Friday, February 23, 2024

Me and All the Black Women I Know

There is a meme going around on social media that if you receive a certain picture, it has symbolic meaning. Until a few days ago, I would have sent a picture of Supreme Court Justice (and my Soror) Ketanji Brown Jackson to represent the disgust my fellow Black sisters in law feel whenever we have to defend ourselves against specious attacks. She's definitely in the arsenal, as well as a picture of Spelman Founder Sophia Packard (which might not pack the same punch to anyone unfamiliar with how the Spelmafia rolls) but I think my go-to may now be Fani Willis.

If you get this from me, it means you done started something you'd best be prepared to finish. And if you read that and thought, hmm, shouldn't she have said better, then Imma caution you to watch your step and tread lightly. Because if you're judging my delivery and command of the English language in addition to questioning my intelligence while feigning sincerity, this not gonna end well attall!

I spent the better part of two days last week seeing shades of red that I didn't know existed in nature. It began with my frustration over comments made by a certain political pundit who helped Al Gore lose his home state of Tennessee in 2000. That must have provided cover for all of the other keyboard pundits, most of them nonlawyers, to opine about what Ms. Willis should have known better not to do. Then I happened upon some of the commentary from the hotep hallways where nothing any Black woman does is celebrated. And then finally, because it is February and I missed the memo that granted blanket amnesty to all current and future racist content on social media, y'all really been on one this year. Keep at it though, we got an extra day this month...

Let's start with the low-hanging fruit and dismiss any and all musings by the ashy un-lotioned incels among us. Dear Reader, I won't waste your time in linking to that nonsense because it follows the predictable pattern of diminishing the work of any accomplished Black woman. In this case, because they can't denounce Willis for being a bed wench, they can just call her a bitch or a hoe, and those posts get lots of traction from their man-baby brethren. This is in spite of the fact that their purported hero Brother Minister Malcolm X famously said in 1962 that the Black woman is the most disrespected and unprotected person on earth. I guess they all mysteriously missed that particular speech.

On the opposite end, as much as we appreciate the 'love' coming from our #thankaBlackwoman groupies, I am reminded that some of those people have been conditioned to believe that it is our job to clean up after them. As writer Zora Neale Hurston described it in Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937), Black women are the mules of the world. Mules are beasts of burden, intentionally bred for hard labor. Maybe these people grew up in homes where there was a beloved Big Momma, or a trusted maid who was also the family confidante/washerwoman/cook/wet nurse. Or perhaps they watched a lot of television; regardless of what may have informed those expectations, their praises carry a tinge of, yeah just leave the dirty work for that Black lady. 

Thus, the faux outrage that Willis messed things up for all Black woman in professional settings is another problematic argument being touted by the loudest Black-people-are-not-a-monolith Pick Mes. Some of these same lowercase black folks insisted for YEARZ, like trained parrots, that we are not all the same and they prided themselves on being different, independent, suburban with a tan. Suddenly, in spite of their protestations, one pissed off Black woman has the power to make all of us you look bad to your drinking buddies. So you just had to take the time to denounce her to remind them that you are still cool, because dammit, you worked hard to be deemed acceptable and worthy to be allowed in their presence. Perhaps as atonement, they will let you buy the next round.

It is amazing to me that no matter how much we accomplish, no matter how much ballyhooed progress, it is nothing more than an intricate sand sculpture on a small beach. One wave and all of our hard work gets washed away by the tide. All of our accomplishments can be undone in a careless millisecond. Everyone else is allowed to be flawed, make mistakes, stumble through, but let a Black woman reveal the slightest vulnerability and I swear, it's like Jesus and His disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane. While Judas is preparing for his betrayal, the majority of the disciples are in hiding. A chosen few accompany Jesus to pray in the Garden, where they fall asleep. Startled by the arresting mob, Peter loudly denies their friendship. In our most vulnerable moments, we anticipate that someone will betray us, and we expect that most of our friends are either going to remain in hiding or are too preoccupied with their own lives to get involved. But it is Peter's denial--the gratuitous disavowals that Willis should have known better; the acquiescence that this is an unfair system built on an ever-shifting landscape; that in her hour of need some friends wouldn't risk getting as much as a toe wet even if she had walked out on water to save them from drowning... 

It be your own people sometimes. Et tu, Brute???

Finally, let's talk about the I-don't-see-color because I-am-not-a-racist-BUT folks, the ones who have perfected other ways of expressing their biases. The pearl-wearing Birkin purse-clutchers who described Willis' courtroom demeanor as ghetto and made references to The Jerry Springer Show (which they must have watched). They were appalled that an angry Black woman walked into court on her own accord and left that same way, defiant and unashamed. That this Black woman with a law degree, years of prosecutorial experience, and the confidence of someone who was elected as the first woman to hold that position would stand up for herself. That this woman, who upon recognizing that her office possessed the power to pursue justice on behalf of those two Black women election workers who were harassed and defamed, decided to use that power to face off with the most powerful giant the Philistines have. That they assumed this same woman, who personally appeared in court weeks before this sordid soap opera to confront Harrison Floyd for violating the terms of his bail agreement, wasn't going to bring that same energy to court in defense of her career? 

I get it, you prefer a more refined Black woman, one that doesn't have a discernable regional accent and who comports herself with dignity. Right, because when now-Justice Jackson sat for three days at a Senate hearing where it was intimated that she didn't know the difference between a law book and a J. Crew Catalogue by Senator Foghorn Leghorn, I didn't see you take offense or offer her any empathy.  That Black woman also went through law school, had several prestigious federal clerkships, and was herself a federal judge--credentials no one could deny were impressive. Instead, Senator Bull McConnell attacked her demeanor as a performance which met the approval of Senator Butler Mushmouth whose theatrical thumbs down sure did ingratiate him with your MAGA crowd.

Quit playing in our faces! I could offer up the names of countless "respectable" Black women that you have disrespected for the most trivial of alleged offenses. Going back as far as Phillis Wheatley and the American Revolution, every educated Black woman has been subjected to those back-handed compliments, polite insults, and reminders that we will never be good enough. There is an entire MAGA conspiracy theory that Former First Lady Michelle Obama, the epitome of style and grace, is really a man. Madame Vice President Kamala Harris is right there, and no matter that she serves admirably as Joe Biden's work wife without breaking a sweat, these folks get on social media and act like she's the ethnic design pattern on the Oval Office drapes. Some of y'all wouldn't sit next to a respectable Black woman on a crowded city bus, so miss me with your T.J. Maxx condescension. 

If Fani Willis had glided into court performing Tchaikovsky's Pas de Deux, y'all still would have called her graceless and classless. If she had worn the crown jewels and spoken with the elocution of the Queen of England, y'all still would have criticized her body language and demeanor. So Sis came to court as her authentic I-grew-up-in-DC-during-the-80s-crack-epidemic self so act like you know, and I ain't mad! (Side note, she's a fellow survivor of DC's all-girl Catholic schools from that era, so she earns extra cool point in my book for that.)

She was righteously angry about while testifying about her personal life in open court, so she opted not to code switch. Unlike some of these rich men who do whatever the fuck they want as long as they don't get caught, women don't receive justice by remaining silent. There would be no presumption of innocence if she hadn't spoken up for herself, only the perception of her as presented by others. And make no mistake, this was political revenge porn without any pictures, so she had every right to take the stand to debunk the crass allegations and insinuations made about her character. 

