Friday, January 20, 2023

Your First BBW Public Service Announcement for 2023

I don't know who needs to see this (and saying that is like nails on a chalkboard for me), but my dear children, please stop posting things you might live to regret on the internet! Don't say anything racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, anti-Islamic, homo- or transphobic, anti-science, irreligious, pro-fascist, intolerant or hateful. Especially not using your full government name, an obvious nickname or mononyn, portmanteau, or other self-identifying information one can use to respond with a snarky "This you? -->"

Auntie is still hanging out on the Bird app, and prior to the hostile takeover by the Muskrat and The Deplorables, you all know that I found it to be a rather amusing and often inspiring space for various kinds of content. So far this month, I have seen all kinds of egregious acts of tomfoolery and self-destruction; therefore, I feel compelled to make this very important announcement in case anyone needs a reminder at the start of this new year.

Y'all need to be A LOT more discerning. I implore you to heed the wisdom from this scene in The Social Network (2010) where the woman Mark Zuckerburg previously dated dresses him down for having made crude remarks about her in a chat room after they had broken up. In case you decide not to watch the entire clip, allow me to paraphrase the important part: the shit you say on the internet is like writing on a white board with a Sharpie!

It doesn't go away. It may not come up as one of the first few hits on Google, but trust that some over-eager hiring manager or determined potential romantic partner will find whatever you should not have said/done/posted somewhere. Unless you were lucky enough to have been one of those people whose hate speech was inscribed on some old forgotten Geocities blog or an Ask Jeeves bulletin board, trust that everything you say and do can be spun against you.

I know that some of you think that if you go to great lengths to obscure your identity, you can say whatever. You may have a decoy profile or use an alias. And that might work unless and until someone who knows you in real life reveals your Clark Kent alter ego. I've done it inadvertently to a few folks without any nefarious intent, but there is an entire show on MTV called Catfish that unmasks social media pretenders and phonies. I'm just saying that one of the many reasons why you need to be mindful of what you are putting out in the cyber-universe is that somebody, somewhere is going to discover that it was you and put all of your business in these tweets.

For example, if you decide to post one of those Am I The Asshole (AITA) queries on Reddit, I am here to tell you that (a) yes, you probably are and you know it because everyone who actually knows you already said so; and (b) crowdsourcing for affirmation of your shitty behavior in and of itself implies that you are indeed very much an asshole. Now, I am not a subscriber, but because some of the most polarizing queries make their way over to Twitter, I rarely read one where the person and/or behavior isn't totally outrageous. And because some of y'all aren't that clever, I have seen quite a few instances where the original poster is outed because of some random detail they didn't realize was a big NEON clue.

I have been amused and equally scandalized by the posts on Six Brown Chicks for years. I don't remember when I first encountered that account, but it was at some point before all of us began actively developing social media addictions because of the pandemic. (But definitely after they had been on Iyalya, Fix My Life and I am 💀 because how y'all gonna post other people's dysfunctional mess when woah?) I read some wild stuff in those tweets, and initially assumed that it was one of those spot the real story among these five fakes, kind of like the Bluff the Listener segment on NPR's Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me. So color me all the way shocked with pearls clutched when I learned that ALL of the stories submitted are allegedly real! I mean, dayum...

(I hope the names are changed to protect the terminally dumb, because woowee, there are a lot more stupid people in the world than there should be. And some of y'all are definitely repeat offenders.)

Since the pandemic has all of the young people vying for internet infamy on the Click Clock app, I get to see whatever someone re-posts to Twitter, and let me just say how I would have preferred for y'all to have kept much of that to yourselves. I can't even understand half of the language used (such as un-aliving, which appears to annoy my Spell-check as well), but I honestly do not understand why everything has to be revealed like Geraldo Rivera cracking Al Capone's vault. What is the point?

