Monday, May 31, 2021

Send In the Clowns

It may or may not become a regular intention of mine to call out faux controversies involving our Vice President, but this weekend was one of those times when some folks need to be dragged. It seems that the disgruntled MAGAs who lost any shred of relevance as a result of the 2020 election have turned to manufacturing outrage on Twitter in order to get attention. It is very much like how my Kid will suddenly start dancing in the store even when there is no music playing or when she interrupts me on the phone to tell me that I look like whatever deranged cartoon animal that just popped into her head. 

The professional provocateurs that use Twitter and other social media to keep people agitated about the election that was not stolen decided that their target this weekend would be Vice President Kamala Harris for a four word tweet. Four words, and they are fanning the flames of the next insurrection, because telling people to enjoy the long weekend is more egregious than being a draft-dodging liar who skipped a wreath-laying ceremony for World War I soldiers, called them losers and suckers because they're dead, and then blamed the weather because it might have ruined his hair. 

How dare she not respond to their booshay until Sunday, the day before Memorial Day...I would refer to whatever patriotic sentiment the former President offered, but his account got suspended.

I didn't even see her tweet initially. I just saw that there were some rumblings about something she tweeted and as I am always curious about trending topics on Twitter, I went through her tweets and found out that she gave the commencement address at the Naval Academy. She also encouraged people to get vaccinated, responded to the latest attempt at local voter suppression in Texas, and hyped up whatever speech Biden gave or will be giving (because we know he always has something to say). Literally, nothing to see there.

But the hecklers need attention, so the first tweet I saw was posted by some comic named Terrance K. Williams. Now, I don't actually know if this dude is a comic since I typically encounter his moronic ramblings whenever he's outraged. I don't follow him, but this joker still ends up in my TL, so I clicked to watch him rant for three minutes about how disrespectful it was for Harris to tweet about herself on a day that isn't about her. And then it dawned on me that what is most funny about him is the oversized MAGA hat that looks to be bigger than his body.

I kept scrolling and came across another tweet by a set of twins, also comedians, who share the same MAGA politics. They took issue with Harris' statement on the new voter restriction bill that was passed in Texas, and felt the need to close their missive with Mrs first African American female Vice President. Bad punctuation aside, I just want to know why grown ass men still dress alike to emphasize the fact that they are twins. But the tweet that got me to typing came from former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who re-tweeted Harris' statement under the caption Unprofessional and unfit

The respondents on Twitter already did an excellent job of dragging Haley, so I won't even waste too much of my Memorial Day musings pointing out how kind of desperate it is that she is still doing the sorority girl sabotage thing in hopes that it will catapult her to Harris' job. You're irrelevant and two-faced Nikki, and we can still see your lipstick smudges on Donald Trump's ass. Girl, bye.

So my goal here isn't to rehash anything that I have written about countless times in the past. Of course the loudest hecklers in the MAGA crowd are the people of color who must add on a Sandman tap dance to prove their loyalty to the cult (or they will be volunteered as tributes). I didn't even check to see what Candace Owens had to add because she's gotten boring and predictable. But no worries, because we know that she loves her some Seething Self-Hatred/Incredulous red kool-aid, and the holiday blend includes a little something extra to keep her cookout guests thirsty. 

No today, I am in the mood to teach a little history. Although I alluded to the Tulsa Massacre in my tweeted response to Mr. Williams, I think we need to offer some context for the day. In addition, since we seem to be stuck on this notion that learning about painful historical incidents in our country's past is too upsetting for some folks (because it makes them feel some kind of way to learn the truth about that crazy costume in great grandpa's junk trunk), let's have a few words on that. And then because my weekend plans got scrapped due to bad weather and the Kid's first cold in months, I just feel like writing.

A year ago, I had a similar impulse to share the history of Decoration Day after I saw some pictures in the media of a protest in Kentucky where that state's Governor was hung in effigy for imposing mask mandates. I went in on this history to make the connection that for all of the patriotic displays and performances, most people have no idea of its origins or how even the remembrance of our honored dead contains facets of racism that some choose to ignore. Last year, it was the fictional lynching of a politician; this year, it is everything that has occurred since the Capitol Insurrection on January 6.

For me, that melee marked a turning point. I cannot unsee what happened. I cannot just move on from how very close I could have come to being caught up in that crazy had I not had the good sense to keep my daughter at home from her class playdate (and her teacher's decision to cancel it). I cannot get over how brazen these people were in erecting a gallows on the Capitol grounds or how determined they were in believing they had the right to do what they did. As a student of history, I have read about race riots and as someone who experienced a version of the disturbances that scarred Los Angeles 29 years ago (in Atlanta), I have still have PTSD and no use for people of color who carry water for MAGA. 

I know that it was just 30 days ago that I wrote about Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) and I'm already prepared that he will do his best Bert Williams impression for the cameras. But at least he takes the grease paint off to work behind the scenes to accomplish something other than making a fool of himself. The rest of the chorus line doesn't miss a step.

For in their performance of this weekend's MAGA dance, none of these clowns mentioned the historical significance of Decoration Day as the precursor to Memorial Day. You would think that a group of so-called Black patriots would use that to hit at Vice President Harris if she deserved to be called out. Surely they know that history...but wait, I forgot how mentioning any intersection with race and history is damaging to the feelings of their audience. Those are inconvenient facts and Critical Race Theory is illegal in Idaho.

As such, it is also worth noting that none of the Vice President's haters mentioned the events taking place in Tulsa, Oklahoma this weekend. Again, no one pays them to be topical or relevant, but if we're going to criticize Kamala Harris for being tone deaf, then perhaps she deserves a few jabs for not mentioning the historic significance of the Tulsa Massacre which occurred 100 years ago today. Alas, they can't credibly attack her on that front either since she met privately with the three survivors this past week when they were in DC to testify before the House Judiciary Committee. But since we are nit-picking her every move, she could have mentioned it and hopefully before the end of the day she will tweet out some official statement of commemoration. And I will await a response to see if the others offer similar sentiments.

