Good Deeds Before Men: On Smartphone Generosity

I’m annoyed. I’m not sure why. Maybe I’m annoyed because I’m in Texas and for the last 4 days, the temperature hasn’t been less than 105⁰ and my Seasonal Affective Disorder is getting to me. Perhaps it’s because instead of chomping on a ribeye steak, an unexpected tooth mishigas has me eating cheese cubes. Possibly, being 16 days into keto also has my nerves rattled. It’s probably because the “e” on my laptop is acting up and so I’m having to bang it like Beethoven every third word. On top of that, I have a bunch of personal bullshit that keeps reiterating the point that life ain’t fair and doesn’t give a fuck about it.

sally field

In that vein, what annoyed me the most this week was logging into Facebook and seeing that one of my friends had posted a video of a guy giving a homeless man who was digging in the trash can for food some money. No, this isn’t new. The smartphones and Attention Whoring Age has brought us all sorts of visual fuckery in the past few years. From pancake asses twerking to filled lips puckering, we’ve seen it all. And while I’ll admit that people doing good deeds on film is the least fucknicious™of the fuckery, it’s fuckery all the same.

I digress. In the video, the Samaritan du jour sees a homeless man from at least 30 yards away rifling through the trash can and taking bites of food from food containers that others had discarded. Mr. Nice Guy starts recording before his subject even notices him. He has a commentary, similar to those on National Geographic as if he’s secretly watching the mating habits of a wild boar. He eventually comes up to the man, tells him to drop the food container, and gives him money. The man cries and apologizes (I guess for….IDK, trying to find food), and hugs Mr. Generoso while he (the selfless wonder) tells him that he’ll give him more if he sees him the next night.

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Of course, videos like this always elicit the tears of onlookers. The comments are filled with statements like, “this made me cry,” and “I know what it’s like,” and “praise God you were there.” I, however, never comment on these vids because I experience a type of secondhand offense on behalf of the targets…I mean, beneficiaries of the kindnesses.

There are two main reasons why I don’t care for these giving videos. First, I’ve known true givers. I believe true givers give because they have a mindset that says that if nobody ever finds out about their good deeds, it’s no big deal; in fact, it may be better. The givers I know don’t feel the need to make sure their camera is rolling before they give. They don’t need their largesse to be documented anywhere but in the receiver’s spirit. Some true givers will even forget they gave at certain times.

Basically, while I don’t believe the people who like to document and display their altruism are bad people, I certainly don’t believe they are natural givers who do so because of some inner awareness that most of us don’t have. I don’t believe they give without expectation of payback, be it financially or through the praises of strangers on the internet. I think they get a rise out of the fact that there are a whole bunch of people that they’ve convinced of their own goodness; and perhaps, maybe one day, they’ll be able to use this viral performance as leverage when they need or want something.

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The second reason I don’t like these videos is that I find them inconsiderate. Anyone who has ever been down to their last $200 with another week-and-a-half until payday knows that just being kinda’ broke is hard. I can’t imagine being in a situation where I’m forced to rummage through a public trash can at a bus stop to find food. I can only think that the experience is humiliating, traumatic, and does not make the person who has to do it feel the best about themselves.

So, I cannot understand why the people who make what’s akin to emotional pornography think it’s okay to basically put people who are likely at rock bottom on camera and on social media for all to see. Do we think that person wants a whole world of strangers gawking at their misfortune? Better yet, how would that person feel to know that after all the gawking, people are hi-fiving the “giver” because the receiver’s immediate gratitude just wasn’t enough?

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These videographers would like to pretend to that they are demonstrating a great act of empathy when in reality, they are displaying just how much empathy they lack. Would they want 9287498477959 people they don’t know to know that they may dig in a public trash can just to eat? Would they want these same people knowing they go weeks without access to a shower and sleep under freeway underpasses? Probably not. So then, why would they think that the person they’re “helping” wants to be “outed” in such a way? It makes me cringe to think that any of these individuals will one day be at a computer and see themselves acting as the charity case in someone’s braggadocio.

You can’t pretend to be humanistic while forgetting that the person you are taping is indeed a human being.

