Posts Tagged ‘spelman’

As many of you probably already know, a young lady named Jasmine Lynn was killed a couple days ago on Clark Atlanta’s campus. She was a Spelman Sophomore, all of 19 years old. Her twitter page is still up. There’s a picture of her doing what 19 year olds do, posing in front of a Ferrari at a gas station. She looks happy, a little awkward like people in those years do. But she looks like what she was: A young lady going to college, trying to make it in life.

And now, that life is over. I expressed my frustration with this kind of thing on Twitter yesterday. I attributed this kind of random and reckless violence to the underclass. Of course, my page blew up immediately with people arguing that I was being insulting and disrespectful. The DM’s however, were much more of a mixed bag. The fact is, as black people who are not generally likely to shoot someone, we have truly mixed feelings about how to deal with these issues when they come up, which they inevitably do.

Deborah Ann Brown was gunned down about 9:30 p.m. in the 2900 block of 14th Street NW, not far from the Dunkin’ Donuts where she worked.

The shooting happened just after the annual Columbia Heights Day wrapped up. According to sources, a group of males was sitting on the steps in front of the Greater Washington Urban League when a suspect on a bike rolled up and opened fire on the group, just as Brown was walking past.

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Last year, I worked for the summer as a Program Manager for DC’s Green Summer program, a pilot cross-functional program between the District Department of the Environment and the Summer Youth Employment Program. I managed 12 team leaders and maybe a hundred odd kids. They were good kids. A little rowdy, some misguided, but for the most part, like everyone else, they just wanted to live. We used to go out in to sites in the community to do cleanups or work, and invariably, if we were going to certain neighborhoods, some of the kids couldn’t come. It just wasn’t safe for them, because they had some beef or another. It’s hard to fathom living life that way. These were smart kids, with every bit of the potential as anyone else. But because of where they came from or who they knew, they were at legitimate risk of being hurt or killed.

Toward the end of the summer, one of my team leaders, Keith Hines, was shot and killed as he sat on his mother’s porch. Keith was a good guy. He’d had some issues before and done some time, but he was enrolled at UDC, he was working, and he was doing what people do: just trying to live. I doubt they’ve found the shooter.

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A few months ago, there was a bit of a hubbub because a Morehouse Student who shot another Morehouse student three times was graduating from the college. Not kicked out, not in jail, just graduating and moving on with life. The shooting victim, not so much.

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And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why I rail against the underclass.

When I say underclass, I’m not talking about the working class. I’m not talking about people, who because they’re not doctors or lawyers, or weren’t invited to Jack and Jill should be shunned and derided. I’l tell you where I come from. My grandfather on my dad’s side: Bus Driver. My grandmother on my mom’s side: a Domestic. I have 40-odd first cousins, and I’m the only male to go to college. So trust me, I don’t have a problem with the working class. Pretty much my entire family is working class. They work with their hands, or they’re int he service or they work in the penitentiary system. But they work. And they raise their kids. And they progress.

What I’m talking about is a mentality that has been sold to us, and we’ve bought hook, line, and sinker, that we as black people, and especially black men, should be a certain way. And that way is violent, ignorant, and uncouth. I don’t know Joshua Brandon, but from the narrative that came from a couple sources, he drank the kool-aid. Despite the fact that he lived in a 400k townome and drove a Hummer, he at his core wanted to be a member of the underclass. He wanted the cool points and swagger of having a gun and taking no shit from anyone. And because I assume his folks had some clout, he was able to get away with shooting a classmate without so much as a ripple in his life.

Just like, in all reality, the guy who killed Keith, and the guy who killed Jasmine and the guy who killed Deborah Brown will. No one’s gonna testify. No one seent shit. No one’s willing to step up and say “no mas.” Because the underclass doesn’t snitch.

What BET and New Jack City and Menace II Society and everything else in the world have shown us is that it’s awesome to be a gangster. It’s accepted, respectable, and much preferable to being a “bitch nigga.” Regardless of the fact that shooting randomly while running away is bitch nigga shit. Or rolling up on a bike and opening fire is bitch nigga shit. Walking up someone’s porch while he’s unarmed and shooting him in the face is some bitch nigga shit too. Hopping out of a Hummer and pulling out your gun on someone unarmed, bitch nigga shit too. But in the narrative of the underclass, these are all acceptable and respected actions.

