivially true and yet actually false.

Writing Retirement is Over

I stopped writing for nearly 2 years. It wasn’t for lack of ideas, as the world made plenty of clumsy maneuvers, decisions, and responses well worth commenting on. It wasn’t entirely due to lack of desire – writing has and will always be my creative outlet for self-expression, but the increased connection between writing as a creative force and also my primary means for generating work affected my desire to produce work. Every time I would begin to pen anything, the questions of “who should I cite from to bolster my position,” “does this look right and is addressing or sidestepping critiques,” and “how many pictures do I need to introduce to capture the people” among many others simply slogged my mental excitement to produce. Before, I was producing simply to produce – perhaps that’s my working wheelhouse. The best I could hope for was someone reading my work, thinking about it, and moving on with their day. That’s still the best I can hope for, but a new worst was introduced – the possibility that someone could use my words against me in some arena. Which meant however I produced, it’d better be the kind of production that won’t cost me while staying true to my desire to produce meaningful content about the various philosophical life problems the world presents me, you, and plenty of people we all know. Quite frankly, there’s a lot of bullshit in the air and it was my hope to get people to at least begin to recognize the odor.

It’s difficult to become something you’re not. Rather than sticking to my guns, I left the shootout completely. The landscape has changed in these two years – the usefulness of the Internet has exploded, the uses for blogs have themselves changed, and my views themselves have taken shifts. What I did wonder is what’s the purpose of using my voice in this landscape with little, if any hope that these aren’t wasted words in cyberspace? Others who are more astute, more experienced, and more worldly seemed to have everything covered, at least as well as I could. They all possess a particular quality, one that I used to have and have recently gotten back:

Fuck It.

It’s a great mantra to go by in many respects, particularly when considering my hesitations and false starts for writing. It doesn’t matter if it’s read by 1 or 1,000. It damn sure doesn’t matter if these words get held against me – being honest is something I’m known for and the same folks were going to have a problem with something I said at some point. If anything, it’s time to be brave enough to regain my “Fuck It” and return to my roots as a writer. I’m a philosopher by nature – I’m not apologizing for it, either. For many of you, I’m the (only) philosopher you know. More than likely the (only) Black philosopher you know. What kind of world is this where the Black philosopher you know doesn’t participate in the conversation? It’s not a world we’re inhabiting any longer.

On Mr. Philosopher: The Ignant Intellectual, expect to see fictional stories that expose weaknesses in our conceptual understanding of issues like race, property, gender, class, power, and more. Expect to see short pieces that describe the beauty and vitality of things like the Movement and why there are a host of unfortunate misconceptions about the world as it is. Expect longer pieces that explain the logic behind the shit that doesn’t make sense if we’re not able to put ourselves in their position. Above all, expect me to be me. Profanity, crude examples, some sophisticated vocabulary, conceptual analysis, thought experiments and engaging with things from my unique perspective just about sums up how I operate in the world. What had been lacking is the same creative outlet I’d used since I was 3 with the same confidence that my 3 year old self had. We can’t afford me to pull punches when my colleagues’ voices are reverberating bravely amidst the smog of insufferable ignorance. Over 2 decades in the game, perhaps I needed a brief retirement. Let’s hope I’m more Bulls Jordan than Wizards Jordan post-retirement.

2013 Ended Crazy – Rob Ford (IGNANT Friday Special)

Picture me rollin’?

Tom Ford.  Mayor of Toronto.  And crack user, cokehead, prostitute aficionado, and all around decent guy who has some demons in the public eye and can’t seem to get out of his own way.  The press conferences alone have been worth the price of admission, and when he publicly denied offering to eat an aide’s pussy (verbatim), he truly became the next guy in line of politicians who have besmirched themselves while parading in public office.  He even bowled over a lady, saying he was trying to get to his brother.  So rather than provide any sort of commentary about the mayor who can’t get out of his own way, I’m just going to post a couple of videos of what happens when you roll on some Rob Ford.  Before the videos, one quick comment on these wild ass politicians as of late – who the hell was their campaign coordinators?  Those people deserve some raises, as these elected officials are out of pocket with their behavior as public servants so much so that it must have taken a fantastically designed campaign to pull the wool over the masses’ eyes.  Seriously, mayors of cities are operating as though they won’t be caught up because they’re the mayor of a cosmopolitan, world-important city.  It’s like everybody thinks they can get elected, do crazy shit, and then get re-elected on the strength of their moral principles.  Tom Ford is wild as hell.  Mayor of San Diego was out here fondling everybody in his office.  What the world else is coming next?