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What I’d like to see instead are videos of people who were once down on their luck talking about the person or the moment that changed their course. Let the receivers applaud the givers instead of the givers applauding themselves. I don’t know about you, but that’s far more inspirational in my estimation. Those would be stories of hope and maybe, instead of people sitting back and patting the benefactors on the back for their generosity, more of us would take the opportunity to give to others in the best way we can – earnest and discreetly.

 

“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.” – Matthew 6:2

 

If you like what you’ve read and want to support a Black woman writer with a unique voice, you can Cash App me at $BienAtrevida

 

 

Missing The Point: My Issue With Deservedness

When I was in 5th grade, I went to a performing arts school (they called it a “vanguard”). One of my arts was theatre. That year, the big production was Alice In Wonderland. I wanted to play the role of the Queen of Hearts. I auditioned for the role three times. Two were private auditions with just the other students in theatre. The last audition was semi-public consisted of the drama teacher/director asking myself and another young actress, (we’ll call her Truly Wacken), to repeat the same line, “OFF WITH HER HEAD!” over and over and over again. Each time, Truly Wacken got worse. I was steady and consistent. The spectators were in awe of my performance (not bragging, just true). The next day at school, before I even had time to warm up my sausage biscuit, I was informed that Truly Wacken had gotten the part. Although I received a main part, I was NOT going to be the Queen of Hearts. Anybody at school who had seen any of the auditions was in awe that Truly Wacken would ever be selected for that part. I wanted that part. I “deserved” that part. But, I didn’t get it. So I acted my ass off in the role I was assigned.

Queen of Hearts

For several weeks, I’ve been thinking about this concept about what people do and don’t “deserve”. Most often, we’ll see the argument of merit in reference to poverty. Social justice writers will make posts and articles that contain “poor people deserve” somewhere in the first paragraph and go on to tell us that they “deserve” everything from fresh fruit to a cellphone to an iPad, also called “nice things.” Some articles even say “poor people deserve” luxuries (which seems to be subjective because I don’t consider a smartphone a “nice thing” or a “luxury” but many people do). The aim, as far as I can decipher, is to smack down the notion that those with more substantial financial resources shouldn’t be the only ones who get to experience the superfluous trappings of modern life.

I get it. As much as some assert that society hates poor people, I think that there’s also a belief that poverty is a sign of righteousness (which is probably why people who haven’t cracked a Bible since the Bicentennial seem to know a lot about how Jesus would react to poverty and capitalism). And who doesn’t “deserve” the best of the best of everything if not the righteous and suffering, right? There’s also that envy thing but that’s for another time.

But, I think the people who argue deservedness are actually arguing the wrong point.

First of all, if you ask the average person what they “deserve”, you’ll get mostly fanciful responses. 9 out of 10 people, no matter how many terrible things they’ve done, will say that they “deserve” to be millionaires with an ultra attractive spouse, Einstein-ish children, a palatial home and the ability to eat whatever they want and never gain weight. Basically, when we get into the game of what people “deserve”, we’ll be hard-pressed to get an honest assessment from anybody.

Secondly, it’s my belief that what someone “deserves” has less to do with what’s obvious and more to do with a set of intangible factors. Gandhi and Mother Teresa are examples of people who performed virtue but underneath their public persona, were involved in some highly questionable and even downright ghastly activities and philosophies. They aren’t the only ones. Do any of them really “deserve” to be lauded as they are?

Third, what people have or don’t have (or the capacity to have or not have), is based largely on a range of outside variables like their employment, their family size, their education, their habits, and other personal choices that we are told are nobody else’s business. Yes, some of us will have to work harder or longer for those things, but that’s an inescapable fact of life that doesn’t somehow qualify us for martyrdom.

Fourth, the notion of someone deserving something operates within a set of standards that I don’t think we, as a society, are clear about yet.

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Maybe the better argument is what people need, not “deserve.” I postulate that by focusing on what we need, we are in a better position to take ownership of getting those needs met. Fixating on what we think we “deserve” is a waste of time, mainly because it implies that responsibility for our life is in someone else’s hands. For the die-hard advocates, deciding what those for whom you do your activism “deserve” isn’t going to benefit them the way advocating for their needs will. Similar to those driver’s education cars with breaks on both sides, the goal should be to address their immediate need and give people the tools they lack to access the things conducive to stability long-term.

