Every now and then someone will tell me a story, when suddenly, it sounds like nails on a chalkboard. They’ll say, “And then there was this big black guy.”
“Big and black??” I’ll say if I’m feeling cheeky. “Oh no.”
The story usually falls apart from there.
This isn’t to say there aren’t imposing and intimidating black men, as there are imposing and intimidating men of every race. Some rappers purposely strike an intimidating pose to show how tough and strong they are. That intimidation, though, also has to do with perception.
In a New York Times piece about white female rappers, Touré writes:
For many Americans, black male rappers are entrancing because they give off a sense of black masculine power — that sense of strength, ego and menace that derives from being part of the street — or because of the seductive display of black male cool.
In that passage, he writes as much about rappers as the public’s view of them: Menacing. Seductive.
The same is true for the person who tells the story with “the big black guy.” That description often says more about the storyteller than the person in the story.
After being the GOP’s latest (and for him, best-timed) flavor of the month, Iowa Caucus co-winner Rick Santorum told a group of New Hampshire voters that it’s “snobbery” for President Obama to think he knows “how to run our lives” and say that everyone should go to college. Speaking at St. Anselm College (the irony!), Santorum said he was “outraged” at “the hubris of this president to think that he knows what’s best for you.”
I agree with Santorum that college isn’t for everyone and someone certainly doesn’t need to finish college to be personally successful or influential in high-tech fields. Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg are the best examples of that. Not everyone is going to be a Zuckerberg or a Gates, though.
I’m going to go out on a limb and guess Obama wasn’t suggesting a federal mandate stating every person is required to go to college. I’m sure he meant that everyone should have the opportunity - the freedom! – to go college, if they choose.
So, while college isn’t for everyone, Obama is correct in suggesting that it’s a good thing and makes life better. Here are three reasons why:
A couple of weeks ago, I posted the video of Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum campaigning at an Iowa brewery where he talked an awful lot about the beers he likes and dislikes. Because he seemed like he was showing off his beer knowledge to prove what a down-to-earth and tough guy he is, I joked, “Maybe he’ll be the first candidate to have a photo-op on a hunting trip.”
The video below isn’t a photo-op, but with just a week and a day from that interview to the Iowa Caucuses, Santorum spent a lot of air-time on Fox News talking about pheasant kills.
After beer and guns, is there anything else he needs to say to prove he’s a manly man, and therefore, fit to be the president?
It’s pretty hard to counter the conclusion that the New York City Police Department’s Stop-and-Frisk policy is biased against blacks and Latinos. The statistics, which are the NYPD’s own numbers, indicate about 80% of the people stopped are black or Latino. Of those people who are stopped, more than 85% are completely innocent.
On, December 18, the New York Times published a story that illustrates the way Stop-And-Frisks impacts individuals. Nicholas K. Peart is a 23-year-old black college student who has been stopped and frisked four times in nine years. He was never arrested and was released every time. He describes the effect those stops have had on him.
After the third incident I worried when police cars drove by; I was afraid I would be stopped and searched or that something worse would happen. I dress better if I go downtown. I don’t hang out with friends outside my neighborhood in Harlem as much as I used to. Essentially, I incorporated into my daily life the sense that I might find myself up against a wall or on the ground with an officer’s gun at my head. For a black man in his 20s like me, it’s just a fact of life in New York.
It also changed the way Peart feels about police.
When I was young I thought cops were cool. They had a respectable and honorable job to keep people safe and fight crime. Now, I think their tactics are unfair and they abuse their authority. The police should consider the consequences of a generation of young people who want nothing to do with them — distrust, alienation and more crime.
Jon Huntsman appeared on “The View” this Tuesday a few hours before Donald Trump pulled out of hosting a Republican debate because of lack of interest. Huntsman rightfully asserted that if Trump wants to influence the presidential race, the real estate tycoon and shameless self-promoter should get in the race and not influence it from the sidelines. While doing it, he questioned if he has the cojones to run. (“The View” muted him, so you’ll have to read his lips.)
Rick Santorum made a campaign stop at the Millstream Brewery in Iowa last weekend. He talks at length at the different kinds of beer he likes, which isn’t a problem. I like beer as much as the next guy. It’s his last line that stands out: ”I don’t do wine tasting. I do beer tasting,” No wimpy wine tastings for him. Maybe he’ll be the first candidate to have a photo-op on a hunting trip.
The fact that men are mainly responsible for violent and health-harming behaviours, not only against women and children but also against each other, is so taken for granted that it slips beneath the radar of commentators and policymakers.
The authors quote numerous statistics to make their point:
In 2009-10, men were perpetrators in 91% of all violent incidents in England and Wales. The figures vary by type of incident: 81% for domestic violence, 86% for assault, 94% for wounding, 96% for mugging, 98% for robbery. [U.K. Ministry of Justice] figures for 2009 show men to be responsible for 98%, 92% and 89% of sexual offences, drug offences and criminal damage respectively. Of child sex offenders, 99% are male. The highest percentages of female offences concern fraud and forgery (30%), and theft and handling stolen goods (21% female).
