Archive for the ‘The Worry’ Category

20130527-192327.jpgThe Worry

A term I borrowed and flipped to coin a phrase that describes the underlying tension being silently felt in the Black American community.

In the previous posts in this series I discussed the fact that there is an unspoken tension growing in the Black community. Author Lawrence Bobo has describe “The Worry” as a class issue. I agree that classism is a part of the issue but I submit to you that “The Worry” is multifaceted and more complex. In the last post, “The Worry”: Anti-Fragile, I explored the economic worries of Black Americans. This post I want to talk about the worry that Black Americans have about drinking the koolaid. Drinking the koolaid is a colloquialism I use to describe the pressure to assimilate.

In America we downplay assimilation as the way things are, it is what it is, or getting by. Instead of allowing ourselves to feel and articulate the violation, invalidation, and individual offense that it is for someone to demand that you to be anything other than what you are. So we play the game. The truth is, whether we speak about it or not, we know that there is something wrong with that. We feel it in the weight of our steps to work, our nervousness in majority white public spaces, we taste it when we wonder whether our child’s name will hinder their economic progress, we see it when little dark skinned children are made fun of, we know it when we are passed up for opportunities because of our hair or our clothes. No matter how deaf we pretend to be, the whisper is there asking us whether we will drink the koolaid: inviting us to choose death or destitution.

The Story

There have been waves of discussion, critique, and controversy surrounding recent musical releases from the Hip Hop community. Both Kanye West and Lauryn Hill have met media assault and public criticism regarding their latest offerings. The negative responses they have received are not founded in actual Hip Hop critique of the artists’ work, instead the comments are based on the controversial nature of the material and the artists’ step away from mainstream sound and production.

The Music

Lauryn Hill’s single Neurotic Society attacks a wide array of our society’s ills. Rap Genius, of course, has a very thorough decoding of most of the lyrics. Ms. Hill takes on America more comprehensively than anyone ever has in one song. The song is consuming, speeding, and every word is thought provoking. For the mindless mainstream this is both overwhelming and offensive. How dare a rap song make somebody think!

Kanye West, who is of course a fan of Ms. Hill, released New Slaves and, in standard Kanye fashion, performed the song with an intelligent, artistic, avant garde flair. Naturally the public knotted their brows — well the brows were probably knotted before he performed since it has become a pop culture expectation to dislike anything Kanye does or says. The content in New Slaves tackles the issues of The New Jim Crow (prison industry), capitalism, and censorship in the entertainment industry.

Both songs have a similar erratic production that seems to linger somewhere between electronics and Hip Hop. The passion (most use anger as the adjective) that both artists project reaches out and stands in the face of the listener demanding to be seen, heard, and felt. It should also be noted that the content in both songs (when studied) has all truthful and mostly factual references — just in case anyone still cares about honesty in Hip Hop.

The Movement

Even fans of Hill and West have expressed some discomfort with the songs. However, any true Hip Hop head (as these are both Hip Hop artists which are a bit different than rappers) can attest to the long standing tradition of innovation, introspection, and articulation of Hip Hop music. If anything Hill and West may be helping to return the Hip Hop community to its roots. When I hear the songs I think about the time when Rap music wasn’t assembly lined produced and drive thru distributed. There is a long list of artists who veered from the production trends of the time and changed the Rap game because of it: Kool Herc, A Tribe Called Quest, The Roots, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Outcast, Nelly, Nappy Roots, Cash Money, and the list goes on. It also must be stated that both Hill and West have previously done so in their respective careers (remember Lauryn’s Unplugged album and Kanye’s 808’s and Heartbreaks album) so it is not unusual or a surprise to see them at it again.

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I see these songs as a movement that we can expect to see growing in Rap music (and hopefully the rest of America). The movement isn’t new. it was just a few years ago when Nas caught heat for wanting to title his album “Nigger.” Nas was adamant about renaming the album simply because it made people uncomfortable. The album was released “Untitled.” Following that incident Hip Hop artists, Erykah Badu was criticized for her video for “Window Seat.” Despite the depth of the lyrics and the power of the statement being made by the video, the major public focus was on Badu’s use of nudity and the legal charges she faced for not gaining approval for the location where the video was shot. The movement is one that is a long time coming. As United States citizens struggle against the country’s history of Puritanism, it is reflected in a number of artists speaking out against and protesting through their art and celebrity. The problem is that America has always had a way of punishing/ostracizing anyone who refuses to drink the koolaid.

The Point

Artists, especially Hip Hop artists, have traditionally been forerunners with the foresight and platform to expose the elephant in America’s rooms. This sort of risky, outspoken protest is needed now more than ever. And not just in music. But since America has chosen to entertain its citizens to death, what better place for a call to arms than through a part of the entertainment industry: music (Rap music being one of the largest selling genres). What is needed from the public is a an unflinching support for these activists. Even if we don’t completely agree, we should support our activists. If we allow them to drink the koolaid and be silenced we will be allowing the governing powers to continue to go unquestioned and unchallenged; the last time I checked that would be called an oligarchy not a democracy. Let’s be like Voltaire who once said,

“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”
– Voltaire

I’m not sayin’; I’m just sayin’,

An Angry Black Man

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Writer/blogger for The Root, Lawrence D. Bobo, used the term “The Worry” to describe the anxiety of Black Americans feel about their economic status today.