But I won't hold my breath. The MAGAs will call it virtue signaling and will argue that none of the white people who were responsible for the riots and lynching are alive today. As such, no one living today should be held responsible for the actions of their ancestors. That would be unfair, even if some of Tulsa's current residents know that their grandparents participated. Why should the sins of the past be visited upon the present? Besides, how do we know that some of those victims didn't deserve to die? Who told those Black World War I veterans that they could protect a man from getting lynched? And what right did their Greenwood community have to exist and prosper? Who told these Black people that they had rights that their white neighbors were bound to respect? Who said their Black lives should matter?

Don't go looking for those exact words in their tweets because they aren't that brave. No, the MAGAs would rather take aim at George Floyd and Andrew Brown, two dead Black men with troubled pasts, and argue that they didn't deserve to get clean, reset their lives, or breathe. They will claim that their violent uprising at the Capitol doesn't compare to the violence and destruction that we caused last summer. Mind you, we marched with signs to protest a man's death; they armed themselves with assault weapons to march on state capitols to protest wearing masks. They call us delusional for demanding a better America and perhaps we are because what have we learned from the Tulsa riots, the backlash to the 1619 Project, and how hard they work to suppress our votes...

Nikki Haley doesn't get a pass because she's Asian American and not Black. It is still Pacific Islander Heritage Month and she's from South Carolina, so close enough. By attacking Harris, the highest ranking Asian American woman in government, Haley thinks she is drawing a contrast with her would-be rival since Harris knocked her off her historic trajectory and derailed her ambition. It must hurt not to have a job that requires her participation in official functions today, but she can still enjoy the long weekend at the beach.

Send in the clowns to warm up the MAGA crowd who live for the performative patriotism of wearing $5 tee shirts from Old Navy. Send in the clowns who were complaining that masks and social distancing were infringing on their freedom to shop Memorial Day sales last year. Send in the clowns who keep thinking that their loyalty to these people will ever be rewarded with anything other than more greasepaint.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Queen of the Damned

I was just scrolling along, minding my business, 
when under an overcast cast sky...
Flash, Bam, Alacazam! Caitlyn Jenner--oh my!

Hey look, I am not much of a songwriter, but if you know the ditty by Nat King and Natalie Cole, then you may already know about the tweet to which I am referring. It's the one where Jenner claims she will cancel 'cancel culture' and wake up the 'woke' (neither statement makes any sense), if she is elected Governor of California in this recall. 

In the aftermath of the Trumpacalypse, I know many of us are just content to observe the insanity from a safe distance. And whoo chile, this is cray cray for real. Because some of the same folks who wouldn't want Jenner to use the Ladies room at their local Walmart are out here on Al Gore's internet cosigning her foolishness as if they didn't introduce and vote for laws that would bar her from competing in the decathlon if she were 45 years younger (and wanted to compete as Caitlyn and not Bruce, who won all of those gold medals). Are you still with me?

Yeah, that bish. Queen of the Karens (because I respect her truth and her pronouns).

This is just par for the course. As a transitioned woman with the accompanying privileges and cattiness, Caitlyn is just being the Karen she always knew herself to be. She is even more Karen than her ex-wife Kris Jenner, whom I am convinced is somewhere in the background, cheering Caitlyn on as if this is another propagated cutting from Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Because damn if Kris Jenner is done promoting the hell out of her dysfunctional ass family just because they are divorced...

Yes, Caitlyn Jenner is thee most Karen of all the Karens, and the easiest way to explain why/how she out-Karens them all is to first settle how this would be a different conversation if she were still Bruce. Bruce Jenner seeking public office would have been the kind of Arnold Schwarzenegger I-married-a-Kennedy-so-I-am-qualified-by-marriage energy that earned him the title of the Governator. As Bruce, all we need is a continuous loop of him running that triumphant lap towards the gold medal, draped with an American flag and people would buy it. I don't live in Culifornya, so I can't credibly judge, but y'all like celluloid heroes in the Governor's mansion. If they aren't actors, then they come directly from central casting, so why wouldn't Bruce have had a credible shot?

However, as Caitlyn, this vanity candidacy is exactly the kind of Karen shit that we hate. When her demands to see the manager do not result in a change of policy that bends in her favor, she vows to make him pay dearly. What better revenge than to take his job?

"I will run for Governor," says Karen Caitlyn Jenner, "because how hard a job is it?" Make a few speeches, sign a few edicts, cut some ribbons, and get those Restylane fillers on the taxpayer dime (because we know that Kris J won't let her touch any of their daughter Kylie's billions). In fact, that might be the other reason why she's running...this global pandemic knocked her daughter off the Forbes' Billionaire list. Mummy Bear is displeased that no one needs as much makeup to wear around the house as she does, so in addition to one-upping Kris now that her long-running reality show is almost done, Caitlyn can try her hand momaging. (But again, who are they kidding, since Kris J would be all up in the Governor's mansion if Caitlyn wins--four more year$!)

Let's put a pin in that, though, because Caitlyn deserves to be judged in her own right. She is the one who is out here tweeting Dr. Seuss tongue twisters as if it is policy that a governor has the power to enact. Yes Ms. Jenner, maybe you can cancel and wake up folks once you are the Governor. I mean, if Andy Cohen won't return your calls, then show him who is the Queen B by cancelling his California Housewives. I can't come up with a snarky response to waking up the woke other than a zombie reference, and I've never watched The Walking Dead, so I will just wait to see what that is supposed to mean. The point, if you think you have what it takes to run the state with the world's fifth largest economy in the fourth quarter of a global pandemic when you have NO idea what it means to be an essential worker, then you go girl!

If Donald Trump could play President for four years and it made him and his children millions, Jenner can play the caring, involved mother and avenge her baby girl's financial losses. When she laments the devastating impact of the pandemic on the economy, it is personal. We lost interest in the Jenner-Kardashian clan because we were all just trying to keep up with our own frantic lives. "Well enough of that," declares Caitlyn in her most Karen voice, "because I need my mocha soy latte and my dogs need their organic non-GMO food, and this social distancing thing is just way too inconvenient." And do not get her started on how hard it is to find a mask to match all of her outfits.

