Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Believe It or Not, Bullying May Come from the Top-Down

In national politics, bullying works. Right now as I write this blog posting Republicans are purposefully tanking our economy. Yes, I said it when the politicians won't. REPUBLICANS ARE DELIBERATELY TANKING OUR ECONOMY. Ever since President Obama placed his hands on that Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution of the United States, they have done nothing but bully, bully, bully with obstructionism, threats of filibustering, and an absolute refusal to compromise. In fact, they've given the word "compromise" a dirty connotation, and refuse to utter it.

Now, I would never utter such a ridiculous accusation unless I had some substantial theory behind it. Have any of the four people reading my blog ever heard of the term "starving the beast?" This is a political strategy that involves revenues, spending, and taxation. Well, the beast refers to the federal government and the domestic welfare programs it spends money on such as Medicare, Social Security benefits, food stamps, and public schools. During Reagan's time as president teachers, firefighters, and law enforcement were normally excluded from the "beast" category. However, as the country has been pulled further to the right, even they have been lumped in. Now, the way to "starve" this beast is to decrease taxes thereby causing a reduction in revenues for the federal government. A decrease in revenues forces the government to severely cut spending to domestic programs. Without saying so, Republicans have been using this bully tactic to remove President Obama from office and all the while telling us that government workers are the problem and they need to be fired.

Really? How did this country survive the Great Depression? Government spending through providing jobs to millions of unemployment through work relief programs. And every other deep recession that we've experienced has been broken by government stimulus. Republicans in Congress know this. So why are they deploying the "starve the beast" strategy? It is bullying at its covert best. They'd sooner see the whole country return to the times of Herbert Hoover in order to get what they want. The problem with that thinking is, though they're in Congress with a cushy $84/hour salary, they're not immune to their own tactics. Sooner or later it will hit them. And sooner or later, the public will realize that this "starve the beast" strategy raises the deficit.

I wouldn't call this Congress a "do-nothing" Congress. They're very active indeed. They're busy being bullies. Historically, we have seen our economy take drastic downturns when the "starving the beast" strategy is deployed. Currently, the Euro-Zone countries who are practicing similar measures are continuing to face a terrible recession and economic downturns. Republicans know this and being the bullies that they are, continue with their policy so that President Obama will take the blame for the sluggish economy and lose the upcoming election.

But at least we can see them. This country's biggest bullies remains hidden behind the scene quietly driving his "starve the beast" policies, and he has been doing it for the past 30 years. Grover Norquist is founder of Americans for Tax Reform. He is one of the most powerful lobbyists in the world. Over 95% of all Republican lawmakers sign his pledge not to raise taxes (increase revenues), and they remain loyal to that pledge. So, while the rest of us pledge allegiance to the flag and other lawmakers pledge to uphold the Constitution, those lawmakers pledge to Grover Norquist and his idea of what government should be. And these same people accuse Democratic lawmakers of near treason?

And for the most part, Republicans have been getting what they want for the past 30 years. The country has been pulled further and further to the Right since Ronald Regan's presidency. The Republicans go more and more Right and so do the Democrats in the name of compromise. So for the Conservative lawmakers, bullying is a tactic that works. Even President Obama is currently chasing the bullies further and further to the Right as he tries to get anything done. And it's scary. Very scary. Everybody knows that when a bully is validated for his behavior, it becomes much much worse!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Collective American Psyche Cannot Understand “Equal” Rights

