There were those Italians who said their country was better when Mussolini was in charge, citing the timeliness of trains under his reign.
There were those Spaniards who said their country was better when Franco was in charge, citing the increased sexual openness after his demise.
And I’m sure there are those Iraqis who say their country was better when Saddam Hussein was in charge. They might have a point, from a day-to-day living point of view.
But those Americans who say this country was better when President George W. Bush was in charge?
They’re full of shit.
First, it’s only been 100 days since President Obama took office.
Second, I believe, but I’m not certain, that:
*President Obama has had more press conferences during his first 100 days then President Bush had during his last term;
*President Obama has taken more action to fight the recession than President Bush did.
*President Obama has done more to earn respect from foreign nations than did President Bush.
*President Obama has put the U.S. on higher moral ground in terms of foreign policy and international law than the moral morass we were in under the Bush administration. For those ignorant Americans who believe that American foreign policy means beating your opponents into submission and twisting the arms of your allies to get them to fight with you, just wait and see what happens when the U.S. is no longer the largest economic engine in the world and India and China start twisting our arms. No empire – whether it’s the Roman, British, Chinese, or Persian – stays on top forever. That’s just God’s way of shuffling the power deck, IMHO.
*President Obama actually wants to observe international law, not subvert it. By the way, Dick Cheney, I wouldn’t accept any packages or heavy envelopes from The Hague if I were you.
*President Obama has taken policy stances on or has stated his intention to take policy stances on issues of importance to everyday Americans – health care, education (I’m so digging the direct student loan program), the environment (no more silence on the mountaintop mining issue!), tax cuts for the middle class, the war on terrorism (It’s Afghanistan, stupid!), the credit card industry (die, Visa, die!), federal spending (going over the budget with a fine-toothed comb and finding savings, even if they are small in comparison to the deficit -- still waiting for that Republican budget!), international economic competitiveness (no more gas guzzling SUVs, GM – what’s good for GM isn’t necessarily good for American OR the environment), torture (waterboarding IS torture!) and more.
And what’s impressive is that I, an everyday citizen, can actually tell you what the President is working on. President Bush? If he was working at all, it was a mystery to me.
The stock market is slowly starting to edge up. The real estate market just might be bottoming out. And I actually know what my President is trying to do for my country. That alone is a stark improvement over the last eight years.
I’ll take President Obama’s first 100 days over President Bush’s eight years any day, hell yeah!
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
There were those Italians who said their country was better when Mussolini was in charge, citing the timeliness of trains under his reign.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
I would be lying if I said I didn't have doubts. But I never gave up hope. Never.
My prayers were answered in the form of a speed dater who will remain anonymous. When I explained to him the kind of event this was and the kind of women who would be attending, he embraced this event and brought not only his enthusiasm, but his friends: A whole posse of Baracks. They were well-read, well-mannered, well-groomed, and, I'll just say it -- Fine. I couldn't have dreamt up a better group of men if I had gotten them from Central Casting.
They were worthy of my Michelles. These women, many of whom were goaded into coming (like my niece, Single Parent Goddess), were jaded and, I don't think it's hyperbole to say, bitter. One, who shall remain anonymous, told me she had thrown in the towel on love and wouldn't participate after having RSVP'd. Instead, she worked as a hostess at the event and eventually joined in.
But you wouldn't have known these ladies were jaded by the way they dressed and carried themselves. These women were the epitome of grace, class, beauty, intelligence and style -- the kind of black women who aren't written about because they don't fit the mainstream media's idea of who we black women are. They truly were a room full of Michelles. As they streamed in, I was feeling the pressure -- I needed to deliver men worthy of them. But God heard my prayer and sent Baracks to me, or rather, to my Michelles.
