Academic Writing is Delivered & Delivers Me

In fiction—at least in the last six months—my voice has become free. I worry less about what the publishing market demands. Why? Everybody is worried and still only few are getting published. So why not do what I want to do since the outcomes remain the same? So I rewrote my entire novel and used the voice I had always wanted to use. Consequently, the scenes slowed down. Descriptions grew richer because the lenses became more aware of what exists in specific spaces. The writing tones had more space to roam and make the novel’s languages blossom. In my social media writing, I am free with my voice like I have become with my novel’s voice. But in my academic writing, I struggle. Why? I have been trying to write to fit in.

Avoid academic terminologies, some academic writing gurus say.

Use academic jargons to reveal your familiarity with the culture of a field, others contend.

Only use them sparingly, many advise, because you want to make sure you will be read across disciplines.

Conflicted by all these writing-guideline contentions, I read many academic writing books and tried to make my academic writing sit in the middle. Trying to center my writing was like trying to center my radical personality. It felt uncomfortable. It made me hate writing final papers. Because I construed assignments as a time in which I must ignore my radical identity and voice. Academic writing was a task; not pleasuresome. This has been my view for my entire college life.

But not anymore after a class with Professor Robert Reid-Pharr of the CUNY Graduate Center and my loving classmates! The class was called Theorizing the African Diaspora. How do we imagine the diaspora using paradigms of skin color and spatial borderlines of the Caribbean and Africa? this class asked like many others. But given that theoretical and narrative traditions have long explored (and still continue to) those questions, this class fundamentally focused on less popular interrogations: how do we locate a diaspora using nontraditional modes that circumvent spaces of the Caribbean, America, and Africa? What is the African diaspora of Latin America, Europe, and Asia? And if we must use the old borderlines, how do we theorize the Caribbean, Africa, and America with new terminologies, and explore their diverse diasporic identities? And how do we queer the diaspora?

Addressing the question of queer diasporic location in mid-semester, I presented a paper in which I allowed my voice to roam freely. I took the liberty to write freely after witnessing a radical, eye-opening, presentation from two classmates, Fabienne and Sean—a presentation welcomed by Professor Reid-Pharr. My writing goal in this paper aimed to discuss how queer as theoretical framework might be read in African spaces; but I wanted to produce queer writing as well—a writing style that disrupted the frameworks of “academic” writing.

The class had great responses about my writing presentation. Almost everyone agreed I needed to access that voice more often. However, in the subsequent 5-page Introduction for the 20-page final paper, I returned to the old confined voice. Reading that writing piece, the class seemed disappointed. They agreed it was well written, but they discerned my voice was too confined. They weren’t disappointed with the writing substance of the piece; they seemed disappointed that I didn’t allow my voice to roam freely.

Robert said something like—The writing is good but it doesn’t reflect you. So I explained to him that I wanted to make sure that my writing style is publishable in the future; hence, I’m practicing the restricted voice. Robert agreed that writing diversity is important, but he emphasized there is a way to negotiate my academic voice. The class agreed and noted that my liberated voice might be more  attractive to publications than my overly careful voice—because my liberated voice sounded fresh, passionate, “and academic.” Yes, academic, a few said.

I appreciated their feedback. I thought long about how to negotiate my voice. Then yesterday, it dawned on me, return to the lessons you acquired from fiction writing! Don’t let your narrow view of publication frameworks dictate your space and pace of writing! Just like that, I knew I found my academic voice.

My academic voice is going to be whatever I want it to be, based upon the piece, based upon my passion on that subject, and based upon my mood at the time of writing. I will no longer approach academic writing by questioning my voice. I will now write like an authority of a field and an authority deploying a confident writing style. For writing production must come from a place of power. Certainly, it must be negotiated with the tastes of readers, publication trends, linguistic and cultural traditions, etc.; Ultimately, however, I, the author, must execute authorial agency. For I can no longer unconsciously conceive my academic writing identity as a production mode, reminiscent of plantation production paradigms.

Today, I’m writing an academic piece for Robert’s class—and hell yes, I’m even using patois in some parts of it. No more will my writing and languages be shackled. I’m delivered because my writing has been set free.