For the past few months I have been making cultural comments. At this time, I would like to shift focus to American life and how it nurtures and perpetuates bullying. Almost every week we see a young person who has committed suicide because of bullying. I feel that collectively, we are all responsible for those precious lives that were lost. In many ways, the American way of life is liberating. We live in a competitive, supposedly meritocratic society where anybody with dreams, gumption, smarts, and a will to succeed can –well – succeed. That is the dream that America sells its own people as well as the millions who come here every year. In reality, America is driven by a race/sex-based economic system that thrives on exploitation of others at some level. To paraphrase Ishmael Reed, if the motto for Britain is the “sun never sets on the British empire,” in America that motto should be “there’s a sucker born every minute.” Historically, America was built by rebel forces and simultaneous exploitation. The Founding Fathers decried the tyranny of British colonialism while holding Black slaves at home. As Washington crossed the Delaware, some slave prepared for a long day in the fields building the country with manual labor. Following slavery, almost 100 years of Jim Crowism, exclusionary immigration policies, and heavy-handed militaristic tactics with Native Americans, America’s economic system remained meritocratic for some –mainly white men –and oppressive for others –everybody who wasn’t a white man. To date, this unevenness in our wealth distribution as well as our very skewed notion of who should participate equally in our government and economy block any deeper understanding we should have of Civil Rights and equality. In Thomas Jefferson’s Notes, he was very afraid that one day the tides would change and God would punish white people by one day making them the slaves and Africans the masters. I can safely say that during the presidential election, that fear still lingers and was made manifest by the proliferation of disrespectful and violent rhetoric aimed toward this president. I have never in my life witnessed so much disrespect towards the office of the presidency. The white supremacists have come out of the woodwork, and they are armed and dangerous. But I could feel this brewing ever since the 1990s with the arguments over affirmative action. In Americans’ haste to label, fight, and exploit, we boiled affirmative action down to a struggle of hierarchy, and the media stoked that fire. Some media personalities outright said that affirmative action would give minorities –especially Black people –unfair advantages over qualified white people. And when Obama got elected, personalities like Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh all but stated that Thomas Jefferson’s worst nightmare had come true! They accused civil rights activists of being reverse racists, and declared that President Obama would seek vengeance for the slaves using the office of the presidency. I have often wondered why Americans simply do not understand the notion of civil rights and equality –especially in a land that boasts of itself as a land of opportunity for all. It is because we cannot think outside of competitiveness and exploitation. The notion that one group simply wants to be on equal footing with the other and not on top does not register in our collective psyche. For instance, most feminists have never requested that women rule the country or that women be in charge of every job. Feminists simply say that if a woman lifts 50 pounds and a man lifts 50 pounds, the woman should be paid the same amount of money and given the same opportunities for advancement. After all, 50 pounds of cotton and 50 pounds of lead weigh the same. However, most conservative men have looked upon this demand for equal pay for equal work as an infringement upon male authority. Here’s another example: African Americans who fought for Civil Rights have never asked that African Americans be given a free pass for committing crime. We’ve only asked that the punishment be meted out equally. Why are Black men frequently given harsher sentences than their white counterparts for the very same crime? African Americans have also never asked that underqualified students be given college admittance and scholarships for subpar work. We’ve asked that qualified students’ application should be reviewed and not immediately thrown in the paper shredder because of the color of their skin.
When it is written out, the notion of equality doesn’t seem too difficult. It almost seems absurd that people have marched, died, and protested for the right to be treated fairly in the land of opportunity. But until Americans understand that not everything in life can be about competitiveness and exploitation, we’ll continue going around and around in a never-ending psychological boxing match for something as decent, simple and grand as equal opportunity.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Gay Marriage? Really Pastors? Part II

On May 17, 2012 the Coalition of African American Pastors had a meeting in Memphis, Tennessee in order to condemn both President Obama and the NAACP for their decision to support gay marriage.

On May 18, 2012 all of the local news stations as well as the national venues broke the story of Desmond Hatchett, a 33-year-old Black man from Knoxville, Tennessee who fathered 30 children. Please see the story on I have one question: where is the church conference on that?

First, as a citizen, I'm concerned for Mr. Hatchett. Anybody who has that many children doesn't seem to mentally stable. What normal person would want that many children? And then to ask the state to be lenient. He wants the state to be lenient when he has behaved recklessly and irresponsible. He wants the state to be lenient when he acts as if he has never heard of a condom or even the withdrawal method. Where is the church conference that would teach this young man that his identity as a man does not lie at the tip of his penis? Where is the church conference that would teach a young man like this what being "head of household" actually means? Where is the church conference that would teach a young man that children are not trophies? And that even if he didn't have a father in the home and was torn apart by that, he should try to be the father he always wished he had and that being a father is about more than being a sperm donor?

Second, as a woman, I'm concerned for the young ladies who would give Mr. Hatchett their bodies and continue to have children with him. Previously, Mr. Hatchett had already asked the state for leniency when he had 21 children. He had nine more in less than a decade. He now has 11 baby-mommas. What about these 11 women? How do they view themselves? Do they think they deserve better than a man who earns minimum wage with a seeming sex addiction? Did they ever stop to think that a man who has so much sex could possibly give them an STD? Where is the church conference that would teach young ladies that they are more than what lies between their legs? Where is the church conference that would teach young ladies to stop viewing and accepting Black men as nothing but dogs? As I was taught, if you lay down with dogs, you get fleas. And if you lay with a dog, what does that make you, my dear? I'll answer. If you are saying that a man is a dog and you lay down with him, you are calling yourself a bitch in heat. Where is the church conference that would teach young ladies differently?

