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I eagerly spend time in bookstores. They are part of my life, real books, even though my family purchased the Kindle Fire for me for Christmas, there is something about real books. The day all the kids were back in their respective classroom, I found myself at the mall, at the bookstore, [...]
Frederick S. Heffermehl is an expert on the Nobel Prize, which is based on the will of Alfred Nobel, a respected Swedish industrialist who sought to make the world into a better place. Heffermehl says that by giving the prize to men like Barack Obama, Al Gore and others who maintain the military machine, the [...]
Morgan Freeman has made it no secret that he is a supporter of President Obama. Appearing on Tavis Smiley’s show, Freeman said, ”We’re going to be in a lot of trouble if we don’t reelect Obama,” concluding that ”people on the other side of the fence scare me.” “I think that we did a really good thing [...]
It just doesn’t stop, does it? America has real problems which deserve real solutions from real public servants, but we can never get to the real issues because there’s always some tin foil hat right winger, waiting in the wings with a new conspiracy theory. The latest theory, suggested by cuckoo for cocoa puffs tea [...]
Prison in America has become mostly about punishment and profit, so it is nice to see programs which intend on training prisoners for life outside the prison walls. A programs called “The Last Mile” teaches prison inmates about technology using books, videos, and tech mentors such as MC Hammer and Guy Kawasaki. And we’re not just [...]
KultureKritic.com Staff Writer Jay-Z, co-author Dream Hampton, and publisher Random House have been hit with a lawsuit over the rapper’s 2010 book Decoded. According to the hand-written suit, filed June 13 in the US District Court for the Central District of California, Patrick White’s laptop was stolen in 2009. “[M]y personal computer was compromised,” White [...]
Oscar winning actor Morgan Freeman chimed in on the coming elections on the Tavis Smiley show, saying ”We’re going to be in a lot of trouble if we don’t reelect Obama.” Freeman also offered some opinions of Obama’s opposition, saying, ”people on the other side of the fence scare me.” Freeman continued to praise Obama, adding, [...]
Between the Trayvon Martin tragedy and the recent spate of high-profile hate crimes, there has been plenty to keep those of us who care about civil rights busy in the Obama era. But it’s always refreshing when fellow advocates for equality and justice call attention to those major civil rights battles often overlooked by the mainstream media. The kinds of meaningful, substantive battles that can change lives and make the world a better place for future generations. Obviously when most of us think “meaningful,” “substantive” and “civil rights,” we think The Bachelor. When I first read that a class-action suit had been filed against the masterminds behind the reality TV juggernauts The Bachelor & The Bachelorette for casting discrimination, I assumed I was reading a headline from The Onion. But after realizing that the reports were not in fact a joke (even though I think this lawsuit is) I was speechless. (Those of you who know me personally or have merely been annoyed by me on television know that this is a rare occurrence.) I can think of a laundry list of civil rights battles that still loom large for people of color, even in the age of the first black president. Among them, the issue of racial profiling which has finally been thrust into the national spotlight due to the Trayvon Martin tragedy, employment discrimination so blatant that white men with criminal records still have a leg up over black men without one, and yes, the lack of diversity in quality entertainment, as demonstrated by the recent backlash to the new HBO show, Girls. But part of why I was so shocked by the lawsuit is because if I were to name two places in which my people are unjustly overrepresented, the first would be prisons and the second would be bad reality television. There are certain entities and institutions where no group should aspire to greater representation because doing so does not improve the standing, quality, or equality, of said group, but actually devalues the group as a whole. Reality television is one such vehicle. As I clarified while discussing this subject on MSNBC , I’m not referring to shows like American Idol that actually require a legitimate talent or skill. I’m referring to shows that claim to showcase the lives of “real people” who are “just like the rest of us.” Only the real people selected all seem to have severe emotional problems or criminal tendencies, or in the case of many of the cast members of color they select, both. At this point I’m starting to believe that’s not an accident. I didn’t have to look very far for validation of my theory when the very week The Bachelor critics filed their lawsuit, a cast member of a show called Basketball Wives filed a lawsuit against another cast member, who has since been charged with misdemeanor assault. For those who missed it, the women (and make no mistake, these are full-fledged adults over the age of 30, not kids who don’t know any better) got into a verbal altercation that resulted in one hitting another, while another woman removed her shoes and climbed over a table to continue said altercation. Did I already mention the part about these being adults? As embarrassing as this altercation is, or at