You saw her Daddy. Of course he taught her to keep cash on hand and to have a plan that doesn't rely on a man. Me and all the Black women I know got this same life advice from a Black Daddy and/or Uncle. All of us also received some version of that infamous Papa Pope speech about being twice as good to get half of what they have. 

It isn't my place to opine about what she should have expected if someone went rifling through her garbage. My guess is that she expected them to find trash, so even if she was sloppy about not disclosing her past relationship with her co-counsel, maybe it shouldn't have been all that shocking in the first place. God forbid she has a personal life (another sexist stereotype). They discussed work over dinner...and took some of it home...and on a couple of trips out of town. And they went Dutch! The fact that we would hold her to a higher standard of personal conduct than the former President who directed a conspiracy to commit election fraud and the harassment of election workers, is a special kind of sexism. It's the kind that conflates an ethical slip with abuse of power from the highest elected official in the land by claiming that they are equal in magnitude. She should have known better while President Trump was only trying to disenfranchise millions of voters because he's a sore loser.

GTFOHWTBS!

Admittedly when I first saw those Jerry Springer/anti DEI talking points trending, I took it personally. It isn't just that y'all are saying the quiet parts out loud, because that ain't new. And as Willis and I are the same age, we've both endured our fair share of micro-aggressive challenges to our right to occupy spaces that were only accessible to our grandmothers for cleaning. They weren't expecting her to come in with a more powerful broom, nor that she wouldn't ask for permission before redecorating. Of course these folks hate-watched her testimony to dissect and rip the very flesh from her bones--envious haters will do whatever it takes to discredit and disqualify us.

Then I remembered another lesson my Black Daddy taught me about not accepting the negative comments and jabs that people hurl at me with their mean-spirited intentions. Yeah, they might call me all kinds of names but I don't have to answer to them, nor should I allow their descriptions of me to undermine my confidence. It is not my job to control how you interpret what I am. If ghetto is the worst insult that your feeble brains can conjure up, well that's just proof of your mediocrity, lack of imagination, and audacity. 

I used to watch The Jerry Springer Show too, and from what I recall those raucous chants not only greeted Springer when he took to the stage, but also were used to de-escalate the chaos unfolding among the guests. What you heard was both an audience of Black sisters in law chanting Willis' name as she took the stand, and a necessary reminder that she's the District Attorney and she's got this.

FANI! FANI! FANI!

Saturday, February 10, 2024

You Win Some, You Lose Some

This is not another long-form think piece about Beyonce. Or the fact that Jay Z got up on stage and started another unnecessary skirmish between the Bey Hive and the Swifties over the one Grammy Award that a certain person has never received whilst the other person has four. I mean, I understand the complaint, but it feels rather on-brand (and not in a good way), to whine about having ALL the things except this one little thing, for which she was not nominated, she doesn't need, and probably doesn't have the shelf space to display...

Nevertheless, none of the Beekeepers are going to agree with me on that. And after a week of reading commentary posted by grown-ass people with jobs unrelated to defending the Carter Family empire, I am going to leave that alone. Furthermore, having just written about Swift and mindful that we have an extra day this year for Black History Month, I will let her sit this one out as well.

Instead, I am writing a general open letter of sorts to the world that maybe we need to do a better job of remembering the lessons we were taught as children about winning and losing. Seems everyone has forgotten how to be gracious at both, with folks complaining about not winning enough or folks insisting that they won victories when all evidence indicates otherwise. Into this fray comes the Busy Black Woman to offer some reminders. 

Dear Everybody:

One of the first sentences you were taught as a child was to say thank you. I distinctly recall that if I failed to utter those words, several scenarios might play out, such as having whatever was just offered to me taken back. And it was done in such a dramatic way to maximize the impact, usually by the loudest Auntie or Uncle who declared I didn't hear you say thank you, so I guess you don't really want this. Then as a follow up, you had to endure a public scolding. And because this always happened at some large family gathering, you got that look from one or both parents--the look that clearly communicated that this wasn't even the half of what to expect on the way home. Ah yes, even at 50 years old, the memory of that kind of embarrassment has never faded. (Mind you, the person responsible for this trauma did not hear me say thank you, because I did say it...it was no use arguing that point 40+ years ago any more than it is worth insisting on it now.) 

But you get my point. Thank you is the simplest, easiest, and most gracious sentence in every culture and language that can avoid most misunderstandings in life. It doesn't need to be an Emmy/Grammy/Oscar/Tony-worthy speech (unless you are accepting one of those awards and need to thank God; your parents; your significant other, children, and pets; as well as your team of lawyers, agents, glam squad, etc.), in which case, just make sure to wrap it up before the music plays. 

Some of us were raised to send thank you notes; some of you were not. It seems as if nowadays handwritten notes are a generational relic, with many folks opting to send a thank you email or text. To be honest, I am not going to be a stickler about the form because I get that there are times when a less formal communication of gratitude is appropriate. Therefore, I am happy to receive a phone call in place of whatever Emily Post etiquette rules once existed. We're all busy, kids don't learn how to read or write in cursive anymore, and ain't nobody got time to be worried about stamps or how to properly address an envelope. 

However, I will judge you if I go out of my way to do something nice and you shrug it off like you deserved it. While I won't call you out like that loud Auntie, you gonna learn real quick that I won't trouble you with any future acts of kindness. Yes, it is that serious, because a failure to acknowledge someone's benevolence or generosity is not just rude, but it reeks of entitlement. No one is that busy or important. Even bill collectors take the time to thank you for making a payment. And in the event that you had a human moment and forgot to express thanks, that's fine because there is no statute of limitations. Better late than never.

When you were in elementary school playing some game on the playground, invariably, somebody got mad about losing. And that kid had an epic tantrum that required intervention by a teacher or playground monitor. After being hauled off to the principal's office or the teacher's lounge, s/he returned to class to offer an apology, which was then reinforced by a lecture on the merits of sportsmanship. I can't speak for everyone reading this, but I remember hearing this lecture every year in some capacity from every teacher who needed to emphasize that not all of us were going to win the game, be awarded the first prize certificate, be cast in the starring role, or sing the solo. 

Some of y'all weren't listening. Or maybe you were the kid who always came out on top, so you never had to learn what it meant to be the runner up. You got all As, you were the team captain, or you maybe you played soccer during that era when folks stopped keeping score and gave everyone a participation trophy. Whatever excuse you have for being a sore loser as an adult, it's time for you to put on your big kid pants and grow the heck up!

Sometimes you don't win. Al Gore invented the internet, won a Nobel Peace Prize, and still looks pretty good for his age. But he didn't win the 2000 Presidential Election because he lost the state of Florida by 537 votes*. The Atlanta Falcons were winning the Superbowl against the New England Patriots in 2017 until the second half of the game, then they lost in overtime 34-28. How many times have you watched a game show and the contestant in the lead loses Final Jeopardy or overbids the Showcase Showdown on The Price is Right? Imagine being from one of those small countries that goes to the Olympics every four years but never wins any medals. Or being Susan Lucci for 19 years.