Pandemic begone!

So now let's turn to the hypocrisy and farce of Jenner being treated like a credible candidate at all. Maybe she isn't, and the media just needs something sensational to stay busy until Sharknado returns. Given the opposition in various parts of the country to the civil rights of trans people, how has she not been written off as a joke? In this highly polarized political climate in which there are bathroom bills and restrictions on athletic competition that are blatantly discriminatory, Caitlyn Jenner (a former male Olympian) is being taken seriously. Seriously??? 

More seriously than Gary Coleman when he ran for Governor in 2003. I can't find any YouTube footage of his quixotic campaign, although that all took place before YouTube was a thing (yet, I can find clips of him on Divorce Court, so go figure). A few other candidates, Mary Carey, the adult porn actress, is running again. as is former billboard model Angelyne, so yes, the clowns are being drawn back to the circus. From what I remembered of the earlier recall, a lot of randos were on the ballot--over 100, and that does not include the 24 write in candidates who voted for themselves. Among that group there were career politicians, university professors, radio personalities, hippies, musicians, a bounty hunter, a prop comic, Silicon Valley venture capitalists, and porn publisher Larry Flynt. 

It's California, so why not? We shrug and giggle, then the Senate votes to block the commission that would have investigated the January 6 Capitol Insurrection. And among their ranks is the guy who welcomed the insurrectionists; the guy who decamped to Cancun during a statewide power outage; the former college football coach who'd rather be fishing; and Lindsey Graham. They all have some kind of political experience (except for Tuberville who is just an idiot). Jenner's most recent high profile gig was on The Masked Singer. But because this is a democracy, notoriety and stupidity aren't disqualifiers for public office, nor is the unbridled need for attention, which is something Jenner clearly craves.

Lest we forget, the Ahnold and the Donald both began their political careers with the same kind of wondering aloud on a hot mic about their political ambitions. I'm sure that for every celebrity-turned-politician they all haven't been disasters, but I'm not a betting woman. Plenty of career politicians are equally disastrous so we take the good with the bad at every election. The problem is that this has gone way past the point of being mildly entertaining. 

And should I be accused of being racist or sexist in speaking out against Jenner's hubris, then so be it. She is a Karen who has taken Karenism to even more egregious levels of gall. She is playing the aggrieved white lady and the has-been white hero guy tropes to the max, and the media is eating it up. On top of that, she is dismissive of harm that is being done to the LGBTQIA+ community (very similar to the Stockholm syndrome that keeps certain Black conservatives trending on Twitter on a regular basis). We once laughed at the prospect of a Governator, and you can ask Hillary Clinton how it felt to lose in 2016...are we ready for what Jenner could unleash if she won?

Do us a solid and do not give this woman anymore attention. Do not inspire anymore D-list celebrities  or former athletes to believe that their vanity is worth more than the real people whose lives their antics will impact. I don't care whether our political views are the same or not, I care that too many posers get into office to draw attention to themselves for the sake of notoriety and the result is The Squad versus the Disgruntled MAGAs in Congress. Or worse, a global pandemic that got out of control because the con man game show host refused to support his scientists and wear a mask. Caitlyn Jenner hasn't even been successfully canceled (yet), and nobody in her orbit is woke, so what can she offer that some conservative local elected official from Orange Country cannot? (Or why do they need to recall the Governor again when an election will take place in 2022?)

To clarify, I have no issue whatsoever with Caitlyn Jenner having opinions on political matters, or even expressing them. This really isn't about whether we agree or disagree; this is about whether her candidacy would serve the people of California. In other states across the country, a lot of current office-holders get their start in local politics as a second or third career, so perhaps this is her second act. But most of those second and third career politicians start by learning the ropes--they pay their dues in some down-ballot office. The problem with celebrity candidates like Jenner, Schwarzenegger, Trump, Jesse Ventura, Dwayne Johnson, Matthew McConaughey, etc., is that they assume that the power of their name and their ego is enough to justify mounting these high profile campaigns. 

Another woman in this same scenario would not get as much attention as Jenner (or it would be the wrong kind of attention). Nor would any other person of color except The Rock receive positive encouragement (and I know this from observing responses to LeBron James's activism). As we know from Gary Coleman, there are fine lines that distinguish notoriety, sympathy, and outright ridicule at this stage. Not sure which line we are walking along with Jenner, but if her politics were not conservative, I doubt she would have gotten a sit-down with Gayle King. There is a lot we as a society are learning about trans identity, so my gut tells me that this initial publicity blitz is based on curiosity and her notoriety. But once the novelty wears off, who has time for Jenner to learn on the job? Or for her to be managed/influenced by the special interests that see her as a useful idiot for serving their agendas?

Caitlyn Jenner for Governor of California is Oswald Cobblepot for Mayor of Gotham...and allusions to her as a demented circus ringmaster are purely coincidental. Therefore, if I might make an alternative proposal, Caitlyn and Kris need to stop all of this foolishness and pitch a better reality show idea. It's way past time for a re-booted Battle of the Network Stars (which Jenner could host) or an updated Laff-A-Lympics cartoon. I'm just putting both options on the table because I see lots of potential. Or here is an even more radical suggestion: instead of being the Karen who deigned to fix California, be Caitlyn the Olympian, trans-activist trailblazer whose bold journey to her truth helped to pave the way for others to find theirs.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Nichelle Nichols Appreciation Day

Before anyone panics, Nichelle Nichols is still with us! I am doing this random appreciation post to honor her, thanks to the kind of rabbit-hole writing I referred to in my 10th Anniversary post--how I start off with one set of intentions and end up doing something totally different.

First of all, if you don't know about Nichelle Nichols and why she deserves appreciation, then I am going to assume that you are some kind of Generation Z(ombie) brat who would deign to call someone in their mid to late 30s a geriatric Millennial. Like huh? As usual, Gen Xers get no trending nicknames or hashtags, like #OKBoomer. I should feel some kind of way about that...

