Friday, June 27, 2014

White privilege in Columbia, MO asserts black people can't drink

I have to be honest about a few things.  I’m new in town.  Although from Columbia, MO, I’ve been away rousing controversy in Durham, North Carolina for close to 30 years.  I don’t understand the political culture of COMO.  I’m learning.  Give me some time.

My naiveté related to the inner workings of local politics has kept me biting my lips tight before screaming loudly.  There are certain things crawling on my skin like a mosquito taking profuse bites. Yes, my last nerve has been unsettled, and I’m past wanting to put my shoe where the sun don’t shine.

So, it’s time to scream.

I attended the most recent city council meeting in hope of finding reason to believe it’s not just my imagination.  What I found left me even more perplexed than before I entered the plush room.  Given I’m here for a season, I need more than an impressive décor to give me reason to believe we’re moving in the direction of a loving, diverse community.

What I heard was a bunch of hyperbole about COMO being a nice place to live, with first class parks, a diverse community that celebrates arts, and it being the talk of the state.  Insert bull manure wherever you wish.    

Open your eyes people.

COMO isn’t the only community seduced by the rhetoric of inclusion.  All looks great when you’re standing on the throne of privilege, and control how diversity plays out.  COMO is one of the least diverse cities I have ever seen.  Diversity is not reflected in the way the news is dispersed, how power is shared, or in how public policy is administered. 

Don’t get it twisted sister, COMO is a community controlled by white privilege.

This prologue is essential in understanding my position on the plan to ban alcohol at Douglass Park.  When placed within the context of assumptions of power and privilege, it reflects how the voice of black people is minimized, controlled and relegated as no consequential.

It is assumed the complaints of blacks don’t matter in COMO.  Just give it time, and it will all go away.  It is understood that the black community’s lack of real political clout makes their voice insignificant when placed within the context of what white people think.  The response to black critique is handled by the opinion of white, liberal condescension.

You can hear the air of supremacy in the way affairs are managed.  The voice of arrogance rants, ‘they don’t know any better.’ We know what’s best for them, because we, well, we are white.

Saying that disturbs me because of the hard work I have done to undo racial tension.  My approach has been to seek common ground when confronted with tension.  The problem in COMO is the absence of common ground. Blacks are forced to accept the morsels handed them after an effort is made to be heard.  

So, with that out of the way, let me speak to the specifics related to the ban of alcohol at Douglass Park.  Ginny Chadwick, and all of her cohorts co-signing on the ban, is communicating a subtle message rooted in the assumption of white privilege.  It is a painful assertion that she, and those riding on the wagon, can’t hear because of the conventions that rule her thoughts and actions.

Black people can’t drink.  White people can, but not black people. Underage white people can, but grown blacks hanging out in a city park can’t.  Local clubs make it easy for white students to drink, but that’s different in the mind of those who are white, privileged, and completely unfamiliar with the nuances of black culture.

Her position makes that claim. Sadly, she fails to understand how paternalistic her crusade comes across.  It’s reminiscent of the goals of imperialism – to stampede into a territory, take control and teach the people how to live honorably. 

White people can drink.  Young white people can drink, but blacks can’t handle the consequences of their drinking.  When black people do it, the result is a public health issue. The white liberals have to rescue black people from destroying themselves before it is too late.

Insert your favorite super hero.

So, forgive me for speaking.  I’m sorry for divulging my feelings regarding COMO’s all-white city council and nearly all-white press.  Forgive me for chastising COMO for failing to take diversity seriously, and for making assumptions rooted in all of that privilege.  I haven’t been here long, but I have a long list of concerns that comes back to the same truth.

Black people aren’t welcome at the table.  We’re simply asked to show up to watch white people eat.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Chadwick flip-flops on Douglass Park alcohol ban

Ginny Chadwick’s fight to ban alcohol at Douglass Park has taken a new twist.  She’s communicating a desire to ban alcohol at all city parks while giving the impression doing so has been her intent from the beginning.

