India Arie & Aristotle

India Arie was born in 1975 in Detroit and moved to Atlanta when she was 13 years old. After high school, her mother encouraged her to learn and play the guitar. She rose to popularity early in the 2000s with her song “Video” on the album Acoustic Soul.

Although this may be one of her more recognizable moments, one of her more brilliant (and there is sooo much brilliance #swoon) is the song called “Back to the Middle” or “Come Back“. (I’ve embedded a live performance but the hyperlinks include a video with lyrics and the genius lyrics).


Raul Midon is a baaad, baaaad man.

“She is, twenty five, spent over half of her life
So afraid to speak her mind, it’s such a shame
Cause what a brilliant mind she has
And now she’s been introduced to confidence
She doesn’t see, that she is bordering on arrogance
When will she learn, to come back to the middle
He is, a young black man, grew up without his father
And now it falls into his hands, to protect his mother
Cause if he doesn’t, well then who will, his older brother lives in fear
Of everything, especially, trying to fill his father’s shoes
Respectively, they go to extremes, of masculine and feminine
Chasing dreams, but they keep on falling
Cause they don’t know no balance
When will they learn, to come back to the middle.”
Aristotle is a philosopher and scientist born in Ancient Greece. As a teenager he joined Plato’s school in Athens and remained there for over twenty years. He literally wrote about EVERYTHING from math and science to government, politics, theology, and linguistics.
One of the topics he covers extensively in his series of smalls books called Niomachean Ethics, is virtue and the specific qualities and nature that virtue takes on.
In everything that is continuous and divisible it is possible to take more, less, or an equal amount, and that either in terms of the thing itself or relatively to us; and the equal is an intermediate between excess and defect. By the intermediate in the object I mean that which is equidistant from each of the extremes, which is one and the same for all men; by the intermediate relatively to us that which is neither too much nor too little- and this is not one, nor the same for all.
Basically, Aristotle and India are saying the same thing! Come back to the middle!
…virtue must have the quality of aiming at the intermediate. I mean moral virtue; for it is this that is concerned with passions and actions, and in these there is excess, defect, and the intermediate. For instance, both fear and confidence and appetite and anger and pity and in general pleasure and pain may be felt both too much and too little, and in both cases not well; but to feel them at the right times, with reference to the right objects, towards the right people, with the right motive, and in the right way, is what is both intermediate and best, and this is characteristic of virtue. Similarly with regard to actions also there is excess, defect, and the intermediate. Now virtue is concerned with passions and actions, in which excess is a form of failure, and so is defect, while the intermediate is praised and is a form of success; and being praised and being successful are both characteristics of virtue. Therefore virtue is a kind of mean, since, as we have seen, it aims at what is intermediate.
India as an Aristotelian student? Rumor has it Aristotle studied in Africa #lit
Basically, the homie Aristotle is saying to avoid the excess and the deficiency of any and all traits associated with virtue. The perfect example is confidence. The one that India uses in her song: “And now she’s been introduced to confidence. She doesn’t see, that she is bordering on arrogance. When will she learn, to come back to the middle.” We all know that no only is arrogance a dangerous trait to have in certain situations, but it does not work well in social situations or contribute overall to the goal of happiness. Arrogance can be confusing and stunting. Conversely, self-consciousness and insecurity can be just as debilitating and limiting. There has to be an intermediate. A median. Or, as some refer to it, the Golden Mean.
Another example might be Bravery versus Fear. Soldiers that are too brave are hazards to their units. Take Leigh the Soldier for example. She would  be reckless and run into battle without all the details, endangering the people around them. Leigh’s intentions may be the best, but her bravado is not taking on the context of virtuousness. I think Aristotle and India might be like “Aye, slow down, find the middle Leigh.”
Does our culture glorify excesses while ridiculing and belittling deficiencies?
Image result for scared soldier cartoon gif
Tommy boy is not cut out for war in this state… But is this what fear looks & feels like?

On the flipside you have Tom. Tommy is afraid of his own shadow. He would be a terrible soldier. And it is obvious why his fear would not be considered virtuous. It is a hindrance to his personal growth and to the safety of his unit.

I have no idea whether or not India is all up on her Aristotelian Ethics. But these ideas of moderation and intermediacy in virtue repeat throughout history from Ancient Greece all the way to 2005.
As we reflect on the lessons we teach our youth, and things that we do on a daily basis for ourselves, I think that it is important to acknowledge areas of excess as well as areas of deficiency.
Like India said, family structures and social projections have led us to increased binaries in everything including gender: “Respectively they go through extremes of masculine and feminine.” If the nature of virtue is in the middle (the intermediate) then maybe we need to challenge things or constructions that we consider in the binary (there is either A or B). If it is feminine to be sweet, patient, and committed while it is masculine to be brave, ambitious, and just then would it not be best to live in the intermediacy of these ideas of feminine and masculine? (I’m not suggesting we all wear gender neutral clothing. Just embrace a set of gender neutral virtues.)
Would this be appropriate on Brock Turner’s son or Bill Cosby’s son?