This is great day! I find myself using terminologies I didn’t even knew I had in me. I realized that academic terminologies of freedom had been trapped. Vocabularies, words, phrases, and syntax needed release. Yes, here I am writing my 20-page final paper—and I love what I’m reading. I love reading my own academic writing. Yes, bitch-Dadland, WRITE RIGHT!

Thank you Robert Reid-Pharr. Thanks to all my classmates, but in particular, my appreciation to those who personally acknowledged my contributions to that class: Sean Kennedy, Makeba Lavan, Abigail Lapain, and Mikey Rumore—and one other person I forgot her name (I’ll add it soon). For this Christmas, my gift received: writing deliverance.

Posted in Life Talk

The Enemy: the motherfucking police!

Am I the only one noticing this, but there is so much race stuff going on lately. I feel like I’m living the 1950s-70s I read about and watch in documentaries. And I make this observation in a good way. That is, I feel like people are rising up and challenging the government about racism, in ways, passionate ways, I have never seen in my whole life.

People are serious because this is not just about blacks–though blacks are disproportionately terrorized by police violence; police are terrorizing everyone (except rich people): middle class and working class.

People are sick and tired of the police. And it’s a damn shame that we have to say stuff like “Not all police are bad” when we are voicing our disgust; because, indeed, the police culture on a whole is corrupt. Even the good cops often back up the corrupt system and defend their criminal colleagues.

I think it’s time for people to start talking about changing the constitution to limit police powers. And the academic requirements to enter the force in any state need to be more than a High School diploma or an Associate’s degree.

Just like there is a rigorous requirement for law school, college professors, and medical practitioners, police officers need to go through that as well. Too many police trash are on our streets, standing next to garbage bins with their guns.

There are many people who want to become police officers, so the requirements need to go up to pick from the brightest. Why should any rambunctious kid who just walked out of high school be allowed to do only—something like—4 months of training and then become a police officer who can arrest her/his former principal?

Even if the training is longer than that, it needs to be formalized with academic rigor.

The police culture and police officers are the greatest threats facing blacks, Latinos, and poor Americans today. I feel like the police seriously threaten my life than the people that the United States lists as the ten most wanted terrorists. How the hell is Assata Shakur a threat to me? Assata isn’t my enemy. I know who the enemy is. It’s the motherfucking police!

Posted in Politics Education, Race Matters

Who am I?

So important to put our needs in the public sometimes even though we operate within a tradition that makes it appear as if seeking help demonstrates our weakness, our poverty, our insufficiency, rather than our deeds from places of power and motivation—to rise: Rise & Claim & Walk dream landscapes. For as the activist Matthew had wisely said, “Ask and it shall be given, Seek and he shall find, Knock and doors shall be opened onto you.”

I really value my history of asking, knocking on public doors, seeking to abandon ole school bandwagons of childhood and teenage years—those bandwagons that played the ole tunes: You aren’t good enough but don’t ask too much (though someone has long ago said “No man is an island, no man stands alone); We aren’t good enough so let’s ride together beneath identity and nation umbrellas because we will end up in a destined inevitable place; So let’s ride on the roadways of nationalism, sexuality, gender, male-power traditions, sophisticated colonial behaving norms, rule abiding body languages, thought conformities; Take the hat off the head like the gentlemen of genteel histories still do in our homes and boardrooms! And Let’s ride!

And I did ride but I rode queerly. For when I look at my life today and I can ask myself: Who am I? and I can answer. I’m bold, I am fire, I am man who used the mirror and queer myself many times; I am nobody, too, weak, shallow, genderless, selfish and selfless, because often I must deconstruct to defragment:

(1) Peel myself naked for in nakedness was I born.

(2) Submerge myself in darkness because with closed eyes in the womb of maternity and postmodernity I was blind.

(3) Strip my thoughts—meditate—and peel away cultural, ideological, and identity clutters.

(4) Chant myself to an imaginary place—because there must be a point: Settle on a Descartian rhythm—“I think; therefore I am.”

Not that I could ever occupy that primordial space without utilizing the gifts of what I already am—but when blood, when bones, when chants, when thoughts conspire and converge that I am there, here, where am I?, in an epistemological space—a self awareness, new genesis, rewritten awareness to mobilize self, purge self, empower selves, historicized awareness of self—I know who I am; because—Who am I?—is many!