Chadwick confronted the controversy surrounding her plan to ban alcohol at Douglass Park with a press release communicating a plan to ban alcohol at all city parks.  Chadwick is also pushing to ban alcohol at university parks.

The language of the recent press release diverts attention from a policy perceived as racially driven.  Tyree Byndom confronted Chadwick about banning alcohol at Douglass Park, and was told to prepare for a battle (

Chadwick’s recent position should be considered within the context of her previous position on this issue.  Records of her input during the June 2 city council meeting reveal her plan to ban alcohol exclusively at Douglass Park.

The details of that meeting were recorded by The Columbia Heart Beat.

"One thing I did see that continues to be an issue is alcohol," The Columbia Heartbeat reported Chadwick saying.  "I would like to look into an ordinance to make that park alcohol free."   

The issue was presented to the city council in February by Fred Schmidt, former 1st Ward councilman.  Schmidt was advocating for the ban at only Douglass Park, a position supported by Chadwick.

"The use of alcohol in that park is not like it is in other parks," Chadwick said.   "Do we have the drinking issue in any other park like we do in Douglass Park?   It's a perpetual thing that people are drinking in that park."   

The Columbia Heartbeat’s reporting clearly reflects Chadwick’s desire to ban alcohol at just Douglass Park.  Residents should press her to discuss why she flip-flopped on the issue.

Chadwick’s new position is easy to endorse, but her claim that this has always been her goal is disingenuous.  Tell us you have reconsidered based on conversations with residents living near the park.  Tell us you have listened to the criticism and altered your position after accepting the racist undertones related to your previous stance.  Tell us you have done research on alcohol usage at other parks, but don’t insult the intelligence of your critics by presenting a press release that claims a different position.

That may cover up the mistake you have made, but it fails to address the character of one who just played a game when the heat in the kitchen got too hot to bear.  Citizens are willing to accept an apology.  They understand when a person brings a perspective devoid of an understanding of how a certain group may respond.  We all make mistakes, and there is always space to grow.

But don’t pretend you’ve always seen the bigger picture.  In the words of Samuel Dewitt Proctor, my former mentor and teacher at Duke, that dog will hunt.

This hound dog smells what you are doing.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Ginny Chadwick wants to ban alcohol at the only park in Columbia, MO's black neighborhood

It hasn’t taken long for Ginny Chadwick, Columbia, MO councilwoman representing the 1st Ward, to prove she’s out of touch with the black people who live in her district.  Chadwick is set on leading efforts to ban alcohol at Douglass Park.

Black folks in Columbia, we call it COMO, consider Douglass Park one of the few places to gather in a way that reflects our rich cultural particularity.  It’s the one place black people can chill, be real, put some meat on a grill, pull out the side dishes, talk trash, shoot hoops, listen to some R&B, and, for better and for worse, drink some beer and liquor.

The truth be told It’s the only spot within a city designed to keep blacks in their proper place.  It feels intentional at times.  Yes, Douglass Park is like other parks in the "hood" across the nation. It’s a spot that has garnered a reputation because of the people who go there.

The truth is covered by the fiction, and that fiction is rooted in fear.  That fear is molded by ignorance, and that stupidity is supported by an unwillingness to jump outside the comfort zone.  Chadwick, and anyone willing to drink the unspiked Kool-Aid, is building public policy based on a mound of assumptions.

She needs to check herself before taking the big gulp.

Even worse than her misguided crusade to ban drinking at Douglass Park, is her lack of respect for the man who was on the ballot against her. Chadwick’s bold indifference for Tyree Byndom’s input may be a sign that she lacks the ability to comprehend, or simply doesn’t care about the people begging to be treated with respect.

“The Blacks in the 1st Ward have one social space that they go, and that is Douglass Park. They don't feel wanted or culturally accepted most other locations,” Byndom wrote in a message he reposted on Facebook. “If I hear that this is an effort that you are actually going to go through with, I want you to know that you will have major opposition from me and my allies.”

Byndom’s message was simple – don’t go there.  To her credit, Chadwick didn’t deny her plan to ban drinking at Douglass Park.

