Of Michael Sam, Black Folk and the Deity Factor

When I was at Webster University I took a class called Religion and Political Conflict.  It was one of my favorite classes, as it inspired critical thinking. Our professor, Chris Parr assigned us a paper asking the question: Why do people threaten violence and wage war in the name of religion?  I titled my response paper, “The Deity Factor.’

The basic premise is that a person will do most anything no matter how heinous if they believe the orders are from their highest power.  As much good that is done in this world for the sake of the deity factor, there are just as many if not more evil done against mankind. This could range from feeding the poor, evangelism, or strapping a pack of C4 on their bodies and killing innocent people. Logic and self analysis fall to the deity.  This is because the follower believes his/her eternal state depends on pleasing the deity.  Frankly, when dogmatic belief is serious enough, one would do anything to satisfy that longing to be approved of by his god.

What is interesting about the deity factor, is that it’s easy for those to believe their own illogical ideologies, while thinking others are ridiculous.  For instance, I can’t understand how radical Muslim extremist believe that the reward for martyrdom is 72 virgins in the great by and by.  I mean, you blew your body to pieces, and dead people can’t have physical sex.  And what does that say about a female martyr?  She can’t have 72  fresh penises because the sexism that rules on earth carries over to heaven or paradise. Sounds like a raw deal for the sisters to me!

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Unnamed female Islamic radical

There is a segment of the White Christians who inherently believe that they are superior to all others based on their color.  They have used their interpretations of the bible to justify slavery then, and status now.

As silly as that martyr/virgin sounds to most, many Christians, don’t see the similarities or hypocrisy they display when they openly discriminate against the gays and lesbians.  This seems especially true of the Black Christian community.  I’ve had a plethora of discussions with my Black  Christian socially conservative friends.  I am amazed at how they hand select scriptures that supports their discriminative beliefs, but turn an unapologetic blind eye to other scriptures that would make their own lives uncomfortable.  Many are otherwise intelligent and thoughtful people.  But once the dogma of the deity come into play, they turn into blind nincompoops.

I wasn’t always as passionate about supporting the LGBT community as I have been in recent years.  I had never been an all out bigoted idiot, but I certainly wasn’t a friend.  There are some elements within the gay community that still rub me the wrong way.  I still typically frown on what I view as an overly effeminate male who acts more girlish than the most girly girl I know.  I agreed with a former gay male friend of mine when he told me, “I’m gay, but I can’t stand a sissy!”  That’s on me and I’ve been working on growing above that judgment.

A more appropriate critique that I do challenge them on is wanting to be equal without embracing the ability to take a joke. I hate racism but I am able to critique black folk,  laugh at myself and my people.  No group can truly prosper and be taken seriously if its members take themselves too seriously. Some of my gay friends haven’t gotten there yet.

In a most recent conversation on social media, some black folks were asking the question, “Why does Michael Sam have to announce that he’s gay?  What is the big deal?  He’s gay…. I’m straight.  So what?”  I explained why Michal Sam made his announcement.  (As if it wasn’t obvious)  I further explained that these same people who resent Sam for making his ‘announcement,’ don’t bat an eye when a ball player is interviewed after a victory and they say, “I want to thank my lord and savior Jesus Christ who gave us the victory.”  When Kurt Warner played for the Rams, St. Louisans heard this every week.  (Unless the Rams lost and Kurt sucked)  When Tim Tebow talked about his faith 24-7, it never occurred to Christians who supported his rhetoric, that Jesus never threw a pass, never threw a block, made a devastating tackle or sacked the other team’s quarterback.  Public figures give credit to their deity thereby ‘announcing’ their religious beliefs every day.

