Sotomayor Rocks

Enough with the hate already. Sonia Sotomayor is clearly qualified and is one of the most interesting Supreme Court Nominees in history. The Bronx. Princeton. Yale. Married. Divorced. Appointed by H.W. Bush. Promoted by Bill Clinton. Nominated to be the H.L.I.C. by the H.B.I.C. English. Spanish. Nuyorican. Boricua. What? I cannot wait to see what this phenomenal woman does on the court.

Since the Honorable Sotomayor does not fit into the stereotypical category of “Hot Latina,” some folks cannot figure out what to do with her. So, they go for the old tried and true tactic – latch on to another stereotype. She’s overly emotional. She is so passionate that she cannot possibly make logical decisions on the bench. What?

I don’t believe that this test has ever been applied to male judges. I guess when the Honorable Clarence Thomas proclaimed that his hearing was a “high tech lynching,” he was not being emotional. As political commentator Mary C. Curtis asks, “Don’t Male Judges Have Feelings?” I guess noone has ever paid attention to Supreme Court Justice Scalia.

At any rate, when that tactic fails, we begin peeling away at her record. The GOP railed against her recent ruling to throw out the results of a firefighter promotion exam because almost no minorities qualified for promotions. The Supreme Court heard the case in April 2009 and a final opinion is pending.

The media was all over this “case” but failed to mention the tiny detail about why the test was thrown out.  It was tossed because it was determined that the minorities failed the questions that WERE NOT related to firefighting. Yes, a test for the promotion of firefighters had enough irrelevant questions (questions not related to firefighting) on it to cause someone who had no knowledge of the subject matter to fail a promotion. It is simple social science and I would argue discrimination against minorities — not reverse discrimination against the folks who can study for the firefighters section of the exam and have other questions that are specific to their cultural group.

I’m not a lawyer or a judge — just a critical thinker, with a social science degree.

So, when bringing up that issue didn’t work, they (The GOP) tried to call her a “racist” for a joke made at a panel discussion. Really? The same people that refuse to label Rush Limbaugh a racist paint her as such based on one comment in a closed environment. Okay. And when that doesn’t work, she isn’t qualified. She has more experience than Clarence Thomas had when he took the bench, and a lot less controversy, so I’m going to put my money on her.  Acknowledging your racial and cultural background is something that I like in a potential Supreme Court justice.

Regardless of what the haters will do and say, this appointment is moving full steam ahead. With the number of Latinos/Hispanics in this country, it is about time that there is a Latina on the bench. Hopefully, nothing will come about to derail this truly momentous occasion.

I am sure that this dynamic woman will re-write the rules of the bench and hopefully allow people to re-imagine Latina woman outside of the stereotypical boxes in which they often reside.  Sonia Sotomayor is  turning national politics on its head and that truly is making it “hot!” Judge Sotomayor’s life story and future on the bench is American history in the making and I love it!

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What’s Really Going On? Jesse, John and now Dick Parsons Self-Destruct

What’s really going on? Is there something in the water that is making extremely powerful men engage in extremely self-destructive behavior? First Jesse, then John (allegedly) and now Richard Parsons. Making babies with the jump-off? I know many of you are thinking that this sort of thing has been happening forever. Yes, it has.  But, in contemporary times, “Baby Daddy” has been a category reserved for the poor, uneducated or irresponsible —  men who weren’t quite capable of committing to anything or anyone other than frivolous sex.

Now, we are ushering in Baby Daddy 2.0, where CEOs and politicians are joining the ranks of professional athletes and celebrities. Unprotected sex with the chick-on-the-side. What? At least they used to have the decency to have a “real” mid-life crisis and dump their wives first. Now, they just do whatever, with whomever, whenever. Maxwell said it best, “Whenever, wherever, whatever, baaabyyyyy.”

The “Dick Parsons” of the world are supposed to be “above” that type of risky behavior, building successful careers, marrying dynamic women and having families of their own. In addition, they are admired and able to lead because of their ability to make good and sound decisions in a myriad of spaces, which is why Parsons can head Time-Warner and then Citigroup. They are often held up as the “model” husband and father that men should emulate. Why in the world is there a steady stream of men that have “made it,” not only having mistresses, but impregnating them, particularly at this life stage and stage of the game, respectively?