Would not the most virtuous man and woman be the ones who find the right “golden mean” for them between all virtues? I think this line of question challenges hypermasculinty and hyperfemininity as relevant and useful structures for society. I know that gender presents numerous differences in a variety of areas from psychology to biology. However, the emphasis on the binary nature of gender is very convenient for divide/conquer tactics sociologically and for selling baby shit.

I don’t want to dive too much into gender. However, the overwhelming reliance on binaries in all walks of life: Democratic/Republican, Liberal/Conservative, Northerner/Southerner, Gay/Straight, Different/Normal, American/Non-American.
What we might all might be sorely lacking is some good ole fashion training in virtue and the golden mean. We need to get back to the middle folks.
So let’s learn. Let’s build. Let’s grow. You already know! (yeah I’m gonna let that wack rhyme remain. Lol. #JudgeFreeZone)
“Come Back to the Miiiddddlllleeee”

Image result for chunk deuces gif

Love,
Mari

Numerous sources hyperlinked, not limited to:
Acoustic Soul by India.Arie
Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle
Sex and Gender Roles by Safiya A. Jardine and Dr. Arlene Dallalfar

Power & The Amoralist: Part 1

BLUF: Understanding the philosophical debate around morality can help inform how we interact with each other about issues surrounding justice and fairness. Power (Starz TV drama) relies heavily on moral arguments & issues to develop characters, scenarios, and drama. This post can also give an opportunity to learn how to teach and interact with our kids that may be watching these shows and explain some of the philosophy behind the character development (thereby preventing the glorification of traits we don’t want to see replicated). So let’s learn!

Power is one of the most popular shows on my social media timeline since it debuted a few years ago. It is a super interesting look at the whirlwind life of James ‘Ghost’ St. Patrick who TV Guide describes as “a New York City nightclub owner doubling as a drug kingpin to an elite clientele, which could hinder his attempts to turn his legitimate business into a wide-ranging empire.”

The show is dope. My dad and my brother watch it every week during the season! (I’m much more of a binge watcher myself! #guilty)

As I am watching hours upon hours of the show it dawns on me that Ghost & Kanan are brilliant characters. Their lives are the perfect display of the complexities and dichotomies surrounding morality. Both characters are consistently faced with different dilemmas that have some interesting philosophical implications. Snoop gets it.

An English moral philosopher named Bernard Williams’ wrote a book in 1972 the first chapter is entitled The Amoralist and it opens with the question:

Why should I do anything?

… Why should I recognize moral obligations rather than just things that serve me?

Why should I care about your morals homie? I’ma do me. #dab #BernardWilliams

Morality is defined as a “particular system of values and principles of conduct, especially one held by a specified person or society.” Essentially, it is what we all accept as right and wrong.

For example, James Rachel philosopher (1941-2003), asserts that in order for societies to continue there has to be a basic assumption or agreement that murder, lying, and harming the youth are immoral behaviors. There should be corresponding social outrage at these behaviors.

Makes sense. Consider a society without these mutual understandings. Lets call it Societycity. How long would the life expectancy be in Societycity if it was acceptable behavior to kill, without concern for social repercussions?

*shrug* I could be being dramatic. #SocietycitySaturdayNightOut

Would Societycity be able to survive if it openly accepted or encouraged infanticide?

Mandela is expressing a philosophical understanding that our society’s future is partially dependent on our ability to protect our young

Societycity’s lack of obligation to reinforcing morals involving murder and protecting the youth might not be conducive to the survival of the people within its limits.

Similarly, if truth ceases to be the expectation then we will live in an alternate universe were it is hard to believe anything we are told (*cough cough*). [We aren’t talking white lies here. We are talking about how time and our conception of it exist because we believe that someone or something is telling us the truth.]

What if you couldn’t even believe the calendar was true? #alternativefacts

We all know people that believe primarily in their self-interests but can only exist BECAUSE they take advantage of the morality of the people around them. The question is, are these people amoral?

We might ask first what motivations he does have. He is indifferent to moral considerations, but there are things that he cares about, and he has some real preferences and aims.

Omari Hardwick acts his tail off in this show as “Ghost”!

If anyone had given me a few basic facts about Jamie “Ghost” St. Patrick, I might conclude that he is the story’s amoralist. Check it out:

  1. Cheating on his wife and spending time away from home and his children to enjoy the side-witch’s company, while putting everyone he is supposed to love in some serious danger. #rollseyes

2. He is a killer for certain. Both directly and indirectly.

Can someone look amoral? If so, what does that look like?