Posted in Atheist, Gay Voices, Life Talk, Race Matters

Obama’s Body: A Barrier to Black Progress

Tavis Smiley is correct for telling President Obama to stop telling black people that they can’t compare what is happening now to what happened fifty years ago and for insisting that blacks should wait. Why should I wait? I can’t breathe, so why should I have Obama tell me that I have to wait? What the hell am I to wait for when Obama hasn’t articulated a policy that I should sit and salivate for? This president has done nothing to address police violence against poor communities or to ensure that federal funds are distributed to at-risk areas in order to create educational equality and improve life quality. Instead this president has dodged black people ever since he went in office. But years ago when he stepped out of the closet, it was to tell black people that they grumbled and complained too much.

Obama is playing a dirty race game. He has managed to seduce the majority of black people, who won’t criticize him because—the presence of the black face in the White House seduces them. That’s all these people need to see—a black face in the White House. Obama has become like a cosmetic for black desires. He is just there occupying space, creating aesthetic representation rather than transformation.

And Obama is more than just cosmetic. His presence is disabling to progress; thus, I refuse to accept that Obama can do nothing because he has a black face in a White House. I have a black face too, and I don’t have the privileged of being sheltered by the White House, so I have to speak up. Obama’s body has become a barrier to black progress. It has not aided us. It has disabled us. It’s time we heal ourselves, time to reclaim our dignity, our power, our abilities by criticizing the president. We need to destroy the Obama cosmetic so we can see ourselves and our power. Thanks to Tavis Smiley’s Cornel West’s consistency in trying to do that!

Not only has Obama made life more dangerous for black and brown people in America, he has increased the war brutalities across the Middle East, endangering the lives of Arab populations. The liberal bandwagon has not critiqued Obama’s war brutalities. It isn’t that liberals are suffering from amnesia, it’s just that their integrity has a price: loyalty to party. Liberal bandwagon riders will never address brutality when a democratic president engineers it. I doubt any one can raise a compelling argument that denies Obama has extended wars beyond those commenced by George Bush’s evil ambitions.

Certainly, Obama sits among the worse presidents in recent history when it comes to addressing race. Racial tensions have grown under his administration. No white president could have ignored–to the extent Obama has—the increased murdering and maiming of black and brown lives by federal drug convictions and police criminality. Under Obama’s leadership, conservative talking heads have become emboldened in spreading their hateful rhetoric. No more do they need to whisper, no more do they reveal their hate in their employment practices, no more do they have to keep their violence in homes and boardrooms, for now all is best displayed in the open. Conservatives are trying to be the new radicals. Conservative radicalism means loudly invalidating and crippling civil rights progress.

Obama has rendered black votes powerless, black lives hopeless, black issues the driving force that republicans should mobilize against. The Supreme Court and other high courts have rolled back Voting Rights laws won during the 1960s. Affirmative Action no longer has the wide teeth and moral authority it used to give decency and hope to numerous locations. A storm is blowing more forcefully every day against blacks. We are told that color doesn’t matter. We are told to focus on our humanity. We would like to do that. But Obama reminds us every day that our color matters so much that he has to stay far from it. And police violence draws to our color like magnet.

Obama has not elevated the status and life quality of anyone but the rich and powerful. Look at the anti-civil rights and pro-corporate reputation of the many persons he appointed to places like the treasury and other boards. Even his recent nomination of Antonio F. Weiss as Under Secretary of Treasury for Domestic Finance has Senator Elizabeth Warren outraged.

“It’s time for the Obama administration to loosen the hold that Wall Street banks have over economic policy-making,” she wrote on the Huffington Post, “there’s the larger, more general issue of Wall Street executives dominating the Obama administration, as well as the Democratic Party’s, overall economic policymaking apparatus”

Aside from his sponsorship of Wall Street ambitions, what three policies have Obama created (not the My Brother’s Keeper stage show) that we can celebrate him for when it comes to racial equality? Where is this change we can believe in? The only change is the increased open display of racism and violence by powerful figures, bodies, and security structures. And we know that within ten years after Obama leaves office, his financial assets will change from under a million to multimillion-dollar holdings as he cashes in favors that his avoidance of black bodies had negotiated.