And that’s why I can’t accept the underclass mentality as something to be respected or pitied, or not be derided. I can’t get into the whole excuses thing. “Oh, they had it hard” or “You don’t know what was going on in their life.” I used to live in africa, people. You think you’ve seen hard here? Get the fuck outta here. I’ve seen hard. And no, not everyone over there is holding hands and singing kumbuyah. There are some terrible things that goes on in any impoverished condition, anywhere.

But here in America, it’s trickling up. People are CHOOSING to be this, not forced into it by circumstances beyond their control. And we HAVE to stop accepting it. We have to stop letting kids in PG county underperform the entire state of Maryland because even though their folks have money, they want to be” hard.” Cats at Morehouse having guns. Plies pretending he’s a goon even though he went to Miami University in Ohio. We have to stop accepting that those little ignorant children who hang out in Chinatown will steal the Jordans off some kid and push old ladies down in the street. Because if we don’t get it under control, there will be more Jasmine’s.

I don’t live in the neighborhood that most of these people live in. I don’t want to. One of my mom’s clients was killed not long ago at Sursum Corda. If you’re not familiar with Sursum Corda, it’s basically a death trap. It’s the Carter personified. It will be torn down. It will be gentrified. And the people that live there, the crime, and the poverty, and the dysfunction will be pushed out somewhere it can be ignored.

But that’s the thing, you’re not changing the dynamic, you’re just moving it away from where you are. And a lot of black people who are the working class or the lower middle class don’t have the option to just gentrify out the underclass that lives around and among them. They can’t cancel out that risk that their kid is going to get killed by a stray bullet or seduced into being the shooter. They’re stuck with it. And as long as those values persevere, that it’s OK to shoot people, that it’s not OK to demand legal justice for shooting someone, we’re fucked. So you may disagree with me about my nomenclature, or saying I’m being elitist. That’s fine. But I absolutely, thoroughly, and completely reject the underclass values that made Jasmine Lynn’s death possible. If you’re one of those people that are apologizing for or making excuses for that behavior, I reject you too.

Do I have a solution? On a macro scale, no. There are things each of us can do individually; volunteer, mentor a child, etc., but at the end of the day, until the mentality gets right, nothing changes. The mentality has to be killed. Not the Jasmine Lynns.

Can you see my nose job? Isnt it awesome?

Can you see my nose job? Isn't it awesome?

So last week, I ripped the lower class a new asshole for their multitude of failings. This week, it’s your turn, “Our Kind of People.” And it’s long since past time someone took you all to task. Let’s face it, you people are insufferable. I say this with love, because while I may not be a “de facto” part of you all’s little thing, to some degree, our fates are intertwined, so if this makes you upset, think about it as me looking out for our own interests. Tough love if you will. Now, I was never a member of J&J, never pledged a frat, have never received an invite from the Boule. So I can maybe look at some of you all’s behavior from an outsider’s perspective. But I have lived in your cities, gone to your schools, and maybe diddled your women a little bit, so I’m close enough that this isn’t just someone throwing rocks from afar. Here’s why you suck:

1. You’re really not that elite. Many of you spend far too much of your time trying to one-up people that look like you but aren’t you. You pull out your fancy awards, memberships, and degrees, and somehow believe this makes you better than everyone else. Worse than that, many of you have nothing to recommend you other than lineage. Seriously, I’m supposed to give you props because your great grandfather was the first black dentist in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina? In the same breath, you people try to use these pitiful self-aggrandizing odes to look down on blacks who made it via hard work. I remember when Lawrence Otis Graham, your doucebag king, was putting together his list of the “Black families that matter”, he was so proud to exclude Jay-Z.

“People like Oprah and Bill Cosby shouldn’t be compared to Jay-Z and Beyonce,” Graham said. “While all the people on the list will be millionaires and billionaires, it is also about where did you go to school? Who are you married to? What med school did your granddaddy go to?”

Hmm. Jay’s worth $400 Million. How much are you worth, nose job? When Forest City Ratner wanted to redevelop Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards, who did he go to as the public face to appease the black community in Brooklyn? Who owns an ownership stake in the Nets (albeit less than 1%). Here’s a hint: It ain’t Lawrence Otis Graham. But if it makes you feel better to try and socially stratify yourself as better than someone more powerful than you because your great granddaddy was lucky enough to go to college, knock yourself out. And this isn’t just limited to LOG. Many of you people really aren’t elite period. It’s not just that you’re not better than Jay-Z, you’re not any better than some fresh off the boat Ghanaian going to school here. That dude probably speaks three languages and his been all around the world. The best you’ve done is go to N’awlins for Essence Fest. Check out this article in the Root to get a sense of how much better people with far meaner backgrounds are doing than you all. And your English isn’t all that good. One of my friends was the one of the first black partners at Goldman. His family’s African, and he would have nothing to do with the lot of you just as you probably would have nothing to do with him.