3. He is taking drug distribution to the next level. Pushing chemicals into the streets at blistering speeds, most likely using disenfranchised and impoverished young men to push product.

HOWEVER, it is the COMPLEXITY of Ghost’s interrelationships that prove that he subscribes to a system of morals. So we have to dig deeper than his actions to answer the question of his morality.

He gives us, I think, almost enough. For he has the notion of doing something for somebody, because that person needs something… He operates within this notion in fact only when he is inclined; but it is not itself the notion of his being so inclined. Even if he helps these people because he wants to, or because he likes them, and for no other reason, what he wants to do is to help them in their need, and the thought he has when he likes someone and acts in this way is ‘they need help’, not the thought ‘I like them and they need help’.

Two major keys in the above clip: First of all, Ghost puts a lot of weight into how much help he has given Tommy (his best friend and road dawg for the first two seasons and most of the third). Secondly, an amoralist wouldn’t be asking whether his daughter has her shoes for tap!

Ghost does not stand to directly gain anything from helping his daughter find her shoes. He does it out of selflessness & love. This small act and others like it in his character development bring to light a man with a tortured soul. Ghost acknowledges and lives by a strong moral code that allows for a lot of illegal shit (what is illegality? a topic for another post!) but ultimately, he is more than capable of thinking of someone else, meaning that according to Williams’ philosophies on morality, he is a moral human being.

Williams is smiling on ya Ghost. For now. Lol.

This is a vital point: this man is capable of thinking in terms of others’ interests, and his failure to be a moral agent lies (partly) in the fact that he is only intermittently and capriciously disposed to do so.

I think that any and everyone that has seen the show through at least the second season can easily identify at least one amoralist on the cast!

#plottin

Kanan. I am not even sure how to describe how this man makes me feel (he’s my favorite character though. Lmao. #guilty)

I’ll let Williams take it:

The rest [of society] may have some tendency to admire him, or those may who are at such a distance that he does not tread directly on their interests and affections. He should not be too encouraged by this, however, since it is probably a wish-fulfillment (which does not mean that they would be like him if they could, since a wish is different from a frustrated desire). Nor will they admire him, still less like him, if he is not recognizably human.

#NailedIt

I would not call it admiration as much as respect and fear. I wouldn’t want to cross him or piss him off.

Is 50 Cent’s character, Kanan, recognizably human? One of the most infamous scenes in the series (Spoiler Alert!) is when Kanan kills his son for a reason I still haven’t fully fathomed.

Does he care for anybody? Is there anybody whose sufferings or distress would affect him? If we say ‘no’ to this, it looks as though we have produced a psychopath…

The fact that Ghost asked about his daughter’s shoes changes the nature of the game and this is just the one incidence that I could find. Throughout the show, Ghost is concerned with people around him including his family. He behavior is narcissistic and he could be perceived as a parasite to the moral system but it is a system he subscribes to nonetheless.

Kanan just straight up ices his son, Shawn, in cold blood. And then pushes on with the plan.

I wasn’t reaaadddyyy. Lmao.

Notice in that last Williams’ quote he said we may have PRODUCED a psychopath. Can society and the pressures of life in certain environments create psychopaths and amoralists?!

A deeper question is whether or not our current systems (schools, prisons, healthcare, etc.)  are designed to develop moral human beings that will be good additions to society? Williams’ entire philosophy is that people relying on morality in some sense can be reformed with hope and the right motivations.

The flip side is if we remove hope what do we make of the moral human being?

Are criminal behavior and participation in the black market (drug distribution) always manifestations of immorality or amorality? Part 2 is going to break down the economics of the black market in relation to Power and the black community.

As we look around our country and the world at the people in powerful positions maybe we could benefit from revisiting philosophical debate on topics like morality and its place in our culture!

You know why we’re doing this.

#LetsBuild #LetsLearn #LetsGrow

Love,

Mari X

 

 

 

Some sources in no order, along with embedded links, details on request:

The Challenge of Cultural Relativism by James Rachel

Morality an Introduction to Ethics by Bernard Williams

Why Do Parents Kill Their Kids? by Beth Greenfield

How New York Gang Culture is Changing by Seth Ferranti

ending image of Quinoa, the toddler model!

This formatting is used for Williams’ quotes throughout the post.