Posted in Politics Education, Race Matters

Do I like Police Officers? Ferguson and Eric Garner

I can’t understand how a police officer can choke a man to death, a strategy that is banned by the police force, but the Grand Jury refused to send the case to trial. What worries me is that these are the public cases that make the media. How many poor bodies have police slaughtered that we have not seen? How many more have prosecutors ignored to keep the professional peace with the corrupt police culture?

I am beginning to fear for my body. I know the police see it. Policemen can call it. Policewomen scream at it like it is a dog. I must surrender to their screams. I keep a smile on my face—not too wide—just enough. Still, depending on their mood, they can fist my body wherever they please. No consequence, of course. Their word is the word of courts’ laws. They use their boots and stomp me to the ground. They choke me in front of an audience. The police shoot me in front of cameras. Kill me. My dead bodies go global-viral. American presidents will watch. Supreme Court judges watch. Congress still watches. But the police fear not; because they are the police; because they know certain bodies must know their place.

Failing to remember my place is daring death. How difficult it is to know that forgetfulness can put me in a position where I unintentionally dare death! My body is a burden? Burden walking and talking daily, saying that it is “living,” saying it has dreams, saying it wants to have a career, saying it wants to make family, friends, and nation proud? For how burdensome it is—to walk and to know I must always remember my place—my body—in a country place that tells me to forget my body and remember I am human. How could there not be an undesired burden to carry alongside ambitions and dreams, knowing that any police in America can scream at me, choke me, and shoot me dead as Americans record their violence with cameras?

Do I like police officers after witnessing their violence upon bodies that carry genealogies like mine? How can I admire their badge anymore, or their uniforms or their courteous smiles that can flip to violence in seconds? How can I not wonder—which body will be violated or die today?—when I see their speeding cars, hear their sirens, or see their hard faces on the streets and in subway cars?

“Well, not all police are like the bad ones,” people correctly remind us even as they remember the police culture: corruption and violence. Every good police officer should realize that when people see them, people remember a state of corruption, fear, and powerlessness; fewer people see their dedication.

 

Posted in Politics Education, Race Matters

Media Images Destroy Ferguson

Let us to remember to look at the images we receive—what the media present to us as pictures and scenes and the ones that consequently dominate the imageries of our thoughts. Why are images of looting the popular ones shown in the Ferguson protests? Why has the dialogue not sufficiently analyzed the possibility of grand jury corruption with prosecutorial abetting? Why is the dialogue about the disorder of Ferguson protestors rather than the culture of murder and intimidation from police forces across America?

How have images chosen by powerful media houses shifted the dialogue and forcefully shaped how we talk about violence while we ignore the most dangerous culprits of the violence? Are we in control of how we choose the subjects of our talk? Do we trust the media—most medias—to give us our images so we can babble? How do specific image portrayals benefit the media and the ruling power structure?

Have we raised questions about what is presented of Ferguson’s black people? Have we seen homes, churches, professionals, small businesses, artistic productions, and cultural centers? Or are we just shown smoke, high-pitched anger, raggedy clothes, wild hair, sagging pants, threats, and loots? How do specific images influence our understanding of black people in Ferguson, black people outside of Ferguson, black people outside America, and how does this portrayal shape views about the good ole white officers taking care of justice in black environments?

Are media images designed to critically counteract the grand jury’s judgment? Or are they designed to confuse babblers, to make babblers look away from the criminal police force, from the racialized grand-jury verdict and the prosecutorial performance in order that America can look at a race of looters, black people and their violence, America’s black problem that can only be handled by murderous police strategies?

How have you been talking about this issue? Have you been critiquing the looting you are forced to focus on as the most fundamental? Or have you remained consistent and addressed police violence? Or have you been evaluating other new images such as that of former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani on NBC’s Meet the Press. “Ninety-three percent of blacks are killed by other blacks,” Giuliani said. “I would like to see the attention paid to that that you are paying to this.” No doubt, the media and Giuliani want our talk, the images we see, to shift from police violence to black-on-black violence. Michael Eric Dyson, however, replied to Giuliani. “Black people who kill black people go to jail,” Dyson said. “White people who are policemen who kill black people do not go to jail.”