My cousin said this to me once about his weed use and the likelihood of getting caught up in a situation:

“Dude, when they got Bill Clinton, the President of the United States, for getting some head in the oval office, that was when I knew that no matter what precautions I take, I’m still probably going to get caught.”

These mayors ain’t Bill Clinton.  So if he could get caught up in the relatively low-tech age of the late 90’s, don’t you think it’s even more likely that you’ll get caught up in the tech age?  Every email, text, tweet, Facebook message, phone call, blog post, interview, statement, question – everything you do gets recorded in the public domain as part of the public record but you honestly, truly, in your heart of hearts thought that the side chick would be quiet (with relatively little incentive for her to stay quiet)?  You thought the drug use would be kept quiet?  That’s highly IGNANT.

More importantly, I don’t really care about personal proclivities insofar as it’s your job to govern – if you want to cheat on your wife and run the city fairly, you can do that as they aren’t mutually exclusive[1].  But being on crack/cocaine and running a city fairly does seem like a tall order.  Crackheads aren’t known for their leadership skills, though they’re mighty adept at acquisition.  They tend to lack a certain diplomacy, much like Dave Chappelle reminded us.

The best part of this?  He refuses to step down, so the city council just took away certain mayoral powers he has.  I’m not sure I would move to Toronto, the budget might get done in on a booze-filled, coke-fueled binge.

With all that said, if someone told me I could pop a Molly or be Rob Ford for a weekend, I’ll be Rob Ford (White privilege!  Rejoice!)….on Molly.

[1] So in one sense, it’s not mutually exclusive – you can be a complete bastard towards your family and still be an effective leader of government.  This, however, could be disputed if, as a woman (or person who has been cheated on), unfairness could be distributed through public condoning of infidelities and/or additional measures that ignore the positions that a victim of infidelity could have insofar as it relates to political processes or legal processes.  It might be harder to trust a known infidel, but one could also argue that if the mistrust is due to whatever personal issues the infidel may have and not due to a prior governance record, then that mistrust has been misplaced.

DWB (Dating While Broke) – Ask Mr. Philosopher

Ask Mr. Philosopher: Ought I Be A Broke Dater?

H. writes, “Mr. Philosopher –

I’m a guy in my mid 20’s and I’m basically paycheck to paycheck.  The bills are paid, but I haven’t gotten to really diversify my bonds and increase my portfolio – basically, a nigga broke.  But, you know, I still love taking chicks out on dates, trying to get some pussy and, you know, maybe even fall in love.  Dates be expensive though, and that doesn’t help when I’m trying to increase my bonds and shit.  So basically, should I be trying to date when dating can be prohibitively expensive?”

Dating does hit the wallet and dating multiple people at once, if not budgeted for, can wreak havoc on a wallet.  That said, whether or not one should date while being financially responsible depends on perhaps the reason for dating.  In general, if you want companionship then you should go out and seek it in whatever form you desire.  So if you just want sex, go find someone to fuck.  If you want someone to kick it with, find a buddy.  If you want someone to be in a relationship with, by all means be on the lookout for Mr. or Mrs. Right.  Just be advised that there are a few issues that come with being broke:

1)      Who’s going to pay for the date?

2)      Why can’t you ever pay for the date?

3)      Why can’t you ever not need anything?

With regards to 1, the custom is that the man pays and the more general custom is whoever asks pays, but if you’re a broke guy then what message are you communicating to someone when you can’t pay for the date?  It signals that you’re unable to support in a financial manner and that’s a red flag for many women in relationships.  So even if you’re a grand emotional provider, that won’t matter if she’s nervous that the bills won’t get paid or that you can’t afford to be with her.

But wait, you pay all of your bills on time?  Well they aren’t her bills, so it doesn’t really matter.  She’s looking at the after-taxes, after-bills money and if you ain’t got it, somebody else does.  Being broke reduces whatever special thing you bring to the table as being able to be bought out, or at least reduces it to the constant threat of a buyout, which leads me to 2.