Jide > You all

2. You’re worthless to anyone other than yourselves. While many of you bask in the gory of being the “only ones”, meaning the only black at your firm, school, country club, etc., you really do next to nothing to open up these opportunities for other. You’re fine being the taken as long as it benefits you and keeps you getting glorified at the next Bougie Black chapter meeting. When’s the last time you actively mentored a promising inner-city kid? Or made a donation to buy books for an underfunded black school. Or took some time to teach single-mother raised boys how to tie a tie and dress for an interview? I’ll wait. But you’re the same people who scoff and guffaw at T-Pain buying the “big ass chain” while lamenting what he could do for the community.

Have we sent them n****s back into slavery yet? No but were close. Awards show is coming up Excellent!

"Have we sent them n****s back into slavery yet?" "No but we're close. Awards show is coming up" "Excellent!"

3. You take yourselves way too seriously. Unfortunately, no one else does. It’s great that you have your facebook group claiming tobe the HBCU Ivy League. But outside of a couple schools on that list, ask anyone from the real Ivy League and see what they have to say about that. Ask the Indians and Chinese who are mollywhomping you in terms of wealth creation and career achievement. I mean it may feel good to look down on someone cause they went to Morgan State, but in the places where decisions are actually being made, no one really takes it that seriously.

Femi Otadola, who knocked Bob Johnson off the Billionaires list

Femi Otedola, who knocked Bob Johnson off the Billionaires list

4. The rest of the world has passed you by. Sorry, guys, you’re the fax machine in an email world. There was a time in which, yes, you did need to get on board with you all’s agenda to get anywhere in life as a black person. But praise Oliver, that time is gone. Two words: Barack Obama. Who is the poster child for the tupe of guy you don’t consider one of your own until they get somewhere. Now you’re mad cause Michelle hasn’t reached out to the upper crust black community in DC. That’s cause y’all wouldn’t have been reaching out to her had she not made FLOTUS. I picked up the example of Jide and Jay-Z earlier. The fact is, what you all offer is growing remarkably irrelevant. I don’t need an introduction or a cosign from any of you to talk to top level bankers, developers, and financiers. I’ve made those connections completely without your help. Matter of fact, those guys? They don’t even know you. They’ve never heard of you. And in the few instances where I’ve tried to go to you for support, for the most part, I’ve had to put up with your self-importance and you thinking I owe you something. And you usually don’t know anyone above VP level anyway. Because that’s your lane. Middle of the road, not Master of the Universe. In all seriousness, hanging around with you all for too long would only make a promising person more risk-averse and less able to get out and get it.

Now this isn’t a characterization of all of your kind of people. Just some If this one stung, well, you know, A Hit Dog Hollers. What do y’all think? Bougies and non-bougies alike.

There’s no escaping it. It is the blob of our generation. The sweet smell of rock to a crackhead. That one last job that Don Logan made Gal do in Sexy Beast. Our version of “just when you think you’re out, they pull you back in.” Of course I’m referring to the two degrees of separation (max) that seems to separate every black person with a college degree in this country. The Clusterfuck was again brought to my attention when I was checking out another blog. Another commenter picked up on that we went to the same school, knew the same people, and more than likely, know each other. So how does this affect dating within the professional black world?

First, the positives: It’s easy to meet people because so many people know each other. Looking to date someone? Chances are your boy is friends with a chick who has a couple single girlfriends, you all go out for drinks at Coco Sala or Trois or Caftereia or whatever’s hot in your city and chop it up. Cool. Need to do a background check? My homegirl’s sister went to law school with old boy. I’ll let you know what comes up. Need to track down that cute girl that you were eyefucking with all night at the Hillman Black Alum party but didn’t get a chance to get her number because she left early? No problem. Me and her used to be cut buddies a couple years ago and we’re still cool. I’ll set up the intro.

Sounds great, no? An ever-expanding network of like-minded potential friends and lovers. What could be wrong with that?

Plenty. Like to hear it, here it go.