I don't know how we got to this point. I don't know what changed in the course of my lifetime where the adage that winning isn't everything became an alternative fact from the multiverse of infinite options. Political candidates routinely refuse to concede elections, with the best example being the former President of the United States who continues to insist that he won an election that he lost by 7 million votes. Winning at all costs has been normalized in other aspects of life, with students now filing lawsuits to gain admission to their top choice college. Or cheating to stack the deck in their favor like the parents caught up in that Operation Varsity Blues scandal. Sports franchises spend the equivalent of the gross national product (GNP) of the world's poorest countries just to win trophies. All of this backlash we see against diversity, equity, and inclusion is just sour grapes and fear over possibly losing access to once-restricted opportunities.

It used to be that losing built character. It encouraged perseverance. It taught us that life is sometimes unfair, but to show up and try anyway. Even the Bible tells us that there is a time and a place for everything, and while it doesn't explicitly mention winning and losing, shouldn't that be implied?

Someone wrote a post to Facebook about what Jay Z was teaching his daughter in his speech the other night, and I certainly agree that it was admirable for him to defend his wife (we'll address that part at another time). At the same time, I can also believe that he imparted the wrong message to his daughter about winning--it isn't always based on objective criteria. And we don't always deserve to win just because we show up. There are a lot of people who worked hard who still finish last, which is what we see happen every four years at the Olympics. Some of those folks only won the preliminary opportunity to compete on the international stage, but that doesn't make those victories any less significant.

There is an arrogance to feeling so entitled to winning that often leads to backlash, resentment, and eventually to becoming what winners fear--a loser. We've seen the defeat of athletes who compete past their prime and refuse to retire. We've seen the hubris of leaders who think they are irreplaceable. We've seen some extremely talented people surround themselves with sycophants who never offer critical advice or counsel. We've seen how people who are so used to winning at everything can't handle when the tides shift. We've seen world records broken, statues and monuments toppled, and greatness surpassed. 

We've seen winners lose. And then true character is revealed. 

The true character of the two ladies who aren't supposed to be the reason why I'm writing this open letter was on display well before the Grammy telecast. Beyonce attended the premier of Taylor Swift's Eras concert film, and Swift graciously acknowledged the influence Beyonce had on younger artists like her. EVERYBODY seems to have missed that in the rush to take sides, which has been most disappointing. Because if you truly understood the diva-like aura that tends to surround artists on that level, you would know this photo was definitely not a PR stunt.

You win some and you say thank you. You lose some, you nod and smile, and then go back to work or practice with a mind towards winning the next time. You keep putting in the work. You keep showing up. And what you will win at some point in the process will be more meaningful and significant than a participation trophy.

* still disputed, but not by Gore

Friday, February 2, 2024

TIME to Shake It Off

Alright Swifties and the folks who hate them, I started this piece before the Superbowl conspiracy theories began circulating about Taylor Swift trying to influence your young impressionable daughters. She'll swear that she isn't, but if your daughter suddenly decides to watch the game to catch glimpses of her in a skybox instead of Usher at the Halftime...

Remember when I said that I wasn't going to say anything about Taylor Swift being named TIME Magazine's Person of the Year? Me neither (it's been almost two months)...but I do recall that I tasted blood from biting my tongue. So fine, I have a lot to say and I guarantee some of you aren't going to like it! 

I saw the list of finalists, and it reflects all of the appropriate choices that one would have expected: controversial world leaders; the righteous working man (as represented by the Hollywood strikers); the heroic Trump prosecutors; icon(s) of popular culture; and the random inanimate object thrown in the mix to represent the cultural zeitgeist of the moment. My best guess is that Barbie actually won, but then someone was going to have to figure out how to interview a toy without that coming across as inappropriately suggestive or weird. 

So they went with the neurotic human Barbie that is Taylor Swift, and as is always the case whenever her name is trending, there was controversy along the predictable lines of people being elated, annoyed, or indifferent. What surprised me was the larger than usual coalition of people who expended time and energy on being offended

Like really? As the world burns, y'all are upset that a pop star got featured on a magazine cover? War in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and Sudan. A wannabe dictator is running for President with a solid shot at winning, but Taylor Swift is the more worrisome influence on America's youth? I know that in theory, the TIME Magazine Person of the Year isn't supposed to be as trivial as the People Magazine Sexiest Man Alive or the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue can be. However, it is just a magazine cover as well, so by now (two, four, six...eight weeks or so later) we're just ignoring whomever/whatever is staring back at us from the virtual newsstand because no one keeps physical magazines anymore excepts doctors and dentists. 

And that would have been more than enough to say on the matter, until I noted an alliance of pearl clutchers between the Black Twitterati and the Moms of Liberty. That made for the kind of strange bedfellows which caused me to reconsider my silence. On the one hand, I understand the exasperated groans...Taylor Swift (again) when Beyonce is right there??!! However, on the other hand, just when I thought it might be best to *swiftly* walk away from what looked like white-on-white violence and head back to the hood, it dawned on me that Tay-Tay has become the most polarizing white woman in America since Hillary Clinton.

Again, we're talking about a magazine cover, not the Nobel Peace Prize. I know that we want Beyonce to be given her flowers and properly acknowledged, which we can do without going full Kanye at the 2009 VMAs. Nobody is denying the impact of Beyonce's World Tour. Nobody shrugs off the devotion of her BeyHive. And though we addressed this a few weeks ago with that cute picture of Bey and Tay together at the premier of Swift's Eras movie, nobody cares if they are frenemies or fake besties. Y'all need to stop pitting these women against each other! Seriously, you need to calm down.

Go on about your business and let Taylor Swift do what she does best, which is play the victim/anti-hero of her own success. Isn't that ultimately how she got this honor, by hamming up her "Gee, aww shucks, who me?" schtick to the kind of pitch perfection that has kept people talking about her all year? So stop helping her...PLEASE! 

She's talented. She's pretty. She can be charming. She likes cats. She has a lot of famous ex-boyfriends. By naming her Person of the Year, TIME has done us a solid by starting the clock on her inevitable popular decline. I know that reads like I'm taking shots of haterade (I'm not); however, I'm simply stating the obvious. What goes up, must come down. After a year of being the center of attention, the backlash of being weary of all things Taylor, Taylor, Taylor is just beginning. 

Is that what y'all want for Beyonce?

Congressional hearings over the availability and price of her concert tickets that result in nothing? Having your pleas for her to come to your city on her much-ballyhooed concert tour go unanswered? Getting denounced by the Alpha men and Podcast Bros as a floozy and the MAGA Karens as a witch? 

Consider what the title of TIME Person of the Year really means in the grand scheme of things. She gets to share that designation with some very honorable people such as Nelson Mandela, St. Mother Teresa, and Martin Luther King, Jr., but also quite a few terrible folks like Adolph Hitler, Elon Musk, and Donald Trump. She wasn't chosen because she's some inspirational freedom fighter standing up to a Bond villain dictator (nominated again this year), nor as a symbol of some significant movement in human progress. She's no Angela Merkel; however, she is a mega-successful multi-talented artist who had a really good year. Maybe it seems inconsequential, because making people happy through art isn't at all like working for world peace or curing lethal diseases, but Lord knows that we need some joy in these turbulent times. However, this choice feels like a set up, and a few months from now, she might wish they had gone with Barbie. 