With regards to 2, it’s one thing if you don’t have spare funds the day you’ve paid your bills, but another thing entirely to lack funds regularly.  It might not even be you – I’ve dated a girl who had to tell me that it wasn’t me, I’d done ample paying of shit regularly as a way to keep her from thinking about money as best I could until my financial situation changed and that wasn’t feasible.  She once told me she wouldn’t visit until she had the money to, and it was a result of her not wrapping her mind around the new financial situation I ended up in (worse than the original but better than the intermediate financial situation).  I could pay for everything – she just lost faith that I could amidst prior situations that I couldn’t necessarily control.  And once she loses faith in you (and your ability to provide), it’s really just a matter of time before she wants to believe in someone or something greater.

With regards to 3, the adage is that broke people break people and it’s because of the constant perceived need that, “you can’t buy shit for yourself so now everything is on my dime,” and the buyer is wondering if you are worth, literally, the time and money involved in this.  They’re looking for what you bring to the table, wondering if it offsets the money.  Plenty of people do this with purely physical relationships – men and women alike go and date some broke motherfucker who can fuck well, they have to spend the majority of the money in the situation, the other person doesn’t have a car or access to consistent transportation, always wants something, and after awhile the dick/pussy just isn’t worth all the trouble of dealing with someone who is ultimately too flawed for you.  What might be worse is not wanting to be that broke person but ending up as that broke person, and if you’re that broke person just know that resentment on both sides is a real possibility.

Someone said yesterday, “How are you going to ask me out and then tell me you can’t afford it?”  Well, I can’t afford to take someone out on a date that costs over $60 regularly and it’d be foolish for my financial situation to take a weekly $60 hit, at least for a few months.  Does this mean that I shouldn’t be dating?  Quite the contrary; you find someone who is willing to manage their expectations.  So if you don’t have a lot of money, you might not be dating some fine ass lawyer-type because you can’t afford her lifestyle.  But there’s likely some pretty, smart, available woman in your tax bracket (get them while they’re in law school).  And if there aren’t, then be upfront and get your issue off until you can afford to spend what has to be spent to get who you want.

The unfortunate aspect to all of this is that people have placed financial situations towards the crux of why they can or are in a position to find love.  Many successful, long lasting couples found each other as they both didn’t have much money, and were able to grow together.  Most people won’t independently become Jay-Z and Beyonce and then get together.  That is a myth, a fairy tale, or at best just extremely rare.  Expecting that you get that is like expecting to win the lottery.  You shouldn’t EXPECT to win the lottery – it’s a damn miracle if you do and the expectation should be that you lose the lottery.  I understand that it costs money to live, but it doesn’t cost money to love.  There’s also a great deal of hypocrisy involved, as there are men and women who think they require more than what they actually deserve judging by what they financially bring to the table because of other assets they think they possess that warrants the price tag they’ve assigned themselves.  So if you’re a bad bitch you might not be working as much/bringing in much money because somebody is taking care of primary bills precisely because you’re a bad bitch and as a result, there’s a price tag to be able to get in a relationship with you.  Same with powerful men, the power grants them a price tag of some sort.  But on average, most EVERYBODY you know are paycheck to paycheck, with very little savings, no emergency fund, no Roth IRA, no 401K, they make $40,000 but it feels like they make $20,000 and Suze Orman would fail em on her “How Am I Doing?” segment.  So when these same people say, “I’m never dating a broke nigga again,” I wonder how many think of themselves as broke bitches?  Same for the ones who say, “I’m never dating a broke bitch again,” it wouldn’t surprise me if they themselves didn’t recognize their own brokeness.

Finally, those who remark that broke folks should, “work on themselves before finding their significant other” have a false belief that there is an established order of operations for finding love and that the very first step is to have some established, consistent funds.  The next step is to, when you’re financially able, to start wasting money on a long line of potential significant others until you find one to settle on, try that out and see if it’s love.  The false belief comes because the way the order is set, you’re not open to love until after you’ve gotten a certain position in your life.  I understand wanting to have security, particularly as a man to be able to offer security as well, and I also understand that not everybody is ready for love at all times.  But that’s precisely the false belief that this hinges on, that nobody is ready for love until they’re secure, and security here implies financial security (according to someone’s ideal).  But security itself doesn’t imply just financial security, and I often think about two of the best men I’ve met in my life when I think about the question, “Are you marriageable?”

