Whatever happened to standards? I’m not old by ANY stretch of the imagination, but this new trend of calling everything “shaming” has reached epic levels of annoyance, at least with me. The term “slut-shaming” is the single most bothersome term that I know, mainly because it is exclusively used in regards to women (and Lord knows that men are sluts as well). Every time I hear it, it’s like fingernails against a chalkboard while Iggy Azalea is playing on repeat during a Trump rally. It is God-awful. These days, everything you say is going to offend someone, and being honest here, there are many things that are offensive, such as Donald Trump, police brutality, and the Philadelphia 76ers. It seems as if many in society want you to walk a padded tightrope (which is only padded so that your steps don’t make any noise to offend anyone else), but in reality many appear to feel it is their right to attack anyone who has a different opinion than their own. I have a serious problem with that.
One thing this country got right is free speech. Anyone has the right to say what they feel, dress how they feel, live how they feel. What people seem to not understand, however, is that freedom of speech does not grant you freedom from criticism. For example, if you’re overweight and put on clothing that would better fit someone half your size, you can do that. But you also know that if you wear that outfit front row at a comedy show, you are asking for trouble. Plus, you knew good and damn well those size 34 jeans were NOT the way you should’ve went when your jeans pulsed in rhythm to your heartbeat. But instead of calling a spade a spade, these days someone would likely accuse you of “fat shaming”, making a person feel bad about their weight.
I understand defending the rights of others to express themselves. I am a staunch advocate in that area. What I will not tolerate, however, is people attempting to bully anyone into feeling bad when they call out things they don’t agree with. Those are called opinions, and last I checked they were legal. The true issue isn’t opinions at all, they are people’s egos and the inability to hear someone else’s view before already having your mind made up. What is hilarious to me is the irony in the fact that people will use their opinions/beliefs to bash or cyberbully someone for sharing THEIR opinion or beliefs! You don’t have a problem with people owning a closet full of shoes while they make poor financial decisions? Cool. Then why be offended and attempt to deprecate someone who does? Think people should be able to dress however they want and show off whatever they wish on THEIR body? Awesome! But you don’t get to badger someone who believes people should have more discretion with how they dress. There was this thing that adults used to do a while back called “have intelligent discussions”. Nowadays, our society appears to have the “gotcha” complex, where cynicism, one-liners, and implied aggression from behind a keyboard constitute an intellectual conversation. Social media (which wouldn’t exist, by the way, if not for the innate human desire to express our thoughts, beliefs, likes, and opinions) has become for many a platform on what to tell others to do instead of to have engaging conversations. One of the best examples of this nowadays is the debate over the Black Lives Matter movement. I have a good friend (let’s call her Susan, since I don’t have the money to be sued by anyone) who is a staunch advocate for police, which is totally understandable since she comes from a family of police officers. My stance on the topic is that systematic racism exists throughout the entire nation’s militarized police force, and that while there are many great officers across this nation, unarmed black men and women dying at the rate of one every twenty-eight hours is a travesty and a clear sign of excessive force and abuse of power. We have had some rather heated engagements, but even during those debates, there was a level of respect that was never broken, and we genuinely listened to the other. The more that we talked, the more evident it became that we actually had more in common than not: we both believe there are great police officers who get a bad rap, everyone who claims to be a BLM supporter isn’t helping the cause, and we both believe that cops who kill wrongfully should be put UNDER a jail. It’s amazing what can happen when people actually talk TO each other instead of AT each other.
It’s also amazing what happens when people ONLY talk at each other versus having their mind made up before uttering a single word to the other person. In my dealings with the underbelly of the digital world (as I call it), I have dealt with death threats, name calling (apparently I’m a misogynist, chauvinist racist according to some), hostile and belittling comments, etc. AND THIS IS FROM PEOPLE I HAVE KNOWN. These attacks to me come off as both comical and confusing, and make me wonder about the mental well-being of the individual on the other end of the computer screen.