Christians love it when famous people do it.  It confirms their own brand of faith.  On the flip side, they merely reject Sam because his gayness doesn’t jive with their brand of religion dogma.  I told my Christian friends that to reject this recognition in light of the original question they posed about Sam’s announcement is being intellectually dishonest.  Of course, neither logic, theory, nor the incredible amount of irony couldn’t crack that steel wall of dogma!

mizzou students sam

Michael Sam’s return to Mizzou Feb 15, 2014

I pointed out that… “the real issue for you wasn’t Sam making an announcement, it was what he announced.  To suggest otherwise when you applaud announcements that support their own beliefs  is hypocrisy and intellectually dishonest.  And while gays are catching hell every day, you lack empathy for their struggle while still getting pissed at white folk who are racist against you and people who look like you.”

Look, the LGBT community has been here since the beginning of civilization.   In 20 years, there may not be a such thing as a closeted gay person.  You won’t be able to pray them away… and they aren’t trying to change your minds about them.  Neither will I.  You are free to hold on to your prejudices.  Just keep in mind the flip side.

Every time you criticize them for asking for what is rightfully their’s, (which is to live and be allowed to live,) you sound just like White folk who say, “I’m tired of your black shit!  Trayvon Martin was a thug and deserved what he got!  And so did Jordan Davis. What are you crying about?  This isn’t 1964 anymore.  Don’t talk to me about disproportionate injustice and  mass incarceration rates.  You have Oprah, Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods.  Dammit you have a black president for godsakes.  I never owned slaves.  Shut the hell up about racism already!   

Many Christians I know say that homosexuality and gay rights are being forced down their throats.  And yet this is the same language used in Mississippi, Alabama, and so forth when it came to Black folk as it pertains to equality.

I am certainly not going to suggest that you change your mind about approving of homosexuals.  Just as I am not looking to convince a racist white person to appreciate me for who I am.  But what I am asking you to consider is the same thing I ask of the prejudice:  

You don’t have to love me.  You don’t have to like or approve of me.  But don’t attempt to stop me from prospering.  Don’t kill me advocate or excuse violence against me.  Don’t arrest me for unjust reasons.  Don’t deny me equal opportunities.  Don’t stand in my way as I look to create a decent life for myself and feed my family.  Don’t support legislation that denies me full equal rights that you support for yourself.  Keep your prejudices if you must, but don’t exploit my life and ruin my opportunities because of them.  And dammit don’t support or excuse those who do.

If you can do that, you won’t hear me say another word!

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My Evening With the G.O.A.T.

****Re-post in honor of The G.O.A.T / Original January 17 2012****

Upon hearing that today is the 70th Birthday for the (Greatest of All Time) Muhammad Ali, it reminded me of the evening that I was honored to spend with The Champ.  The year was 2005 and the occasion was “The Butterfly Ball” in Atlanta, Georgia.  The event was a fundraiser for The Ali Center, a museum dedicated to the career and humanitarian efforts of Ali that was being constructed in Louisville, KY.

Before I go further you have to understand what Muhammad Ali meant to me growing up in the 70s.  As a child there were two celebrities that I looked up to.  Muhammad Ali and then Sugar Ray Leonard.  At the time I was too young to understand Ali’s political and heroic defiant stand against participating in the Vietnam War, and I wasn’t necessarily a boxing aficionado.  But what I did recognize was Ali’s charm, confidence, star power and unapologetic boldness in public at a time when many black public figures wouldn’t dare.  Inwardly I knew he was making a place for me and his persona gave me a definite sense of pride.  Muhammad Ali to me was so significant that he was almost legend and unreal; An ethereal figure on television that may as well have been from outer space in terms of what I felt was my chance at ever seeing him face to face.  That feeling never left me even as I grew older and cried when he lost in humiliating fashion at the of his career.

Ali and Lewis

(Muhammad Ali, Lennox Lewis, Tom Joyner)

The event was star studded and included people like Cornel West, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Andrew Young, Tom Joyner, and many others including former Heavy Weight Champion Lennox Lewis, who gave $2 million of his own money because of the love he has for The Champ.  Brian McKnight had a trio set for the entertainment.  The week before making the trip to the ATL, I called Ali’s people and asked if there was a chance that I could meet The Champ and get a photo.  The woman on the phone told me that Ali hadn’t been feeling well as of late, but when he is generally he’s very generous of such request.  I hoped for the best.