The Founders: It’s Lonely at the Top

That lonely feeling of being chosen and the individual nature of God and spirituality for black people are also on display in Douglass’ reminiscence about the Chesapeake Bay: “I have often, in the deep stillness of a summer’s Sabbath, stood all alone upon the lofty banks of that noble bay… With no audience but the Almighty, I would pour out my soul’s complaint, in my rude way…” (Douglass 82). In addition to sharing Stewart’s lonesome relationship with God, Douglass questions whether or not the Divine does intercede on his behalf, namely when he was sent to Sophia Auld in Baltimore when still a young boy. Both writers wrestle with enlightening their peers while still feeling alone in a Biblical sense. To be chosen by God to have a purpose among your people is not a light task to carry.

              Both Maria Stewart and Fredrick Douglass contend with religion in many different contexts. They both utilize it as a lens to see the world and a way to justify its realities.  Stewart’s gender and delivery were not well received in her hometown of Boston and she leaves the town and the methods but not the cause. She travels to New York, Baltimore, and D.C. setting up schools, teaching, and serving the black community. Unfortunately, her speeches and essays mark the height and end of her short-lived public life. The further south she traveled, the more her actions replaced her fiery speeches and essays. On the other hand, Douglass’ escape from slavery is just the beginning of his long and illustrious public life. As he travels North some of his ideologies cross paths with hers and merge, whether they are aware or not. He plainly answers Stewart’s call to black men by becoming known as one of the forefathers of the Civil Rights’ Movement. He agitates endlessly for the humanization, education, and acceptance of black people into American society. He goes on to promote abolition internationally as a brilliant orator. In the same spirit of Stewart, Douglass realizes that removing the physical bond of slavery will not remove the underlying racism, ignorance, and prejudice that justified it. To this end he writes voluminously and agitates widely for citizenship rights, self-help and racial pride, along with economic development. In the opening quote of this essay, Stewart asks if any of Africa’s sons have souls and ambitious desires; Douglass’ life is a resounding yes. The similarities between these two figures and their messages allows for an intriguing juxtaposition of the role religion played in their perception of the black community and its place in America and religion’s role in the way that they view themselves.

The Founders: The Cost of Freedom Continued

Douglass’ narrative appears to confirm this belief. He gives considerable time to discussing the harsh and violent realities of being human property. However, his happiest moments before he is free are on the plantation teaching his fellow to slaves to read. He describes with joy a group of slaves that risked thirty nine lashes because “they wished to learn. Their minds had been starved from their cruel masters. They had been shut up in the mental darkness. I taught them because it was the light of my soul to be doing something that looked like bettering the condition of my race” (93). This places an overwhelming amount of importance on literacy and its meaning to black people in free and slave America. It is fair to say that because both authors possessed the ability to read, it shaped the way they viewed their own personal relationships with God.

              Stewart’s fiery speeches, essays, and prayers are radical because they encourage black people to rely on the word of God quite literally. They are reflection of her own personal, radical and revolutionary experience with Him. Following the deaths of her husband and her mentor, Stewart appears to turn heavily to God for understanding. She comes to the conclusion that

“many will suffer for pleading the cause of oppressed Africa, and I shall glory in being one of her martyrs; for I am firmly persuaded, that the God in whom I trust is able to protect me from the rage and malice of mine enemies, and from them that will rise up against me; and if there is no other way for me to escape, He is able to take me Himself, as He did the most noble, fearless, and undaunted David Walker” (30).

Stewart believes that she has been chosen along with other women in history to bring reason to the insanity. She points out other women, like Joan of Arc and Mary, play significant roles in biblical stories. Her individual relationship with God appears uncompromising. In return, she is uncompromising about the role black people will have to play in black liberation. For some reason, maybe because of the deaths of so many of her loved ones, Stewart feels that she is specially connected to God. Although her explanations do not appease the black clergy in Boston and they eventually force her out of the city; they do provide insight into what motivated Stewart to stand up and stand out in such a radical way for the time period. The attention she gave to addressing black women stands in stark contrast to Douglass’ narrative. It adds to the progressiveness of her political theories. Douglass’ story focuses on his journey to freedom and the only black women mentioned are in relation to him, and not to their individual rights and freedoms.  Despite Stewart’s focus on inclusivity in her criticism, as she says in her farewell speech to the city

“I have neither kindred nor friends. I stand alone in your midst, exposed to the fiery darts of the devil, and to the assaults of wicked men. But though all the powers of the earth and hell were to combine against me, though all nature should sink into decay, still I would trust in the Lord, and joy in the God of my salvation” (41).