I believe if the only requirement to being famous is fucking someone else who’s already famous, Monica Lewinsky and Steadman should be the two biggest celebrities on the planet. I believe that every kid shouldn’t get the same trophy when the kid that won the race lapped the entire field and the last kid that ran the race just finished as you’re reading this sentence. I believe kids should close their mouths when adults are talking, and that any child that pops off to an adult disrespectfully deserves to have their teeth knocked out. I believe “slut shaming” is the dumbest term in use to date, because a) sluts are not and should not be restricted to defining women, and b) slut praising makes no damn sense. If who you screw is your business, keep it to yourself. I believe reality TV shows are a waste of brain cells. I believe that we as a collective are, in many instances, becoming dumber and dumber, while simultaneously bullying many who speak out against things that they see. I also believe that any individual has the right to live as they choose to. But don’t think for one second that freedom of speech and exclusion of criticism are synonymous. Personally, I miss the days when celebrities had talents that didn’t involve a camera and their clothes being off. I am not here for the Kim Kardashian’s and Amber Rose’s of this world, and your disdain towards me because of that should be just as important to me as my opinions of Amber and Kim are to them. If you want to watch reality shows, have at it! But the same way that you would tell me I have no right to “slut-shame” sluts of both genders, you have no right to attempt to bully me into feeling the way YOU feel. If something isn’t my cup of tea, you aren’t allowed to make me swallow your way of thinking. If we can get over ourselves for a minute, realize that being perfect is not a requirement to having an opinion, and add to that the ability to listen and see someone’s point that isn’t your own and have an engaging conversation minus the childish antics, we as a society could one day become less egotistical and believe that we can learn from someone other than ourselves. If you have a problem with anything I say, come at me respectfully and as long as I have the time, we can discuss both of our views and hopefully learn from each other. Otherwise, kiss my ass and keep it moving.
But hey…that’s just my opinion.
Steph Curry’s shooting ability is ridiculous. So ridiculous, in fact, that he has delayed the release of a video game for confusion on high to rate his skill set. Think about that: his gameplay as of late has been so much like a video game that VIDEO GAMES cannot accurately depict him for fear of making him the basketball version of Bo Jackson on “Techmo Bowl”. His latest example occurred last night as he torched the Oklahoma City Thunder for an NBA record-tying twelve threes.
As if that weren’t enough, he also broke his own NBA record of three pointers made…with TWENTY-FOUR GAMES REMAINING IN THE SEASON. The record he set just last year eclipsed the previous record held by…himself.
It doesn’t take a whole day to recognize sunshine: Steph Curry is the greatest shooter in history. Enjoy this while we have it.
For Non-Colored Folks Who Considered Equality When Privilege Wasn’t Enough (or, I will not apologize for loving my culture)
Apparently, loving your culture and yourself is still something only white people can do in this country without being perceived as a threat. Exhibits B & C of this continuing trend of making white privileged-based thinking uncomfortable occurred this weekend in the forms of Beyoncé & Cam Newton. Both received insane amounts of criticism from many non-people of color for, quite honestly, embracing their blackness. Mrs. Carter, a day after releasing a powerfully crafted socially-charged visual to her song, “Formation”, rocked the Super Bowl with an outfit paying homage to Michael Jackson’s Super Bowl performance, with background dancers wearing uniforms to honor the 50th anniversary of the Black Panthers (which were founded in Oakland, not far from where the Super Bowl was held). Before and after the game, NFL MVP Cam Newton was criticized about everything from his gold shoes that we wore during warm-ups donning the letters “MVP”, to being visibly upset about losing the Super Bowl, and walking off of the podium after two minutes and thirty-one seconds of answering the same question (and, as we discovered the next day, attempting to ignore heckles from a Broncos defensive player less than three feet away from him).
If you are/were offended by Cam Newton’s bravado or Beyoncé’s song, video, or performance, allow me to explain a few things to you: Expectations of a culture that you only understand through appropriations and assumptions aren’t that culture’s fault or responsibility. Also, our blackness isn’t a thermostat you can adjust to your comfort level, contrary to popular belief. We get it: the NFL’s current MVP being proud in who he is or a musical icon that you enjoyed listening to but now find horror in using her power to bring attention to something other than how to “surfboart” ruffles the collective feathers of white privileged-based thinking. On behalf of every black person, including the two black friends you may have, trust me when I say that from the bottom of our collective hearts, we don’t give a shit. The same individuals who remained silent about Johnny Manziel allegedly hitting his ex so hard that he punctured her eardrum or those who look the other way as Donald Trump alienates and denigrates everyone including those who support him for speaking his mind (read: saying the racist shit they don’t have the balls to) suddenly have the audacity to get their panties in a bunch about background dancers dressed like Black Panthers (which, by the way, were a community activist group, NOT a racist group as many have incorrectly stated) or a quarterback who wears his emotions on his sleeve the same way that Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Kirk “You Like That!!” Cousins and countless others do week in and week out? It amuses and baffles me that such a culture can romanticize Katniss Everdean yet crucify activist Deray Davis while (purposely) remaining oblivious to the fact that they are fighting THE SAME battle. I find it disheartening that in the lie we call “post-racial America”, people still attempt to calibrate another one’s pride in themselves and their culture.