A friend of mine in law school once mentioned to me how she and her black friends at the school made a pact hen they came in that they would only date two black dudes in the school for their entire three years. Knowing how small the world is, they attempted to hedge the possibility of getting the “Slut” tag the only way they knew how: By instituting an arbitrary number. One of the biggest problems with the clusterfuck isn’t that everyone knows each other. it’s that everyone THINKS they know each other. They know a little bit about each other, and most of that comes from hearsay and reputation. So the natural thing for many people to do is armor themselves up with a carefully crafted PR message. Instead of feeling free to be themselves, warts, crazyness, bad musical taste, and all, there’s this diamondcutting pressure to walk the straight line in hopes of preserving a positive or desirable message for people they don’t even know yet.

And wo can blame them. I know way too much about a lot of people I don’t even know. I can tell you whose pussy stinks (at least it did 8 years ago, but you know how these rumors stick), who’s a closet homosexual, who gives good head, and who’s a gold-digger. Have I ever met any of these individuals personally? Nope. Or maybe in passing. But I know people who know them, and word on the street moves fast. And unlike they say in Carlito’s Way, if there’s one thing you can trust, it ain’t word on the street. So what if you were who you aren’t now? What if after having sex with most of the football team, you’re a reborn Christian? What if you used to be a gagster wannabe but you wised up? What happens when you grow up, basically? Are you still at the mercy of what the street says you were? I dunno.

The other problem is, ironically, the more people you know who know each other, the fewer people you can date. There’s no fresh meat anymore. It’s like 90210 with waves and weaves. Brenda fucked Dillon who fucked Kelly who fucked Brandon who fucked….but replace them with names like Jamaal, Tiffany, Sheretha, Keisha, and the occasional Lamar. I mean, do you really want to start a relationship with a woman who will have had sex with three or more of the dudes (and reportedly a chick) that are going to be at y’all’s wedding? That can create some pause. I dated a really great girl once who used to be cut buddies with a good friend of mine. I, in turn, dated a girl in college who she’s really good friends with. We didn’t have a title or anything and it was pretty light, but I do have to wonder, would we both have taken it more seriously if we hadn’t had the comingled relationship history we did. Who knows. I asked her what she thought about it once, and she said, sometimes she just shook her head. In her mind, it was like, “oh that’s just…., that humorous dude I went to school with.”

I think this is especially damaging for women’s dating prospects. While women can get over their beau having had a past relationship with one of their female friends, I don’t think the male ego is really built to take that. We’re a possessive gender and the idea that some dude we know “had” what we consider “ours” is a tough pill to swallow. I know women who have married guys that have fucked their friends. I don’t know guys that have done the same. And since women are constantly harping about the lack of qualified male suitors, it almost feels a little unfair to urther push that number down by disqualifying these women from competition because they might have had a certain kind of relationship with someone you have a relationship with.

I had a situation where a woman I had a very undefined relationship with maybe wanted a little more than that. I knew some dudes who she had dated before, and that didn’t really bother me. Although in retrospect after I learned about one, who I’m really close to, that kind of destroyed any possibilties that could have existed. But I’m friends with some of her good female friends. And I knew if we went crashed and burned (which eventually we did, spectacularly I might add), that would put us in a tug of war with them. since we both knew these friends before we really got to know each other, that’s a lot of potential fall out. After she and I parted ways romantically, she ended up dating one of my boys. And didn’t tell him, which I strongly encouraged her to do. It’s one thing if he knows and he’s cool with it. Even if he’s not cool with it, she knows where he stands. But is there anything worse than getting blindsided by the fact that a dude you kick it with on the regular used to mash down your woman? That’s not a good way to find these things out. After him, she moved on to a friend of, get this, both of ours. She told Dude 3 about me and Dude 2, but still kept Dude 2 in the dark about the both of us. Eventually, she was out with Dude 3 and Dude 2 happens to be in the same place. Awkwaaaaaaard. Now, imagine the three of us didn’t know each other. How cool would that be for her that she could have dated any of us independently and not have to deal with any of the interpersonal relationships we had? But try finding three pofessional black dudes in the same city who don’t know each other. Godspeed.

This all of course, gets even worse with the advent of social networking websites. What mystery there was about someone is pretty much dead after you see them tagged huddled up in the corner of the club with your boy in the facebook album “2003 Spring Break.” You can draw your own conclusions. My homeboy 2.0 loves to say “your friends aren’t my friends.” It’s his attempt to keep worlds separate, I imagine, but it’s kind of like King Leonitas trying to beat back all those fucking Persians. Eventually, the phalanx pretty much has to give, and your friends will follow his friends on Twitter.

So yeah, do I have a solution for any of this? Nope. But maybe you do. Feel free to comment and let me know how y’all get around it.