All throughout planning this event, my mantra was, "If the women are comfortable, the men will be happy." I spared no expense paying attention to details that I knew women would notice and would put them at ease -- printed speed dating cards on linen card stock; starched and ironed white tablecloths (which I ironed and starched myself -- I highly recommend heavy starch for tablecloths), white chairs (courtesy of the 40 Acres Art Gallery next door); cherry-scented votive candles; and the one thing that seemed to make all the lady speed daters stop and take notice:
Every table had at least one or two vases of deep purple tulips.
As I imagined, the women were comfortable, and the men were happy. So happy, they oftentimes would overstay their three-minute dates and had the hostesses have to scoot them along.
The hostesses, members of the underground books Book Club, were happy to see the excitement in the air -- that intelligent, book-loving single African Americans (and people of other races, too) had found each other and were overflowing with enthusiasm to share their love of books with someone of the opposite sex. The hostesses beamed with pride at these singles with their bright eyes and beautiful smiles, chatting away.
At the end, every speed dater and all the hostesses (and the one host -- BMNB) gave his or her speed dating number or name and his or her favorite author or book. This list was wide and deep -- Robert Persig, Jane Austen, J. California Cooper, Sun Tzu, Toni Morrison, Stephen King --and folks oohed and ahhed at their fellow speed daters' choices. Many compiled a reading list of books suggested by their fellow speed daters and purchased books on the spot, some in preparation for and in hopes of a match with the speed dater who recommended the book they were purchasing.
My Michelles found their Baracks. And I couldn't be happier.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
You see, I’m organizing a free speed dating event at underground books, a local African-American-owned bookstore in Sacramento on Friday, April 24 at 7:00 pm. This is a speed dating event for single book lovers – and by “single” I mean not married, not legally separated, and not in a committed relationship. The event focuses conversation on books to make it easier to speed date – i.e., spend three minutes talking to every person of the opposite sex in at the event.
The problem is, I can’t get enough single black men to attend. I have white men attending and some black men, but not enough black men for all the black women who are attending and seeking black men -- black women who read Toni Morrison, Octavia Butler, Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, Paulo Coelho, J. California Cooper, Stephen King, Margaret Atwood, Jhumpa Lahiri, Ishmael Beah, Sue Monk Kidd, Beverly Jenkins, the list goes on . . . . .
I’m slated to have a room full of Michelles seeking their Baracks, and I’m having trouble delivering.
I have to admit – I was warned in advance. I was told by an African American fathers’ rights advocate that, right now, brothers ain’t feeling relationships (his words). Right now, they’re trying to hold on to their jobs, their houses, whatever. They don’t want drama. Right now, brothers are too busy just trying to hold on, period.
But when has that not been the case?
African American men have always had higher unemployment and underemployment rates than their white counterparts. They have always had less wealth, less education, less opportunity, and higher incarceration rates than their white counterparts. Holding on? That’s just part of being black. It’s what we do.
And we’ve never let it stop us from forming relationships, have we? Or maybe we have.
Oh, I’ve heard the excuses from brothers:
“I ain’t even gonna front – I don’t read.”
“I just want to come and check out the sistahs.”
“I don’t want to be in the minority at an event where women are the majority.”
“I know some brothers, but you wouldn’t want them to come.”
“I’m legally separated – why can’t I come? Why not let the women decide if they want to date a legally separated man?”
I sent or emailed letters and press releases to the local papers, KQED, V101.1 fm, the NAACP, the Urban League, black fraternities, the local black newspaper, all of the local television stations, almost every black church in Sacramento, and black student associations at the local colleges and graduate schools. I got so desperate that I started trolling personal ads looking for single black men who even appear to like reading. I joined singles websites and singles meetups in search of single black men who love books. I even talked about betting this blog on black men – that is, threatening to take down my blog if I didn’t get 30 single black men at this event. A close black male friend of mine advised me not to bet my blog on this – he knows how much I love blogging and he didn’t want me to be disappointed.
In other words, he, a black man, expected black men to disappoint me.
Are things really this bad between single black men and single black women? The reason I even organized this event is because a young black woman was telling me how difficult it was to find good, honest, smart, ambitious single black men at her college. Those black men who aren’t dating outside their race are playing the field, she told me. They know the numbers are skewed in their favor, and they take advantage.