When it comes to homosexuality, I wonder where all of the zeal in the Black church comes from. The case with Mr. Hatchett is a very sad demonstration of the depravity that is eating away at the very souls of young people. Pastors, preachers, and bishops can have all the meetings they want about gay people, but how will their homophobic activism help people like the 11 women who sleep with men like Desmond Hatchett?



Thursday, May 17, 2012

Gay Marriage Pastors? Seriously? "Proof" of Why Young People are Leaving the Black Church!

Earlier in this year, I posted a very lengthy explanation of why a certain age group is leaving the Black church. Young, Black people simply view the Black church as an ineffective institution bent on sucking in money and keeping people in spiritual bondage. We no longer see the need for it since these megachurches rarely speak on what's really going on in Black communities. People are really hurting. And they are not finding that soothing balm in the pews where our grandparents once found it. This may be hard to read, especially for some older people. But it is the truth. Want "proof" of what I'm writing? Look no further than television. Today, some influential Black pastors are holding a press conference to tell President Obama that they cannot support him on his gay marriage views. Gay marriage? Really? I can name you at least a dozen issues that are ravaging Black communities all across America and to date, the Black churches have been absolutely silent on them. I could do a dozen, but for now I'll limit myself to four. 1. The crack epidemic is now at least 32 years old. What is the Black church's stance on that? We don't know because they never officially took one. Anybody remember that scene in Jungle Fever when Flipper went to find Gator, who was at the Taj Mahal getting high? The crackheads were in there getting high and one lone woman was standing outside preaching ineffectively with her Bible. Remember that? Yeah. Remember how the overly-religious father lost his church once it moved from Georgia to the city, and how he killed Gator because he simply could not deal with Gator's addiction? Remember how he laid the gun in the Bible? This scene is less about the antics of Samuel L. Jackson and more about the Black church's inability to deal with or lack of concern about the new crises facing an urban Black population. While we wait on them to care a new drug, methamphetamines, has replaced crack as the recreational drug of choice. Communities are being destroyed by the violence of drug turf battles and Black families continue to be torn about by drug and alcohol abuse. Where is the support for them? Though there is no crack in the Bible, the Word speaks extensively about the dangers of strong drink. Yet, in my years of attending church, I never heard one sermon about it. 2. The AIDS epidemic is now at least 35 years old. Most Black churches didn't touch it, won't touch it, and still stigmatize people with the disease. Some churches didn't even allow AIDS victims in their congregations, and they remain relatively silent on it to this day. Some still don't allow AIDS victims there. AIDS advocates in the Black communities are really fighting a losing battle. They are trying to get pastors to educate their flocks on AIDS and to allow AIDS advocates to speak to congregations. Though some pastors are finally allowing in the activists, many do not. 3. Why don't Black pastors speak to the rising incidents of domestic abuse in Black communities? Why don't they tell young, Black men that using a fist is not showing love? Why don't they tell young, Black women that receiving love does not involve taking punches? Oh, you know why? Many churches are still involved in placing women in spiritual bondage. They love telling women how they should behave...down to what color lipstick and makeup to wear. They often don't counter this with sermons to men. I wonder why? Oh, because most of the clergy is men while over 75% of the church is women. No wonder the spousal abuse flies under the radar. I've known pastors and deacons personally who beat their wives and then pray and preach as if they are looking Jesus in the face. I could go on and on about this, but I'll just post a link to the Juanita Bynum incident and let that be enough said:,2933,294167,00.html I was really shocked and hurt when church officials, some of them women, blamed her instead of calling out this insecure man on his violent behavior. What's going to be the excuse if he beats his new wife? Who is to blame for the preacher in Arkansas who threw his wife out of a moving car a couple of years back? 4. In 2004, Bush won the state of Ohio with the help of Black pastors. They told their congregations to vote for Bush based on his stance on abortion. Now, I personally believe it's a woman's choice. And I'm also very concerned for the babies and children who are already here and subject to gun violence every day. What about Bush's stance on hand gun control? We don't need any statistics to tell us what communities are affected the most by hand gun violence. Turn on the morning news and get the homicide count with your morning coffee. Every day, I see one or several young Black men killed by one or several other, young Black men. Where is the damn press conference on that? One of my worst fears is that some young, Black man will try to prove his manhood by shooting and killing my son, husband, or my brothers. Nobody should have to live in this kind of fear. Yet, our pastors remain silent on handgun control. Gay marriage? Really pastors? Come again. Picking on gay people isn't solving a damn thing in our communities. It's time you all stop hiding behind the pulpit and the collection basket and do some real social work and try to solve some real problems. I love God. I really do. But I can't stand this hypocrisy!