I have to question a mindset that looks at someone who has a problem with procuring stable housing, feeding themselves, accessing clean water, and healthcare and decides to declare that that person “deserves” cable. In fact, I wonder if these deservedness advocates actually know people who are really poor. I feel confident in saying that someone who can be described as “poor” or at/below the poverty line is not worried about not being able to stand in line for 8 hours for the newest iteration of the iPhone.

It turns out that Truly Wacken’s mom was donating hundreds of dollars’ worth of costuming to the Drama department and that’s why she was chosen to play Queen of Hearts (she also kind of resembled the Queen of Hearts but that’s extraneous shade). She was going to get that part no matter what. Though 5th grade me was ticked off at having been passed over, I needed the experience of being the best and still not winning. I needed to learn that me just being wonderful (by my own evaluation or that of others) would not always be enough. Over 20 years later, I’m still alive to tell the tale.

Most of us have heard someone say that the world owes each of us nothing. Whether or not you agree with that doctrine personally, the fact remains that it’s not about what we “deserve” but about what we have; and what we choose to do with what we have. It takes far more than us thinking we “deserve” things for them to actually materialize. Poverty, suffering, loss, unfairness, trauma are not new phenomena. These things make us neither deserving or non-deserving. They merely confirm that we’re human.

 

When Seeds Become Plants: Betsy DeVos As Karma

Betsy DeVos, the new Secretary of Education has caused quite a stir. I watched her confirmation hearing and it was awkward. If her confirmation hearing were a sound, it’d be the snapping of a limb as it hits the concrete and breaks. Question after question, she struggled to give answers that were relevant to what she was asked, let alone satisfactory. I watched as senators representing several states each took their turn passing and spiking the football that was Betsy DeVos. If I were Betsy DeVos’ friend, I would have offered her some Sleepytime tea and Vick’s.

Of course, despite being a clearly unqualified candidate for the position, she was confirmed. People were and still are upset. I’m not. I’ve been mulling this over in my head and at some point, I think it’s time to admit that there’s merit to the notion that the value you assign to something is the value that other people will assign to it as well. What if Betsy DeVos is karma?

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I know that some of you may call bullshit but let’s sketch this out. It’s no secret that America has become pretty anti-intellectual. I’m sure we can all remember the video where the white teen in Duncanville, TX stands up and rants against the teacher about the fact that they ‘don’t do anything’ and then he storms out. Teens and adults all over the internet cheered him on. I think the teacher (she may have been a substitute teacher by some reports), was suspended. People were all amped up about this student who became a modern-day Norma Rae and performed that small gesture in favor of students everywhere (I guess).  I’m willing to bet though, he didn’t proceed straightaway to the library and go on a quest for the knowledge of which he believed he was being deprived.

What we also see are statuses and graphics blaming the US education system for not teaching people a myriad of things from how to do taxes to how to fill out a check. People can no longer write complete sentences without confusing simple homonyms. Watch Judge Judy for a week and you’ll hear “tooken” (as opposed to “taken”) at least 4 times followed by Juditha’s (my name for her) admonition that “TOOKEN IS NOT A WORD!” If that’s not enough, this country, the self-proclaimed “greatest country” in the world, elected Donald J. Trump, a man with absolutely no political background or governmental knowledge (obviously) whatsoever, to be president.

At some point, we’ve started to believe that it’s somebody else’s job to give us everything, even the knowledge in our head. Society claims over and over again that education is important. Parents swear that they want the best for their children; but as someone who has worked at various schools, public, charter and private, I’ve seen some of these same parents argue with teachers and administrators about the expectation that their children come to school with the minimum level of preparedness. I’ve found myself on the phone with a parent wanting an explanation as to why the school doesn’t provide pencils, paper, colored pencils, and everything else on the annual school supply list while her child regularly showed up in the latest popular threads. I’ve had one too many exchanges with parents who swore that a ¾” binder or $5.00 safety goggles were out of reach while rapidly fluttering their perfectly done eyelash extensions and wagging their expertly manicured fingers. The free tutoring was either too early or too late or on the wrong day. Guess who wanted conferences at the end of the semester when their child basically needed a magic wand to pass though?