Men even commit more traffic and speeding violations – 87% and 81% respectively. Men are responsible for the vast majority of dangerous driving offenses (97%) and accidents causing injury or death (94%).
On the financial side, the Cockburn and Oakley project the money saved from injuries of the crimes themselves, lost work and productivity, and the costs of trying and incarcerating criminals would be in the tens of billions of British pounds.
I don’t doubt any of these numbers. I’m sure the statistics trend similarly in the United States. Our prisoners are overwhelming male: over 90%. And I wouldn’t be surprised if prison costs in the U.S. were even more than in the U.K. given our comparatively larger prison population.
Cockburn and Oakley conclude with:
The case we are making is that certain widespread masculine traits and behaviours are dangerous and costly both to individuals and society. They are amenable to purposeful change. The culture of masculinity can be, and should be, addressed as a policy issue.
Before Herman Cain was accused of sexual harassment, and before the allegation of a 13-year affair came to light, the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO gave an interview to GQ magazine. Actually, it was more of a pizza party in which they talked about things like Cain’s 9-9-9 Plan over slices. But they talked about pizzas, too. Here’s a bit of it:
[GQ Correspondent]Chris Heath: What can you tell about a man by the type of pizza that he likes?
Herman Cain:[repeats the question aloud, then pauses for a long moment] The more toppings a man has on his pizza, I believe the more manly he is.
Chris Heath: Why is that?
Herman Cain: Because the more manly man is not afraid of abundance. [laughs]
[GQ Senior Editor]Devin Gordon: Is that purely a meat question?
Herman Cain:A manly man don’t want it piled high with vegetables! He would call that a sissy pizza.
Another GOP candidate touted their manliness as a qualification for office on Nov. 16.
“If we want to change this country up…I’m your man,” [GOP presidential candidate Rep. Michele] Bachmann said in Webster City, Iowa, on Wednesday. “When people think of the president, they think of who is that individual. And I’m willing to ‘man up,’ so to speak, for the job and do what needs to be done… I’m a very strong woman.”
So, it’s started. The candidates are beginning to man up for the election.
All of this may be moot. Bachmann has been down in the polls for weeks, and Cain may drop out by the end of the week. But these probably won’t be the last flexing their manly muscles. What’s interesting is that it doesn’t matter if the candidate is a man or woman. For some, manliness is a qualification for office.
Which of the pizzas served at the GQ interview did Cain like the most? It shouldn’t be a surprise: “The man pizza!” he said. “The manly pizza! That was great.”
When Bill Maher* appeared on “The View” Tuesday, everyone talked about his very uncomfortable exchange with Elisabeth Hasselbeck. (His joke may have been bad, but she took it more personally than she admitted. And worse, she was a bad host.)
But what may have gone overlooked was what Maher said before things got awkward with Hasselbeck. Co-host Joy Behar asked Maher about what he thought about the child sex abuse charges against former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.
Maher: Well, you know, I uh.. you’d like this, ’cause I said on my show Friday night, that any institution where there’s no women around, like the church, like football, like the Middle East, like fraternities, it just goes to hell. You do need..
Behar: Boys are bad.
Maher: Well, you do need women as a moderating influence. I mean, when men are just among men, they just do stupid things. That’s really true.
Is Maher on to something? Are individuals in those institutions and others more likely to do bad things? Does something happen when men get together that cause bad things to happen? And if so, what can we, as a society, do to change that?
Was he right that women have a moderating influence on men?
Watch the video and leave your comments below.
(The exchange begins at about 0:46.)
*Disclosure: I work for HBO who airs his weekly show.
All forms of media are blowing up with reaction to the firing of Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, the rape and sex abuse charges against former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, and the blind eye so many at Penn State turned to it. There’s a lot going on here: idolatry; the culture of college sports; people within institutions not holding themselves and their institutions accountable.
This story is multi-faceted with so many different angles, causes and repercussions, I wanted to put some them together to try to find some context.
The nomenclature surrounding “sex crimes” is already hopelessly sterile, and the media routinely refers to cases of rape and sexual assault as “sex scandals,” but that makes it no less important to call them out every time they do it.
Sandusky is not accused of “having sex” with little boys, he is accused of raping them. In our civilization, “sex” with a child is not possible, since a child cannot consent to sex. As I half-listened to the news all day today, then, and I heard repeated references to “the Penn State sex scandal,” it pissed me off. It made my blood steam a little bit, like a hot cup of coffee.
(I would apply this criticism to the Dominique Strauss-Kahn alleged sexual assault which was often referred to as a “sex scandal.”)
Many have made the connection between the cover-up at Penn State and the Catholic Church’s cover-up of child molestation. Maureen Dowd made it in her Tuesday column in the New York Times:
Like the Roman Catholic Church, Penn State is an arrogant institution hiding behind its mystique. And sports, as my former fellow sports columnist at The Washington Star, David Israel, says, is “an insular world that protects its own, and operates outside of societal norms as long as victories and cash continue to flow bountifully.” Penn State rakes in $70 million a year from its football program.