Like why is there an entire genre of videos where y'all opine on how much you hate dating? Here's a thought, just stop. If you believe women only want to eat out on your dime and men only want sex, then umm yeah, that ain't new. That was definitely a consistent theme of dating back when I was out there in the 90s. Therefore, if you are a person who was born at any point in that decade, then I can't credibly ask who raised you since I already know (and I'm so disappointed that we ruined your lives like that). These young adults are our confused, socially maladjusted children, GenXers, born in the era when we went on Jerry Springer and Ricki Lake to air our dirty laundry instead of going to the laundromat and/or getting therapy.

It was also in the 90s that the rules began to change around gender equality, and I was taught that it was acceptable to pay for my own meals, so as not to set up any unreasonable or inappropriate expectations. That came in handy when I was away at college where nobody had much money. As such, there were no existential dilemmas about who paid for what because we were all broke and hungry. On-campus dating was a bootleg video, pizza ordered for everyone on the hallway, and maybe a soda if somebody had extra change. Some of my friends who regularly went on those dorm dates are still married!

In contrast, single folks in the 21st Century are out here in the tweets posting screen shots of pre-date questionnaires sent in lieu of first-date small talk, which is deemed a waste of time. Some of you get really salty about splitting the check for multi-course dinners at The Olive Garden where you ordered and ate 2/3 of the food. Folks are naming and claiming their ideal mate in the name of Jesus and a lot of these self-styled relationship experts you follow are just charlatans selling advice from their cars. No wonder everybody is ruined and confused.

I know I veered off topic a bit (because dangit, that's how my middle-aged brain works these days), but the bottom line is that if your child leaves a thirsty, threatening, and profanity laden voicemail for my daughter, trust that I am going to find them. And if I get arrested, I got bail money. But more importantly, she has a Daddy who grew up in Brooklyn in the 80s, so there's that.

Here is my real point: how many jobs have you lost because of your thoughtless faith in free speech? Don't you know that your viral, racist rants have been viewed by some HR person who decided that the tatted stoner would be less problematic? The late Kevin Samuels gave good advice on personal grooming, and I hope that his undertakers followed through so that his Mama was pleased. Young Sis, these dudes you date ain't isht because they weren't looking to you for any lifelong connections when your profile pic was all boobs and ass. And to that dude with no job who was angry at the woman who didn't immediately respond to his 'WYD' text message because she was on her J-O-B, c'mon Son? The cost of infamy is high like the price of eggs...

Haven't you seen how swiftly social media 'justice' gets dispensed? These folks will find you quicker than the amount of time it takes for me to realize that my reading glasses are on my face! Life comes at you fast, my beloved. And when it does, don't come back on Blue Ivy's internet to decry cancel culture as if the world ought to just let you be an idiot with no consequences. This ain't the 1960s when the only evidence of your inner thoughts might have been some historic photograph...

Years ago, when I was teaching, I showed this photo of Elizabeth Eckford (Black lady in shades, of the Little Rock Nine) in class, and of course someone commented on the faces in the background, including that of Hazel Bryan (the one who appears to be yelling at Eckford). To be honest, I never wondered about that woman or what might have happened to her until the student raised the question in class. In my research for an answer, I learned that the two women had met, reconciled, and had posed for another picture that was intended to demonstrate the power of forgiveness and racial healing. Kumbaya, they were even friends for a while, until...

You can read for yourself about what happened in the aftermath. My assumption of what contributed to the breakdown is exactly the kind of consequences that y'all think you shouldn't face. You think that people ought to forgive you for being young, but youth doesn't change the impact of your actions. I don't know what it must have been like to live with the weight of that photo for all of those years, but I do know that an apology was not the kind of eraser she hoped it would have been. It was just a start on the road to healing.

Take it from someone who wore stirrup pants and acid wash jeans in the 80s, mistakes happen. However, the difference between a mistake and a bad choice is intention. It was a bad choice to ridicule the girl in my class back in middle school to try to look cool to the other kids. I can't undo the harm I caused. If we were to cross paths all of these years later, my feeble apology wouldn't mean much except maybe to assuage my guilt, so I have no right to expect anything, not even a polite acknowledgement. Therefore, the lesson Auntie is offering to you youngins is that when you know you're about to do wrong, for goodness sakes, don't make a permanent record of your foolishness! Or just don't do it.