Honestly, the person who should be really pissed right now is King Charles III. Consider that he's waited his entire life for these kinds of honors, only to be relegated to being just another name on a list. I got a certain amount of petty glee to note that the American daughter-in-law he keeps trying to make us hate, the one who was too busy living her life to attend his coronation...she found time and a sitter to attend the Taylor Swift concert.  

Even I got sucked into Taylormania this year. I had just joked with a friend that I would never, only to forget that declaration when I bought tickets to the Eras film a few weeks later. Of course, they were for the Kid, under the rationale that her ability to sit through the Swift concert would determine whether she could manage to do the same for the Beyonce film (almost). We were about halfway through hour two of Eras when I realized how many TS songs I knew from just casual radio surfing in the car. And I have to give the woman her props--it was a quite a show!

So now what? Will this be the high watermark of her career?

Since I am old enough to have witnessed this phenomenon with several other global superstars, I can say with certainty that the fall ain't pretty; the splat at the bottom is ugly; and the comeback never restores the artist(s) to the heights they once achieved. Having just watched the documentary about Michael Jackson and his iconic Thriller album at 40, it reminded me of those innocent times before everything really blew up, when I was the age of many of the youngest Swifties. Back then, Jackson was setting Guiness World Records, collecting Grammy awards, integrating MTV, and overall changing the music industry. No one could touch him, but like most people who fly too close to the sun, he came crashing down to earth. 

I imagine that a similar retrospective of Eras in 20-30 years or so will find us revisiting this moment to determine where it all began to shift. Was it Taylor's fault that her presence at NFL games to cheer on her next ex-boyfriend would annoy so many people? Didn't she know that she would never overcome the ridicule of having taken a role in the movie version of CATS (2019)? How did she always manage to reach any career milestone without the "help" of Kanye West? (Yeah, I said it!)

While we can clearly see the Beyonfluence on Swift and think the worst, it isn't like she hasn't been borrowing notes and copying from the others who preceded her. Let's begin with Janet Jackson, the Fairy Godmother of every 21st Century Pop Princess. Recognize that pose from Swift's second POY TIME cover from the janet (1993) album? How many of you remember the first Taylor (Dayne) to make it big in pop music? Or that Ms. Diana Ross the Boss was the queen of multiple costume changes in a single show? I could name-drop a bunch of girl pop acts from the 80s, from Tiffany and Debbie Gibson to the Aunties Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Gloria Estefan, and Mariah Carey who were each, in her prime, pioneers who cleared away shards of broken glass so that Swift didn't get cut along the road to success. 

Heck, some of Taylor's best stuff has been ripped off inspired by others. Becoming BFFs with various LGBTQIA icons--that was Madonna in the 90s. The entire boudoir dominatrix aesthetic was big in the Aughts, which I remember well since one of the very first pieces I wrote about popular music back in 2001 was inspired by the remake of the Lady Marmalade video for the Moulin Rouge soundtrack. That same year Britney Spears performed live with a snake (Swift's snake at her show was an optical illusion). Swift must have been about twelve then, the kind of "good" girl who diligently practiced her instruments and jotted down lyrics (while taking copious notes) in her glitter-covered spiral notebook. She definitely spent a LOT of time watching classic MTV videos because hello, Michael Jackson did the zombie in the graveyard thing first. And that folksy rock-witch serving Sarah Jessica Parker in Hocus Pocus (1993) era was a clear nod to Stevie Nicks. How much do you want to bet that Swift assumed no one would make the association between one-hit wonderful Toni Basil and how she obviously inspired Shake It Off?  

Yeah, if Artificial Intelligence could have created the perfect pop star...

Which brings me back to where this all began with the TIME cover and how maybe it's just perfect that Taylor Swift would be named the Person of this most superlative thank-God-it-is-almost-over trainwreck of a Year. While some folks might be envious and critical of Beyonce for both legitimate and ridiculous reasons, she's a working mother of three married to a billionaire, so she's not worried about a magazine cover. And she's made it clear that she and Swift are like two vast oceans that maintain their unique attributes even as they mix, commingle, and share fans. Queen Bey don't need or want any parts of this foolishness.

On the other hand, Taylor Swift is probably writing a song about all of this backlash that will become next summer's earworm, and so all of this Taylorific disdain will have the opposite effect. She has a knack for courting controversy so that it serves her; hence, no matter what we say or how we feel about her, she's not going anywhere anytime soon. She is formidable, resilient, and she won this dubious honor over a King, organized labor, two dictators, and a $10 plastic doll. That this woman can be loved and reviled, admired and maligned, yet somehow manages to triumph is extraordinary.

Even if you're still convinced that Barbie would have been a better choice, the reality is that she would have melted under this kind of scrutiny. In the movie, she couldn't handle the perceived imperfection in having flat feet, and the other Barbies got overthrown in their own dreamworld by a bunch of idiots. Taylor (and here comes a bad pun), is too Swift to be undone by shallow insecurity or some male accessory who is only relevant because of his association with her. If for no other reason than to piss off the podcast bros who resent that she's way out of their league, Taylor Swift will always be a better choice than Weird Barbie...and the world will be grateful for that in 20-30 years.

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

American Fictions

On a whim, I decided to take in a movie one afternoon last week. I had spent the morning preparing some projects for completion, and after feeling accomplished, I pulled out my phone to check movie times. One of the promises I made to myself for my 50th birthday was to make space to do for myself, so I sped home to complete a few more tasks before making my way to the theater.

In making the choice between American Fiction (2023) and Origin (2024), I went with American Fiction because I had to miss an advanced free screening of it last month. I'm sure that was due to some pre-holiday family obligations, so I figured that it might have less time left in theaters (even with its Oscar nominations). I had read the buzz about this movie sometime last Fall after it took awards at some film festival, and was intrigued by the premise of satirizing white liberalism and its patronizing impact on Black art.

Now before you read further, I should warn you that this piece will contain some plot spoilers. Therefore, if you haven't seen the movie, read the book Erasure (2001) by Percival Everett from which it was adapted, and/or haven't read this review, for example, then I suggest that you come back another time. However, in the spirit of rooting for everybody Black, I do recommend seeing this film. Unequivocally! Now that I have said that, yes, I am about to offer some critiques, so strap in if you are so inclined to read on and learn why it provoked a visceral emotional reaction from me.

It is about 10-15 minutes into this film that we get to the subplot of three adult children having to confront the realities of caregiving for an aging parent. As someone who has been living that life for more than a decade, I immediately recognized the family dynamics as similar to my own. In the character of the older sister Lisa, played by Tracee Ellis Ross, I saw myself...so (here comes the spoiler as I rip the bandage off) when she DIES unexpectedly, I got stuck in my feelings and never recovered.

What if that happens to me? How would my untimely death impact my husband and daughter, two brothers and their families, and my parents? If art truly imitates life, then my best guess is that I will be forgotten as soon as the ashes scatter. As I watched the drama unfold between two egomaniacal younger brothers who don't miss a beat in moving on with their self-destructive lives without their sister, I ate my truffle buttered popcorn-flavored feelings and watched what felt like a possible alternative ending to my own life.