What is most flabbergasting to me about this entire situation is the one thing no one has mentioned yet: the disgustingly amazing unmitigated gall and arrogance of white privilege and white supremacy. A well-thought out and executed tribute to honor the Black Panthers near the city they were founded combined with a new age “Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud” anthem has been called racist (newsflash: black people cannot be racist, EVER), divisive, and a laundry list of other bullshit. Why is it that ANYTIME a black person celebrates their culture, it is deemed threatening? (That’s a rhetorical question, by the way). (White) people have demanded an apology, accused Beyonce of being racist while falsely recalling the history of the Black Panthers, and in some cases, have gone as far as boycotting her music and new video. In the case of Beyoncé, you actually have white people telling black people how to celebrate black heritage DURING BLACK HISTORY MONTH. Let the ridiculousness marinate for a second on that.
For the last 400 plus years, African-Americans have been forcefully and indirectly told how we are supposed to act in order for other Americans to feel comfortable with their lives. We have been told how we should speak, what to speak about, and which parts of our culture we could share with the country that we have played a long and strong role in building. Well, those days have been gone for quite some time now, and it is apparent that many have an issue with it. But here’s the thing: Black people don’t give a fuck anymore. We are tired of asking for privileges others demand. We are no longer going to mask the pride in ourselves many thought slave owners beat out of us centuries ago, just to make you feel comfortable. To paraphrase Cam Newton, we will NOT back down, bend, or break to fit into the mold you want us to fit in. We are black. We are proud. And we don’t give a shit if you’re comfortable with it or not.
Food for thought: If Beyoncé was enough to frighten some out of their confederate flag underwear, I wonder how they’ll react when Kendrick Lamar performs at these upcoming Grammys…
It’s been about seven weeks since that Tuesday afternoon in December when I finally went through the not-so-small ordeal of cutting my locs off. At eight years, maintaining my locs (also referred to as “dreadlocks” and the less attractive term, “dreads”) is the longest relationship I’ve been able to maintain to date (which is equal parts amusing and saddening, I guess). The one question that has been asked far more than any is why did I do it. There were multiple reasons behind why, but it wasn’t until I sat down to write this that I really had an opportunity to relive and document WHY this was so necessary for me. So…here we go:
The end for me began around year four, when my hair no longer felt as if it were mine. One day while having a conversation with an associate I casually mentioned that I had contemplated cutting my hair off. Looking at me as if I told her I planned to cut my penis off, she interjected, “NO!!! You can’t do that!” The aggression and fear on her face and throughout her response was alarming yet comical. You’re telling ME when I can cut MY hair off??? My frustration with someone implying control over my hair was something I struggled to articulate merely because of how ridiculous it sounded. Then something troubling started to happen: the more I mentioned cutting my hair to people, even when saying so in a joking manner, the more this ridiculous response was being repeated to me. It’s as if there was some unknown follicle common law marriage between people’s new found idea of me and who I actually was becoming. Somewhere down the line though, after hearing that enough times, I started to buy into the nonsense.
Another issue for me were the random hands. Apparently, locs on a guy are similar to big breasts on a woman who doesn’t own anything except tight low-cutting V-neck shirts and tanks tops: such a distraction makes it hard to look elsewhere. Even to this day, it’s been great watching people that I know walk past me and not even recognize who I am. Friends who have entrusted their secrets and insecurities now look at me as if I am a stranger until the “Oh shit! I know you!” lightbulb goes off in their brain. It has really shown me how lazy we can all be at times in regards to noticing certain basic features on people we interact with every day…like eye color. It’s amazing how people who have known me for years have complimented me on my eyes in this past month, as if I just bought them though Amazon a week ago. Was my hair Beyoncé and the rest of my face Destiny’s Child? It makes me wonder: If you weren’t able to pay enough attention to look at someone in their EYES, what else are you not paying attention to when they actually SPEAK? I never grew my hair for attention. At least I don’t think I did. I mean, I’d be a damn fool to not recognize the countless number of women who lustily gazed at this stereotypical image of a “poet”, asking to put their hands in your hair while they fulfill some fleeting fantasy as they moan and hug you for extended periods of time. Many had the home training to ask; others, however, just dove in hand first like that chocoholic kid in front of you in the self-serve lunch line on Pudding Day. (Note: Putting your hand in a man’s head is the equivalent of me grabbing your ass or breasts without you saying yes. I’d advise against it if you ever have the urge to grab a stranger’s hair, ladies.)