However, what logic remains with us, what images? Dyson’s or Giuliani’s or both? Is it reasonable to say that Giuliani’s image creation has managed to distance the police force from its criminality as talk shift to black on black violence? Black on black battles become the dominating images in our thoughts as we wrestle to interrogate, demand, and protest justice.

And within this black on black paradigm, we see Mike Brown, we see the looting in Ferguson, we see angry black people, we hear angry black voices. We aren’t sure what to think any more: the police or black people? For isn’t it really the police force versus black people? And while making sense of the images, some black people see their blackness as black indeed, but different from those other blacks; those other ones—for those other black people are certainly America’s problem—black problem—not the police force at all.

But how did we get here? How have we failed to analyze the ways images have disabled our abilities to talk with consciousness and power? Have we also been listening to some people? They say things like, the protests make no sense because things will return to normal. They mock those demanding justice as time wasters. Are we listening to their inability to reflect upon their laziness and corruptedness?

They benefit from the blood of others. They drink from the labors of resistance of many. They never lift a finger to join the struggle. But we can always expect to smell their breaths–the stink from their clean comfort zones: the computers and smart phones.  They criticize and attack with such pride as though their inactivity, laziness, selfishness, depicts an enlightened viewpoint, a progressive mode of behavior.

Do we realize that such articulations make those kinds of people appear uneducated about history, about the many progress acquired from civil disobedience and disorders, civil rights and revolutions? Do we realize that such people fail to note that change isn’t something that always comes like rain? Change also comes like drops of dust across time? Do we realize that such babblers have become too accustomed to pain endurance and violence sights, too comfortable accepting the norms and normalization of racialized image making?

Posted in Politics Education, Race Matters

Anxiety Versus Success

Yesterday, as I rewrote a chapter in a novel I’ve been working on for a while, I said to myself, “I hate this fucking shit, I’ve been working on it for years, I just want it done right so I can move on to other things!” That thought was loud. The frustration it held wasn’t just spoken, it’s a frustration that had swelled as anxieties for years, swelled so much that it had to amplify itself on the routes of my thoughts. Those words—that thought—came from a gathering of anxieties. Yesterday I decided anxieties should no longer be allowed to linger to gather to place demands upon my thoughts and life.

Why?

My body speeds up to position anxieties’ demands into action. The results of actions become modes of resolutions—what we call work, ambition in progress, doing to fulfill dreams. Since dreams ground my life, I understood why anxieties continuously harvested frustration while producing dreams (“success”?). But why should anxiety transformed into frustration transformed into dreams patrol or control or guide the lights of my life? I now wonder. Isn’t peacefulness unsettled if dream fulfillment continues to arrive from anxieties growing and cluttering thoughts and dragging bodies into labor zones where work isn’t about enjoying a process because enjoyment is delayed on the premise that enjoyment will surface when production is completed?

Indeed, I do enjoy writing and laboring on other life goals, but I’m now concerned about what happens when labor cannot meet its many timelines. I’m concerned about how my existing notions about timeline-failures produce anxieties. I’m concerned about how anxieties cluster like muck against my peacefulness. I’m concerned about how the production process’s prioritization of the prize—labor with the eyes on the prize and the determination to reach goals with the eyes on the prize—delays enjoyment and overall personal wellbeing. I’m concerned about how healthiness—enjoyment—living well—is anticipated based upon the assumption that immense pleasure will arrive once goals are finally acquired, once hands hold the prize. For when goals drag out for years, how do I embrace pleasure and inner peace?

See the genealogy of my thoughts:

“I’ll be successful when I grow up.”

I grew up.

“I’ll be successful when I come to America.”

I came to America.

“I’ll be successful when I get a Bachelors.”

I earned a Bachelor’s.

“I’ll be successful when I get a Master’s.”

I earned a Masters.

“I’ll be successful when I get into a Ph.D. program.”

I’m in a Ph.D. program.

“I’ll be successful when I publish a novel—but—but—but when that happens, will I? Will I really feel successful given that I still struggle to acknowledge my successes?”