I have designated May 24 to be Nichelle Nichols Appreciation Day in honor of the fact that y'all pretty much make up nonsensical social media holidays anyway: Siblings Day, Fur Baby Day, Left-Handers Unite, etc. So why not, before someone claims this day for Gene Wilder (trending earlier because there will be yet another remake of Willy Wonka)? I hereby declare and decree that we shall pay appropriate homage to Ms. Nichols, a heroine to my generation and beyond, on every May 24th for now and forever. (Yes, I am aware that I did not finish writing this on May 24, but that is a minor space-time continuum technicality that I expect you to overlook. Carry on and keep reading :)

This all started with this week-old article I saw being discussed on Twitter on Sunday about the late Vivian Cash and her marriage to the one and only Johnny Cash. I won't spend too much time on that (feel free to opine on the BBW Facebook page though), but I will offer some analysis of that as a related tangent. Folks were commenting on the first Mrs. Cash's appearance and race, and other folks were apparently rather naïve to the repercussions of the possibility that she could have been Black and married to a famous country singer in 1960s America. For what it is worth, my opinion on her race is that she probably was what she said she was (Sicilian) because that was what she knew herself to be. Furthermore, what she believed/knew herself to be isn't disproven by the DNA evidence that found traces of African ancestry as there is no evidence that she was passing or had intentionally suppressed information about her identity (like Carol Channing). However, what is clear is that at some point, Vivian Cash had an ancestor whose understanding of American racial identity resulted in a fateful choice...and that's all there is to say about that.

How that relates to Nichelle Nichols is that somewhere in the range of comments, someone posted a link to the episode of Drunk History about the first small-screen interracial kiss. That pivotal moment took place between William Shatner and Nichols in an famous episode of the original classic Star Trek, Plato's Stepchildren, which aired in 1968, the year after the Supreme Court decision in Loving v. Virginia. (The first big-screen interracial kiss took place between Sidney Poitier and Katherine Houghton in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, which we discussed earlier this year, along with the Loving decision and other associated topics.) Quite the random coincidence, I happened to click on an article on the Firefox search page about Shatner's latest projects before I saw that link to Drunk History, which reminds me to make sure to go back to watch the most recent episode of A Black Lady Sketch Show (ABLSS) because Ashley Nicole Black is hella funny.

See how my scattered mind works? If you wish to continue on this journey with me, then your assigned viewings for today include watching the "Plato's Stepchildren" kiss scene, the Drunk History episode, and then this recap offered by Ms. Nichols herself about how the kiss happened. Then for extra credit, you need to check out this sketch from ABLSS to fully appreciate Ashley Nicole Black's comedic genius (and okay, here is an obligatory shout out to Raven-Symone, who is rather badass in her own right). Once you have completed all of that, this meandering might make more sense. 

[Insert transitional theme music]

With a nod to the kind of old school posts I wrote during the first year of the Busy Black Woman blog, this is an admiration for a real badass phenomenal woman, except this isn't her birthday. Nor is it the day in history when that ground-breaking "Plato's Stepchildren" episode aired, so this really is random. But as I am always down for chasing wild geese, I was today years old in learning that it was Nichols who helped to recruit many of the diverse candidates that would go on to become pioneers in the space program. One of her recruits was none other than real-life astronaut Mae Jemison, who made a cameo appearance on Star Trek: The Next Generation, on an episode directed by thee beloved LeVar Burton, who happened to be making his directorial debut...ON THIS DAY IN 1993! See, wormholes do lead to curious places.

Hence, even if you aren't a lifelong Trekker like me (yes, I have been boldly watching for more than 40 years), Nichelle Nichols deserves her flowers for choosing to sacrifice what might have been a different career in service to the greater good. If she had left Star Trek after that first season, she might have gone onto more success on Broadway. She certainly could have been cast on any number of TV shows, such as the various 70s sitcoms or perhaps a soap opera. Take a good look at her IMDB and note that she doesn't have a diverse resume of roles after Uhura, other than as a voice actress or in a supporting role. The irony of her choice to stick with a show where she felt marginalized was that she was later unable to disassociate herself from that character.

Thus, the second smart move she made was to recognize the power of Lt. Uhura as more than just a intergalactic receptionist. She was a Black woman in space, in the future, with military rank, in a world where Black people had literally just integrated lunch counters. Women weren't even serving in the military like that, so this was a bold new vision of a future that exceeded the reality of our own nascent space program two years before we landed on the moon. Equality in outer space might have seemed delusional in the America of the 1960s; still this show offered a small beacon of hope to the generation of kids like me, who would come of age in post-civil rights America. 

Having grown up watching Star Trek with my Dad (and now being married to a Trekkie), the influence of that show transcends the campy three seasons that remain in perpetual syndication. The Starship Enterprise is itself an enterprise--spawning a cartoon, a series of movies, a next generation television series with several spin-offs that continue to propagate, as well as a rebooted movie franchise. There are books, toys, costumes, a Vegas experience, video games, collectibles, etc., and Lt. Uhura is always included as a core member of the original cast. Although she was never fully developed (I never knew she had a first name, Nyota, until the JJ Abrams reboot), her presence was integral to the multiracial space utopia that series creator Gene Roddenberry had envisioned. Unlike the other red-uniformed ensigns that were likely to perish in some predictable setup, Uhura was constant like the North star.

Nichols leveraged that visibility in both practical and symbolic ways. If she couldn't escape being Uhura, (due to typecasting and that thing some of y'all deny exists), Nichols would use Uhura to serve as an example for what could become possible. The Drunk History skit claims that Nichols personally recruited NASA pioneers Sally Ride, Guion Bluford, and Mae Jemison. Perhaps it is more likely that her character influenced NASA to engage in the kind of outreach that encouraged them to become future astronauts. Mae Jemison has said that she was inspired by seeing Nichols on television. How many other girls were similarly inspired?