And then there’s Craigslist, which, I admit, I trolled in search of single black men who read. Long before the Craigslist murderer, I was shocked and appalled not only at what men of all races are seeking from female strangers – some just straight up said they were looking for free sex (NOTE: If you’re looking for just sex, at least stimulate the economy AND yourself and pay a ho) – but the fact that most of these men couldn’t put together a sentence or use punctuation properly. This is what this young black woman has to choose from. I wouldn’t want to be a single black woman if these are the choices.
Is this what Sasha and Malia will have to choose from fifteen or twenty years from now?
Yet and still, I believe in black men.
I still believe there are black men out there who love, respect, and adore black women, especially intelligent black women of substance.
I believe that, as wonderful and unique as my husband Black Man Not Blogging (BMNB) is, that there are still more out there just like him -- Baracks for my room full of Michelles.
So, I believe God will send these smart, wonderful, single black men to our event because I've done just about all I can do. Here’s the info:
Speed Dating for Single Book Lovers
Friday, April 24, 7:00 pm to 9:30 pm
2814 35th Street at Broadway
Sacramento, CA 95817
I won’t bet the blog, but if you attend, you’ll get to meet me and my husband, BMNB. And please don’t let him be the only black man in the room.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
First, let’s define our terms. The national deficit is the amount of government spending that exceeds government revenues in any particular year. The national debt is the accumulation of all the past national deficits. As far as the national debt, to borrow from a familiar phrase, we didn’t get this far by President Obama alone.
Truth be told, many people who were participating in these tax protests had no business being out there. Many of the people who were out there have contributed, in one way or another, to the national debt and the current expected deficit. Let’s separate the wheat – the honest-to-goodness fiscal conservatives – from the chaff – the Obama haters. If you participated in any of the Tax Day Tea Parties, go ahead and grab your protest sign and continue reading to see which you are:
If you voted solely for Republican presidential candidates from President Reagan on, put your sign down. Reagan incurred huge national deficits, and on average, Republicans have incurred more national deficits than Democrats since Reagan. When Bill Clinton left office, he had a surplus to go with his articles of impeachment.
If you ever received a Pell grant, put your sign down.
If you were ever on welfare, put your sign down.
If you never wrote a letter to Congress about U.S. corporations moving their corporate headquarters to avoid paying federal corporate taxes, put your sign down.
If you supported the war in Iraq solely because you thought Saddam Hussein was a “bad man” and needed to go, put your sign down. There are many despotic world leaders who need to be deposed – Robert Mugabe, Fidel Castro, you name it -- but that’s no reason to go into debt.
If you continued to support the war in Iraq after it had been made abundantly clear that there were no WMDs or Al Qaida there at the time the war started, put your sign down. In fact, hit yourself on the head with your sign. Don’t worry – the damage has already been done because clearly your momma dropped you on your head when you were a baby.
If you didn’t make a peep of protest about the no-bid contracts to Blackwater and Halliburton, put your sign down.
If you are among the 95% of people who will benefit from the tax cuts proposed by President Obama or if you benefited from the Bush tax cuts, put your sign down. You can’t complain about a deficit or the national debt and pocket the change from a tax cut at the same time.
If you are collecting Social Security, put your sign down. Entitlement spending is the largest part of the federal budget. Yes, I know you paid into Social Security, but we all know Social Security is a big Ponzi scheme. Your money went to support the folks before you, and my money is going to support you. If you want to reduce the national debt, take up drinking and smoking, put down the Lipitor, and contract a quick-acting terminal disease.
If you are on Medicare or Medicaid and have an obesity- or smoking-related disease, put your sign down because that is totally within your control and you’re sucking up entitlement dollars. Grab a Nicorette, a carrot, and a Tae-Bo DVD and handle your business. Don’t tell me you can’t do Tae-Bo on a scooter.