How do I claim success as time moves, as anticipation lingers, as goals continue to dream as labor continues? I am trying to resolve that question to ensure I can live in life’s moments and live powerfully. My power should no longer be anticipated. Thus, I’ve made a decision: I must live in the moment, my thoughts will begin chant, I’m successful, I have always been successful.

Hopefully, speaking and chanting to myself in this way will disrupt the tradition anxieties used to dominate the languages of my thoughts. If problematic anxieties come from ongoing acknowledgements that my efforts and productions are unsuccessful and need to find success, anxieties will continue to locate roots that destabilize my peacefulness. Therefore, I have to eliminate the roots from which anxieties feed. I set out to do that by nurturing new roots—not roots of longings but roots of acknowledgement. No more, I want to be successful. More, more, I’m successful.

 

Posted in Life Talk

Bill Cosby Scandal. His Defenders Have A Point?

In regards to allegations surrounding Bill Cosby, something is fundamentally wrong if the only positions valued are ones that advocate on behalf of the accusers. It now seems taboo to suggest Bill Cosby might be innocent. Responses to such suggestions have included personal attacks, character assassinations, charges of sexism, and declared assumptions that thinkers are hooked to Bill Cosby’s celebrity contributions. Frankly, I find such attempts at psychologically decoding discourse participants to reflective of a hostility towards critical interrogations, opinion diversity, and argumentative logic where facts should be weighted alongside gut-feelings.

What seems dominant is a paradigm of bandwagon activism that valorizes emotions. Seas of emotions have gathered, not to discover facts and motives, but to share moods, trade anger, and declare resentment to opposition and critical questions. This development is reminiscent of McCarthyism: if you are not with us, you are against us—your views make you dangerous and you should be eliminated with whatever means necessary.

Such McCarthyist crusaders forgot that communism was merely trying to find a sociology of advancement as violent religion, capitalism, and plutocratic structures continue to do. Exploring theoretical questions of political and governmental structures was necessary. Nevertheless, politicians overlooked that necessity and branded a whole ideology and its practitioners as political violence. However, the reality ignored the fact that the political violence was largely Russia’s and America’s, both of whom wanted to colonize the globe. To this day, not enough people are admitting that branches of Marxist ideology enabled the rise of civil rights, queer, nationalist, anti-imperialist, and feminist movements. One need not champion the diverse tenets of Marxist, which is indeed imbued with major flaws, to accept its contribution to ideological developments. Today, what the average person will tell you of Marxism is simple: it wants to control people.

So much for knowledge!

In the same way, this sort of McCarthyist paradigm is resolving the controversy involving Bill Cosby. Persons who avoid the emotional-driven bandwagon are vilified by others acting as psychiatrists. This medical set seeks not to address questions, but to decode personalities of persons contributing to discourse. So, since psychological decoding is in process, I too will mimic its operation and share a view:

As I see it, many people who resent opinion diversity and logical argumentation acquire a sense of moral pride with their emotion-activism. Wrapped up in historical guilt—men raped women and made them fearfully silent victims—many of these people think and speak without clarity. With a load upon their brains—guilt—they seek to unburden themselves. For many of them, it isn’t about justice. It’s about them: their guilt; their inner antagonisms; their need to feel inducted into some effort or viewpoint seems just.

Just?

I guess, “just” because its ways are loud and angry—just mob justice.

Whether or not Bill Cosby is guilty, it is clear he has become a victim of a culture resolving its guilt. If I’m wrong, why is it inappropriate for anyone to argue that we should remember Bill might be innocent? Without a court decision, why have TV networks pulled the plug on Bill’s productions? I’m not saying they shouldn’t have; I’m just highlighting my point that cultural guilt is giving the women a media platform while it denies it to Bill, though the evidence haven’t been analyzed.

The expertise of our media has been the courthouse. With the little controlled evidences it produces to keep us talking, to keep its profit, to recruit our anger, and to harness our guilt, it has been able to make us (myself included) jurors and medical professionals.

So let me continue my psychiatrict analysis of society—trying to release its guilt, our culture rehearses the manifestos of gender violence as a precursor to presenting the accusers’ viewpoint. That precursor forces an audience to expect the women to produce nothing more than their accusations. But what about the view of the other side? Are these women operating with secret motives? is a reasonable question. Why are their testimonies so shaky? Why do they appear uncertain of what they remember?

