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A thought, an idea, a flash of inspiration. Potently Pickaninny but small enough to fit on a scrap of paper. Leave a comment. 

 

Thursday
Apr112013

Gifted Hands Surgeon Won’t Give Republicans the Electoral Treasure They Need 

By Sheryl Wright

Over the past couple of months, Dr. Ben Carson, renowned neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital, has been applauded by the right for a series of politically charged speeches echoing familiar conservative talking points on health care, taxes, religion and limited government. The day after Dr. Carson’s speech criticizing President Obama who was sitting just a few feet away from him at the National Prayer Breakfast, conservatives began positioning him as a potential candidate for the GOP nomination in 2016.

AP Photo

Republicans almost reflexively elevate black people that “stand up” to President Obama. Their rush to crown Dr. Carson as their next knight in shining armor reminds me of the Party’s ride on “the Cain Train.” At the time that he jumped to the top of the list of potential Republican nominees, Herman Cain, like Dr. Carson, was relatively unknown politically. In response to criticism of his policy positions, Dr. Carson followed in the footsteps of Mr. Cain by casting himself as “off the plantation” unlike black Democrats. On questions related to gay men and lesbians, Herman Cain labeled homosexuality a sin while Dr. Carson compared support for same-sex marriage to support for pedophilia and bestiality. It’s not surprising that Mr. Cain and Dr. Carson were unable to conceal their disdain for those who don’t share their beliefs—they’re following the lead of a Republican Party that is contemptuous of Democratic-leaning constituencies.

In the wake of his comments on marriage equality, Dr. Carson recognized the damage the controversy was having. Though he underscored his belief that marriage is between a man and a woman, he apologized to the John Hopkins community for any embarrassment that he caused the university.

Despite the attention surrounding his less than auspicious debut on the national political scene, Dr. Carson will be best known for his work as a surgeon and philanthropist. Like many others, I first heard of him in 1987 when he performed the first successful surgery separating conjoined twins. I remember his accomplishments as a source of racial pride at the time. His life was a testament to a collective belief in the American Dream. A black child raised in poverty by a single mother in the 1950s, he overcame great personal odds to achieve tremendous professional success.

Dr. Carson has every right to express his political views. Black conservatives—like people of any political stripe—have a right to speak out against President Obama’s policies. Unfortunately, Dr. Carson’s emergence on the political stage represents more of the same; with the exception of immigration reform, he embraces many of the policies that a growing segment of the public disagrees with.

Last month the Republican Party reported on their failure to connect with the changing electorate in the 2012 election. Sadly, they’re too out of touch to realize it will take much more than a new black face to show that they’re not just the party of old white folks.

 

Wednesday
Feb062013

Beyoncé Owns It at the SuperBowl

By Lucinda Holt

As a child, I can remember being admonished in subtle and not-so subtle ways—especially by people like my grandmother—to represent the race well through how I did in school, spoke and carried myself. The pressure of Dont embarrass us was ever present as I was growing up, and part of not embarrassing us was always being seen as respectable and never sexual. The last thing you wanted to do as a black girl or woman was feed into the already hyper-sexualized image of the black woman that is alive and well in the American imagination.

Of course the problem is that black women are human beings, who also happen to be sexual people. Can I be a fully realized, complicated person who is many things, including sexy? Do I have to be the poster-child for respectability?

Photo by AP

We all come up with ways to express our full humanity in spite of the racist and sexist notions that would limit who we are and how we express ourselves, and I have to say that I'm not mad at Beyoncé for expressing that sexuality in all its glory in front of millions of people during the SuperBowl. Beyoncé is an amazing performer who dances and sings better than any of her critics ever will, while being very sexy. Do we need a variety of images of black women that aren’t limited to the sexual images that we often see? Yes. But let’s not disavow the power of owning one’s sexuality and determining how, when and with whom we share that part of ourselves.

I love what The Nation’s Mychal Denzel Smith had to say about these issues in his blog post  Michelle, Beyoncé and the Fruitless Politics of Respectability.

What Beyoncé did was own her sexuality, for herself and no one else, in a public space—and it freaked some people out. Whether you think Beyoncé was ‘self-objectifying’ is a question of whether it’s possible for a woman to publicly embrace her sexuality without being defined by the hetero-male gaze. As a hetero-male, I hope I’m not speaking out of turn when I say: Not everything is about us. In fact, most things aren’t, we just pretend they are so we can feel good about ourselves.

Monday
Jan212013

Toward a More Perfect Union

By Sheryl Wright

"Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time–but it does require us to act in our time....You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country’s course. You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time – not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals.

President Barack H. Obama

57th Presidential Inaugural Address 

January 21, 2013

Monday
Nov122012

Karl Rove’s Post-Election Spin

By Sheryl Wright

Karl Rove, the Republican mastermind responsible for bringing us George W. Bush and the man behind $175 million in spending this year against President Obama and other Democratic candidates, is no stranger to making dubious claims about his own record or the record of the Obama administration. His willingness to stretch the truth on a host of issues has been documented.

Less than two days after the presidential election, Rove took to the Fox News airwaves to explain how President Obama won by suppressing the vote. The claim is the exact opposite of the facts—since 2011, Republican elected officials across the country have done everything in their power to make it more difficult for Democratic-leaning voters to vote.

Republicans have been spinning fast to explain Romney’s loss, Rove’s accusation that President Obama’s campaign suppressed the vote ranks as one of the most dishonest. To paraphrase a line from President Clinton’s speech at this year’s Democratic National Convention—it takes some brass for Karl Rove to accuse President Obama of doing what Republicans did. 

 

Friday
Aug312012

Junot Shows Our Girl Octavia Some Love

Photo by Beth GwennBy Lucinda Holt

 I’ve recently developed an especially soft spot for Junot Diaz. In an interview with The New York Times yesterday, he was asked which three writers he would invite to a dinner party of writers. Of course there are many, many writers he could have chosen, but I was delighted that one of the writers was Octavia Butler—a woman full of pickaninny spirit if there ever was one. Junot had this to say:

“Octavia Butler because she’s my personal hero, helped give the African Diaspora a future (albeit a future nearly as dark as our past) and because I’d love to see her again.”

Oh, Junot, any man who calls Octavia Butler his “personal hero” is alright with me. Any Dominican man who acknowledges and—dare I say—embraces being part of the African diaspora is alright with me. And I’m not mad at anyone who would love to see our beloved Octavia Butler again. I would, too.