Dassit, that's the word. As my Daddy used to tell me: A wise man learns from the mistakes of others; the average man learns from his own mistakes; but a fool never learns. If you can't be wise enough not to do dumb things in the first place, then for goodness sakes don't be the fool. Don't immortalize your shit unless you plan to run for Congress as a Republican (and something tells me they gonna drag this one forever, and it won't end well for them either).

Friday, January 6, 2023

Animal House 2023

It is possible that by the time I finish this piece, there will actually be a duly elected Speaker of the House of Representatives, chosen by majority vote or some arcane procedural maneuver that will make all of my commentary on the matter seem like unnecessary post-game analysis. Time will tell, but until that day and hour comes, I feel compelled to share some thoughts on this whacky college fraternity party going on at the U.S. Capitol building.

That analogy came to me on Day 2, between votes 5 and 6 when all of the attention had shifted to the Black guy in the GOP Caucus whose name got thrown into the mix as a possible alternative candidate for Speaker. I missed the floor speech that announced his nomination, so it wasn't until later when I saw all of the Twitter discussion about Frederick Douglass and MLK and making history. So we'll come back to that a little later since I need to set up these other visuals. 

As most of you know, I went to an all-girls high school and then to a Black women's college, so I was unacquainted with the dynamics of interracial social interaction until I went to law school. In high school, I never went to any of the after-the-school-dance parties with my white friends and we didn't have a frat house culture in the AUC. It wasn't until law school that I went to my first keg party, so it was there that I became acquainted with this cast of characters, many of whom we've been watching for the past few days: 

The BMOC, leader of the pack with the cool hair: Kevin 'Would-Be Leader' McCarthy

His trio of 'loyal' lieutenants, all of whom will be plotting his downfall: Steve 'Tough Guy' Scalise, Elise 'Good Girl' Stefanik, and Jim 'The Jock' Jordan

The ex-girlfriend who hangs around because they are still hooking up in secret: Marjorie 'Beavis' Taylor Greene

The rival wannabe BMOC, also with cool hair: Matt 'Butthead' Gaetz

The chick he's secretly hooking up with: Lauren 'Pick-Me' Boebert

Everybody else at the party: The GOP Caucus

The Black guy at the GOP party whose name nobody knew, until just now: Byron 'Not Brian' Donalds

Everybody at the other party across campus with the better music: The Democratic Caucus

I hung out with two distinct groups of people in law school: the Black law students (BLSA) and the 'Gang'. As you might imagine, my experiences with BLSA was consistent with what I knew from high school and college, so it was my experience with the 'Gang' that is analogous to what we've been seeing play out on the Hill. I was good friends with a few of the women in The Gang, so I was often invited to their parties. And for the record, I have nothing negative to say about that experience as it gave me insight and access to PWI culture as the other character that deserves an honorable mention here: The Black Girl.

Let me offer this quick paragraph to explain a few of the differences between fraternity culture at HBCUs and PWIs for the unfamiliar, because they are not the same. Most HBCUs only have chapters for the nine National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) Black Greek-Lettered Organizations (BGLOs) on campus, which means typically three to five are active, two are on probation, one is on hiatus, and one is on indefinite suspension. None of our on-campus activities involved alcohol and we didn't have separate fraternity/sorority houses. Our organizations typically rented out space for parties, and most of the hazing went down off-campus. Greek life was definitely a part of our campus experience, but it didn't define it.

In contrast at Tulane, fraternity/sorority culture was huge. There was a fraternity row of houses not far from campus where any and everything went down on any given weekend. I had friends who lived nearby so we often watched a lot of crazy, from drunken rush rituals to street fights to outright riots (but no one called it that because these were just drunk college kids having fun and destroying property). One frat house in particular was the nucleus of bacchanalian excess--in fact they were infamous for it. They were also the only fraternity with one Black member.