Laden with the weight of history’s guilt that gives cultural spokespersons moods that decapitate argumentative capabilities, they hastily argue that such questions are dangerous. The claim, therefore, is that such questions could never produce any sort of evidence that sheds light on the issue at hand. Such questions, they argue attack victims. But who are the victims, we might ask. The victims are the women, their statements make clear, the victimizer is Bill Cosby.

Where is the evidence? we then ask.

Many women have come forward, they reply, Women in the past were afraid to come forward.

That is the evidence.

That there is a closure on and hostility toward evidence gathering, how could we ignore the role of culture’s burden to resolve history’s guilt and emotions as dominating the cultural psyche? Indeed, there is a place for emotion in every facet of argumentation. In the Bill Cosby context, it should certainly be relevant. My contention, however, is that there is something worrying when emotions and gut-feelings are situated as the ultimate and most critically needed to resolve questions of guilt and innocence.

Posted in Politics Education, Race Matters

Return to the Gym

I have been attending the gym only once a week these days. It worried me a bit but not enough because my body isn’t looking like a cane truck yet. But a friend visited me on Sunday and started playing music from his phone. Hearing his sound tracks, I remembered the power of music and the days I used to live in the club, dancing from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. We used to open and close the dance floor. We, Monster Man and others, were the dance floor.

Memory reminded me why I hadn’t been going to the gym often as I used to. My music has not been working properly for the last two months. The headphone I use with my iPod has been making the music sound like echoes. Music is my gym steroid so I’m sure you understand I can’t work out without it.

After my friend left, I bought a headphone that CNET reviewed as one of the best on the market. I should get it today. To ensure all goes well, my friend recommended I stop using my iPod. Use your Samsung S5 phone as your player, he suggested. He then set up the SoundCloud app on my phone and created a dance playlist.

Thrilled, I listened sections of the playlist, but not all of it. I want to experience the full thrill, the fresh thrill, the blood thrill, the nerve thrill, the thoughts thrill, when I hit the gym and hear the beats for the first time.

Gym, I’m on my way with my music and my attitude; I hadn’t abandoned you.

Posted in Life Talk

Scandal — Time To Feature Olivia Popes Uncontrolled By Sex

In Scandal’s Episode 8: Thou Shall Not Forsake Thy Father, Mellie Grant finally lets her hair down and dishonored a marriage that had long ignored her. Meanwhile, Olivia Pope cried crocodile tears on the phone to get her father to attend a restaurant in order that Fitz and Jake would serve vengeance; or justice, perhaps. Scandal’s ending saw Rowan Pope’s violence and power at the restaurant as he revealed to Olivia his awareness of her efforts to capture him. Rowan’s message to Olivia highlights his understanding that Olivia’s actions too often result from her intimate associations. Indeed, we might want to ignore Rowan’s analysis, but I wonder to what extent it applies to most women characters in Scandal.

Olivia’s attitude toward sex and professional business make decoding her character difficult. The show’s first season introduced a savvy strategist with a goal to grow a law empire. Then, Olivia skillfully navigated the blurring lines between profession and intimacy. Now Olivia seems disturbed about what she fundamentally wants. Two members left her law firm. There has been no new hire since. The show features less scenes at Olivia’s work place which used to be a site of political strategizing—a site once important that government surveillance programs prioritized it. At the same time, the show features the president mostly inside the White House, Olivia’s father mostly in his own office, the attorney general mostly at an office. But Olivia is all over place—rarely returning to her own cultivated grounds to analyze what the streets revealed to her.

Obviously, the office—the symbol of law and resourcefulness—no longer grounds Olivia’s character. Olivia seems unstable, always in transit. Even her catwalk that once appeared powerful is now reminiscent of one who is about to fall down. As Olivia’s unstableness spreads like a curtain across the show, she barely has control over the business she built. Of course, she still gets things done, but notice that even her staff members no longer have the same reverence for her. Olivia couldn’t stop Huck from breaking child laws when he had his child in the office without the mother’s knowledge—a very serious offense. Any lawyer with integrity and a career dream would have addressed it. But not Olivia. She has new values. She is no longer in charge of business, because Olivia is busy trying to figure out her sexual desires.