Michael and Lonnie (names changed for anonymity) were a couple of guys I met during high school, older guys who were as hardworking as you knew – punched in early, didn’t leave until late.  They had consistent values about educating young people, always gave me good advice, and were respected by their peers and coworkers.  Both were married, and had been for at least a couple of decades.  I never wondered if they could provide for their wives and families, or if the wives had lost faith in them because of their job.  Michael once told me that he met his wife when they were young and when he got the job I met him at, she was happy for him and it provided for his family.  Lonnie definitely was happy to have the job he had and he was secure in who he was, what he did, and how he provided for his family.  They both were proud men, who took pride in themselves and what they brought to the community.

They were both janitors at my high school.  Some woman heard that her potential husband was going to be a janitor and didn’t turn her nose up at him because he was hard working and loving and doing what he could to provide with what he had.  Janitors, even at a private school, don’t make much money.  But their wives weren’t tripping off of the money, they looked to see who they could build a family with.  I mention this because the initial question of why are you dating ends up looming extremely large.  If you’re dating for fun, then finances might impact how much fun you could have and then it might not be as prudent to date a whole lot.  But if you’re dating for a partner, then your financial situation shouldn’t be an impediment to you finding your soul mate.  Indeed, you don’t want to settle because you weren’t open for love when you should have been and now that you are, you don’t want to be alone and you settle on contentedness over striving for happiness.  Ultimately, the goal of dating should be to find someone who does make you happy.  So if you’re happy fucking a few people, go to it.  If you’d be happier with one, settle down.  If the one you want to settle with isn’t the right one, go find another.  But if you’re not secure in who you are, what you offer (in total, not just in your wallet), and what you want, then it’s not financial issues that’ll wreck your dating.

2013 Ended Crazy – Affluenza

I’ve been shocked by some of the events that transpired to finish the year.  Last week, I mentioned the Megyn Kelly “Santa/Jesus” issue, and next up is the one that actually made me mad enough to yell at the TV when I saw it.


As though money can’t afford you enough privilege, it’s now a problem when you have too much privilege.  The way to address that problem?  Of course not the penitentiary, but rehab.  Rehab.  REHAB!  This ain’t a drug addiction!  That the judge bought it is problem enough, but of course there are racial overtones to these proceedings.  With that said…

I will make sure my kids catch affluenza.  If it means they need to be injected with it, so be it.  I’ll put them around kids who have it so that they can catch it.  There will be no quarantines once I find out where all the kids with affluenza go, I’m sending my kids there everyday for as long as possible.  They need to catch that affluenza so that they can feel the exact opposite of how I did growing up, as free as they can be to do whatever they want to do with limited to no consequences.  I wonder what kind of moral system I would have created if I knew there were no punishments.  Plato wonders the same in the Ring of Gyges myth in the Republic, asking if people would still do the right thing if they knew they wouldn’t be punished for doing the wrong thing.  Apparently, the conclusion of the story is the same conclusion as in real life.

A rich 16-year-old kid, who STOLE beer from a Wal-Mart and then mowed down 4 people on the road while drunk, received probation.  Ten years of probation.  I have a neighbor who is on 10 years probation and he’s still breaking the law, albeit more cautiously.  And he didn’t kill anybody, let alone 4 somebodies.  Yet justice was rendered blind and cruel when the judge bought the bogus defense that being too rich just didn’t provide him with enough stability, so he needs to be sent somewhere for treatment to learn how to earn things and work hard (that costs $450,000 a year).

They have places like that called jail.  It’s where you go when you break laws and kill people.  You have to learn how to earn things and work hard.  In fact, I saw a commercial about a guy who killed a family texting and driving and he pled guilty and received a jail sentence.  The only difference here is that, for some ridiculous reason, the kid (who is old enough to know that drinking and driving is illegal, drinking underage is illegal, theft is illegal, and murder is illegal) is the beneficiary of the assumption that he was so poorly raised that he was unable to keep himself on the right side of the law and that his future life could add enough value to society such that he deserves a chance to be rehabilitated.