I don't know enough about non-BGLO culture to comment on this other than to note that most of the Black people were either members of the BGLOs or unaffiliated. Even in the mid-90s, there weren't that many Black men on campus except for the athletes or law students, so we all knew each of other. However, no one knew this brother because he only hung out with his white fraternity brethren. He was often the subject of speculation because it was so obvious that he avoided all communication with the rest of us. What was his name? Where was he from? Had anyone ever seen him alone or not with any of his fraternity brothers? Where did he get his hair cut? What would happen when his parents came to visit and he didn't introduce them to any Black friends? Who did he date (because this wasn't the most progressive era where interracial dating was common and out in the open)? Did he ever get followed around in stores like the rest of us?

At some point, I learned his name from a member of the Gang who had been an undergraduate member of the same fraternity, but all these years later, I can't remember it, so we'll just call him 'Mike', the Black dude in the white fraternity who never spoke to any of the other Black people on campus. I don't have any specific stories to share about Mike, but I thought of him when Rep. Byron Donalds' name was being tweeted about as the first Black Speaker of the House. And naturally, I was confused because until the other day, I hadn't even known that there was a Black man in line for leadership in the GOP Caucus. (OK, that isn't entirely true...but just like Mike, I didn't know his name until someone else in the Caucus told us.)

I know that I have yet to explain that part about being the Black Girl in the Gang, because there is an interesting social dynamic at play when in groups of white people there are a few people of color sprinkled in the mix. Of course, I have stories about being the Black Girl, but none of those are relevant to my Animal House analogy about what is currently going on in Congress. However, there is a Black Girl who does figure in this insanity: Cori 'Sister Girl' Bush, the outspoken party-crasher.

Now Sister Girl knew there would be nonsense popping off at the GOP Party, and she just happened to be walking by when they were back-slapping and chanting chug chug chug at Byron 'Not Brian' Donalds. So she peeped in and overheard all of the kudos and congratulatory shouts about making history while someone was spiking his drink. And in the classic, outspoken Sister Girl manner of crashing a gathering to which we were not invited, she burst in the room and called them out before it all got too scandalous.

And this is when the action shifted from foolishness to pure fuckery...

Of course, the white frat guys were mad that the Black Girl came in and blew up their party. They knew what was in his drink, but that wasn't the point--she had no right to barge into their private event! He knows the rules, they exclaimed, so it isn't as if he didn't expect that he would end up in a field somewhere, shit-faced drunk with his pants down and a target drawn on his ass. He likes it, right Mikey? Yeah dudes, you know I do! Therefore, to save face, he defended them and then aimed his fire at her.

How dare she feel the need to intervene to save a Black man from making a damn fool of himself?

And this is where I have to suspend the analogy and offer real talk, because I saw his response on Twitter yesterday, and I was livid! I am not a Rep. Cori Bush fan for several reasons, but I understood and agree with her points about the way Rep. Donalds was being used by the renegade faction of the GOP Caucus (because they've moved on to someone else for Rounds 12 and 13). Thus, the very fact that you would lash back at her is both typical and pathetic given that she wasn't the one volunteering to ride shotgun as a stunt dummy with you for three days running.

Sister Girl Rep. Bush didn't question your Blackness or your manhood, Congressman, but you definitely seem to be the one with the doubts about both. You knew that your name wasn't being offered as a real candidate for Speaker, no more serious than the suggestion of the DESPOTUS or that other Rep. Kevin Hern from Oklahoma (who knew not to take the drink and chug, as he has consistently voted for would-be Leader McCarthy). But you saw a chance to make a name for yourself and then accused a Black woman of tearing you down instead of the clowns who were setting you up for disaster. 

The thing about being the outspoken Black Girl, especially in situations like this is that we are resilient. Bush will go on to do or say something else that will garner another round of unwanted attention, but that is what she does, and sometimes that is the price for speaking the truth. She's not desperate to be liked by people for whom she needs to prove her worth. The Congressional Black Caucus approved her membership application, so if you are still waiting on that appeal, you should just go on about your business. She even did you the courtesy of telling you why you can't come to our party, so you needn't act surprised about any of this or how your 'friends' are going to leave you ass out and covered in grease paint when this is all over.

(Final note: I'm posting this as lucky vote #13 is underway, so we'll soon know how this will all end.)