And how was Nichols rewarded for her advocacy? With a steady gig, even as her old crew got way too old to be flying off on the whims of the dashing Captain James T. Kirk. She didn't die or get disfigured, but Uhura got to hang out with her boys until she retired from Starfleet. My guess is that as one of the highest ranking Blacks in Starfleet, even in the 23rd Century, there was a need for role models and mentors. Perhaps she encountered the parents of Geordi LaForge at the Academy or a very young Black Vulcan named Tuvak, when he served as a junior science officer under her old pal Captain Sulu. Did she eat at Sisko's Creole Kitchen when Benjamin Sisko was a kid? At some point I will have the Hub to explain how this new Star Trek: Discovery prequel works in the grand scheme of things with two high ranking women serving in Starfleet ten years before Uhura manned that switchboard. No matter...there is no denying the influence Nichols has had in this universe. 

Part of what makes this tribute so personally significant is that in her twilight years, Nichols has had to contend with her fair share of life's tests and travails. It is most heartbreaking to know that she is living with dementia, and unlike her peers who surely earned enough to afford privacy, apparently she was not as fortunate by the looks of this website. In addition to this homage, my hope in elevating her is to ensure that her legacy doesn't get overshadowed by the scandals.

Since distractions and perfectionism tend to alter my best intentions, another popular space odyssey made its debut on May 25, 1977 (its third installment premiered on this same date in 1983). As mesmerized as we all were (and have been) with the Star Wars franchise over the years, in many ways, it was light years behind Star Trek with respect to representation. This is not up for debate at this juncture, but the mere presence of Nichelle Nichols as a regular cast member, even in a limited capacity, had more of a cultural impact for women and people of color.

For all of the shit that William Shatner gets (deservedly so), he earns my respect for having committed to the kiss. Captain Kirk locked lips with any and every woman in his orbit, but kissing a green alien was not the same as kissing his Black secretary, even in the late 1960s. Whether it doomed the show, canceled at the end of that season is anyone's guess, but he could have exercised his right as the star for a different scene. Where another actor might have worried about the collateral damage to his career, he ran with it, and here we are 50 + years later, still fascinated by his Shatnerian audacity. As for Dr. King's persuasive pep talk that got Nichols to stick with the show, I wish people who intentionally misquote him understood why this was the visualization of his dream. If race doesn't matter, then her leaving to pursue other projects wouldn't have made the difference that her staying with the show ultimately did. Read that again--REPRESENTATION MATTERS.

And that's it! Enjoy this unforgettable interplay between Nichols and her other leading man, the great Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock, and live long and prosper.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Reflections on Ten Years of Being a Busy Black Woman

As of today (May 23), this blog is officially ten years old. Officially that isn't quite accurate since I started the blog in December of 2010 with a grand set of ideas and intentions. However, it was by May 2011 that I was beginning to make the moves to bring the vision into existence. On this date, I officially bought my domain name. In case you were wondering, I marked this occasion back then by writing about my patron saint, Oprah Winfrey, as she was about to transition away from her daily TV talk show. 

I am in a moment of self-reflection again which means this isn't my usual intentional style of writing. I am sitting outside under my house (I have an addition that provides me with shade) and had been mindlessly scrolling through YouTube to find a video about a show that I watched as a kid. That was in response to a tweet to name the best 80s theme song (my response was the theme to A Different World, seasons 2-5, as sung by Aretha Franklin). I initially came outside to check in on my little garden.

EVERYTHING in my life starts off with a different intention...

And the point of that statement was to mention how the point of this blog was to support an idea I had about selling tee shirts. I sold a few shirts ten years ago. I haven't sold that many more shirts in these past ten years, even though I produced more shirts, mugs, and have had other merchandising ideas. This is not intended to provoke guilty purchases (because I know that it won't), but I am just stating fact. My intentions at the beginning of this blog project were very different.

As I sit here, I am thinking of a few other intentions I've had over the years connected to this blog. The associated Facebook and Twitter accounts were supposed to help promote the blog, which to some extent I believe they do. However, I have become clear that those social media accounts (along with the Instagram account I started a couple of years ago), really just promote the Busy Black Woman as an alter ego of Ayanna Damali, the woman behind the blog. And maybe one day that will mean something.

After ten years, I have to admit to a mix of feelings about things. This is actually my third blog. It is my most consistent effort, although I still have unfinished writing over at the Café that I am still pondering in some form. I rarely update the Garden Blog, even though I have never really stopped gardening. I just haven't revived it, and right now it is doubtful that I will since I am back on pen and paper these days. As for the Café, I am unsure how to revive it or if I should given that in many respects, it is an earlier, evolved version of Busy Black Woman. I wrote about everything over there in its heyday, and once I started this blog, I thought that I would separate my writing personas so that BBW would cover a specific set of topics and the Café would deal with my private life. Then I suddenly stopped writing altogether for almost two years (my second major hiatus from writing) until I was about 8 months pregnant. I returned to writing on both blogs; however, sometime in 2018 it made more sense to write exclusively here.

On the one hand, I am a little bitter that it seems like I'm in the same place. I think my writing has improved and every now and again, I get positive feedback. But it is inconsistent. And I am unsure how to overcome that because I don't really know how I'm supposed to be creating and promoting my work while maintaining everything else in this Busy Black life. I have been reluctant to admit that for some time because I feel that writers are supposed to make a way through this. If no one reads our work, then we are just diarists. I should be cool with that, but after ten years, shouldn't I have more?

This year has been kind of full circle in that I am seeing growth and promise, but experience has me doubting whether anything will change. Twenty years ago, I hit a homer out of the park with a piece I wrote about Black music. I have alluded to that piece quite a few times, and it was sometime in the last two years that I found the hard copy of it again. The problem is that still feels like the high water mark of my writing career in spite of the fact that I am a much better writer today. Is that my imagination or is it the dissatisfaction and disappointment I feel that nothing since that point has gone in the direction I intended?

Is my writing supposed to a business, an art, or a ministry? 