Perhaps I am naive? I actually expect people who have “made it” and who are role models to conduct themselves as such. What makes them any different from Pookie and Ray Ray who have made children “out-of-wedlock?” I know. These men are actually married, which actually makes it worse. They have not only publicly humiliated themselves, but also their families. They are so smart, but not smart enough to wrap it up when cheating on their wives with a person much younger than they?

The Reverend,  US Presidential candidate and possible Presidential Cabinet member are out raw dogging it with the “mistress?” All of these men were old enough to have had vasectomies if indeed they wanted to minimize the risk of pregnancy, amongst other things (HIV, AIDS, Syphillis, Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, insert STD here). I thought about mentioning Mel Gibson, but since he’s certifiably crazy and hell-bent on self-destruction, we’ll leave him alone for now. Why do the others risk it all and at this age?

Yes, people are human and make mistakes, but the idea is that you get wiser as you get older.  I guess that’s not true either.  The saddest part of it all is that these men already have families with multiple children and they are the ones who will suffer the most.  I keep hearing that “a man is going to be a man.” If that is the case, get a vasectomy and spare your family the embarrassment. Perhaps it is this kind of thinking that allows us to set and maintain low standards in our relationships, such that men (and women) will continue publicly humiliating themselves and others in perpetuity.

*contributed to by Cindy Barnes-Thomas.

Wanda Sykes Got it Right and Christopher Hitchens Got it Wrong

Christopher Hitchens, the notoriously hard-drinking, chain-smoking British Vanity Fair contributor, is under fire. This comes as no surprise to anyone who has followed his career, marked by altercations (physical and verbal, domestic and international), controversial books (God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything), and run-ins with academics, celebrities and the like. Is it any wonder that he made the following comments about comedienne Wanda Sykes who recently garnered her own controversy for telling what some would call “inappropriate” jokes at the White House: “The president should be squirming in his seat. Not smiling,” Hitchens said, according to the Huffington Post. “The black dyke got it wrong. No one told her the rules.” (Initially, Rush Limbaugh had been erroneously linked to the comments, when in fact it was this schmuck Hitchens who made the remark.)

My question to Hitchens and all of the other people dogging Wanda Sykes, including President Obama, is: “Have you met her?”

Had they not seen any of her comedy routines, appearances on talk shows or her short-lived sitcom, which was about the political landscape of Washington, D.C., her hometown? If they were looking for safe, clean and sanitized humor, then they should have invited someone else.

To invite someone to your house and then mistreat them is completely rude and unacceptable. It’s not like they invited Drew Carey and he started ragging on Rush Limbaugh or former Vice-President Cheney. That would be a shocker. To think that Wanda Sykes, who has built her comedic career on political comedy, was going to come in there and break out into a musical routine is asinine. I’m not even a huge fan, and I don’t think she’s particularly funny, but I know what to expect when I see her name on the billing.

President Obama and the White House are foul for being disingenuous with the invite. Don’t try to act like you’re down and cool enough to invite a fireplug like Wanda Sykes to the White House and then try to “distance” yourself from her when she goes where she always goes — anywhere she damn well pleases.

Which leads me back to Mr. Hitchens, the jerk trying to hide behind what he calls British wit. There is such a thing, but calling a woman a “black dyke” is not it. He acts like she talked about a disabled person. Clearly, Rush is a big boy and can handle himself, spewing venom like only he can — straight, no chaser. That’s why he makes the big bucks while Hitchens chases them by making racist and homophobic remarks for no apparent reason. At least Limbaugh actually believes what he is saying and stands behind his words, as crazy as they sometimes may be.

Hitchens on the other hand is a pansy, hiding behind being an “intellectual” that has been mistaken as a racist and a homophobe, which is exactly what Hitchens is in this instance. He could have actually called her by her name or suggested that she is a terrorist because she terrorized the audience. Anything but “black dyke,” neither of which has anything to do with anything. Because she’s black and gay, she got it wrong? No, it was because she was in a room full of stuffed shirts, who actually laughed a lot if you watch the video and then feigned offense later.