In the last post on “The Worry,” I described what I feel to be the true worry for Black people: that as this recession wears on and recovery happens slowly, Black people will suffer more than most because of the fragility of our economic place in the country.

The Story

While it may seem that Black people are progressing because we have been granted a number of civil rights and access to opportunities we have never had (I.e. presidential office), the truth is that we are not as far as should be , could be, or would like to be. The majority of Black people are not experiencing or benefitting from our progressive strides. We are still disproportionately disenfranchised from opportunities and our rights are frequently violated and/or denied through legal loopholes.

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The Problem

The problem is that we refuse to recognize the fragility of our status in this country. We refuse to admit that there is much work to be done to make our progress permanent and continuous. We are so blindsided by the lure of the shine that we can’t see it’s not always gold.

I’m not insinuating that we adopt a victim mentality or glamorize poverty or make peace with mediocrity. I’m suggesting that view our national position with an unflinching gaze that allows to see the pervading inequalities and know that it is fact and it is our current reality but it does not define who we are, our potential, or our ability to change those facts.

The Point

The key to Black Americans becoming anti-fragile lies in economics. As it pertains to economics we are powerful as a whole. The 2010 Arial Black Incestors Survey reported:

The median amount black investors contribute to their retirement plans is $230 per month, compared to $337 a month contributed by white investors. The median assets black investors have accumulated in their current retirement plans is about half the amount white investors have accumulated: $56,000 compared to $106,000.

Since 1998, the survey has consistently found black investors save and invest less than white investors of similar income levels. This year, the median amount black households reported saving on a monthly basis is $189, compared to $367 among white households. The 2010 findings mark the first time in a decade that African-American households have reported saving less than $200 per month.

That’s a problem. It begins because we don’t take the time with our children to invest I’m them what WE know they need to know about being Black in America. We asse that if we get them to school they will be fine. Wrong. There are some things teachers are not always and are never required to teach our children. We have to impart the importance of investment and supporting Black economic wealth. That begins with not teaching our kids and/or each other that everything Black is second rate. There are bad businesses everywhere owned by people of all nationalities. We have to stop to ourselves what the rest of the country is doing to us: letting a few negative experiences with Black owned businesses define all possible experiences with Black businesses.

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The 2012 Nielsen Consumer Report stated:

african-americans continue to experience transitions in the mix of household incomes. the average income for african-american households nationwide is $47,290 with 35% earning $50,000 or more. with an overall aggregate household income level of $695.6 billion, african-americans continue to be viable consumers with a collective buying power estimated to reach $1.1 trillion8 by 2015.

the Black population and its aggregate buying power is overall more geographically widespread and diverse than other ethnic or racial segments. Companies seeking to connect with more affluent african-americans will find in certain nielsen Designated Market areas (DMa), there is a correlation between a large Black population and a large base of higher-earning Black households. the washington, DC DMa, for example, is 25% african-american and has some of the highest african-american median household incomes in the country.

What that tells us is we have the economic power as a group. What we don’t have is an appreciation for those businesses, a conviction to support them, and a vision of where that kind of cooperative economic support can take us.

It’s all good to keep it real and call ourselves out on our flaws but we get awfully right mouth- and walleted- about the ones who do good business and contribute positively. Lets focus on them. There’s an old saying about how foolish it is to cut off your nose to spite your face. In the end you only hurt yourself. The greatest promise for durability is in the strength of the community.

I’m not sayin’; I’m just sayin’,

An Angry Black Man

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Writer/blogger for The Root, Lawrence D. Bobo, used the term “The Worry” to describe the anxiety of Black Americans feel about their economic status today.

The Story

Bobo describes “The Worry” as the aprehension the growing Black middle class has about the current economic situation and it’s detrimental affects on the Black community. I cannot think of a more accurate term for the silent purgatory of emotion that many Black Americans are feeling right now. However, Bobo and I part ways on the details of “the worry.”

Bobo suggests that the Black middle class (he defines middle class as individuals with an income that is 2-4 times the poverty level) is afraid for the largest part of the Black community which makes up the “poor” “underclass” of American society. Perhaps this is true. I would not be so quick to believe that the Black middle class has concerns about the majority of the community (who are not “middle class”).

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The Problem

What I do believe is “the worry” is not just about the poor, it’s about the economic fragility of the entire Black community (minus the one Black billionaire and 19 millionaires). As the recession lingers, no one will go untouched. Even the Black middle class is feeling the affects. For some it may only go as deep as their concern for their children who are facing a much lower platform from which to build their station in life.

Many Black professionals that I knew who had for the beginning of the recession maintained a better than average status began feeling the effects of the recession near the end of 2012. Business owners I knew found the capital and funding for their businesses frozen, first time homeowners found their real estate deals faltering just before completion, and highly educated and skilled professionals found themselves in the unemployment line.

This is devastating on a number of levels. On the one hand it can no longer be fantasized that only the useless, uneducated, unmarketable, and unambitious are suffering. Black people everywhere have to acknowledge that the recession is not just a proverbial separating of the wheat from the tare, we are in a national crisis and Black Americans (for no other reason than their initial remedial economic background) will feel the affects more than most.

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The Point

It is at this time, more than ever, that the Black community must design for anti-fragility that can be taught to our children or as a nationality we will lose much of the progress we achieved in the last few decades.

I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,

An Angry Black Man