Yeah, I said ministry, because that word better describes the core of what I believe I am called to do. If I look back, I know that I wrote somewhere about writing being like the air I breathe--I cannot not write. So if that is true, then why can't writing be enough? It would be nice to earn money from it and great if more people read my work, but having been at this for twenty years how much longer should I wait to make it? In fact, it has been longer than twenty years...I recalled recently how I have been writing like this since elementary school. This is what I have always been, so perhaps this isn't the crossroads of wondering where to next. If there is to be a book (big question mark), then would it be to sell tee shirts and mugs, or would it be another vehicle to do what I have been doing all along?   

Therefore, if writing isn't my job or my career, then it seems appropriate to call it my ministry. This is how I serve the world, through my art. I am an artist. My opinions are the medium I use to create. That's it. Those who hear my voice will respond, they will share it, or they won't. Maybe someone will pay for it, but I am no longer attempting to sell the concept of being a Busy Black Woman. That is a bold statement to make after all of this time, but after ten years of being the Busy Black Woman, I don't need a clique. I am a busy Black woman who writes, who is a caregiver (mother, wife, sister, daughter, and auntie), and who is still a civil rights lawyer. I am also a teacher, a dancer, a philanthropist, a proud Spelman Alumna, a Delta, DC native, and maybe I will stay busy by becoming a few more things. 

And wow, saying that was not my intention when I started writing's to the next ten years and beyond!

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Canceling the Culture

A bunch of folks are going around decrying 'cancel culture' the same way they stressed over and ultimately derailed 'political correctness' nearly 30 years ago. And it has been quite remarkable to watch history repeat itself--not only because it makes me feel old having witnessed the same brouhaha as a younger adult, but also because y'all still haven't learned from the mistakes of the past. 

You can't allow folks who are comfortable with racism, sexism, homophobia, unchecked nationalism, and not wearing masks in public to re-frame all of this as just a PR battle over nomenclature. This is a war for our culture. You can't allow them to twist their evil insistence that no one deserves to be as offended as they are about having to change their ways into some kind nostalgic bullshit trip to Mayberry. CALL THEM OUT! Shame them. Make it unsafe for them to terrorize the rest of us with their revisionism. Don't get got again.

For example, a certain Member of Congress (Rep. Butthead of Florida) has been accused of having sex with minors, but there has been NO pressure on him to resign in disgrace, no incentive to do that obligatory damage-control press conference with his humiliated wife standing there with a look of concern slash wait-til-my-lawyer-bills-you-for-this-a$$hole. Maybe because he doesn't have a wife, his parents have disowned him, or just maybe that doesn't even matter anymore because he is 1st Vice President of the MAGA fan club and that grants him a lifetime pass to troll your daughters' TikTok. No hint of shame because now it is perfectly acceptable to pay minors for sex, just not okay to pay for their abortions...

That's not conservative (air quotes) by the way...

Another certain Member of Congress (Rep. Beavis from Georgia), one who has no official duties except to go onto the floor of the House to object to everything during debate has joined forces with the pedophile to keep hope alive that their DESPOTUS will rise again like the Confederacy. Mind you, she was a follower of QAnon, which came to our attention when one of their members stormed into a local DC pizzeria because he thought it was the underground headquarters of a child pornography ring assembled by Hillary Clinton and friends. Seriously. So the fact that this useless disruptor is now consorting with a man who is actually having sex with minors is, I don't know how else to say this...fucking insane???!!! 

If these two are the spokespeople for decrying cancel culture--because America was greater when it was permissible to have sex with young girls (or young boys if you were a Catholic priest); to shoot kids at school (and then make up conspiracy theories to traumatize their grieving parents); or to lean into the debunked idea that Black/Latinx/Indigenous voters stole an election from a con man game show host during a global pandemic then maybe America should be doomed. 

I know, it is more rational to denounce critical race theory and non-binary gender fluidity because those ideas are actually threatening. It is scary to think that one day little Johnny might come home from school and announce that he would rather not celebrate Confederate Memorial Day because that seems treason-ish. It is upsetting that Becky might want to get a COVID vaccine and wear a mask because she thinks freedom actually includes the right to make decisions for the common good. And what does it mean that your kids believe that we must Stop Asian Hate, that Black Lives Matter, and respect for law enforcement can co-exist as long as there is accountability on all sides?

The impetus for this rant is not the state of political affairs that declares Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH), Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), et. al. to be RINOs because they oppose the Orange Menace. Quite frankly, the fact that there is resistance to drinking the Trump Vodka (or Trump Ice for the teetotalers) is reassuring. Even if it costs them their jobs, so be it. Somebody in the Emerald City needs to expose the man behind the curtain as a two-bit carny hustler who needed the job. Plenty of people have lost far more for standing on principle.

I was inspired by a quote attributed to actor Jaleel White with respect to Bill Cosby, whom he described as having once been a mentor and a friend. During a recent episode of the TVOne show Uncensored, White proclaimed, "A revered man did a terrible thing, and now he is paying the appropriate price." And it wasn't all that complicated or offensive or pearl-clutching given that what Cosby did was terrible. He drugged women to have sex with them and then bought their silence. His terrible behavior earned him a cancellation in the form of ten years in prison. (Mind you, his sitcom is back on TVOne, so you can work that one out on your own.)

Cancel culture has meant that we have nearly bankrupted entire Catholic dioceses over the priest sexual abuse scandals. We are now seeing reparations paid by colleges and universities that enriched themselves through the domestic slave trade. Some powerful men lost their jobs for creating hostile work environments. And rightfully so in all instances. Sorry, not sorry that also means that you might have to re-think the legacy of a few Founding Fathers. Why does it matter more that Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence if he didn't intend for it to apply to his own children? Think about that: he kept a woman in a crawl space under his home, fathered her six children and enslaved all of them, but that just makes him complicated...not complicit in the evil that was American slavery. And the revelation that he had Black children is more offensive than a Black man driving around Virginia with tinted windows?