Yeah, it cut that close to my bones; it was personal and profoundly sad. So much so that I texted a friend to playfully scold him for not telling me that in advance that American Fiction would probably make me cry, and his response was a sardonic echo of my original text. Sensing that he either intentionally missed my point or was being an ass, his response is partly why I feel compelled to vent about how shitty it is, in what was otherwise a brilliant film, that no one seems to be all that broken up about the abrupt and sudden death of the person who had been managing EVERYTHING for her family to the point that it literally KILLS her!

Before you metaphorically reach out to pat me on the head and urge me to calm down it's just a movie, let me point out the irony of a film that indicts the way society prefers to see Black lives presented (flat, stereotypical, and tragic) and how it does the exact same thing in its depiction of Black women. In the course of exploiting several Hollywood tropes to their humorous heights and tragic depths, this film offers a layered story within a story within a story allegory of so many "fictions" we choose to believe. In other words, it is The Colored Museum (1986) meets Hollywood Shuffle (1987) meets A Strange Loop (2020) with some of the better episodes of black-ish (2014-2022) mixed in. Brilliant.

Beginning with Monk (the always mesmerizing Jeffrey Wright), the tortured, lonely genius and his brother Cliff (Sterling K. Brown), the gay black sheep of the family, both of those representations hold the center. There are supported by several stock minor characters: the cheerful (funny) gays, the noble Latinx allies, and the various versions of white liberals. As each successive white character appears, I chuckled at how they could have been plucked from a shelf in a bookstore labeled "prototypical white liberal" (which correlates to a scene in the film that occurs right before it delivers that first emotional gut punch). And then finally, there is the Chorus: five Black women who consist of two Black best friends and three selfless Black matriarchs who are all flat, stereotypical, tragic...and expendable. 

Of course, that may be just my opinion, and I recognize that might be another veiled reference to the entire point of this film. Traditional Black narratives written and produced by Black men often relegate Black women to the sidelines in service to the story. Rarely do we get full-dimensional wives, mothers, or daughters in these stories because the narrative is usually centered on the Black experience through the lens of its Black male protagonists. Seemingly aware of this blind-spot, in the scene where Monk is complimented for his ability to write fully developed female characters, it just so happens to follow within minutes of his sister's hasty heavenly departure. This struck me as kind of an obvious little white lie given that is the opposite of how the Black women in this film are treated. 

Therefore, as screenwriter and director Cord Jefferson is surely winking back at us in calling out Monk's wealthy white patrons as modern-day versions of Charlotte Osgood Mason and Carl Van Vechten, his other choices feel similarly intentional. At various points, Monk dispatches every Black woman in his orbit with little to no sentimentality. When he moves his mother Agnes (Leslie Uggams) into the nursing home, there are no tears, no second thoughts, no long embrace goodbye; instead, the scene ends with his brother's hurt feelings over a homophobic remark. And there she is left alone in Boston even though Monk and his brother both live out West (and ride off together to the Hollywood Hills in the end). The faithful family housekeeper, Lorraine (Myra Lucretia Taylor), is married off, but not before it is casually suggested that she could be fired to save money. Is it really a coincidence that she happens to rekindle an old flame to save Monk from having to do the unthinkable? The promise of a meaningful romantic relationship with Coraline (Erika Alexander) is dashed by his insufferable ego. Of course, it is doomed from the moment when he jokingly asks for her name after he spends the night with her, and we (the audience) realize we were never formally introduced. Monk's duplicity with Sintara Golden (Issa Rae) all but ensures that they will be professional rivals, never friends.

Which brings me back to Lisa, the older sister (rather, it is my assumption that she is the eldest, because that is the birth-order responsibility I hold in my family). I couldn't help but to see myself reflected back from the screen, so admittedly, I might not be separating fact from fiction in my response to her demise. Yet, isn't it peculiar that from my seat in the audience, I had a more emotional reaction to the death of this fictional character than what unfolds onscreen? 

All of the signs of her impending demise are revealed in the short time we become acquainted with her: stress from a recent divorce, concern over finances, a dangerous job, and the prospect of caring for her mother without consistent family support. To cope, she mentions that she has resumed smoking. That she dies isn't all that shocking nor is the timing, given all of that build up (almost as if one could imagine her arteries hardening). It is the way everyone just moves on--gee, it sucks that older Sis no longer here to keep the lights on, remind Mom to put on her wig, recognize that younger brother is an impulsive dope fiend, etc., but we'll manage. They spend more time mourning their long-dead philandering father who committed suicide...

Indulge me for a few more paragraphs while I pivot from the film to address the parallels to my own life. At some point before my 40th birthday, I had a conversation with another friend about caregiving in the early stages of my Mom's dementia diagnosis. She shared a story about an aunt of hers who had been the family matriarch/caregiver until she died unexpectedly. While the family mourned her loss as they had looked to this Sister/Auntie to handle everything, miraculously they were all capable of doing for themselves. The selfless matriarch who had devoted her life to her family was dead while those whom she supported/enabled/stood in the gap for kept right on living. That story altered my thinking about much, including my decision to pursue motherhood and my writing. I thought my family would appreciate my sacrifices...until it began to feel more like they expected them. Then it dawned on me that I might wake up one day at 45 years old as a bitter, possibly divorced woman with no family of my own. Or dead like my friend's aunt, or like the fictional Lisa.

Thankfully, I'm not dead yet.

But now that I am 50 years old and see similar patterns emerging, including being the Momager of my daughter's life, I am serious about remembering to take time to care for ME in the midst of caring for everyone else. That is exactly how I ended up at the movies that day because I was carving out time for myself after a particularly stressful week of dealing with a broken furnace, negotiating home health care issues, rescheduling doctor appointments, attending Zoom meetings, and being a Girl Scout/Dance Mom. Later that evening when I was out grocery shopping for healthy snacks and food for my parents, I picked up a second bouquet of flowers. Because damn if I'm going to drop dead and not have any flowers to enjoy while I am still able to smell them!

I'm not suggesting that it is Cord Jefferson's responsibility to circle back to a minor character's subplot to address the mythology versus the reality of the Black Superwoman. In a more perfect American fictional world, that would have been Sintara Golden's literary contribution instead of more baby mama drama. Far from accusing Jefferson or Percival Everett of dropping the ball, it is more accurate to suggest that they dropped some heavy hints that there is so much more to Black lives than slogans and advertising campaigns. That, and the tongue in cheek digs that Tyler Perry is neither a Black everyman nor is his Madea character every woman...and both of them need to stop crowding out other Black voices. 

There is room on bookstore shelves, on stage, and on screen for Black stories that explore the full range of our humanity, including our health disparities and outcomes; the challenges of caring for our elders; and the mistakes we make in raising our children. As we learned from Issa Rae, it doesn't all have to be that heavy--we can mine our bad relationship choices, professional setbacks and stumbles, and our dysfunctional families for five seasons of hilarious material. To paraphrase the late great author Toni Morrison, if there are stories that we want to see that haven't been written or filmed yet, then we must put in the work to see that those projects come to life. 

I feel those words as clearly as I felt sorrow for a fictional dead woman, so the universe must be trying to tell me something. Stay tuned...