The Founders: The Cost of Freedom

The quasi-free status many northern black men and women faced meant that they could not enjoy the full privileges of being a citizen in America. These privileges include (but are not limited to) access to public spaces like parks and schools, judicial protections and property law, and the right to gather without white sponsorship. There was little distinction amongst northern and southern attitudes about race and black people. The distinction was in the methods utilized to control and disenfranchise black people. Laws called Black Codes passed northern state legislatures that restricted black access to larger society and perpetuated stereotypes of white supremacy. However, the north was not economically dependent on slavery. Additionally, ideas from the French Revolution and Christianity made it difficult to reconcile the need to own human property. Women like Stewart and men like Douglass challenged the notion that you could not have black people survive outside of the institution of slavery. All of these factors played into the growth of the abolitionist movement and gave both authors context in which to frame their arguments. Stewart highlights this in an essay she penned that was published in William Lloyd Garrison’s newspaper The Liberator in 1831:

“Are not their wives, their sons, and their daughters, as dear to them as those of the white man’s? Certainly God has not deprived them of the divine influences of his Holy Spirit, which is the greatest of all blessings, if they ask him. Then why should man any longer deprive his fellow-man of equal rights and privileges? Oh, the cloud that hangs over thee. Thou art almost become drunken with the blood of her slain; thou hast enriched thyself through her toils and labors; and now thou refuseth to make even a small return. And thou hast caused the daughters of Africa to commit whoredoms and fornications; but upon thee be their curse… you may have publish, as far as the east is from the West, that you have two millions of negroes, who aspire no higher than to bow at your feet and to court your smiles. You may kill, tyrannize, and oppress as much as you choose, until our cry shall come up before the throne of God…”

Stewart makes it obvious that she has researched and studied the Bible and other texts to make her arguments. She speaks about America’s hypocrisy in foreign policy and the refusal to acknowledge Haiti as a free country. She is already beginning to draw the lines of African diaspora. Additionally, she points out that the black men and women that have grown indifferent to God have done so because of a lack of knowledge. She pushes even further encouraging black women “God will require strict account of you… You must create young minds thirsty for knowledge and purity” (35). Her insistence that black people participate actively in their salvation is balanced with her knowledge that black people are not at fault for their current circumstances. She acknowledges the need to free both the mind and the body of black people:

“Tell us no more of southern slavery; for with for with few exceptions, although I may be very erroneous in my opinion, yet I consider our condition but little better than that. Yet, after all, methinks there are no chains so galling as those that bind the soul, and exclude it from the vast field of useful and scientific knowledge” (45).

DuBois, 2 Chainz, & the ATL

W.E.B. DuBois is one of my FAVORITE people to read. He can be tricky but once you understand his meaning it is so poignant.

DuBois worked as a professor at Atlanta University and wrote an essay called Of the Wings of Atalanta about the ATL and the industrial age after the Civil War (Learn more about his years in Georgia here):

“.. they of Atlanta turned resolutely toward the future; and that future held aloft vistas of purple and gold: — Atlanta, Queen of the cotton kingdom; Atlanta, Gateway to the Land of the Sun; Atlanta, the new Lachesis, spinner of web and woof for the world. So the city crowned her hundred hills with factories, and stored her shops with cunning handiwork, and stretched long iron ways to greet the busy Mercury in his coming. And the Nation talked of her striving.”

Translation: In the early 1900s Atlanta is looking to catch up with the cities in the North. The future held visions of purple & gold: Fame & money. So Atlanta began to shift from it’s roll as a train depot for the cotton industry and to spin its own new destiny by building factories, encouraging entrepreneurship, and building highways. The Nation took note but DuBois recognized that this industrial progress might be at the expensive of the deeper values of education. (To read the essay click here).

The Story of Free-Spirited Atalanta:

Throughout the essay DuBois relates Atlanta, Georgia to the stories of Atalanta in Greek mythology.

Atalanta was a badass that was raised by bears & hunters until she was old enough to travel and participate in the King’s hunt. She was a spectacle and one of the strongest hunters and soon became famous. Legend has it that all the men in Greece wanted to marry her, including the King, but she refused. When the men would not leave her alone she decided to hold an athletic event for her hand in marriage.

Major Key: If Atalanta beat all of her suitors, they would all be put to death, leaving her in eternal peace.

Me sipping tea at the Major Key.

Of course there had to be a man that just COULD NOT take his butt whooping and consequent death without cheating.

Enter Meilanion. Of course, he is a super average dude, doing average dude things but he feels that he should be entitled to Atalanta’s hand in marriage. So he devises a scheme.

Meilanion brings three golden apples to the race. These apples were flashy and spectacular, nothing like what Atalanta had ever seen in her life growing up as a huntress. When Atalanta starts to pull ahead in the race, Meilanion throws out the apples to distract her.

He ends up beating her and she becomes his wife. They move far away and live happily together for years and years.

DuBois is relating Atlanta to Atalanta partially because of her name (DuBois is a poet) but also because of her potential. She had to compromise herself and her goals in pursuit of these golden apples.