You may wonder why you haven’t heard anything from Sykes as of this printing. Well, she’s busy living her life with her wife and newborn twins. She’s perfectly capable of dishing it and taking it, just like Limbaugh.

The controversy over Sykes’ performance at the White House is ridiculous. She probably thought it was a safe space since she had been invited there and thought quite possibly they had seen her comedy, but I guess not. Sykes is a talent who has built a career on being the ultimate smartass about all things political, social and the like. The White House needs to grow a pair and lighten up.

Hitchens on the other hand, needs to go somewhere, sit down and shut up before he starts something else he cannot finish. Prime example: This is a man who was dumb enough to deface public property in Beirut, no less, and then was upset when he got his ass kicked by what he called “thugs.” The thugs, however, were actually police officers and members of the organization whose sign he defaced in front of their headquarters.

As my grandmother would say, “He’s got all of that book sense and no common sense.” Sort of like the folks at the fancy party and the pundits afterward, including my main man Keith Olbermann, who admonished Sykes. I just shook my head and thought, “These folks are lame.” Like a real comedian, Sykes performed as requested and will weather this fabricated storm. On the other hand, folks will make up excuses for Hitchens’ continuously bad behavior and attribute it to his being eccentric as opposed to being the obnoxious jerk that he truly is.

To Mr. Hitchens, you’re dead wrong and “the black dyke” actually got it right.

This article originally appeared on Creative Loafing.

Photos

Jamal Wollard and Nsenga Burton @ 935 in Charlotte at Okeatta Brown’s Birthday party. Photos by Mark Pendergrass — markpender1@yahoo.com or snap_photos@yahoo.com.

@ 935 in Charlotte

Jamal Wollard and Nsenga @ 935

The gorgeous birthday girl

The gorgeous birthday girl!

The girls @ 935

John, Nsenga, Carlton and Miranda @ 935
John, Nsenga, Carlton and Miranda @ 935

Plucking My Nerves: Oprah and KFC

It’s official: Oprah Winfrey is getting on my nerves.

Before you start drafting the hate mail, hear me out. I think she is fabulous, and I am extremely proud of her civic and professional accomplishments. She has made billions by taking what started out as a very average talk show and turning it into a phenomenon through hard work, determination and a clear focus. By increasing the quality and purpose of her show, she has been able to go where no talk show host has gone before — wherever she damn-well pleases. Her hand print is squarely on the media with a magazine, her own channel on satellite radio, a TV network and a studio.

It was cool watching her professional success correlate with her personal success on her meteoric path to becoming “The Queen of All Media.” As she became more of a “whole” person (her words, not mine), so did her show, transforming and growing with her.

Having said that, I think Oprah is on that stuff.

The constant bellowing during every show (MAD TV‘s Debra Wilson does a great impression), giving platforms to OctoMom and the pregnant man/woman and now partnering with KFC to give away free grilled chicken. Really.

I think the KFC campaign was the final straw for me. When I read about that, I almost fainted. I could not believe that Oprah, who is obviously one of the most well-read and intelligent folks in entertainment, agreed to such a partnership … and with KFC no less.

My first issue was the chicken. I was completely mortified. Why in the hell would she buy chicken, of all things? That is a stereotype that black folks have been fighting forever. While I don’t think you should be held hostage by stereotypes, I do think you should be mindful of reinforcing them, especially when you don’t have to do it. She is Lady O.

I mean really — sitting on national television, chowing down with Gayle? Just make the commercial and call it. Don’t try to couch what is clearly an endorsement of KFC by pretending to help feed Americans healthy food during a recession. That can be accomplished in a number of ways. Partnering with a company that has helped clog more arteries than contribute to world health over the decades smacks of being inauthentic, which leads me to my next issue — Kentucky Fried Chicken. According to U.S. News and World Report, KFC sources its chicken from Tyson, which uses concentrated animal feeding operations — dark and tightly-packed coops where the chickens are often unable to stand up or move.