“Thanks for your input Tyree. Yes, I am working to make Douglas alcohol free,” Chadwick wrote.

“Cool. Get ready for a fight,” Byndom responded.

“Didn't take the job because I wasn't up for fights. Change is a struggle, especially towards public health issues,” Chadwick said.

“That's fine. Be well. See you on the battlefield,” Byndom said.

You have to respect a woman on a crusade, but what is Chadwick thinking? Is she willing to disregard the opinion of a person with one ear to the ground? Is she completely insensitive to the concerns of those who frequent Douglass Park? Has she formed an opinion based on her view from her car as she drives by the park?

There are two problems with Chadwick’s push, and both reflect a deeper issue related to how race and racist assumption impact public policy.

The issue isn’t banning drinking in a city park.  There is merit to enforcing that policy.  The problem is with limiting the ban to the only park supported by black people.  Forming a unique policy for Douglass Park is at the core racist.  It targets a set population in a way that stereotypes them as being predisposed to alcoholism and illicit behavior caused by excessive drinking.

Second, and even more incommodious than the first, is Chadwick’s unwillingness to press Byndom to share his concerns.  She cites her position without persuading Byndom to state his case. She fails to ask him to explain his opposition.  She simply states her position, and willingness to go to battle.

It’s this type of insensitivity that I remember about COMO before leaving close to 30 years ago. I’m told that things have changed, but Chadwick reminds me of why it was easy to leave with no desire to come back home.

If you’re against drinking in city parks, ban it at all parks.  You simply can’t go after the park where the black citizens spend their time.  If you do decide to ban drinking at that park, show some sensitivity toward those who oppose your position.  Listen to the citizens you represent.

Chadwick’s refusal to listen is striking one of those bad nerves.  I plan to call her soon to give her a chance to respond.  I’ve decided to write this first to introduce her to me and my work.  Be warned.  You might think that’s the way business is handled in COMO. If that’s true, take some notes.

Take some time to listen before you go on the battlefield.

You don’t want this battle.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Jamal Bryant is not the first pastor to call women "Hoes": Countering Hoeology

It’s not appropriate to call a woman a garden tool.  It’s a point that has been fought by women bent on revising the language of Hip-Hop music.  It’s been a long battle to end the fascination with bitches and hoes.

So, we’ve become accustomed to the sexism and misogyny in Hip-Hop music.  Byron Hurd exposed issues of masculinity, sexism and homophobia in his documentary Beyond Beats and Rhymes, 2006.  The battle to terminate the garbage talk about women coincides with efforts to kill and bury the N-word for good.

Both are hard to destroy.

Hip-Hop may not get it, but I have an expectation that clergy communicate in ways that reflect a deeper consciousness. 

Pastor Jamal Bryant, of Baltimore’s Empowerment Temple, is the second high profile pastor to get caught using that garden tool to label women.  In June, Pastor Andy Thompson, of World Overcomers Christian Church in Durham, NC, posted a message on twitter that sent women and sensible men into a frenzy.

“Ladies, if you want to be the only woman your man looks at, shine it up. Don’t let the Hoes he comes across out shine you,” Thompson posted.

Thompson apologized on YouTube with a message that attempted to place his comments within a plausible context.

Sorry, it didn’t work.

“These Hoes ain’t loyal,” Bryant said during a sermon.

Like Thompson, Bryant advised critics to consider his words within the context of the sermon.  He is correct to assert that there is more to his message than a 30 second sound bite.

The problem with both Thompson and Bryant are the fundamental theological problems with their message beyond the reference of Hoes.  More disturbing than their usage of the garden tool is the acceptance of certain assertions among those who attend church each week.

Assumptions of Compartmentization and Dichotomization

Both Thompson and Bryant relegate the role of women to marriage.  Marriage is postured as a competition between those with a husband, and those seeking to claim the husbands of others.  Thompson and Bryant use Hoe to brand unmarried women.