It’s hard not to read that assumption and go, “So if you’re rich and white and misparented, then it’s not the kid’s fault and the parents just have to be able to buy their way out via a treatment program…even after committing a heinous crime.”  It’s not like the kid got caught with some weed and they used the affluenza defense – perhaps, in that scenario, it might hold water that a kid with little oversight might get into unintentionally deep trouble and make a mistake (though that’s still questionable).  No, he KILLED FOUR PEOPLE WHILE DRUNK DRIVING.  VEHICULAR MANSLAUGHTER.  And he has to go to a treatment facility where he doesn’t have access to Xbox, women, and has to work all week to watch a TV on the weekends.  So his parents are paying for some group home to parent their child, all after the fact that their child murdered four people because their wealth made them poor parents.  Absolutely brilliant.

This also invites the question – if too much wealth can be considered a rationale for why a person breaks society’s laws without fear of consequence, why can’t poverty be used as the same rationale?  Because of a lack of resources and my parents’ time being consumed trying to acquire resources for our family, I didn’t receive enough oversight and boundary formation such that I fell into the wrong crowd and killed a few people.  Hell, I don’t even have to fall into the wrong crowd – the affluenza is a home problem, not a social problem.  So it could have just been lack of oversight and lack of punishment led me to make wrong decisions, and I could be rehabilitated to become a useful member of society.  But because I can’t afford to go to the treatment facility, I’m unable to have access to that defense, and have to go to the poor people’s rehab center, prison.

Race might get the headlines, but class drives the content.  And in this case, I believe it’s fair to wonder if any preferential prejudices got in the way of determining justice.  This reminds me of a Law & Order SVU episode where a judge lets his bias about what a good mother looked like run his courtroom.  I wonder if the judge felt similarly about what a good kid looks like and if that same kid looked different if there might be other prejudices that would have prevented that kid from the same treatment.  The law is supposed to go case-by-case, and I do think that no matter the race or class of a person, if you steal beer, get faded, and kill people behind the wheel that you deserve castigation, punishment, and that you’ve lost your ability to be the same member of society that you thought you were.

This kid killed four people drunk driving (with Valium and weed in his system).  Why this kid got to keep his right to live amongst the citizenry, hell in a death penalty state like Texas even his right to life when the same judge has delivered an unduly harsh verdict on a young Black male for a nonviolent offense will blow my mind (if an excuse is ever given).

So maybe my kids can’t benefit from affluenza after all…

2013 Ended Crazy – Megyn Kelly

I’ve been shocked by some of what I’ve seen to conclude the year.  Beyonce dropped a new album that made every woman go bananas (again), Jameis Winston wasn’t charged with rape (then won both the Heisman and National Championship), a football player left his team because of bullying and racism (and the team nearly made the playoffs following this episode), a kid even got drunk and killed 4 people (and was sentenced to probation), Instagram added direct videos and pictures (and you can’t just send them to everybody), and that’s not even half of the shit that just surprised me (government shutdown, rollout of Obamacare and the ensuing backlash, Edward Snowden telling us what we already knew).

But Jesus and Santa as verified white men is where I’ll begin my recap of what was a uniquely volatile year in human history.

Megyn Kelly from Fox News provided a moment of the year when she uttered:

“Jesus is what he is, which is white.”

Flipside is that there’s a professor accused of racism when she was talking to a journalism class about…racism in the media.

Megyn Kelly gave us some shock last month, telling America that Santa and Jesus are verifiable white men.  She went afterwards to try to clear up what has started a firestorm, focusing on Santa, and effectively blaming folks for spinning her words into what she didn’t mean and making character assassinations of her.  She even went so far as to say that it was clearly a joke, when nobody on the panel even chuckled.  Perhaps it’s because, as Kelly says, “Race is still a volatile subject in this country,” and the other panelists recognized her potentially troublesome joke and didn’t want to be part of the ensuing volatility.

But, if I may, she can shut the hell up.