Wake up America! It is time for us to mean the words and embody the ideals we claim to hold sacred, lest we become the Klingon Empire. For all of you non-Trekkies out there, the Klingons are an alien species that tout the virtues of tradition and honor; yet, they tolerated vice and corruption to maintain appearances. In a pivotal scene, one character calls out her upstanding Klingon friend for not challenging the unscrupulousness of its leader. She tells him that he is in deep denial about the future of the empire--how it is in decline and deservedly so. She could just as easily be talking about America. We claim to embody all of these wonderful ideals, we send our young people off to the various corners of the globe to fight and die for those hallowed principles of liberty and freedom, but then we tolerate never having to live up to what we have espoused. We have claimed to be a nation striving to be more perfect, but if we continue on this present course, we will always be just one insurrection away from utter downfall.

Therefore, the appropriate price is to do more than just not vote to keep the Wizard in office. The appropriate price is to do more than give a great speech, and not back up those words with action. The appropriate price is not to close ranks behind people who have done terrible things because they wear a badge. The appropriate price is not to allow these grifters to occupy public office in the very institution they were willing to watch burn. The appropriate price is not to settle for the temporary suspension of that old man's social media accounts (which is just taking away his phone). 

The appropriate price is prison for the priests, the police officers, the revered comedians, the corporate executives, the armed insurrectionists, the Members of Congress, and the former President and his co-conspirators. AND it is taking down the statues of the long dead rebellion leaders and removing their names from our military bases, highways, and schools. It means reconsidering the educational value of dated works of art that might well be reflections of their time when not everyone was treated equally or fairly. It is telling the full history of our founding, not the redacted version that makes you feel better about colonization and genocide. It is acknowledging our flaws, not posing with an upside-down Bible or a well-worn pocket Constitution for a cheaply staged photo opp. It is calling out evil and meaning it. It is not to remain complicit in the perpetuation of that evil because some people might have to admit that their heroes, family heirlooms, or fond memories came at the expense of someone else's blood, sweat, and tears.

To quote another intelligent Black man, LeVar Burton defined cancel culture as consequences for those who have gotten away with problematic behavior for too long. That consequences now apply to everyone means all of us must take responsibility for past sins and wrongs. You should get uncomfortable if you are still defending Bill Cosby (and others) instead of recognizing the pain he/they caused so many people. You deserve to be called deplorable if you regard Reps. Beavis and Butthead as patriots when you know that they serve no other purpose, least of all the needs of their constituents. Yes, we canceled the previous White House Occupant because one of the consequences of being too dangerous and despotic and deranged is that 8 million more people decided not to vote for him. 

If you are worried about being canceled you might need to re-evaluate your life. 

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Pity the Fool

The backdrop of President Biden's first joint address to the nation (not exactly a State of the Union address, but almost) was such a beautiful sight. I tuned in a little late to see the preliminaries (bath time), but just in time to catch a great moment when the President looked back while being cheered on by Madame Vice President and Madame Speaker. When the camera cut away to the First Lady, I caught a glimpse of our Second Gentleman and it dawned on me that we haven't quite settled on an appropriate title for him (SGOTUS looks like the name of an infection). No matter, we have time...

I know that there are some who will say that for all of the symbolism and novelty of the moment, therein lies part of our problem. Superficial displays of progress. Two women standing behind the old white guy, whom we settled on because from a diverse field of candidates that checked every other box...but we won't let that spoil the moment. As I posted on my FB page, I'm just happy that my blood pressure is normal again.

I am happy to be fully vaccinated, that things will begin to slowly open, and that my Kid is back in school four days a week! I am relieved that I can ignore the news for days and not miss any catastrophic, apocalyptic pronouncements. Joseph R. Biden spoke calmly, slowly, and reassuringly, something that hasn't happened in years. He expressed optimism and hope, sentiments that have been shared from that same spot by different men, but those statements hit differently after a year of pandemic and four years of calamity and mayhem.

Then along came Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC)... 

Let me say this in all sincerity, I well understood the job he came to do and knowing that by some not-so-convenient coincidence he drew the short straw, I gave him my full attention. I listened. I had an open mind, hoping to hear something conciliatory and positive. And I did hear a few things from Sen. Scott that were pleasant surprises. His opening sentence, for example, was a sideswipe that President Biden seems like a nice man. Not nearly as bad as some of Biden's signature gaffes about articulate and clean and 'just as smart' Black people, so I see what you did there...well played sir.

I kept on listening and felt that Scott's recognition of single mothers was a welcome and refreshing change from the typical rhetoric that blames women for the disintegration of the traditional family. I heard Scott's pain about having dealt with racism as well as ridicule for his political beliefs. I felt that quiver in his voice because it has to be tough being caught between that proverbial rock and a hard place. I heard you, Senator. 

Then the record scratched and you began reading from the teleprompter the remarks that some intern in your office from Furman University wrote about America not being a racist country. Then you launched into full on televangelist mode and I wondered when you were going to implore us to send in our love donation to receive a few drops of holy water. I see you Peter Popoff.

Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA) was interviewed after Scott's response and she suggested that what we heard was the message from the Republican Party, not necessarily Scott's personal sentiments. They are working together on some bipartisan police reform legislation, which he did not mention, so she expressed disappointment in that omission. Had he spent more time emphasizing how the two parties could work together, perhaps we wouldn't be talking about how delusional he sounded in defending the indefensible.

Such as his support of the last President. I haven't forgiven Scott for endorsing the game show con man for another term, even after months spent downplaying a global pandemic. Thousands of people died, so the political revisionism of that chaos, recast as bold, decisive, and competent leadership is beyond offensive. It is unconscionable to defend a man whose arrogance in ignoring the advice of public health experts, compounded by his disavowal of face masks and insistence on hosting massive super spreader campaign events, stoked the partisan misconception that COVID is overblown. Tell that to the families of the more than 9,000 victims from South Carolina, Senator. Explain how Trump would have facilitated the vaccine rollout more efficiently had he won the election, instead of whining and sowing the seeds of discord that resulted in the Capitol Insurrection on January 6. How does it feel to know THAT MOFO SENT A MOB OF PROTESTORS TO KILL YOU, BRO! Don't you get that those folks weren't going to recognize you from your convention speech as one of the good Blacks and spare your life? 