least should be, for all parties involved, it’s not nearly as embarrassing as the fact that it’s not the first physical altercation that’s happened on the show. But even more embarrassing? The fact that this formula — angry women of color getting into fistfights, catfights and weave-pulling smackdowns — seems to have become the go-to reality TV recipe for success, with Basketball Wives joined by shows like Real Housewives of Atlanta, Bad Girls Club, and others to perpetuate a stereotype so enduring and pervasive that First Lady Michelle Obama expressed her own fears about it just months ago: the image of the angry black woman. These shows send the same message. No matter how much you dress us up, or how much money we may have, lying underneath it all for every woman of color is a neck rolling, finger pointing, profanity using stereotype ready to solve any dispute with physical violence because that’s how we “keep it real.” Only that’s not how most of us “keep it real.” But you wouldn’t know that by watching reality TV. In the early days of the genre, even those shows that did not encourage physical violence, per se, seemed to encourage the perception that one of the black cast members would resort to it if they felt the need to (think Omarosa on season one of The Apprentice and Kevin on season one of The Real World ). Now here we are years later and though the diversity of reality TV shows has expanded, the depiction of people of color on them hasn’t really. So is the answer a lawsuit to make shows like The Bachelor more inclusive? I would say the answer is a lot simpler than that. Even more embarrassing than the behavior of the women of color on some of these shows is the fact that there are women of color who help keep them on the air. If you are one of these women who watch these shows dismissing them as “harmless,” then you can’t be outraged the next time some conservative shock jock tries to stereotype Michelle Obama as an angry black woman. You’re helping to perpetuate that stereotype. As the saying goes, if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. After all, when Don Imus called black women “nappy-headed hoes” and Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a “slut,” we were outraged. Yet you will hear women — of all colors — called much worse than that in ten minutes of a Real Housewives or Basketball Wives reunion show. Where’s the outrage then? For the record, I know that these types of shows don’t exactly present any group of people at their best. And I don’t believe that media should be required to depict any group of people in an exclusively positive light, including black Americans. But black people are approximately 13% of the population and yet if you were to take a look at reality shows, or at least the coverage of them, you would think that we are responsible for the overwhelming majority of threatening behavior in social settings. (Click here to see a list of some of the worst reality tv moments.) While white Americans enjoy multi-faceted representation in mainstream media — from Meryl Streep’s The Iron Lady to Bridesmaids — to balance out the Jersey Shore s of the world, we are left portraying maids on our best days (the Oscar-winning film The Help ) and real-life women who beat up other women on our worst (such as on most of these reality shows.) Filing a lawsuit against The Bachelor may not be the answer, but voting with your eyeballs in support of programming that does actually “keep it real” when it comes to depicting us, may be. Just as we worked together to send a message to Don Imus and Rush Limbaugh about the perils of demeaning women, why haven’t we sent the same message to the people peddling this dehumanizing content? For those who think I’m overreacting, I have a trivia question for you. What has served as the greatest recruitment tool in the history of the Ku Klux Klan? You give up? The answer is a movie, Birth of a Nation. Released in 1915, it was filled with every negative stereotype of black Americans (or white actors in blackface portraying them) imaginable. We were depicted as lazy, over-sexualized and violent. Sound familiar? Its release caused Klan membership to skyrocket nationwide. Now nearly 100 years later, the imagery of us hasn’t progressed all that far. But today the culprits responsible for such imagery are not white actors in blackface, but black people willing to take on the role of modern day minstrel for a quick buck and black producers willing to sell out their own people for a check. (I’m looking at you Shaunie O’Neal, producer of Basketball Wives. ) But she’s not alone. Like many of the white record executives during the era in which gangsta rap reigned supreme, Andy Cohen, the Bravo svengali behind the Real Housewives franchise, continues to serve as a modern-day D.W. Griffith (the director of Birth of a Nation ), serving up devastating and dehumanizing stereotypes, but all in the name of “entertainment.” But it’s okay. I’m sure he has a black friend. And perhaps he or she thinks his programs are all just harmless fun. To some people, they probably are. But tell that to the hate groups whose memberships have been increasing in recent years, or to those who have experienced the recent rise in hate crimes firsthand. But Ms. O’Neal and Mr. Cohen are probably too preoccupied to notice or care. After all, they’re busy laughing all the way to the bank. Keli Goff is the author of The GQ Candidate and a Contributing Editor for Loop21.com where this post originally appeared.