I don’t get offended anymore by surprising revelations, such as, “Jesus was white, obviously!”  Or the even better, “Santa just is white!  Duh!”  I do get offended when people try to pull the wool over my eyes, as though nobody has done anything questionable.  Kelly (I just don’t wish to keep typing this ridiculous name – for all the shit people talk about Black names, who the hell puts a Y where an E goes?  Me-gyne is what it reads like.) did say that she was referring to the commercialized Santa, who is normally depicted as white.  Which is the same image that Aisha Harris was referring to as being problematic because Santa is only conceived of as white.  Commercialized Santa, however, is not Santa himself – it’s the popular depiction of Santa.  Just like the popular depiction of Jesus is of a white guy with a possible tan is not Jesus himself.  So no, Me-gyne, you can’t claim that you saying that Santa is white is backed up my popular depictions and that because the popular depictions are what we have, that it must be true.  If that was the case, given popular depictions of you, we would have to say that Me-gyne Kelly is a racist because it’s the consistent, popular depiction of you (regardless of if it is true of you, actually).

Even worse, she tried to make Harris’ piece into a form of comedy by claiming that her inclusive Santa response of a penguin must be a joke.  As somebody who grew up with Black Santa in the house, I’ve always had to be imaginative about how Santa must be.  He’s a fictional character, so there’s nothing about Santa Claus (not St. Nicholas) that prevents us from altering a depiction of him.  More to the point, Santa is for the kids anyway!  Kids NEED to use their imaginations to learn the difference between reality and fantasy, so if we’re telling a fantasy tale about a guy in a magic sleigh, with magic reindeer, who gives gifts to good kids (and lumps of coal to bad ones) all across the world in one night…would Santa being a penguin really change the fantastical nature of the story?  A morbidly obese white man who appears to be one too many chimney drops away from being rolled out in an ambulance, we’ll give him some latitude on our imaginations, but a penguin is too ridiculous?

Finally, Me-gyne has missed the boat on what Santa does – he gets to determine who has been good and who has been bad by watching over you the entire year, all day every day, and then dispenses favor or no favor as a result.  A permanently white Santa might make children of color frightened, seeing as there are ample instances of white judgment unfairly going against Black people.  It also lends itself, given the closeness of power to Santa and God (in kind, not degree), to the depiction of Jesus as white.  If one nearly-omniscient and nearly-omnipotent being apparently exists and is white, it’s an easier pill to swallow that an omniscient and omnipotent being would be white.  And we only talk about Santa when we’re about to talk about a holy holiday.

So yes, there was much bluster about race-baiters, whatever the hell those are.  But beyond the bluster lay a poor argument and even poorer justification for treating Santa and Jesus as verified white men.

Friends, Belief, and Faith

Friends are useful for multiple reasons.  They’re great for reflecting back to you what image you project to the world, for giving you as much shit as they can inspiration, introducing you to new experiences.  Friends provide you so much to help enrich your life.  They truly are part of how a human flourishes and human flourishing is an idea that I’ve always thought had real merit to it.[1]  We should improve as we grow to become the maximal selves possible.  How that gets accomplished may differ from person to person, but clearly one of the best methods of self-actualization and self-maximization comes through our social interactions.  Put simply, being social with your friends well help you become the best self possible.[2]

I want to focus more on what friends provide us and what we can provide our friends within this framework of friendship improving people, and that’s belief in one another.  Belief has been considered frighteningly powerful when exercised in the service of a greater good.  Belief needs some grounding, and one possible grounding is in faith, e.g.,  “Because I have faith in my friend, I believe in my friend.”  But that sentence really doesn’t tell us much other than I believe in my friend therefore I believe in my friend.  So perhaps grounding belief in faith won’t get us far, as the distinction between faith and mere belief should be a harder line.[3]  That said, in terms of friendship and social relations, perhaps faith is a type of belief that we hold for our friends.  For example, when we say, “I have faith in Joe, he’ll pull through,” we’re not saying anything vastly different from, “I believe in Joe, he’ll pull through.”  If faith can be described as an unwavering, steady belief in a person, place, thing, or institution, then maybe I had it wrong – perhaps belief grounds faith.  But what does this have to do with your faith or belief in one’s friends (and the faith or belief your friends have in you)?  Perhaps a quick story can elucidate this.