In this reflection, regardless of whether Atalanta is happy, she has sacrificed her goal (to win the race) in exchange for flashy distractions and a trickster.

DuBois is warning the city of Atlanta and its people not to get to caught up in the flashy improvements that buildings and factories were bringing. He is drawing attention to the materialism that is overtaking the New South as it rapidly left behind its humble agricultural origins.

The equivalent of golden apples today can best be described by Atlanta artist 2 Chainz (yes, two gold chains ironically):

“They ask me what I do and who I do it for
And how I come up with this shit up in the studio
All I want for my birthday is a big booty ho
All I want for my birthday is a big booty ho
When I die, bury me inside that Gucci store
When I die, bury me inside that Louis store
All I want for my birthday is a big booty ho
All I want for my birthday is a big booty ho”**

2 Chainz was born Tauheed Epps in College Park, GA (he has a very well referenced Wikipedia page and personal website). He dropped his debut album featuring “Birthday Song” in August 2012.

I love the song when I’m in the right mood. It is a pertinent parallel between  reality and materialism in America today. The strive for economic freedom in defiance of systemic challenges is simply articulated: Bury me in the Gucci store because I can afford it.

When DuBois penned his essay Of the Wings of Atalanta the majority of the black population in and around Atlanta was still living or trying to escape abject poverty brought on by agricultural dependence.

DuBois reflecting on the impending birth of 2 Chainz.

114 years later, a young black man from College Park (less than 10 miles from DuBois’ former Atlanta University office) is asserting his individual economic freedom to a catchy baseline that many of us can bounce our heads to.

2 Chainz glorifying the golden apple.

But DuBois’ guidance is ever more pertinent as we collect our individual golden apples (or chains, whichever you prefer).

What if the Negro people be wooed from a strife of righteousness, from a love of knowing, to regard dollars as the be-all and end-all of life?

Photos around Vine City in Atlanta. Click for details.

 

“Atlanta must not lead the South to dream of material prosperity as the touchstone of all success; already the fatal might of this idea is beginning to spread;  it is replacing the finer type of Southerner with vulgar money-getters; it is burying the sweeter beauties of Southern life beneath pretence and ostentation.”

The new Falcons stadium could be what DuBois meant by ostentation. I’m not sure… But maybe. Click for details. #GoFalcons

“For every social ill the panacea of Wealth has been urged, — wealth to overthrow the remains of the slave feudalism [sharecropping]; wealth to raise the [poor white people]; wealth to employ the black [poor], and the prospect of wealth to keep them working; wealth as the end and aim of politics, and as the legal tender for law and order; and finally, instead of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness, wealth as the ideal of the Public School.

Not only is this true in the world Atlanta typifies, but it is threatening to be true in the world beneath and beyond that world,– the Black World beyond the Veil. Today it makes little difference to Atlanta, to the South, what the Negro thinks or dreams or wills… yet when he does come to think and will and do for himself,– and let no man dream that day will never come,– then the part he plays will not be one of sudden learning, but words and thoughts he has been taught to lisp in his race-childhood.”

 


Get to the money, money make the world go round.

Get to the money, turn your world upside down.

Now that we are getting to the money, maybe we have time to pause and think about DuBois’ legacy & insight. We can all bounce and enjoy the rhythm and the beat. But do not get too distracted by shining gold chains. (Although if you did you wouldn’t be in bad company. Lol. #Atalanta)

We have goals to achieve.

For our children and for each other. Peace Up.

Lil Jon

—Mari X—

**Please read more about the misogyny and objectification of women in the lyrics of 2 Chainz “Birthday Song” written within a year of the song’s release and about the activists involved with this critique.

References:

The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. DuBois

Based on a T.R.U Story by 2Chainz

Some pictures are linked to sources and information.

Black Proportion of Poverty, 2016. Click for details.

Update: This song was suggested to me by a reader named Jess Colossal representing Philly! Joey

Sometimes I speak and I feel like it ain’t my words
Like I’m just a vessel channeling inside this universe
I feel my ancestors unrested inside of me
It’s like they want me to shoot my chance in changing society
But how do I go about it? Tell me where I start?
My destiny rerouted when I chose to follow heart
You told to follow suit, but tell me what it do for you?
Except weigh you down, now you trapped inside the cubicle they built for us
The first step into change is to take notice
Realize the real games that they tried to show us
300 plus years of them cold shoulders
Yet 300 million of us still got no focus
Sorry America, but I will not be your soldier
Obama just wasn’t enough, I just need some more closure
And Donald Trump is not equipped to take this country over
Let’s face facts ’cause we know what’s the real motives
Joey Bada$$– Land of the Freee

 

 

 

MLK Jr & Discussing Protest

“If one hundred thousand Negroes march in a major city to a strategic location, they will make municipal operations difficult to conduct; they will exceed the capacity of even the most reckless local government to use force against them; and they will repeat this action daily if necessary. Without harming persons or property they can draw as much attention to their grievances as the outbreak at Watts, and they will have asserted their unwavering determination while retaining dignity and discipline.”