Flying the friendly skies always feels a bit like playing a game of Russian roulette. There are the real life-and-death worries, like hoping and praying that you and your plane arrive at your destination in one piece. Then there are the worries that only feel like life-and-death, like hoping that you and your plane arrive on time and that your luggage does, too. Then there are the worries that make us contemplate the meaning of life, and whether it’s worth living at all. Of course I’m talking about the fear of losing the ultimate game of traveler’s roulette: finding yourself seated next to a screaming child during a long flight. For the first time in a relatively well-traveled life, I recently lost this game of roulette, big time. In what I would have considered a hysterical story had it happened to someone else, I lost not just once, but twice, in a single flight. After an apologetic father sat down next to me with his toddler, who was screaming as they boarded the plane and showed no signs of letting up, Dad graciously apologized in advance for the inconvenience that we both were resigned to me experiencing for the next couple of hours. When his son specifically began screaming for his mother, who was seated with other children in another row, Dad decided the best thing for all of us was for the parents to do a kid swap. Mom would take the toddler screaming for her, while Dad would take a slightly older and “more well-behaved little lady” (his words). Only half way through the flight the little lady must have reached her daily quota for being “well-behaved.” She decided she wanted Mommy, too, and wasn’t taking “no” for an answer. So she did what any diva in the making would do: she stood on her seat and screamed, “I want Mommy!” at the top of her lungs for a few minutes, followed by other indecipherable high-pitched screams for more than 10 minutes. (I gave up counting after 10.) Her screams then woke up another baby, who, you guessed it, began crying, too. Part of me felt bad for the dad. After all, when most of us get a poor job performance review, at least it’s not in front of a room full of strangers. But here’s a guy whose two kids, in less than two hours, let the entire plane know he was simply not up to the standards of Mom. He essentially got a public dressing down, Simon-Cowell-style, from two people who can barely speak complete sentences. That’s got to be tough. Of course, the other part of me (the part that had gotten just four hours of sleep and had planned to catch up on the plane) didn’t feel sympathy for anyone except the people unlucky enough to cross paths with me after I got off that plane. I was in a great mood. Let me tell you. Apparently my experience with my tiny, vocal in-flight neighbors is not exactly what you’d call uncommon. Days ago Malaysian Airlines sent around a final warning notice to travel agents informing them that they will soon be launching child-free cabins to accommodate adult travelers tired of trying to drift off to a symphony of childhood cries while flying the friendly skies. According to the new policy, children under the age of 12 will not be permitted in the upstairs economy section of the airline’s Airbus A380. While countless business travelers cheered the new policy, when it was first proposed months ago, many insulted and beleaguered parents angrily cried discrimination. (I missed this tidbit of history, but apparently at some point, having the right to foist unruly children upon the public became akin to efforts to garner African Americans the right to vote in terms of major civil rights battles. Who doesn’t see the similarities?) One argument made by some parents, which did strike a chord with me, however, is this: What about misbehaving adults? Why single out kids? This is a fair question. After all, while I’ve lost the traveler’s game of roulette once in recent memory when it comes to children, I cannot count the number of times some misbehaving adult has helped disrupt a trip. Just off the top of my head, I can think of four times in the last month when I was comfortably seated in Amtrak’s designated “quiet” car, which, as its title suggests, is for passengers who want to ride in a quiet car, and yet every single trip, some moron who can read English perfectly chooses to chat on his or her cell phone — this despite the fact that the car is plastered with signs reading “Quiet Car: No cellphone use permitted.” Mr. or Ms. Chatty then becomes indignant when anyone (I or another brave soul) politely points out that, “as the sign above you says, we’re not supposed to use cell phones in this car.” The most galling response I have received so far was last week, when a woman looked at the sign, then back at me, and snapped, “I can read!” to which I replied, “Apparently not, since that’s your second call.” Police actually escorted one woman off a train for refusing to refrain from using her phone in the quiet car. (For the record, I didn’t call them!) Yet it’s the stories regarding unruly children that generate the most headlines, including a landmark lawsuit that was recently settled when a passenger experienced hearing loss after being seated next to a screaming child for an extended period of time. (Click here to read about that case and other infamous stories of bad behavior in the air.) So are segregated flights, with child-free cabins, the best solution, and potentially the wave of the future for airlines around the world? One flight attendant I spoke to, who identified difficult children on flights as one of her jobs’ greatest stressors, seems to think so. (She asked that I not use her name or identify her airline, because she is not authorized to speak to the media.) Calling Malaysian Airlines’ plans for kid-free flights “a genius idea,” she added, “I cannot think of a better solution than this one.” But maybe I can. What if airlines or trains just fined people for unruly behavior? Before you dismiss the idea as crazy, consider this: Is it really any crazier than