Bryant examines the attack on black men.  He uses ample historical evidence in exploring how public policies have been used, by the enemy, to keep men down.  In keeping men down, the family suffers.  Bryant’s claim is that men are needed to bring stability to the family.  The attack on women is ultimately an attack on black men. 

Women and men are placed in set terms.  Women are, by design, emotional.  Men are intellectual.  All infrastructures suffer when men and woman are placed outside their God ordained positions.  This is an argument that demands female submission to the leadership of men.  Bryant argues that men function devoid of favor without a woman to point him toward his purpose.

The vision of the woman is to support and promote her husband.  Yes, Bryant suggests men should listen to their woman, and this, on the surface, appears as a progressive concept.  There is no discussion related to men supporting the vision of women.  Men and women are dichotomized based on God mandated roles.

Assumptions of Masculinity

Both Thompson and Bryant assert conceptions of masculinity that blames women for infidelity.  Thompson imputes wives for falling to “shine it up” while those Hoes are lurking to steal their husbands. Bryant mentions the side piece as a distraction from the vision God.  “Hoes” are used, by the enemy, to keep men from their Godly agenda.  What about the conventions that presumes a form of masculinity that makes cheating a God created virtue?  What about the application of notions that “the enemy” uses those Hoes to sidetrack men?

The demonization of women, as Hoes, creates space for the rationalization of male flirtation.  Any departure from God’s purpose is blamed on a certain type of woman.

Assumptions of Sexuality

“The feminized black church is comfortable for sanctified sissies,” Bryant said.

Bryant spews a homophobic laced diatribe that faults the “enemy” for an assault on the black man.  Bryant attacks the black church for being overly emotional while men are, by design, intellectually driven.  Men demand structure and a place to assert their vision, while women are needed to keep men on track.

Bryant concludes that the emotional agenda of the black church has led to the rise of homosexual boys and girls.  The lack of male presence in the family has led to the onslaught of more women in the church.  As the family suffers, the church suffers.  As the church suffers, we see more and more of the societal dysfunction that is destroying the black community.

Assumption of Theodicy

Bryant uses “The Enemy” to illustrate the ongoing quandary of the human experience.  Bryant, and many ministers, fails to adequately define the full nature of evil, and how the enemy shows up.  His inability to clarify what or who the enemy is, and how evil shows up, leaves those listening to make assumptions on their own.

The question of theodicy, the defense of God’s goodness despite the presence of evil, can be traced back to Augustine of Hippo (AD 354-430). Augustine argues that God created the world as good, and that evil is the consequence of the fall of humanity. Augustine blamed natural disasters on fallen angels, and claimed moral evil are deviations of goodness.  Augustine argued that God does not create evil, but humans have chosen to deviate from the path of perfect goodness.

There is a long historical debate related to the question of theodicy.  What does Bryant mean when he uses the “enemy” in discussing the attack on the human will? How does this apply to the question of genetic disposition of evil?  As easy as it may be to blame everything on “the enemy”, what is implied theologically when we make such a claim?  Even more important, what are we teaching the people regarding evil and the providence of God?

The Theology Behind Hoeology

Given the lack of theological clarity in using “the enemy” to outline the complexity of problems facing the black community and the black church, Thompson and Bryant tempt us to conclude that those Hoes are the enemy.  I call this Hoeology –the construction of a theology that blames women for the evils facing men.

My conclusion is simple; it’s not the fault of Thompson and Bryant that the garden tool was used to illustrate a point within their sermonizing.  Hoeology is deeply rooted in the fabric of black dogma.  It has been constructed from the circumstance of black, female enslavement, and has found a home within the common culture of the black church.

Those Hoes are behind broken marriages and compromised dreams. 

In the words of Flip Wilson’s Geraldine, “The devil made me do it.”

Translation: a hoe in a bright red dress.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Black men: shut up and listen to black women

“It's no use of talking unless people understand what you say.”
Zora Neale Hurston

That quote by Queen Zora has been on my mind for the past few days.  A lot of people are talking, but few understand what is being said.
I’ve been listening to a chorus of screams.  It shows up in a variety of ways: political battles, conversations about race, problems facing youth, and on and on and - you get the point. 