***Pause for accusations of shaming, classism, elitism, and three-headed kitten scenarios***

There’s a lot of worry about what DeVos’s intentions towards public schools are. Public schools are known to be resource-deficient in comparison to private schools. They are also known to show poorer academic performance results amongst the students than those of private schools. Many believe the former and the latter are correlational, if not causational. People are concerned that public school students will receive even less education if DeVos has her way. That’s not necessarily an irrational fear, as you get what you pay for and public school is free. I’m concerned, however, that people haven’t figured out that it’s unwise to lay the whole burden of becoming educated on school (of any type).

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Despite what the tenets of the modern SJM may suggest, many times what you get is a mirror of what you give yourself. We’ve argued (absurdly) for years about whether or not teachers get paid too much. We started hiring unqualified post-teenagers at lower salaries to teach and that pissed us off too. We pretty much force teachers to fill in the financial gaps that the districts, government, and parents won’t. We tried to make teachers responsible for students not performing well on tests. We tried “no retention” policies so that students who were ill-equipped were passed on to the next grade anyway in favor of their (and frankly, their parents’) self-image. We created free assistance programs and then blamed poverty for people not taking advantage of them. We decided that homework was too cumbersome for students and that it was too much to expect parents to actually help their children with it. Parents blamed their children’s teachers for not teaching them…everything. Students blame the education system for not teaching them things their parents should have taught them, (all while being pissed that they can’t use their cellphones in class). The curiosity that is supposed to provoke people to learn enough to be able to think through a question has turned into a quest to be given the answer in 0.42 seconds.

We whine about it. We feign outrage about all of these students getting out of high school and having to take remedial everything in college because at best, they memorized just enough to get through the tests they had to take from K through 12. And after that, we turn around and do the exact same thing: decide that the school system we just ranted against is 100% responsible for making sure the next generation of students don’t become the next crop of Fredo Corleones.

Fredo

In that vein, is it any wonder that a country that constantly devalues education ended up with the head of the Department of Education being someone who is unclear about the difference between growth and proficiency? Does it matter when we don’t care about it either? Maybe all of those years of being totally ambivalent about education has come back to bite us in the ass.

Glossary

Three-headed kitten scenario©: (coined) a usually fabricated event that is used to make someone’s actions seem less ridiculous than they actually were.

Ex: Jane said condoms failed when each of her three children were conceived. That sounds like a three-headed kitten scenario to me.  

“You are responsible for your life:” The Best Sentence Oprah Ever Uttered

 

About a week before Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th POTUS, the trend of Black people criticizing former President Obama for not “doing enough” for Black people while he was the sitting POTUS re-emerged. When probed, the things that President Obama should have done for the Black people range from reparations to solitarily ending violence in Chicago to increasing funding for inner city schools to turning crack houses into 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom middle-class bungalows.

I won’t mention the fact that these very people will acknowledge that the government has been screwing Black people over since we arrived here so it makes no sense to think that we’d all walk away with back pay plus interest just because the person in our highest office shared a phenotype. I won’t mention the fact that it’s not the president’s job to make sure that people know that it’s unacceptable to kill random people by the time they are old enough to independently navigate society. I won’t even mention the fact that local government has a lot more to do with city policing and that citizens would be much better off taking their concerns to their mayor and councilmembers.  Though I do not agree with every move President Obama did or did not make, you’ll never hear me say that any critique I have of him is due to the fact that he didn’t “do enough” for Black people.

This post isn’t about President Obama or any other political leader, though. This post is about responsibility. Contrary to 2017 logic, personal responsibility is not about denying the social maladies that we all loathe. It is not about blaming people for the problems they face. This is not the “bootstraps” theory. This post is about taking inventory and dealing with life in consideration of reality. I am talking about a serious examination of where we are, how we got there, and how we can excel in spite of the obstacles we may face individually and as a people. I am talking about not allowing issues, be they social or otherwise, keep us in a perpetual state of misery.