airlines charging us extra for checked bags when the service we are paying them for in the first place is to transport us and our belongings? The flight attendant I spoke with seemed to think it was actually a doable idea, in part because she confirmed the existence of something I had heard about years ago: airline reports on passengers who use a specific airline more than once. These “reports” are not background checks per se, but if a passenger gets drunk and belligerent on a flight, for instance, this will be noted, so that on their next trip flight attendants will be warned to pay extra special attention as they serve that person. If this is true, then why can’t airlines and other industries of travel simply implement a financial penalty system for unruly travelers of all ages? Those who consistently display the most disruptive behavior in the air or on the train could be made to pay up accordingly (or their parents could). The way it could work is thus: As part of the terms and conditions we all agree to when we purchase our tickets, a new condition would be added, one that states that we agree to accept an automatic flat fee charged to our credit card — let’s say $100 to start — if the flight staff deem us (or our minor children) an intentionally disruptive presence on the trip. (Intentional meaning, it’s one thing if a kid gets sick. It’s another if they want to play hide and seek on a flight, and Mom and Dad choose to do nothing to stop it.) If a passenger racks up a certain number of penalties, then their future tickets would simply double, and perhaps eventually triple, in price automatically. (My friend Dylan Ratigan compared this to car insurance pricing.) Maybe if they charged such a penalty to the businessman who got so drunk that he defecated on a food service cart in flight ( true story ), or to the parents of children who significantly delay a flight because they refuse to buckle up ( happens more often than you think ), either A) they could stop charging some of us those ridiculous fees for so-called extras that are actually basic service (like checked bags), or B) they would finally deter some people who lack the basic manners to exhibit appropriate behavior in shared public spaces, or who know that their kids lack the ability or maturity to display such behavior but travel with them anyway without thinking twice about the impact their choices have on others. Maybe if we were to hit people where it really hurts, in their pocketbooks, they would think twice, or three times, until finally they got the message that incivility is not a civil right. Keli Goff is the author of The GQ Candidate and a Contributing Editor for Loop21.com , where this post originally appeared.
Earlier this week, die-hard Knicks supporter and filmmaker Spike Lee joined my MSNBC show ‘Politics Nation’ to discuss a little non-political news: basketball is back with a vengeance. Thanks to the impeccable, almost unbelievable skills of 23-year-old Jeremy Lin, the sport and the Knicks themselves have seen a shocking resurrection from fans who grew increasingly exhausted of lock outs and negotiations. The timing couldn’t be better; the story, some say, is ‘Cinderella-like.’ I prefer calling it a tale of perseverance; a narrative about the underdog triumphing after being consistently discounted. Perhaps, most importantly, it’s a lesson for all of us to never look down upon the marginalized. Some people believe life is a lottery, that if you’re born into the correct circumstances, you will excel. I view life as an opportunity, that given an equal shot and a level playing field, anyone can achieve their dreams and reach excellence. Lin’s rags-to-riches story is about more than just basketball. Continuously dismissed by teams — including his own — and literally sleeping on his brother’s couch in Manhattan, the Taiwanese American is living proof that the underdog can and will win. After being benched for so long, Lin is finally given a chance by default and goes on to save the Knicks and bring such renewed craze to the game that it’s virtually impossible to find any available tickets at Madison Square Garden for the season. The Harvard grad who nobody believed had such fantastic sports skills now has the fastest-growing athletic brand according to Forbes — $14 million and rising. Every day we walk past or ignore another Lin — people who may not look like what society deems a ‘winner.’ People who have been silenced or beaten down by injustice. People who are suppressed with unequal access to quality education, employment, fair housing and safe neighborhoods. People who may be working multiple jobs, struggling to feed their children or figuring out how they will pay their rent. But given the right circumstances, all of these folks would shine just like Lin; there’s a Lin in every school, church, job, etc. And just like Lin, you may be ignored, but it’s vital to never lose sight of your own strengths and your own abilities. No matter how many times they try to force you down, rise and stand tall yet again. Keep fighting until the world knows your worth. There’s an old saying that teaches us to be the best at whatever it is we’re doing. So if you’re mopping floors, do it to perfection. If you’re driving a bus, be the best bus driver there ever was. If you’re teaching kids, prove that your knowledge can make a difference in someone’s life. If you’re an artist, practice, practice and practice until they can no longer overlook your talents. Regardless of what you’re doing in life and how many doors have been slammed in your face, stay on track because sooner rather than later, your good work and gifts cannot be hidden. And just like Lin, the right opportunity will create the perfect circumstance for you to showcase your genius to the world. And for those that would like to easily ignore or further disenfranchise people, just remember that the person you think may look like an easy target may very well be the one dunking over your head tomorrow.