Monday, October 16, 2023

Romantic Tragedies

One of my favorite romantic comedies (rom-coms) of all time is When Harry Met Sally, a movie that I especially love to watch this time of year. Not sure why it is my fall favorite (or why Sleepless in Seattle is my Winter favorite, or why You've Got Mail is my Spring go-to, and now that I am thinking about this, why I'm not sure if I have a summer favorite or why all of these movies feature Meg Ryan). I digress...

I recently re-watched WHMS a few weeks ago and thought of it as I was recently reading some epic foolishness on X (yeah, I concede and will no longer refer to it as Twitter since that was a happier platform). It was late at night, I was not in the mood for any of the heavier political debates of the day, so I decided to see what was trending on Black Twitter (which I will not rebrand). And baybee, y'all delivered!

So how does this relate to WHMS? Because the chatter was about first dates, and one of the running themes in that movie is disastrous first dates. In my old-married-lady mind, all I can say is WOW, not even close anymore. These days, I can't imagine if I would even get asked out on a date, let alone go through with one the way y'all act. 

Apparently, there were two disastrous first date videos that were being discussed, so your Busy Black Auntie has questions: why and WHET???

Chain, Chain, Chain of Fools

Why is the Cheesecake Factory not appropriate for a first date? Did somebody pass a law? Because back in the day when my BFF and I stumbled across this place while in high school, we marveled at its menu booklet and extensive cheesecake offerings. At the time, there was only one of these in our area, so it was quite the treat to go there and to come home with one of their decadent desserts.

Now I know you are thinking, that was 30+ years ago and well, you can find a Cheesecake Factory at almost any suburban mall that is still standing. Heck, I just learned that there is one in Downtown DC, so I get that the shine has kind of worn off. It isn't as special, and if you get all dressed up to go out on a date, perhaps you would like for the restaurant selection to be one where you can't just pull up to any mall that is still standing. I assume that same hesitance would be expected at other well-known, so-called high-end chain establishments, such as The Capital Grille, Ruth's Chris Steak House, Maggiano's, McCormick & Schmick's, or any other place that offers loyalty points and curbside pickup. I'm guessing that no one goes to Houston's like that anymore either...(and that was my joint too). Times change.

So tell me, where else would you go? You see, the entire point of a place like the Cheesecake Factory is to offer patrons a bunch of choices that don't adhere to one particular cuisine. It tries to be all things to all people so that anyone can find something to eat. It ain't fine dining, but it ain't Applebee's. It is safe, which is a reasonable choice to make if you don't know the person that well, but anticipate the possibility of what could develop from a dinner date as opposed to drinks...

Does it require much thought? No. So does that mean that the new outfit, manicure/pedicure, fresh hairdo, and high heels are being wasted on some dude in a polo shirt, khakis, and docksiders? Perhaps. Would that piss me off enough to whip out my phone to make a video to document the disaster-in-the-making for my single girlfriends on TikTok?

No. Because I would at least wait until after the date to put him on blast.

However, and this is important to highlight, I haven't been on a first date since the late 1990s. Not only were there no cellphone cameras or social media, but like I said in the set-up, once upon a time the Cheesecake Factory would have won him cool points for making an impressive and thoughtful choice. I was a broke-ass college/law student dating other broke-ass college/law students, so I realize that alters my perspective of what is considered to be a well-planned and thoughtful first date. Not only would I have been impressed by the choice of restaurant, but I would also have been thrilled that he offered to pick me up and drive. That is downright chivalrous! 

But here's the part that really got me--the complaint that the restaurant is a chain, as if most restaurants in most major cities aren't part of a corporate restaurant group or some Mom and Pop watering hole in the wall. Here in DC, every restaurant is either owned by José Andrés or some former Top Chef contestant, so what other options are there? If he had taken her to some suburban strip mall spot, I imagine her complaint would have been that he took her to some dinky checkered laminated tablecloth joint where they serve tacos or pasta. Which leads me back to the premise that the Cheesecake Factory is at least a safe choice because if it doesn't require a lot of thought, and that means fewer worries. That menu has options to accommodate food allergies, dietary restrictions, spicy or bland palates, a variety of drink preferences, and almost any cuisine you could imagine. If you can't find something to eat on their menu, then there's a reason why you're still going out on first dates.

You Say Oyster; I Say Hasta La Vista

Now this one had me crying, because whew chile, the ghetto! The audacity! The sheer ridiculousness! The fact that this warranted an article in Rolling Stones, so there goes my free articles for this month...(in case you've used your allotment too, you can read it here.)

I am not on TikTok, so forgive me for not knowing that there is an entire genre of videos where people film themselves eating called mukbang, and folks tune in to watch. I cannot even wrap my head around such foolishness, because that sounds like the very definition of food porn, but people have their various kinks, so we'll just leave it at that.

However, because I was clueless and unaware, it now makes sense why the woman mentioned that she agreed to the date because she needed "content". I could go on a rant about why this type of booshay is exactly why I refuse to refer to myself as a "content creator"--because I'm an artist, and I'm sensitive about my shit...(and that would take us too far off-topic). But at least now I understand a few things, such as why the future of humanity is in doubt if y'all find this entertaining.

The gist is that some woman in Atlanta videotaped herself on a date during which she consumed 48 oysters, a plate of potatoes, crab cakes, and then washed it all down with a few cocktails. The gentleman who invited her out apparently watched this, and during a lull in the action, excused himself and left her there with the bill and a pile of dishes. He must have had a slight change of heart because he texted her and offered to pay for his one drink, which appeared to be a glass of wine or some sparkling water in a goblet that looked untouched. Y'all, I can't even write about this without laughing. What in the world???

And folks had jokes, good ones, so there isn't any additional spin I can offer to make this any more or less ridiculous. I can't imagine that there is even a legitimate side to be taken because who da fuq doesn't realize that entire scenario was a future SNL skit? I mean, dude sat there and watched her eat four trays of oysters and didn't try one? If this was in fact a real date, at what point didn't she realize that they weren't having any conversation because she was too busy slurping oysters or adjusting her camera? Where is his video, because surely, there is alternative plate-by-plate commentary? Was he gone for a lot longer than she realized, as in hours? What kind of cheap reject oysters are they serving for $15/dozen in a city that isn't on the water (we don't have deals like that and I live in a coastal city)? 

And how can we be sure that this was NOT just an elaborate set-up for one of those food porn videos because according to the article, dude came back and they left together!!! You know what, nevermind.

Ice Scream, You Screen?

Ok, this one is a bonus I recall seeing from the summer, when somebody's spoiled child got on Blue Ivy's internet to complain that a meeting for ice cream was a waste of her time. I'm wondering if this was the same chick who scoffed at the Cheesecake Factory; but it doesn't matter because she's still out here kissing frogs and wishing on stars as if this is all some Disney movie.

Or she's lactose intolerant, because I cannot imagine that someone would pass on an ice cream date after this hotter than July summer we just had. Some guy offers to meet you and treat you to some ice cream and you decline because you would have preferred that he put more thought into planning your first meeting? A first meeting at Starbuck's or Applebee's involves more effort and planning? Okay.