Playing video games against people provides a chance to compete, talk shit, and demonstrate the kind of ruthless aggression that should be reserved for a fight or a battle of some kind, then the game is over and it’s all done.[4]  I don’t know when video games, with the exemplars being Madden and currently the NBA 2K series, became such a part of male (and more and more female) competitiveness.  Even guys that don’t play them often still feel the urge not to lose – nobody wants to be bested in a one-on-one situation, even if it’s meaningless.  With that backdrop, a few weeks ago a buddy of mine, B, came through and one of the things we tend to do is battle, as competition just brings out a different part of people and friendly competition is the same way.  So like normal, we got geared up to go to war and it’s intense because we’re rivals and we like to play fighting games of all kinds – boxing, MMA, wrestling, Street Fighter.  My brother once quipped, “Watching two people play a wrestling game is better than watching the stuff on TV – each time y’all punch or reverse, it’s like you actually did it!”  But this would be a different day than most, as my roommate came out to join in the competition, challenging my buddy to a game of NBA 2K13.  My roommate and I have been in an ongoing (one-sided) battle surrounding 2K13, and as I was about to walk Blaze for a moment, I thought this would be an even matchup (my roommate may be loath to admit it, but right now and for the foreseeable future, he’s not beating me).  And amidst the normal banter and shit talking (“I’m gonna yam on ya bitch ass!”  “Get that shit the fuck outta here!!”  “COOKIES!!!”), I told my buddy, “I believe in you, B.  Kick his ass.”  Did I really believe in B?  Not really.  I thought my roommate was going to dust him by 20, mostly because I wasn’t sure how much B had played 2K13 and, like in many things, experience can be an invaluable strength in competition.  But I more so wanted to stick it to my roommate by explicitly expressing that my belief, my faith in B’s abilities were greater than my faith in his, if only to rock his confidence and take him off of his mental game.[5]

I returned from the dog walk to see the finish to an exciting contest, which ended when B pulled away in the 4th quarter.  Like the hype man I am, I turned on the shit talking for a few moments as my dejected roommate soaked in the reality that he’d lost to the unknown challenger.  Then B said, “Man, when you said you believed in me…it really changed how I came at the game.  It was like, ‘Shit, if he believes in me, I believe in me too!”  He looked over and asked me if I did think he was going to win, to which I responded,

“Hell naw.  That was a hell of a win.”

So what’s the connection here?  The placebo effect can be demonstrated even in events like video game competition, but was me telling B that I believed in him (even though I really didn’t) and him believing my belief in him to be true similar to a placebo, or is this a different sort of effect that people can have on other people?  We are social creatures in such a way that I think there’s a convincing case to be made that what happened, beyond the potentially fluke victory,[6] was a result of a particular effect people can have on each other.  Maybe it’s the context that people provide with their beliefs in others – B knew I believed in him and COULD have believed otherwise, namely in my roommate (or neither of them if I thought it was going to be a crappy game).  That my belief in him was my choice (or, perhaps, that B thinks it was) and B’s recognition of my belief in him could play a role in that effect that people have on each other.

But it’s worth wondering, why do we believe in people?[7]

[1] Aristotle is the heavyweight who offers a concept of human flourishing as a good we ought to achieve.  One difficulty of this view is determining what it means to flourish.  Kant also corresponds with a maxim that if you have a talent, you ought to maximize it.

[2] Clearly, if you have friends that are convincing you to do things that are anathema to your constitution, then these aren’t the kinds of friends that will ultimately provide you with what you need to become the best self possible.  It also warrants asking about the nature of friendship if these are the people we’ve come to consider friends.

[3] I’d say that we do have a firm line between belief and faith, at least in definition.  But I don’t think we have it in terms of our normal parlance, particularly when talking about loved ones and friends.  Faith, in this sense, is not the sort of faith we think of as in faith in God, but it’s related.

[4] X-Box Killer from Boondocks is the exception, not the rule.

[5] Video game competition is largely mental.  With so many repetitions, you have a good idea of what inputs will deliver your desired outputs.  The difficulty is that people adjust their strategy depending on their mood.  Calm players stick with their strategies, emotional players feed off of their environment and MOODY players can be thrown off of their game by talking that shit.

 [6] Which it wasn’t – B’s won 2 of the 3 games they’ve played since.  But my roommate took the last two, so they are even competition.

[7] Like why do I believe Charles Barkley and Michael Wilbon were right in saying publicly their comments about Black people using the “n-word.”  It’ll be live tomorrow.  Or why I believe that Johnathan Martin’s treatment is another highlight of why sports is an appropriate arena for discussing race.  Or why I believe it was hilarious that a lineman and a ref got into last Sunday.  But those might be different kinds of belief, and that post is live later this week.