Martin Luther King Jr.– Where Do We Go From Here?

In 2017 in America protesters are becoming increasing criminalized. Lawmakers in ten states across the country are introducing anti-protest bills.

Below I have a video of a small rally/protest in Arizona, I have linked footage to some disturbing videos of protesters being hit by cars, and pictures of protests in the 1960s along with Martin Luther King Jr’s guidance on protest and it’s purpose.

Fox News Phoenix reported this story locally and it was shared on my newsfeed by a friend of mine along with all of the comments her friend shared about the video (#thenatureofsocialmedia):

    Vid 1: Protestors blocking traffic in directly off of a highway in Arizona.

“If one hundred thousand Negroes march in a major city to a strategic location, they will make municipal operations difficult to conduct; they will exceed the capacity of even the most reckless local government to use force against them; and they will repeat this action daily if necessary. Without harming persons or property they can draw as much attention to their grievances as the outbreak at Watts, and they will have asserted their unwavering determination while retaining dignity and discipline.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

Anti-Vietnam War Protest in Oakland in 1961
In reference to Vid 1. Comments written underneath a post about protesters blocking the road in Arizona.

A: All I know, is if I was in an emergency… I’d flatten the lot of them. Like little kittens under my tires.

C: I’d do it if I were going fishing or hunting or breathing.

J: Just wouldn’t stop. Seriously I don’t give a shit I’d idle if they continue to stand in front of me well I have a truck I might feel a little something lol

Construction workers clash with police during a pro-Vietnam War demonstration, New York, 1970.
In reference to Vid 1

There are some obvious differences in the way we are talking about protest now versus the way historical figures and populations dealt with protest. That’s cool. What we need is a more educated context to discuss these issues! The number of protesters in the Arizona video as a reason for an illegitimate protest was never brought up by Fox News nor any of the people on my timeline.

Why can’t we become more educated on the best way to conduct small scale rallies and protests?!

The fact that people ADVOCATE FOR HITTING OTHER PEOPLE IN THE ROAD when it inconveniences them… I try not to hit animals in the road if I can help it. These people took the time out of their days and their lives to protest some cause. Until they are moved, sit patiently and research what they are protesting.

If you have an emergency then pull up and TELL THEM.  I bet the line would open for you in a hurry if you are polite. If you cannot get to the front in your car then leave your car in idle and walk up there. I really don’t know what the solution is to us being individually inconvenienced as a result of a protest.

HOWEVER, I know that this country would not be the country it is without peaceful protest in some form. Maybe we should devote some time to teaching our children how to be politically active and responsible.

FOX NEWS could also include information about protesting as a civic responsibility. Donald Trump’s rallies were municipal nightmares too. The issue with Facebook being the most popular site for displaying media in a social forum is that most news sources and stories appear divisive and without critically analyzing the various perspectives, users come up with assertions like these:

Z: I bet these people are trump haters because they’re on welfare and they feel the bern and think they’re entitled to all things good. They probably got all their snacks and stuff from Walmart with a EBT card because their too lazy to work for it.

Scientists protesting in Boston, 2017
Veterans protesting Trump, 2016
Veterans protesting homelessness, 1930

Political Activity & Respecting Civic Action should be taught as young as elementary. The comments here are mild versions of threads that are common on these posts. It’s clear that we are not educating people to critically read these scenarios with duty, love and respect. And the media certainly does not seem bothered to try and decipher it for us.

Let’s think on that.

Mari X

“I found myself remembering the day in kindergarten when the teachers showed us Dumbo: a Disney movie about a puny, weird-looking elephant that everyone made fun of. As the story unfolded, I realized to my amazement that all the kids in the class, even the bullies, the ones who despised and tormented the weak and the ugly, were rooting against Dumbo’s tormentors. Over and over they laughed and cheered, both when Dumbo succeeded and when bad things happened to the bullies. But they’re you, I thought to myself. How did they not know? They didn’t know. It was astounding, an astounding truth. Everyone thought they were Dumbo.”

Elif Batuman, “The Idiot”

 

History, Facebook, & Digital Media: A Beginning

I am going to use very few of my own words to display why historical perspective is sorely lacking from the American psyche.

Instead I am going to analyze digital media and comments made about that media on Facebook.

Utilizing the words of a variety of Black thinkers, I hope to demonstrate that there is a dire need for a thorough decolonization of American education. By introducing diversity in the study of our social interactions, we can bring to light the inhumanity in our public conscious and begin teaching our children to move in a truly moral way.