I want to share this random tidbit as well: my initial title for this blog was “To Pimp A Butterfly: The Butterfly’s Story”, because as I look back, I really didn’t care for my locs as much as others, or at least expect others to use them to define me as a person. It’s as if they didn’t merely become a PART of me to others, but they actually became ME. People would be so bold as to ask about my hair THEN ask about me. The whole time here I stood, allowing my image to be shaped in whatever manner people saw fit, instead of being whoever the fuck I felt I should be.
On top of all that, there were also health concerns. Not even a year into growing my locs, I discovered that I had some type of dermal condition that only occurs when my hair reaches a certain length. Simply put, the hair length, combined with the twisting required to maintain my hair, caused extreme flaking and created this funky layer of skin over my entire scalp. Some places were so extreme, it caused bleeding. I tried every shampoo, oil, natural remedy, and medical procedure you can imagine with ZERO effect. It became a part of an already cumbersome system put in place just to maintain this style. My entire scalp would have to be attended to with a small-toothed comb to scratch up this layer of dead skin sitting on my head for at about 45 minutes…and this was BEFORE shampooing repeatedly, sitting in a chair for over an hour, then sitting under a hairdryer for another couple hours. Many reading this now are saying, “I still spend more time than that getting my hair done!” Well, I’m betting your scalp didn’t have a health condition that required this type of treatment multiples times a week, meaning that any given week, I’d go through this two or three times. It sucked. It. Really. Fucking. Sucked.
Even with all of this going on, I still wasn’t ready to let go of my hair, which just goes to show you that we all can be consumed by fear at one time or another in our lives. It can be a job or relationship that you know you need to leave, or it can be something as silly as the fear of not being accepted. I finally had to convince myself that anyone who didn’t want to accept me because of my hair no longer being there isn’t a person that deserves my time any damn way. I had to TRULY accept me for who I am and who I am becoming. I had to embrace everything about myself, including wanting to let go of something others may not have been prepared to see gone. What they wanted didn’t matter though, even my fans. True fans want to see their favorite artists evolve, because doing so gives them permission to do so as well. We all have others that inspire or encourage us; this made me wonder how many people are just now freeing themselves from binds because I hadn’t been brave enough to free myself from the burden that my locs became.
But if there was a main motive behind the big chop, without question it was energy. Many believe that your locs hold energy, for better or for worse. Let me tell you firsthand…that shit is REAL. There was a literal and metaphorical weight lifted off of me when I made that first cut with scissors my barber Sean handed to me. I felt reborn (which is ironic considering I live in Phoenix), but more than anything, I felt free. Free from caring how others felt I should look. Immune to thoughts of my pursuits of making my dreams my daily reality. It felt as if all of the frustration from my days dealing with drama in Kentucky, from custody battles to feeling unappreciated as an artist, to negative energies from relationships past, and even the issues in Phoenix had fallen off of my spirit, now lying in a wooly pile on the linoleum floor. I felt like Uma Thurman in “Kill Bill, Vol. 2”, climbing out of the box many tried to nail me in with their thoughts, clawing through dirt and doubt, finally reaching the top to just…breathe. I wore a smile that day that hadn’t been pulled out of the closet in quite some time. It looked damn good on me, and felt even better. The sun shined a little brighter that day to me, because I felt like myself again. Not to mention that first shower I took afterward. The hot water caressing my scalp, its drops massaging and hugging my entire head, down my neck and back as the shampoo tickled every follicle. I tell you, some people don’t have sex that felt as good as that first shower. (Did I mention my hair weighed nine pounds?)
Sometimes you just have to start fresh. That doesn’t mean that things are over, it simply means that this particular chapter is closed. I’m never going to say that my days wearing locs are over, but at a little over a month in, I am absolutely enjoying this new look and new outlook on life. Truth B. Told is still Truth B. Told, because my locs weren’t some gimmick used to make my words more relevant. I am many things, but I promise to never again be who others think I am simply because it makes it easier for them to pay less attention. For the first time in a long time, I am feeling as I should have felt all along: at peace.
My head is no longer heavy, but the crown still remains.