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Let me back up a minute. One of the definitions of responsibility is independence in decision-making. In other words, responsibility is a kind of freedom. I’ll go further and say that I believe responsibility is a form of intelligence that must be cultivated so that we are able to exercise it in a variety of situations throughout life. With that in mind, it doesn’t matter who helps you or what assistance any governmental entity offers you; if you don’t understand that your life is your responsibility, it won’t matter.

You will eventually spend all the money and be back in poverty.

You’ll neglect the bungalow and within 5 years, it will become the distressed property it once was.

You won’t take your schooling seriously and end up just as under-educated as you were before the shiny new schools’ doors were opened.

You could be given everything you ask for or everything you think you need and still find yourself in a situation that requires a magic wand if you don’t wisely take advantage of the freedom that is implicit in responsibility.

There are things that only you can do to enrich your life and set you on the trajectory that you desire, and doing those things takes the will to do so. Waiting on the government is a waste of time. By the time the government steps in, you could have saved yourself, your family and a few others. Sometimes, we are our own worst enemy because we don’t think or act responsibly, and then we abuse ourselves further by pretending that our mistake is someone else’s to handle.

I said on my personal Facebook page Wednesday that 2017 is the year of being put on notice. I could actually say that we were all put on notice the night of November 8th of last year. We are now sitting under an administration that could be described in a number of ways; harried, unprepared, ignoble, and erratic. If there were ever a time for us to thrust ourselves headlong into the practice of personal responsibility, now would be it. We may not have a crystal ball or political prescience, but I posit that we don’t need either of those things if we are willing to be the chieftain of our own journey.

 

Grow The F*ck Up: It Doesn’t Get Any Easier

The last few weeks have been a doozy. First, someone in Kim Burrell’s congregation taped a snippet of a sermon of hers where she talked about homosexuality being a sin and repercussions for homosexuals. She had appearances on television, ceremonies and a radio show canceled after the outrage machine kicked into high gear.

Not much longer after that, Vivica Fox gave an interview in which she noted that her new show that revolves around male strippers (haven’t seen it) was not created with the gay community in mind and that her dancers don’t dance for gay men (or something like that). As a result, her business partner disavowed her. Similar to the Kim Burrell situation, the outrage machine, in its last mile of the outrage marathon, caught its 2nd wind and churned full speed ahead once more.

Betwixt and between those two events, my timeline (and inbox) was graced with posts that were a blast from the past for me. They took me on a journey from 1st grade through 7th grade and back again.

You may think I’m going to spend this blog talking about homosexuality/homophobia, the church or both. I’m not. You may think that I’m going to spend this blog analyzing the merit (or lack thereof) of each screenshot. Not really.

I could make several arguments, but I don’t think I need to. Anybody old enough to develop commentary on what a religious person said to their congregation already knows that before they withdrew support from Kim Burrell, she likely already believed exactly what she said. Those of us who managed to make it out of middle school alive knows that everybody isn’t invited to the party and every product or service sold has a target market and thus shouldn’t be surprised when a person says they created their business for a certain demographic (why you’ll likely never see a white person using Sta-Sof-Fro).

But, I’m not going to go there (maybe I just did). This blog is about our uncanny knack for being outraged first and thinking last. This blog is about the way we think our problems are a statement on everybody else but us so that we can maintain some kind of moral high ground that we don’t actually deserve.

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The first screenshot is the by-product of a previous discussion about bisexual men who are not honest about it, also known as “being on the DL” (down low). The person who posted this is not a FB friend of mine but is friends with several of my friends. As shown, this person asserts that being on the DL is a result of homophobia.

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When I read this, it didn’t make me think about homophobia or the fear that people who are on the DL might face in their everyday life. All I could think about was how immature of a stance it is. To think that an adult would excuse lying and (usually) wasting the time of someone they claim to have enough affection for to enter into a relationship with is unnerving. Being honest is the right thing to do. It doesn’t matter if the truth isn’t something you’re particularly thrilled to tell, you tell it because it’s right. If conditions have to be perfect for you to be honest with someone you claim to love (and in some cases, have married and made children with), you lack integrity. Point blank.