I will also be writing a brief rhetorical analysis of each piece of digital media that elicits these responses from commenters including but not limited to: Fox, BET, CNN, TVone.

Let’s lay back, relax, and see what we can uncover about the nature of America through the people (or computer algorithms) that comment on social media posts.

 

        —- Mari X —-

 

If your interested:

Here are some demographics on social media users from the Pew Institute & Advertising Age.  According to Pew, 86% of Americans are currently internet users.

Facebook remains the most popular social media site. It uses a variety of digital media created by users, companies, and the media and allows for open discussion about that media. Therefore, FB will be a key part of this analysis series.

 

The Founders: On Literacy & Liberation

The most iconic scene in the Narrative is Douglass’ description of the boats off of the Chesapeake Bay: “O, why was I born a man, of whom to make a brute! The glad ship is gone; she hides in the dim distance. I am left in the hottest hell of ending slavery. O God, save me! God, deliver me! Let me be free! Is there any God?” (Douglass 82). The idea that God is an entity responsible for justice plagues both Douglass and Stewart partially because of American chattel slavery. If God is charged with justice, then why are black people in this wretched condition yet white people live peaceably and fruitfully? Although Douglass does not provide answers to these rhetorical questions, the fact that he is also alluding to them leads to the belief that many black people grappled with this contradictory concept. Do we deserve to be enslaved? And who should take the blame? It does not appear that either author has an answer to this but Stewart attempts to address the issue more than Douglass. According to her interpretations:

“Many powerful sons and daughters of Africa will shortly arise, who will put down vice and immorality among us, and declare by Him that sitteth upon the throne that they will have their rights; and if refused I am afraid they will spread horror and devastation around. I believe that the oppression of injured Africa has come up before the majesty of Heaven; and when our cries shall have reached the easier of the Most High, it will be a tremendous day for people of this land; for strong is the hand of the Lord God Almighty.” (Stewart 63)

The biggest key to this statement for Stewart is that black people must put down sin and vice so that they may adequately be heard by the Lord. In contrast, Douglass appears to find more reason for disbelief in God because of the cruelty he has seen expended in His name. Either way, both authors are able to make these personal assessments of God, religion, and freedom partially because of their intimate and holy connection with literacy and their exposure to abolition.

The Founders: Douglass is the Mofo Answer

Stewart’s birth as a free woman in the North shares some similarities with Douglass’ enslaved birth in rural Maryland. Mainly that both are orphaned at very young ages. Both authors are also literate. While Douglass is taught the basics or reading by an unaware Sophia Auld with the Book of Job; Stewart most likely learned in Sabbath School or from the clergyman’s family she works for throughout childhood. Her removal from the system of chattel slavery is apparent. Stewart appears to be shaped by her limited perceptions of the depth of cruelty facing black men:

I would ask, is it blindness of mind, or stupidity of soul, or the want of education that has caused our men who are 60 or 70 years of age, never to let their voices be heard, nor their hands be raised in behalf of their color? Or has it been for the fear of offending the whites? If it has, O ye fearful ones, throw off your fearfulness, and come forth in the name of the Lord, and in the strength of the God of justice, and make yourselves useful and active members in society; for they admire a noble and patriotic spirit in others; and should they not admire it in us? If you are men, convince them that you possess the spirit of men; and as your day, so shall your strength be. Have the sons of Africa no souls? Feel they no ambitious desires? Shall the chains of ignorance forever confine them? Shall the insipid appellation of ‘clever negroes’ or ‘good creatures,’ any longer content them? Where can we find among ourselves the man of science, or a philosopher, or able statesman, or a counsellor at law? Show me our fearless and brave, noble and gallant ones. (Stewart 57).

 

Although Stewart may be addressing the free populations of Boston, it is hard to reconcile a statement this vociferous with Douglass’ matter-of-fact telling of the cruelties that he met in Baltimore. Four white apprentices at the shipyard beat him up and shouted obscenities as he attempted to fulfill his master’s orders (Douglass 101-2). Conceivably, free black men faced the same competition and dangers on the labor market. Thus it would be wholly sensible that these men feared for their lives and safety. Stewart’s attempt to literally invoke the word of God on every black man appears to lack some perspective and concept of their individual struggles. She even goes so far as to suggest that if every black man in the United States had signed a petition to Congress to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia then the they would already be working towards receiving their rights and privileges. Given the brutal nature of race-based enslavement and its importance to America, this is highly unlikely. Yet, to Stewart it seems just based on her religious understanding. The most interesting portion of the long passage from the Masonic Temple is Stewart’s reference to a ‘God of justice’ that both authors write and speak about.