Depending on how big of a fan you are, you may know that Oprah did a special last year on the hazards of factory farming. She also received the “Person of the Year” award from PETA, largely due to her work on behalf of animal rights. PETA has made no bones about KFC’s mistreatment of animals, launching a public relations assault, titled Kentucky Fried Cruelty, on them a few years ago.

PETA alleged that KFC suppliers crammed birds into huge waste-filled factories, bred and drugged them to grow so large that they couldn’t even walk, and often broke their wings and legs. At slaughter, the birds’ throats were slit and then they were dropped into tanks of scalding-hot water — often while still conscious. Pamela Anderson, Sir Paul McCartney, the Dalai Lama and Rev. Al Sharpton got in on the campaign, vowing not to eat KFC until they agreed to change their treatment of animals.

In 2003, PETA sued KFC and parent company Yum! Brands, accusing them of “lying to the public about their animal welfare policies.” KFC initially refuted the claims, but eventually agreed to allow PETA to “approve” the language used in how they treat animals. PETA called it a victory, but some activists disagreed because it did not change the way that the animals were treated. Oprah’s partnership with KFC is highly problematic for that reason alone.

Oprah has been instrumental in promoting animal rights. Of all companies, why partner with KFC? And of all foods, why chicken? Why not fresh produce from American farmers? Don’t worry, it has not been lost on me that many people may not have had a meal were it not for this campaign. I get that, and it is noble — but at what cost?

With this campaign, Oprah reinforces stereotypes about black folks and our love affair with chicken. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out Dave Chappelle’s classic comedy routine about chicken on YouTube.

While no one is perfect, this whole campaign stinks to high heaven. Which leads me back to my original point — Lady O is “plucking” my nerves, pun intended. Stop trying to be everything to everybody. It’s impossible, and there’s no real reason for it. You rock. Period. Just be fabulous and don’t get roped into some foolishness, like this KFC campaign. This partnership was self-serving, hypocritical and makes me wonder: “What in the world was she thinking?”

This article originally appeared in Creative Loafing.

Earth to the White House: Have You Met Wanda Sykes?

Okay. The hoopla surrounding Wanda Sykes’ performance at the White House Correspondent’s dinner is a bit much.  I cannot believe they are trying to distance themselves from her comments about Rush Limbaugh. This is a man that says whatever he is thinking, whenever he is thinking it and he’s off limits at a White House function — the man who publicly wishes that President Obama will fail?  Wanda Sykes, being Wanda Sykes and all, takes the opportunity to poke fun at Limbaugh and Cheney and gets criticized for it?

She is a comedienne. Unlike others, she was not picking on someone younger or who is not perfectly capable of speaking up for himself. Trust me, Rush Limbaugh surely had a few choice words for Sykes. What were they? “The black dyke got it wrong. Nobody told her the rules,” Limbaugh allegedly said. It was later reported that Christopher Hitchens actually made the “black dyke” comment. Clearly, Rush is a big boy and can handle himself, spewing venom like only he can — straight, no chaser. He talks smack all day for millions and she makes a few jokes and gets slammed?

Wanda Sykes is a comedienne that has built a career on being the ultimate smartass about all things political, social and the like. The White House needs to grow a pair and lighten up. Keith Olbermann even cast stones at Sykes. For real? The man who took conservatives to task when no one else would, says she crossed the line. Okay, because that’s exactly what they said about him.

If the White House wanted “clean,” or sanitized, they should have invited another comedian. Sykes didn’t sneak in and crash the party. She was invited presumably because of her type of humor. To invite her and then distance themselves from her is disingenuous and pretty lame.

President Obama: Cutting Funding to HBCUs Just Isn’t Fair

President Barack Obama is under fire for cutting 85 million dollars in “extra” funding from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). According to the Associated Press, President Obama’s education budget included major spending increases, but didn’t include an extra $85 million that black institutions have received annually for the past two years because of a 2007 change to the student loan laws.

Folks are up-in-arms about this slap in the face to HBCUs, suggesting that President Barack Obama should support institutions whose funding has historically been poor in spite of recent high-profile cases of financial mismanagement (Texas Southern University, Morris Brown, Benedict College and Barber-Scotia), scandalous partnerships (Bishop Eddie Long’s “unauthorizedl” NCCU satellite campus operating in Atlanta) and low graduation rates (only 37% graduate within a 6-year academic period).