With that said, there are a couple of adult questions for people who find themselves in this dilemma. First, would you rather be known for being bisexual or being a liar who wastes people’s time and mentally, emotionally and/or physically puts them in harm’s way? Secondly, why would you expect anybody to embrace “you” when “you” won’t be forthcoming about who “you” are?

The next two screenshots are self-explanatory.

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Apparently, if someone prefers not to date you because of your sexual past (or present), they are –phobic. I really don’t know where to begin here so I’ll just cut to the chase. Nobody has to like you. People are allowed to find you unattractive for any number of reasons. Calling them a “–phobe” or an “–ist” is not going to make them suddenly like you. Your options are 1) start lying about your life like in the first screenshot and thus become a shitty person by default or 2) accept that you aren’t their type for whatever reason and move the hell on with your life. For those who are unsure, the second choice would be the adult choice.

The fourth, fifth, and sixth screenshots highlight a common occurrence these days.

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I’m going to skip over the fact that the person never answered the question of who should pay for the “nice things” and then later says the “nice things” come from the dollar store. I’m not going to touch the fallacious thinking that just because someone works they should be able to afford what their heart desires. I’m not going to address the fact that there’s a clear misunderstanding of what capitalism is.

What I am going to address is this trend where someone posts a mini-monologue about something that pisses them off (that probably shouldn’t) and when someone deigns to respond, the poster decides to steer the conversation away from any fecund discourse in order to restart their mini-monologue. If you thought of yourself as enough of an authority to opine, you should think yourself big enough to either respond to feedback on your opinion – even if it’s that you have no idea or were not clear in your initial assessment. Dancing around like Floyd Mayweather when someone dares to pick up and inspect what you put down is jejune. If words suddenly fail you, just take a page out of NeNe Leakes’ book:

nene

The seventh screenshot is more hilarious than anything but had me SMDH anyhow. I sat and read it twice and said, “did this person just try to turn couponing into a social ill?”

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I think the funniest part of this diatribe is that this person first seems to temporarily absolve middle and upper-class people of classism by saying their energy is worth something and then tells them they are indeed poverty-shaming by participating in clipping coupons and “life hacks.”

The thing is, everything isn’t a ploy from the elite to start the class war that will annihilate us all. If you don’t have time to coupon, the answer is simple: don’t do it. I tried to coupon for about three weeks but since I don’t need bulk Depends or 3 tubs of cream cheese for the price of 2, I decided to stop wasting my time.

You catch that?

I DECIDED to stop doing something that I found did not serve me. There was no need to conjure up theories about how corporate America wants me to lose bladder control or eat lots of bagels. I guess I’m just grown like that.

Before I get to the last and best of the fuckery, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out how this person is against couponing for 20 cans of peaches but admits to having no problem with hacks for cheap cosmetics and couture. If you’re going to take down the system, your eyebrows must be on fleek while you do so, no? I’d luuuuurve to read a debate between this person and the dollar store poverty warrior from the previous section.

Now, for the grand finale…*drumroll*…the person who wants friends to report a closed group that is labeled as being for “cis” people only.

cis-only-fixed

The person who posted this appears to be mid-30s but this post took me directly back to 1st grade. This is like me being mad about not being invited to a party, thrown by people I don’t know.

While I’m well aware that people have all kinds of personal issues and insecurities, what takes this over the top is that this person didn’t just express their individual agita. This person rallied their own little group, most of whom probably didn’t know about the group’s existence either, to try to get this closed (because it can’t be reiterated enough) group shut down. This person probably doesn’t even know what is said or done in this closed group, yet they felt the need to create a new movement around their ire over this closed group.

I’m Black and a woman. If I needed the attention (EUREKA!), I could spend the better part of the day rallying people to get all types of groups and websites shut down. But, I’m also an adult. Why would I waste that much time on people who don’t even know I exist?