You could have worn a sundress with pockets on a first date, but you said no thanks I would rather go all out with the nails, hair, and heels because all of that involves e-f-f-o-r-t. Sis, you do know that if the issue really was lactose intolerance, you could have had sorbet...with sprinkles! GTFOHWTBS

It's a Date, Not a Trip to the Dry Cleaners

Lest you think I only have smoke for these whiny women, Imma need these baby boys to grow up and to stop itemizing their actions as if anybody other than your little friends are keeping score. Courtship requires much more of you than just expressing interest in a woman, and at the end of the night, no one owes you anything. Which, ironically, is one of the reasons why WHMS is such a great film to use as a frame of reference for modern dating and romance. Too many of you are out here thinking like Harry--that women are only worthy of your time if you can get some (or as you young people like to describe having sex, if you think you can smash).

And throughout the movie, it is clear that sex isn't that hard to get. According to Harry, sex is the singular reason why most men interact with women and why platonic male/female friendships are impossible to maintain. It's a persuasive thought bubble, even when he runs into Sally for a second time and talks about his pending nuptials. He admits to wanting to settle down because he had grown tired of the single life. However, when he meets Sally a third time five years later while in the process of getting divorced, he makes the choice to befriend her, which allows him to have a more meaningful relationship with her while reverting to his earlier stance of only dating to pursue sex. Becoming friends with her exposes him to developing genuine feelings, which finally breaks him of his pursuit of superficial and unfulfilling dalliances with women. 

In other words, these transactional situationships that y'all brag about on social media for clicks and comments are similarly unfulfilling and inadequate. Some of these women who are down to smash after your bare minimal effort will reciprocate by giving you next to nothing in return. Because you ain't nobody special to her either; yet y'all want to get on social media to complain that you can't write love songs about these women. No, and they aren't willing to sign onto becoming your maid and mama for as long as you both shall live, so there's that.

And one more thing, because some of you who describe yourselves as "nice guys" don't seem to understand that not being a psychopath still doesn't entitle you to anything. Rejection happens, but you don't stop applying for jobs, so why stop dating? As the old folks used to say (and I guess I am now old folks as well), there are a lot more fish in the sea. There are plenty of women out there who will appreciate your effort. 

A Jerry Springer Moment: Final Thoughts

Auntie isn't suggesting that anybody should settle, but instead of being disappointed that your date took you to the Cheesecake Factory, you might try to get past that and find out more about the IT guy who probably built up the courage for weeks to ask you out. I bet he doesn't live in his mother's basement nor does he have to pick up his kids in the McDonald's parking lot every other weekend. But you do you. To every dude who thinks that women are only agreeing to dates with you for the free meal, you do know that having an adult conversation in advance of making the date can save you a LOT in the long run. That means that instead of exchanging a bunch of text messages or DMs, you might need to press this green button to communicate. Imagine that!

I said this a few months ago but will repeat it here in case you missed it: relationships are between the two people involved, not the spectators who have gathered to see how the car crashes. If you are more concerned about posting your every move and expressing every profound thought you have on social media, then your engagement isn't with that other person, it is with your audience. No wonder why y'all are so bitter and disillusioned. You spend more time "creating content" for these elaborately staged encounters instead of experiencing life.

Once the people get their fill of you and your Truman Show drama, what comes next? Because some of you are so needy for attention, I worry that losing followers or engagement is a bigger deal than having an embarrassing viral story written about you. By next weekend, we will have someone else's dating disaster to deconstruct...so how do you plan to top that?

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Projectile Vomit

These days, social media can seem a lot like that iconic scene from the original first Star Wars movie where our heroes are caught in the trash compacting room. In essence, we are all swimming in garbage, desperately trying to keep ourselves from being crushed by garbage, or perhaps we have just enough time to escape...

I am referring specifically to X, the site formerly known as Twitter, and what it has become of it since the Muskrat took over nearly a year ago. Like many people, I have remained out of a morbid sense of curiosity to see just how bad things could get. Well, if you recognize my Star Wars analogy, then we might be at the point in the scene where the walls are closing in but C-3PO wants Luke to listen to his misadventures with R2-D2 evading storm troopers. In other words, democracy has only a slim chance of survival while we are fretting over foolishness. 

Every now and then, since I won't pay for a blue check, I say something on that platform that gets noticed and I have to admit, it gives me a thrill to think that for a brief, shining moment, I'm not just some random person shouting into the cyberverse. That was, until last Sunday when I spoke out against the tirade posted by Keith Olbermann prior to the debut of Kristen Welker as the new moderator of Meet the Press. From that one tweet came a variety of responses, the kind where people unwittingly tell on themselves, particularly those who claim to be allies.

To recap, I was scrolling Twitter early Sunday morning on the 17th. I saw a series of tweets posted by the aforementioned Olbermann, whom I follow because I used to be a fan of his now-defunct show, Countdown, when it aired nightly on MSNBC in the early aughts. Back then I looked forward to his bombastic and hyperbolic rants against the Bush Administration, especially his nightly Worst Person in the World segment (framed by Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor). His most recent incarnation in media is as host of a podcast of the same name, which I assume follows the same format of ranting and raving about whatever annoys him on any given day.

Now, it is significant to highlight how this is Olbermann's latest incarnation having had a long broadcast career that has involved stints at ESPN, FOX Sports, MSNBC, Current TV, and TBS. At the conclusion of these high-profile media gigs, Olbermann has often left in a blaze of inglorious self-immolating and obnoxious defiance (and I'm using all of these SAT words in homage to this brilliant SNL skit). In simpler terms, he's a blowhard who gleefully juggles lit matches that burn everything and everyone in his wake. We all know people like him, brilliant yet dangerously toxic, so while I found his schtick entertaining 20 years ago, hubris isn't what one would call an endearing personal quality.

Yet, I still follow him, and even after last week, I haven't gone so far as to mute or block him because as long as we're all still using Musky's platform, we're all just wading in a galactic trash heap on a doomed Death Star. I know that KO's rhetoric is over the top, and there are instances when he can be: (a) hypocritical; (b) sexist; and (c) wrong. He's now leaning into stereotypical podcast bro territory, while I'm another long-winded mommy blogger (so make of those caricatures whatever you want). Once upon a time, people like us were on the same side, shouting into the void.

To be clear, my issue with Olbermann's tirade was that of all people who have been extended grace throughout their career (and he's been at this for 30+ years), he ought to be willing to do the same. He could have let the interview air before denouncing Welker as a failure on her first day on the job. If you read any of his tweets from last Sunday (and the week prior), he had a LOT to say. FWIW, I have an opinion on that interview which I most certainly plan to express without conducting a Salem witch-level trial and execution. Read on.

I hit send on my tweet and gathered my things. You see, those of us who live in the real world have more important isht to do than scroll Twitter all day. I headed over to my parents' house, so that meant that I wouldn't be at church that morning. Thus, I had time to actually watch the interview in real time to judge for myself whether it was as bad as it appeared from the pre-released clips circulating on social media. In the meantime, my tweet stirred up a little dust, beginning with some lady demanding to know who I was.