As someone who taught at an HBCU for 5 years, I understand the peculiar challenges facing HBCUs, which is why the funding is needed. Many of these schools have been operating on shoestring budgets for years and need all of the financial support that they can get.  HBCUs give many students that society has either thrown away or given up on an opportunity to pursue a higher education, which reflects the mission of most of these colleges and universities.  More academic preparatory resources are needed at some HBCUs.

Having said that, many HBCUs are poorly run and it is no longer a secret. Many were built on a church model because missionaries founded the schools.  Because of this, there is a top-down style of management in place, which is not necessarily, the best management model for academic environments, particularly in this day and age.  Consequently, you have a lot of power in the hands of few, so when bad decisions are made, they are far reaching.

As I have written before, HBCUs cannot continue to count on the government for funding. In December of last year, a Georgia State Senator suggested that an HBCU consider joining with a majority institution in order to streamline government costs. Black folks went berserk. We can’t keep asking the government for money, rebuffing attempts at lowering costs, and telling them to mind their business on top it. With endowments that pale in comparison to mainstream universities, HBCU administrators continue to be the highest paid administrators in the country.  Conventional wisdom would suggest that something has to change, and if it doesn’t, funding directly to the universities will decrease and eventually some HBCUs will be forced to merge with mainstream universities in order to survive or fold.

While people are all over President Obama’s case about this, as they should be, they need to look at the bigger picture.  While I do not pretend to be a conspiracy theorist, it is clear to me that there is a plan to drastically reduce the number of HBCUs, if not to eliminate them all together, that seems to be at work. Maybe some HBCUs, located within a 2 mi radius of each other, should consider merging and pooling their resources and power to fight against what is certainly coming?  Maybe we should spend less on show and more on substance? Imagine what could happen if all of the folks that attend Homecoming events, alumni/alumnae functions and sporting events (CIAA and MEAC) took 50% of what they would normally spend during the course of that weekend on entertainment and donated it to their respective institutions? HBCUs probably wouldn’t need this money – they might want it—but they would not necessarily need it because they would have it.

Which leads me squarely back to President Obama who insists on letting it be known that he is not checking for Black folks during his presidential tenure. A few weeks ago he gave “back pay” to Philippino WWII Veterans, which he should have done, in spite of adamantly stating that he would never support reparations for Blacks. Now, he’s cutting funding for HBCUs (and Native American tribal colleges/universities), while increasing funding for Latino Universities, which he should absolutely do – increase money for Latino institutions.  As I have stated before, I do not believe that Blacks should be made to pay because our President looks like us. It is shameful that a Republican president like Bush, recognized the economic need of HBCUs, while President Obama ignores it.  Bush’s interest may have had to do with the fact that some powerful HBCUs are run by staunch Republicans (Presidents and Board Members), but the fact is that the money was made available. Blacks should be treated equally and not made to suffer because of what it might look like to non-blacks.  Shame on President Obama for cutting funds to HBCUs and shame on Obama for continuing to make an example out of us, while allowing others to run amok.

One could argue that HBCUs should have planned ahead, which is true. While the government is giving out billions to rogue corporate CEOs and poorly run corporations and other ethnic institutions, the government could have floated $85 million to HBCUs (there are 101 of them), which collectively graduate the highest number of African-American students in the country.  It might take 6 years, but they’ll graduate (that’s another article).  Since I’m arguing for fairness, I should mention that Obama’s plan did increase the amount of Pell grants and the amount of money to students, overturning a Bush Administration decision that negatively impacted many students, particularly students of color. President Obama wants to give the money directly to the students, while President Bush gave the money directly to the institutions. There should be a happy medium somewhere in there.

Whatever happens, HBCUs need to wake up and smell the proverbial coffee. The writing is on the wall and HBCUs are under fire. If you cannot count on a Black president to look out for you, whom can you count on? Yourself. HBCUs and Black folks need to be proactive and strategically map out a plan to make sure that HBCUs are here to serve the needs of our community now and in the future.