“it’s no use of talking unless people understand what you say,” Hurston said.
Black women are screaming.  Is anyone listening?

It’s happening on a number of fronts.  Black women want to define the terms related to their bodies.  They are way past being sick and tired of men communicating legitimate sexuality.  They are tired of the contradiction that affirms the sexual expression of men while shaming women who love their body and who search for ways to express what it means to be created in the image of a female God.
Women are sick of being blamed for the construction of rape culture.  They are fed up with hearing it’s the fault of their wardrobe that men objectify their body for the purpose of self-gratification.  Women, like men, desire the freedom to celebrate sexual pleasure in language that is their own.

Women are nauseated by language of submission.  They are tired of verbiage that uses the Bible to justify sexism.  They want to be treated the same as men, and demand accountability of those who use their power and privilege to limit their voice.  They have the right to demand being served by women clergy.  They have the right for God to be referenced as both male and female, or to hear language that celebrates the inclusion of women.
Black men need to listen.

It could be that the notion of listening and hearing is a new phenomenon toward the reconstruction of black masculinity.  My friend Mark Anthony Neal, author of Looking for Leroy: Illegible Black Masculinity, has paved the way for conversations related to how black masculinity has been read in popular culture.  Reframing discussions regarding black masculinity creates space for a discussion about black patriarchy, misogyny, sexism and sexual violence.
Perspectives regarding womanist and feminist perspectives are incased within the terms and conditions of black men. Black women deserve to be heard, but not on the footing of the men who seek to control the platform for these discussions.  A space must be found for an open, ongoing reflection on how black patriarchy hinders the voice of black women.

The brothers need to get out of the way.
Power assumes the right to speak, how to speak, when to speak and the terms of speaking. Power shames those who speak outside approved terms.  Privilege grants value to conversations rooted in suppositions grounded in a male worldview. Power prescribes meaning and merit to words.

Women are being told to shut their mouth.
It shows up when men tell women how they feel with little regard for how words are heard. It shows up when the language of black women’s pain is forced within the context of the black man’s struggle.  It shows up when black women are accused of claiming solidarity with white women at the expense of black allegiance.

As painful as it may be to listen as black women tell their truth about how it feels to be black and woman, black men need to listen. As hard as it may be to admit ones actions have hindered black women – you have to listen.  Even when it hurts, and, yes, even when it exposes demons lurking in your kitchen, you have to listen as black women stir the pot of hostility.
It’s hard for black men to hear the word patriarchy used to define their role in hindering women.  It’s easier to limit its usage to white men with power beyond their own.  As easy as it may be to reject patriarchy as a real possibility, it’s critical for black men to listen as women express truth as they live it, versus rejecting their understanding of how privilege and power shows up.

Shut your mouth, is the common refrain.
Black men reject the truth of black women by reminding them of their own.  We, black and brown men, suffer from hostile public policies.  We, black men, endure rampant discriminatory practices that shows up in a variety of ways.  We are arrested devoid of evidence.  We are convicted and sentenced based on racial bias, and denied access to work and promotion.

All of that may be true, but asserting such doesn’t nullify the truth asserted by black women.  The lack of power and privilege in certain places doesn’t quash how it shows up between black men and women.  It shows up in matters of the body and sexuality.  It harms women when men use the Bible to enforce submission, and brute strength is applied to limit a woman’s freedom.
It may be difficult for black men to concede the language of patriarchy due to the assumptions related to their own sense of subjugation.  Black men disregard how patriarchy shows up by limiting the way it is used to convey the rage of black women.  Black men hide behind the injustices and practices of bigotry.  Black men demand attention related to the ongoing struggle to gain freedom.  They demand being heard, and they have reason to scream.

Black men need a place to share their stories.  No one should be silenced.
But you are not the only group that needs to be heard.

Tell your truth, but take time to listen.  Listen to the women.  They have a story to share, and they are begging us to listen.  We have no right to tell them how to think or feel. 
Shut up and listen