If you’ve claimed tax deductions for your children, put your sign down. Unless your children were child actors or child prostitutes, they benefited more from federal expenditures than they contributed to the public fisc during their years as minors. I don’t think you should get a tax deduction just for being fertile and popping out a baby, especially if you’re the Octumom.
If you drive a gas-guzzling SUV or truck, put your sign down. We’re bailing out the auto industry because you continued to prop up a business model that was doomed to fail – vehicles reliant on low gas prices for sales in a nation that relies on other nations for its gas. If you drove a Hummer to the protest, hit yourself with the sign.
If you bought a house after 1999 that cost more than 3 times your gross income without a down payment and lost it due to foreclosure, put your sign down. You are so much a part of the problem, you shouldn’t have had the nerve to even show up. And you know you had no business buying that house. You were as wrong as the day is long.
By my count, that leaves about 3 protesters . . . .
Monday, April 13, 2009
To borrow from my late mother’s lexicon, it looks like Arizona “done gone and showed its behind.” Again.
Arizona is nationally and internationally known as the slow child in race relations because of its grudging and late acceptance of a Dr. King holiday. This time, it’s Arizona State University which is the race relations slow child by having President Obama give the university’s commencement speech but refusing to award him an honorary degree.
Yes, Arizona State University, which, I would guess, probably doesn’t have as many Nobel laureates, Rhodes Scholars, Marshall Scholars – pick any academic honor – as do the universities from which Mr. Obama holds REAL degrees, Columbia and Harvard – has decided that Mr. Obama’s “body of work” is yet to be seen and, as such, he doesn’t merit an honorary degree from that hallowed institution. Instead, they’ve opted to offer a scholarship in President Obama’s name.
What’s embarrassing is that they’ve had this discussion in the media, putting the president’s worthiness for their honorary degree up as a matter of public debate.
They should change their name to “I’m Embarrassed for U.” Do they know how stupid they look?
Outside of NCAA basketball, no one really knows much about or cares much about Arizona State. I hate to play the Ivy League card or credential poker, but, as a double Ivy Leaguer like Mr. Obama (Harvard and Princeton, to be exact), I must say that there is nothing that Arizona State can do to raise the profile of Mr. Obama given what he has already accomplished, academically and otherwise. In this case, those benefits flow one way and only one way – in the direction of Arizona State. If I were Mr. Obama, I wouldn’t even hang an honorary degree from Arizona State next to his diplomas from Columbia and Harvard Law and his two Harvard Law Review certificates. It would be like hanging a black velvet Elvis painting next to works by Picasso, Matisse, and Renoir. It just wouldn’t look right, if you get my drift.
The discussion of Mr. Obama’s merits, if any, should have been held in closed quarters, and he should not have been invited to give the commencement address if the university wasn’t going to award him an honorary degree. Most universities with any sense know that that’s the price of getting a highly accomplished, high profile speaker to give a commencement address. I’ve heard tell that Bill Cosby won’t give a commencement address without receiving an honorary degree. It goes to show that the folks in charge at ASU are either really stupid or really intent on slighting the President.
I’ve been in one faculty discussion regarding awarding an honorary degree, in this case to a slain civil rights hero. Mind you, this hero’s legacy had already been established and his reputation would not have been enhanced by receiving a posthumous honorary degree from this institution. But you would have thought the faculty members were discussing the conditions for peace in the Middle East in discussing what this person needed to have accomplished in order to receive an honorary degree from an ostensibly Podunk university. Again, it was a case of one-way benefits – the only party benefiting from this was the university, not the person or his family.
Why is it that the discussion of standards and merit only seems to arise when black people are at issue?