Now here's where this all got interesting because I could have ignored her and kept living my best life, but I was feeling froggy and decided that her snarky so-who-do-you-think-you-are deserved a clapback. Because I think that it is rather ironic to be confronted by a fellow unverified "nobody" on Twitter as if that question is supposed to make me feel ashamed for daring to call out someone's bullshit. I am who I am, I replied, to which this KO groupie responded that I was probably just some desperate clout-chaser. At that point, I got curious, checked her profile, and saw that we were ideologically aligned. In the real world, one might even say that we would be protest allies, so I decided to end the exchange with a go forth and #BeBest. 

I went about the rest of my day and came back to Twitter several hours later. There were a few more responses to my tweet, some aghast that I had deigned to challenge the wisdom that had erupted from Mt. Olbermann. One twit hit back at me three times with commentary about Welker's inadequacies for the role that went from 0 to sexist/racist in 60 characters. I stretched my Twitter fingers, took a deep sigh, and calmly replied that I had never mentioned Welker's race or gender in my original tweet. Because the point of my tweet to Olbermann had been to point out the hypocrisy that he who had been given numerous chances to screw up and piss folks off throughout his career would come down so hard against someone barely into her first day on the job. 

Nevertheless, they persisted in suggesting that I was making excuses for Welker because she was a Black woman, so again, I reiterated that I had not mentioned race or gender, nor had I defended Welker. I went to bed and woke up to more of their nonsense, so as I had done with the first KO groupie, I peeped this person's profile and determined that they were probably another so-called ally. Yeah, go feed your cats and #BeBest.

All week, what nagged at me about these petty skirmishes was how these attacks were coming from the same pink pussy hat, safety pin, middle management, pumpkin spice coffee club folks who walk their dogs past my house but don't speak. We're allegedly on the same side, until I dare to express an opinion that goes against their community standards. Suddenly, they can see my nearly 6-foot-tall frame to clearly glean enough of what I said to tell me what they thought I meant to say.

No bish, you said that. 

However, since you raised the topic of Welker's race and gender and her ability to perform the job, let's discuss. Because y'all are good for propping women of color up for failure by setting impossible expectations and then demeaning their achievements as unearned. Kristen Welker is only the most recent example in a long line of Black women who find themselves targeted and undermined by so-called allies. For when else is it acceptable to denounce someone's job performance before they even show up for work?

Before I bring out any CVS receipts, I need to emphasize that these attacks don't just come from our suburban athleisure clad fellow keyboard warriors. Sometimes the loudest haters are the men who fight alongside us while secretly listening to and agreeing with Charlamagne tha God.

Days before the interview aired, I expressed skepticism whether this was the right move for Welker's maiden show. I was concerned that her bosses at NBC were using this interview to ensure high ratings for her debut, but also setting her up for the predictable fallout that followed. I believe that platforming Donald Trump is always irresponsible and dangerous, regardless of the newsworthiness of his position in the polls. I imagine that back in 1939 when TIME Magazine designated Adolph Hitler as its Man of the Year, they thought they were doing the world a service by publicizing his views because he too was a compelling public figure. The difference as I see it is multifaceted--not only did we learn our lesson by legitimizing Hitler, but we should have known better than to underestimate Trump's appeal after 2016. We now know what manner of destruction he can instigate after January 6. He could have held a rally to broadcast his lies and spew the same poison, so why put a Black woman in the position of facilitating our demise?

I watched the interview (twice) and was dismayed that the edit we saw did not put Trump on the defense; instead, it allowed him to prate on unchallenged and unrestrained. He has posted many of the same fabulist boasts and dubious claims on his Truth Social without the imprimatur of NBC News. That Welker showed deference to the office he previously held didn't bother me (because every former President is addressed as 'Mr. President') as much as there appeared to be some manner of deference to him personally as well. The fact that I had to go look for the full fact-checked edit and potentially sit through that booshay a third time annoys me. It is unlikely that any of that previously unaired footage will get replayed or reposted as a rebuttal to his mendacity. Furthermore, it shouldn't be our responsibility to discern whether he was lying when the entire point of interviewing him should have been for us to see in real time how much of a prevaricating huckster he is. 

Yet, I'm clear that the network's goal was achieved--Welker's debut drew more viewers than her competitors. Whether that will continue is yet to be determined, but the gamble paid off and folks watched either to affirm their pre-emptive biases or like me out of curiosity. That doesn't mean she deserves any high fives, and I'm not dapping her up because that first Sunday was a stunt. The real work of retaining viewers and proving her chops starts this week.

Notice how I did not argue that she deserves a pass because she happens to be the first woman of color in the Sunday morning news anchor chair. Nope, I'm saying that she deserves the opportunity to prove that she can do this job the same as the others who preceded her. David Gregory served as the moderator for six miserable years before the job went to Chuck Todd who dragged us through nine more. To suggest that Welker is a failure as compared to her predecessors after one show is...I need to think of a more appropriate word than ridiculous. Furthermore, to argue that she deserves the same chance to sink or swim isn't making an excuse for her race or gender; it is consistent with what has been the pattern and practice prior to her assuming the job.

And because it was discussed on Twitter, Welker is qualified for the job. So are any number of other journalists who may have been considered. To assume that she only got the job because of her race and gender, but not on the merit of the work she had done to get to this point is an affront to EVERY woman of color in journalism. To say that she is qualified is not the same as saying she is the right fit to host this show, but she deserves the chance to convince us. Or not.

Which brings me back to Olbermann and his groupies who seem to think that his past role as a voice for our left-leaning frustrations against the system were supposed to buy him perpetual loyalty. Umm, no he can catch these Twitter fingers just like anybody else. He's hardly on the level of elder news-statesmen Dan Rather or Ted Koppel--he's a former sports anchor with strongly held political opinions and a perpetual axe to grind. If he's baying at the moon in the wee hours of a Sunday morning about someone else's job performance at the network where he used to work (and to which he was willing to return as recently as a year ago)...trust I'm not the one who is desperate for attention.

Finally, off the top of my head, I said I could produce receipts on the biases shown against Black women in visible positions, so let's start off with none other than Vice President Kamala Harris and the calls to replace her as Biden's running mate. I took note of how my Spelman sister Roz Brewer, the only Black woman serving as a CEO in the Fortune 500 until last month, was ousted from that position after less than two years. If we thought they had run out of tiki torches for the mob that organized to keep Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones from receiving honorary tenure at her alma mater, they had sufficiently re-stocked to prevent the appointment of journalist Kathleen McElroy at Texas A&M University. In Georgia, the legislature passed a law intended to reign in prosecutors who pursue criminal justice reform with designs to test it out against DA Fani Willis just as she is about to try her biggest case. 

But those are just coincidences, right? According to that second twitter heckler, this is just another day of playing BINGO for me, because I can't imagine a world wherein a Black woman might be judged fairly on her job performance and come up short. Okay, cat lady, I can produce more than a paragraph of receipts: I wrote this and this, and this when y'all were traumatized by a Black actress being cast as the heroine in a children's movie. You're probably still bitter about your pancake mix. So yeah, it is exhausting because sexism with a chaser of racism feels like a relentless deluge when allyship is so transactional and performative.

I said what I said, and so did Maya Angelou. I didn't accuse Olbermann of bias; I called him a hypocrite. If you insist on reading more into what I twote, comprehension is just one of your problems.