I know we live in times that are unusual to us. I know that we are in a time where we are having to re-face the things that don’t work for us as a society that Boomers may have thought they dealt with efficiently decades ago. I also know, without a doubt, that some of our personal and collective loads would lighten if we would simply grow the fuck up.

Tribalism: The Cream In Your Coffee

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A couple of weeks ago, I posted a link to an article alleging that Gabrielle Union excluded Dwayne Wade’ s “break baby” from the family Christmas card. I asked my friends’ opinions on the issue and boy did I get it. For two days, my friends debated back and forth about a wife’s duties to her husband’s “outside” children. Many thought that since she knew about the “break baby” before their nuptials, she should have fully embraced the child in their family undertakings. Some felt that she had no obligation to the “break baby” and that Dwayne Wade was the only adult in that household who had any obligation to the child. If the report about the Wade/Union clan is true, I surmise that in Gabrielle Union’s mind, the “break baby” is not a part of her tribe and she feels no obligation to invite him into it.

The discussion was interesting, as I’d been thinking in the weeks beforehand about tribalism. I believe that everybody, whether it’s PC these days to admit or not, is a tribalist at heart. Before I go on, tribalism is defined as “the behavior and attitudes that stem from strong loyalty to one’s own tribe or social group” (Google). I should note that definition was marked as the “derogatory” use of the word.

But why though?

In the Black community, tribalism is observed but only demonized when middle-class, educated Blacks practice it.  Often referred to as “skinfolk,” there’s an expectation that Black people should stick together, sometimes at unfeasible costs. We’re admonished not to judge that young man who has a rap sheet as long as my arm and even make excuses for his behavior; poverty, racism, capitalism, etc… You’re Assistant Satan if you dare suggest that that young lady with 3 children and a bun in the oven who is the cover for a nationwide story on the end of government benefits make different choices and stop self-burdening. I do not have enough fingers on which to count the times that I’ve sat in conversations that suggested that middle and upper-class Blacks are charged with the conditions in “the hood” or had a finger shaken at them for their lack of association with its residents.

These days, those people are diagnosed with a severe case of with “internalized racism.” I disagree and choose to believe that most of the time, it’s just plain old tribalism. That old saying, “birds of a feather flock together,” and your parents’ teachings that you should watch who you hang with have merit even in adulthood. I posit that the stakes are higher in adulthood, as you’re not just risking a demerit should you find yourself in the wrong company. On that note, I don’t think we can afford to shrug off that person who graduated college and moved out of the hood the next day with no intentions of returning as merely a self-hating coon.

I am and have always been a tribalist, and unabashedly so. To my knowledge, I have no friends who think everybody wants to hear what music they are playing in their car. 99% of my friends have attained an education equal to or greater than a bachelor’s degree. For most of my friends, trap music is an occasional guilty pleasure and not a part of their regular diet. Most of my friends live in safe neighborhoods and come from families similar to my own. My friends largely have the same value system as I.

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Did I do that on purpose? Yes and no. Any of us that has taken a base level psychology or sociology course learned that people are attracted, both romantically and socially, to people who are most like themselves. I’ve never purposely set out to exclude people whose lives are dissimilar to my own, but it always works out that way and I believe I’m the better for it. While society tends to swear off –isms of all kinds, I’ve seen myriad situations where tribalism swooped in and saved the day. Tribalism can help build and/or preserve formidable family legacies. Tribalism can help shape careers. Tribalism can help circumvent many an unfortunate situation or can help a person survive one.

With all of the obstacles that Black people face, you may wonder how I can take this stance. Easy. I don’t believe that the only way that we can unify is to occupy each other’s space. No matter the “level” of tribe one belongs to, they still have their own issues that they have to sort through; and even with common problems like racism, each tribe decides the method of combat that they deem the most advantageous. As we work through our problems on a micro level, it seems inevitable that things should eventually change on a macro level.

I have no animosity towards anybody that’s not a part of my tribe. I wish them no undeserved affliction. In fact, I hope that they can find their own tribe of people who are as beneficial to them as they are to the tribe. But, I believe it’s time to stop trying to get Black people to strap other Black people on each other’s back. It’s definitely time to stop demonizing Blacks who opt-out of the various facets of the Black experience.