Monday, May 14, 2012

African Americans Must Learn to Learn

Okay. So the past few postings that I have done have been focused on articulating problems. However, I never like to articulate problems without offering a plausible solution. Since I am a teacher, my solutions usually revolve around teaching. This time, though, it’s different. Today, I believe our solution is to learn and to learn from others. Americans believe in American exceptionalism…that we are somehow special and unique and therefore suitable to teach others. Africans Americans are Americans, and we, too, hold on and cherish our exceptionalism. Americans, African Americans included, do not always take kindly to being led. We are leaders and not followers. We are the teachers and not the pupils. But, as a formerly enslaved population within exceptional America, that attitude of exceptionalism does not always work for us. First, we have been kept horribly ignorant of who we are. Second, America presented itself as a land of plenty to all while denying African Americans and other minorities very little of its abundance. Racism and discrimination created islands of poverty in an ocean of material wealth. Ghettos and Indian reservation that looked like underdeveloped nations existed alongside the suburbs and millionaire’s rows. In creating those conditions, America created peoples who also longed for wealth and material comfort. And nothing is more evident of that than the behavior of African Americans in Detroit before the car industry crashed (that’s a whole other posting). Now, African Americans face many challenges in a global economy that seems to be shrinking. Part of the problem for our crises is that somehow, along the way to material success, we forgot to teach. Nothing is more telling than the food desserts that exist in larger cities where African Americans reside. Most of the people in Detroit are from the South. You mean to tell me that not one person up there knows how to stick a tomato plant or tree collard plant in the ground? There is simply no excuse for this. However, part of our problems can be solved not only by teaching, but by learning to learn from others. Not only can we learn noncriminal survival skills from older African Americans, but we could also stand to learn from other Black and minority populations. For instance, I saw some Fulani women do something amazing. They simply wrapped the baby on their backs in a large piece of cloth and kept on braiding hair. That sure beats the $25 I spent on a baby carrier that hurt my neck because my large baby was pulling me forward. I would like to learn this technique for the next baby I have. I learned to breast feed from an older white woman who proudly told me that she was poor but raised healthy babies. She taught me what herbal supplements to take to make more milk come for my son. From Mexican Americans, I “discovered” that cooking with fresh herbs like cilantro and parsley diminish the need for salt to season food. So, even if we can only afford to buy chicken, we can still prepare it in a healthy manner. From Jamaicans, I learned how to blacken fish, a healthier alternative to frying. African Americans are to begin to solve any of the problems that ail us, not only must we teach, we must humble ourselves and learn from others. We must open ourselves up to fresh ideas to find solutions. We can’t fix new problems with old ways, and cliquing up and excluding others is not the answer, either. When we exclude others, we exclude ideas. And when we exclude ideas, we miss out on enrichment for our own lives.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Patchwork Quilts and Other Cultural Jewels

This post is dedicated to my mother, Dr. JoAnn Nickelberry, and all the other mothers who create works of art for their families. Between your sewing, quilting, cooking, and gardening you all have given me a sense of pride in creativity and confidence in the work of my own hands...

    One of my favorite books is So Long a Letter (1981) by Mariama Ba. In this short little book (less than 100 pages), Ba performs the very difficult task of cultural reassessment. In the book, she looks at all facets of Senegalese life: religion, cultural traditions, marriage, and government. Ramatoulaye, the protagonist, feels that in all facets of life, some things need to be kept and others should be promptly discarded. Anything that impedes the progress of Senegalese women should be discarded; the progress of the country, Ramatoulaye feels, is linked with the progress of its women. For instance, Ramatoulaye does not disdain Islam. She's a very devout Islamic woman. However, she does despise the way the mostly-male religious officials interpret the rules of Islam to benefit an oppressive patriarchal society. She doesn't hate the cultural traditions of Senegalese society. She hates those part of the traditions which declare a woman must be kept ignorant in order to be a good wife, and only certain ranks can marry other ranks…even if it means incest.