Perhaps the big questions with which viewers no longer contend include—What is the next goal for Olivia’s law firm? Will Olivia’s political power expand? Newer questions would more likely include—What motivates Olivia? What does Olivia Pope really want? Sex from two men? Love (of which one?)? Political Power? Love and admiration of her father? Family?

My own view is that this lack of clarity into Olivia’s personality is deliberately designed. It sweetens the plot. It upsets viewers who usually think they admire empowered characters. The producers have done a good job developing Olivia’s goals as fuzzy. If the show had continued to portray Olivia as fully empowered, her character would have become predictable, uninteresting, and unreal. Viewers would have struggled with zero questions about Olivia’s psychological interior. Having no question-task to complete, Scandal viewers would have disappeared.

It is reasonable to suggest that viewers are also concerned about who seems to be the most formidable person in Scandal at the moment. I would say Rowan Pope. He suffered a temporary fall in the past. But even within that time frame, he waged significant power. What we should expect, given the tradition of film writing is that, Rowan Pope’s power will soon decline. The producers will have to do this if they hope to negotiate the characters’ balance of power.  Aristotle in Poetics suggests that characters must face forces more powerful than themselves in order for them to have opportunities to experience fear, reveal their weaknesses, and gain our empathy as we desire their victory. Characters must also grow so we can celebrate them and believe we too can triumphant similar struggles.

To further balance power, Scandal’s producers would have to reconsider the plot and ensure the woman protagonist remains powerfully visible. If Rowan’s power continues to dominate the show even more so than President Fitz Grant’s, Scandal will become another film site characterized by male-power dominance. Rowan will become the interesting character; not Olivia. Of course, I know the show attempts to portray societal male dominance structures as it is. But I doubt that in our world, an African American waged so much power over any president and America’s White House.

By featuring Rowan as both a power player and an institutional structure, Shonda Rhimes creates an historical imaginary. What is America with an African American who can assassinate even a president if he wishes? We can better imagine that question—one perhaps far from our thoughts before now. And we can do so by accessing the hints Scandals provided us about how the political structure operates in manipulative and disguised ways.

Yet why does Scandal fail to feature a woman with judgment unclouded by sexual desires? I ask even though I admire the thoughtfulness that goes into the show’s production. If the show seeks to represent gender diversity, it is important to not just present women with power; carefulness must also reflect in the contexts that show how women amass and execute power. Rowan has power, but sexual desire isn’t a dominant player in the history of his accomplishments and professional conduct. However, when it comes to women, it’s troubling to note how sexual relationships cripple women’s professional judgments.

In the past, we felt Olivia’s power. The clothes she wore had power. Her runway pumps had power. The sassiness of her tone revealed power. The way she listened and made the last say revealed power. The physical speed she used to break security and enter rooms with her voice revealed power. But Olivia’s power falls within a certain shadow: her weakness to sex—or intimacy, if you chose to call it that.

Certainly, Olivia isn’t the only character facing this natural life experience. Both men and women confront it. But it seems sex histories do not significantly shape the men’s past and professional desires. Fitz is president whether or not Milly loves him. Cyrus Beene continues to operate even though the joy of his life, James Novak, died. And in a second, Cyrus will sever any relationship that threatens his professional life.

On the other hand, look at former Vice President Sally Langston. She lost her mind and her professional composure after responding to her husband’s sexual conduct. To be noted is that even the morally upright Sally lost her way due to an issue that involved sex. We also see Quinn Perkins initially portrayed as an insecure person. Overtime she developed confidence and combat skills. Nevertheless, if we pay close attention, this only happened after she engaged sadomasochism with the mentally deranged Huck who wields power even in his untreated psychotic state.

No doubt, grounding Olivia in the shadows of sex is good business for Scandal. It keeps viewers returning. But given Scandal’s failure to expand the notion of gender diversity and contextualize at least one woman outside of sexual desires, I wonder whether Scandal reinscribes the gender stereotypes it hopes to culturally dismantle.

Posted in Book Review, Race Matters

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