You think this guy with the Confederate flag was just going to shake your hand??? 

I could stop writing at this point because that image alone should be enough to debunk the foolishness. The very notion that you are working on police reform legislation having been stopped multiple times yourself, suggests that you know something from personal experience that your colleagues don't. The very fact that you only became the first Black Senator from the old South via a gubernatorial appointment first, then have had to toe the line in order to stay there, because as the senior Sen. Lindsey Graham reminded us, the pathway to success in South Carolina politics is to be a conservative. No independent outside-of-the-box thinking, lest you offend any Daughters of the Confederacy.

But you didn't blink or send any subliminal signals to us that we were supposed to be hearing something else other than what we heard you say. I was waiting for you to reassure us that your public ideology is a necessary stance that you must take in order to fight for our causes from the inside. I was waiting for you to make the case why more Black people should consider supporting the GOP, because there may be some market-based solutions for community empowerment and improvement such as opportunity zones and entrepreneurship. I was hoping that you would send a message to the young people who are angry and distraught by images on television that suggest their lives don't matter by encouraging them to stay in school and to ignore the taunts that label intelligence and achievement as anti-black. I was hoping that you would clap-back on the notion that your family history is exaggerated by emphasizing how its improbability is the entire point--Black resilience is Black excellence.

I was rooting for you Senator. So I guess this meme seems most appropriate right now:

Because here we are, in the aftermath of an address where you could have claimed the mantle of a great man like Robert Smalls, a hero from your state, but you didn't. You could have reminded us that the GOP was once home to great Black leaders like the late Senator Edward Brooke (MA) and Secretary Colin Powell, but you chose not to. You stood there and told those disgruntled Trump voters and Blue Lives Matter folks and religious fundamentalists what they wanted to hear, which is that they are really good, misunderstood people. You even tossed out a few of their favorite gripes, citing cancel culture and virtue signaling to ensure that they knew you were really winking at them.

Certainly not at us. No, for as I have said time and time again, damn near 30 years: if only the GOP made sincere efforts to cultivate Black voters. If only they spoke to our concerns about and experiences with systematic inequality instead of giving themselves credit for adhering to one line in one speech at a rally none of them would have bothered to attend if it were held today. If only they weren't content to ignore how race impacts our lives from the cradle to the grave: where we are born, how we live and get to make a living, to what kills us. No, you keep reminding us that you were the Party of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass 150 years ago, but whose party was that on January 6 at the Capitol?

Senator Scott, as much as I would love to tout the inspiration of your personal story, as proud as I would love to be of your success (because I've watched you and you are gifted), all of that admiration curdles the instant you volunteer to help rewrite the sins of the past. Was it not racism that restricted your ancestors to sharecropping? I get that the silver lining is to extol Black landownership, but years later when your mother could only claim a right to five of 900 previously owned acres, you determined that legislation was needed to protect heir property from developers. You keep trying to have it both ways, on the one hand telling Confederate flag wavers that you don't believe there is racism in their hearts; while on the other, condemning those who used that same flag as the emblem of their hatred in Charlottesville and in your hometown of Charleston

Do you get why we're so frustrated? Centuries of being relegated to second-class citizenship and being treated as less than human, but none of that is systematic racism, just a lot of individual bad actors and multiple generations of us not saying 'pretty please' when making reasonable demands for dignity? You want to be a man who got things done, and you have an impressive record of incremental accomplishment. So do most other Black leaders, because the truth, Sen. Scott, is that lie they want us to believe is what you are up against. The lie that you told with a straight face as if you had been practicing for that moment all of your life.

Your hero Booker T. Washington took a similar approach, and in spite of my ideological differences with him as a civil rights leader, it is undeniable that he was a great man. He even got to advise an American President in an era when that was unheard of, but not without considerable backlash. And there are no monuments built to honor Washington that receive the same kind of protection or veneration as those dedicated to the Confederacy. There is a statue on the campus of Tuskegee University, the school he founded in 1881; however, the high school in your home state that was named for him closed in 1974 (a casualty of belated school desegregation). The only physical remnant of its existence is the auditorium that still stands on the campus of the University of South Carolina. But I bet the Strom Thurmond Wellness and Fitness Center, located at the same university, is a state-of-the-art facility.

Senator Scott, even with you on the inside, seated at the head of the table as the guest of honor, will we still be getting the scraps? You've been given the responsibility to do what your colleagues have no will or courage to address--how many of them can attest to interactions with police that range from trivial to deeply humiliating to excessive to fatal? If left up to them, Derek Chauvin would have been given a Medal of Freedom by the former President in exchange for our votes in Georgia being discarded, where it is now illegal to offer a voter a bottle of water.

(In case you were wondering, Vice President Harris can take some of this smoke too. Because no Ma'am, scroll back up to the second paragraph. I braved a pandemic and watched that insurrection live on television. You can GTFOHWTBS!)

There will be no more equivocation, no more incrementalism, no more accommodationism. We don't want anymore murals, no more hashtags, no more memorial events set up to honor those gone too soon. We don't want white cops replaced with more Black cops because that hasn't meant a noticeable improvement in policing. Body cameras haven't been as much of a deterrent as cell phone video. No more multi-million dollar settlements intended to quell the outrage of seeing Black blood smeared on the streets because it is insulting to know that money could have been a community investment on the front end. So Senator, if your proposals for reform include more of the same, then it will confirm our other suspicion about your rebuttal.

And that is NOT who you are, Senator Scott. You are not some lawn ornament installed outside of the club where they won't even let you enter through the front door because your boots are too muddy. You are not out here doing all of the work while they drink their vintage whiskey and lament the bygone days.

No sir. For what you have accomplished, you deserve more respect. You should not be the punchline to a bad joke that has been told for too long and that has never been funny. If Rep. Bass calls you an honorable man, and Rep. Clyburn offers similar sentiments, then prove them right. Because Black people aren't using you to prove anything, but we are depending on you to represent more than superficial progress.