    Ramatoulaye's cultural assessment is very difficult work. It comes at the heels of her husband's death –after he totally abandoned her for a younger woman (her daughter's best friend). It is difficult to look at one's own culture and examine it. Quite frankly, most of us never question our own traditions or how we were raised. And at other times, we are so quick to enter into modernity and leave the past behind that we throw away cultural jewels without ever learning the value in them. African Americans have been guilty of the latter. After integration, we were so anxious to climb corporate ladders and amass material goods in America's consumer-driven economy that we left behind priceless jewels in our own culture. For instance, most of our grandparents could take scraps of clothes and make works of art for their families. These patchwork quilts, some of them containing scraps of slaves' clothes, were not only artistic, but practical. For African Americans, art is not something that we go to a museum to see. We live it. We create it. We are art. But no more.

    Because traditional avenues of artistic expression were largely closed to African Americans, we developed our own vernacular: in the way we talked, danced, created music, and wore our hair and clothes. We created America's only original literature (literature which did not imitate European literature); we played African music on European instruments and created new genres of music (jazz, blues, and even country); we harnessed our pain and cried out to God and created a brand of religious music the world had never known (spirituals); we took the scraps from the master's table and created a totally original cuisine (soul food); we didn't have much spare time, but when we did, we danced away our pain and created new forms of physical expression (the cakewalk and jazz dance); and with our homemade clothes and hair dos, told America what was cool and fashionable (Afros and bell bottoms).

    But somewhere, that ended. Rather than producers of creativity, we have become the biggest consumers of globalized sameness. Instead of creating our own worth with our own productivity, we have become ashamed of our mother's sewing machines, and look to department stores, labels, and price tags to tell us what we're worth. And in the process, we've lost some of our greatest art forms. For instance, most people are ashamed to admit they even own patchwork quilts. We haven't passed that artform along to our children and now those quilts have become treasures. On sites such as or even, a good patchwork quilt costs at least $250, and our grandmothers used to give them to us for free. Has anybody noticed that Generation X and Y have contributed absolutely nothing to the fashion scene? Everything that we do is retro –recycled things from the hey-day of our parents. That's because we are the first generation to grow up without hearing the sound of our mothers' sewing machines whirring in the night as they created for us. Most of our clothes were purchased from department stores. We've missed out on the power and pride of being able to say, "I made that. I produced that from my own mind." We were taught that store-bought is better because it symbolizes economic upward mobility.

    And has anybody ever thought to do a cultural assessment of our churches? It is no secret that even progressive leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. practiced a form of religious patriarchy that was oppressive to women. Civil rights leader Septima Clark had a nasty falling-out with the ordained Baptist minister because he absolutely refused to give her the respect that her age and years in the struggle accorded her. After all, she had been in the struggle years before he was even cognizant of it, but her sex was seen as a barrier for King. He felt that his maleness automatically placed him at the top of the hierarchy and that he had nothing to learn from a woman who was clearly the more experienced of the two. Fast-forward almost 50 years, and we still have these deep-seated gender divisions within African American culture both inside and outside the church. It doesn't matter that many women are just as called and sanctified as a man to preach. Many men and patriarchal women do not respect God's freedom to call a woman to the ministry. They'll tell anybody quickly that God doesn't call women to preach –as if God needs humans to tell Him how to do His job. And because many of us do not question our cultures, we allow these injustices to continue.

    It has been almost 50 years since the passage of most Civil Rights legislation. Since African Americans never stopped to do a cultural assessment like Ramatoulaye, integration and entry into America's consumer economy has devastated and decimated many facets of our culture. In these rough economic times, I think it's best that African Americans around the country take time to do just what Ramatoulaye did: sit down, assess our progress, examine what we consider "progress," seriously look at what may be impeding us as a people from within, and write ourselves "so long a letter." Sometimes, the first step to solving a problem is to acknowledge that we have one and then articulate it.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Are Africans and Black Caribbeans the Latest “Model Minorities?”

Since African Americans have not addressed the psychological chains that bind us, it is easy for the dominant culture to keep playing collective mind games on African Americans and other minorities. Let me explain what I mean. Briefly after slavery in the New World –North and South America and the Caribbean archipelago –many governments encouraged emigration from East India and other Asian countries like China, Vietnam, and Japan. In some places, especially in the Caribbean islands, these new immigrants were given contracts for their work whereas freed Black slaves were not. The new immigrants were given pieces of land and were allowed to open businesses that served mostly Black communities. These things were denied to most newly-freed slaves. In the Mississippi Delta, many Asian people were also allowed to vote and send their children to majority white schools –two things denied to Delta's large Black population.