I know that Mr. Obama will have the class to give the speech and acknowledge the scholarship established in his honor. He’s far too sophisticated to say what I’m about to:
Arizona State, even if President Obama visited your university for the sole purpose of using a urinal, he would have done more for your school’s profile than you could have ever done for his. And if you were lucky, the Secret Service might, just might, allow one of your trustees to be present and wait for the presidential “shake.” It’s about all you deserve.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
BMNB would like telemarketers, bank tellers, customer service representatives, and any one else who meets him in a business capacity to know that her prefers to be called MISTER BMNB and not by his first name. He thinks Americans have become just a little too familiar. He likes the formality and propriety of calling someone you’ve just met by their proper name. Don’t just assume that you can call him by his first name when you’ve just met, especially if he’s your customer or potential customer.
For example, BMNB was speaking with a bank teller who pulled up his account, found out his name, and proceeded to address him by his first name, which, for purposes of this blog, is “Black Man.”
“Well, Black Man . . .” and she proceeded to explain something to him. But he couldn’t get past the fact that this stranger was calling him by his first name.
Now, he makes it clear from the get-go: “I prefer MISTER Not Blogging.”
It takes them aback. BMNB would prefer to think that it gets them back to the way their mommas raised them or should have raised them.
First, BMNB believes that you don’t get to call your elders by their first names. Even older cousins in his family are “Cousin So-and-So,” not “So-and-So.” The idea of some pimply-faced customer service rep calling him by his first name when he has visible gray hair in his goatee does not sit well with him, no sirree.
Second, BMNB just isn’t that familiar. He likes the respectful distance that using someone’s full and proper name entails. It requires the person you’re speaking to to decide whether they want you to become more familiar with them instead of you assuming that they do. He likes that because, like most professional black men, BMNB knows you can’t afford to assume anything.
Third, BMNB is, and always will be, a Southerner. And in the South, titles entail respect. I found this out myself when I was a professor at a law school in the South. I allowed my students to become too familiar too soon, giving them permission to call me by my first name as I had allowed my previous students in California to do. One of my colleagues, another African American female professor, told me I had already lost the battle for respect before I had even known there was a battle.
“What’s the big deal? It’s just a name,” I questioned.
She looked at me like I was an alien. “This is the South. Titles mean everything. Titles mean respect. No title, no respect. Just tell me – do they call you “professor” or “miz”?
I stopped and thought. “Well, actually, they do call me ‘miz’.”
She looked at me as if to say “game over.” “’Miz’” is what they call black women when they don’t want to properly address you as “Mrs.”, “Miss” or “professor.”
I hadn’t really thought about it that much. In her mind, I had been subtly dissed and didn’t even know it. Funny, I thought they were just being friendly.
And that’s the point – we didn’t need to be “friendly” at that point in the relationship.
BMNB noticed this little phenomenon at work yesterday when we watched Matt Lauer interview Essence Editor-in-Chief Angela Burt-Murray to discuss the May issue of Essence, which features an interview with Mrs. Obama and her mother, Mrs. Robinson. Now, mind you, I would never think to call the President’s mother-in-law anything other than Mrs. Robinson for no other reason than she’s my elder, and I have tried, despite my feelings of identification with Mrs. Obama, not to call her “Michelle” because she deserves the same respect I would give any other First Lady – being addressed and referred to by her proper name.
I guess Matt Lauer felt a bit differently. During the beginning of the interview, he referred to them as Michelle Obama and Marian Robinson.
But not Ms. Burt-Murray. Throughout the interview, she continued to refer to them as Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Robinson. As you can imagine, my husband believes that Ms. Burt-Murray was raised right and is probably Googling her this minute to find out where in the South her people are from.
Mr. Lauer didn’t get it, though. Although he modified it a bit and began to call Mrs. Robinson “Mrs. Robinson,” he continued to refer to the First Lady as Michelle Obama. Ms. Burt-Murray never wavered, though, as if to get the point across to Mr. Lauer. He never picked it up.
Good thing BMNB wasn’t there. He would have checked him: “Their names are MRS. OBAMA and MRS. ROBINSON!”
And, he would have told him, to boot: “And they call me MISTER Black Man Not Blogging.”
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Yesterday authorities found the body of Sandra Cantu, an 8 year-old Tracy, California girl last seen on a home security video skipping happily home. It would be the last visual of her.
Her body was found eight days later in an irrigation pool, stuffed in a suitcase.
I, like many other northern Californians, had hoped against hope that this child would be returned. That she'd find her way home. It was not to be.
Today an autopsy will be performed. I can't bear to know what some monster did to this child. That she is no longer with us is hard enough to bear.
I swear, if I ever get to heaven, the three things I want to ask God are: 1) My mom and my dad -- how did THAT happen? 2) Slavery and The Holocaust -- were you on vacation or what? and 3) Help me understand a world in which cruelty to children happens, because I can't comprehend it, can't fathom it, can't imagine that there's any explanation that even You can provide.
I guess this is one of those days in which I have to "lean not to my own understanding."
But if I had a human card, I'd turn it in today.
Pray for Sandra, folks. Pray that she didn't suffer and that she is at the foot of her Maker.
Friday, April 3, 2009
Let me just put it out there: The unspoken assumption was that Mrs. Obama wouldn’t know how to dress or act properly for formal occasions on foreign soil. She’s already been called “trash” by some in the media, and one commentator had the nerve to compare her to the female dog the Obamas plan to get for their daughters.
The unfounded fear was that she might embarrass the nation. Let’s take that apart first.
For those Americans who have not traveled to Europe, here’s a news flash: You can’t embarrass the United States in Europe, or any place else in the world for that matter, any more than the United States has already embarrassed itself. The bar for Europeans’ expectations of American civility and culture is pretty darn low, and it was set that way long before Mrs. Obama met Queen Elizabeth. Mrs. Obama would have had to have worn a pair of Apple Bottom jeans, a metallic tank top with no bra, and some Candies shoes and dropped it like it was hot in Trafalgar Square before she had lowered Europeans’ expectations of Americans when it comes to civility and culture.
Let’s see – wasn’t it our last president, the then-Leader of the Free World, who had the temerity to wink at Queen Elizabeth when she came for a state visit? (Dude, she’s married, happily or unhappily, for over what – 50 years?) And Mickey Rooney all but dry humped Her Majesty during her visit here. I can imagine she couldn’t get back to stalking at Balmoral soon enough. She probably thought the elk in the Scottish highlands were better behaved than the Americans she met on her last visit here.
And no one said a peep about what First Lady Laura Bush wore to meet the Queen. Oh, but she must know how to act and dress properly, right, since she’s a . . . wait, isn’t she a chain smoker who actually killed someone while driving? Right. But she probably knows how to comport herself with heads of state, though.
Then, let’s not forget President George W. Bush’s visit to Brazil, where he openly admitted his ignorance of the fact that Brazil has the largest population of people of African descent outside of Africa. “Did you know that?”, he openly questioned the then-Tutor-in-Chief, Condi Rice, who had to school our President publicly about the racial makeup of Brazil. During a state visit. In public. I don’t know about you, but I was embarrassed. Almost as embarrassed as I was when the first President Bush threw up and passed out at a state dinner in Japan.
Mrs. Obama couldn’t have possibly done worse, even if she tried.
America, get it through your heads: Mrs. Obama isn’t Lil Kim. Or Britney Spears for that matter. She had a proper upbringing, went to elite schools, and probably knows a lot more about protocol and manners than most of the trash, trailer and otherwise, who are worried that she, of all people, might not know how to dress and carry herself. My message is simple: Before you worry about how Mrs. Obama is handling her business, you need to ask yourselves how you’re handling your own. Do your own children have good manners? Do they know how to dress appropriately for different occasions, i.e., t-shirts and/or jeans are not appropriate for church or funerals? Does your husband know to take a hostess gift to a party? Do you know which fork is the salad fork and where the bread plate is? America, before you check Mrs. Obama on her wardrobe and manners, you really need to check yourselves first. Don’t assume that just because she’s black that she doesn’t know protocol and doesn’t have manners.
And don’t act like you weren’t.