In exchange for their privileged minority status, many Asians and Indians were told simply to work, earn money, get a good education for your children, shut up, and above all, don't mix with Black people socially. And in many places, this worked. However, it often created tense situations in these communities: Indians and Asians stayed away from Black people socially. Newspapers like the Commercial Appeal of Memphis, Tennessee dangled images of industrious Asian populations before African Americans as if to say, "Why can't you be more like these people? They know how to work for peanuts and shut up" (I'm not sanctioning this. I've always said that instead of punishing immigrants, we should craft policies that would go after and punish those businesses who routinely hire, abuse, and underpay them).

Meanwhile, especially in the United States, Africans were not allowed. African Americans and other Black populations could not travel to Africa, either (especially during the Cold War). Once the immigrants got here, however, Black Caribbeans and African Americans did not experience much tension. As a matter of fact, many of the people who we think of as African American activists had West Indian backgrounds: for example, W.E.B. DuBois, Stokely Carmichael, and Marcus Garvey (DuBois's and Carmichael's parents were from the West Indies and Garvey was from Jamaica). During Jim Crow and segregation ALL Black people in the United States experienced the same oppression. Those people from Africa and the Caribbean, many of them living under colonialism, experienced direct white racism for the first time in the United States. Black Caribbean writers like George Lamming and C.L.R. James wrote about it. They began to make connections between the situation in the United States and their colonial states at home. They eagerly joined their African and African American brothers and sisters in the fight for equality for Black people the world over.

That was BEFORE the Civil Rights Movement. Post-Civil Rights Movement…what in the Hell happened? It seems that African Americans hear a type of condescension coming from our African brothers and sisters that quite frankly chaps my ass. I get so tired of hearing about how we African Americans waste our opportunities and how we are lazy, dumb, and ignorant. What is even more insulting is they don't even seem to know anything about us our struggles. Nor do they want to. Most of the Africans and Black Caribbeans who come here arrive with their eyes wide shut, and make no effort to talk with African Americans on a more intimate or academic level. They let it be known that we're not their brothers and sisters. I once went into a braiding shop where I tried to speak to the young lady who was braiding my hair, and she ignored me. I have never been back and for now, I refuse to patronize any African or Dominican shop. They don't respect me so why should I hand them my damn money?

For our part, we shun our Africanness and can be really rude to African and Black Caribbean brothers and sisters. We often make fun of Africans, talk about how they smell, and ask them silly questions about wrestling tigers and running around Africa naked. Most of us thank God we're not African and we proudly say that we're not African. Often, we don't understand that our Caribbean brothers and sisters have color issues. Period. It's nothing personal against African Americans. Most of us have never heard of the Parsley Massacre, and we certainly don't know of Puerto Rico's long and twisted history concerning Black people. And when African Americans think of slavery and suffering, we want to be unique. We ignore the brutality of slavery in Panama or Jamaica, and are completely unaware that slavery lasted in Brazil until 1889. We suffer from American exceptionalism and refuse to hear anybody else's story.

Now, I'm not writing this to start anything. ALL SIDES ARE WRONG! There's a divide and conquer strategy at work here, and after centuries of enslavement and second-class citizenship, we can't see it. Sadly, many of these tensions begin with ignorance. What do most African Americans know about Africa? Years after the end of the Civil Rights Movement proper, we know less about Africa than our parents. And where do Africans and West Indians see stereotypes of African Americans? The same place other folk learn them from: tv. On television, America is shown as the land of opportunity. If African Americans are not rich, it's our own fault. For some reason, tv fails to mention poverty in America or its long history of discrimination.

Before many African and Caribbean groups come here, they are often required to take an orientation class. Various organizations offer these classes and material is available at websites such as These videos and classes teach groups, before they enter the United States, how to be good American citizens: make money, work hard for less money than your African American counterpart, get a good education for your children, stay away from American politics, and shut up. They also show them the types of citizens they don't want to be. Take a wild guess at what ethnic group is shown as undesirable for imitation.

Sadly, divide and conquer is very effective. Instead of Black beauticians learning the blow-out technique from the Dominicans, they say we shouldn't patronize their shops. Instead of many African braiders and Caribbean beauticians actually getting to know more about the African American clients they serve, they don't say anything to us. Even in my personal life, when I tried to explain some African American history to an African from the Ivory Coast, she said I was being negative. So, here we are in the 21st century divided. And as long as we're divided, we'll always be conquered. Will I ever patronize African or Caribbean businesses or beauty shops again? Maybe. But right now, I'm just nursing my hurt and wondering why Black people can't do something as simple as talk to one another and share our expertise.