After dinner and music, several speakers came up to talk about what Muhammad Ali has meant to them.  The most touching was probably Professor West who couldn’t hold back his tears as well as Ali’s daughter Lala who also tearfully recalled so many occasions where ‘daddy’  loved and cherished her and her siblings.  I was about 25 feet from the podium in awe.

Lala Ali

(Lala Ali, Jesse Jackson, Muhammad Ali)

Finally when The Champ got up, he struggled to stand and speak but offered several jokes and took assorted pot shots and the people he loved.  Except for the laughs the room was totally silent as he spoke.  He was a total hoot.  When he finished and after he exited the stage I wanted to get a hand shake and possibly a photo.  The celebrities were getting theirs in and I was sort of intimidated to step in.  But then I thought to myself, “It’s now or never.  To hell with it man get in there!”

So I made my way through the big shots and tried to approach him.  He had a handler with him and I said, “Is it ok if I take a picture with The Champ?”  The handler said, “The Champ is tired and we need to get him out of here so he can rest.”  And this is what I’ll never forget…what gave Ali the beyond the universe status with me.  He heard me and pushed his handler away motioning me to come close to him.  I shook his hand and said my peace in his ear, then needed to get this photo taken quickly.  Over my right shoulder is Mayor Andrew Young.  I said, “Mayor would you mind,” handing him my camera.  He smiled with enthusiasm and said, “Sure.”  And there struggling to stand on his own The Champ made two fist and took that damn picture.

A few seconds later I looked at the camera hoping to God that the mayor didn’t screw up my photo and there it was.  I stared at it.  A photo of me and Muhammad Ali.  I thought back to my childhood and all that he had meant to me and thinking how untouchable I thought he’d be.  It was surreal as if time had stood still.  All I could think to myself was, “That’s freaking Muhammad Ali.  That’s freaking Muhammad Ali!”  Talking about ‘floating like a butterfly….’

If he had went on his way without taking the photo I still would have felt blessed.  It would have been all good and I would have understood.  But the fact that he pressed his way and didn’t “big time” me as just another cat he’s met out of millions, I will NEVER FORGET THAT!

For this reason as well as the many others are why he will always be The G.O.A.T. to me!

Happy Birthday Champ!

Me & The Greatest of All Time

(Me and the G.O.A.T.)

Money, Greed, & The Desecration of the King Legacy

 

Where do I start?  Sigh!

Since the death of Coretta Scott King, the widow of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, many in the African-American community have stood by silently while King’s children have fought in public and in court over various money issues.  Most of us just shook our heads and hoped that they could get their stuff together.  I’m not saying it’s easy being a King’s kid all the time, but come on! 

Chief of the drama however seems to be Dexter King, the second son of the couple who for everything I have noticed, seems to love the high life as a Malibu “big baller” who spends all of the money from his father’s estate to finance his lavish lifestyle.  Initially, sister Bernice King and brother Martin III sued Dexter on behalf of Coretta’s estate alleging he improperly took funds from the estates of their parents.  I won’t spend time elaborating on that or placing blame.  But it’s obvious that there are some problems with the First Family of black folk. 

Now it seems that Coretta had some love letters “(and other “intimate correspondence”) from Martin that she kept in a suitcase under her bed till the day she died.   According to Lynn Cothren, Mrs. Kings special assistant for over two decades they were her most cherished possessions.  Bernice would like to keep those letters private in the hands of family.  Dexter, ever the opportunist would like to whore them out for a book deal he inked recently.

Dude, you are actually going to take your sister to court to get at your dead parent’s love letters so you can market them in a book? 

To quote a famous poet, “Dumb nigga, what you thinkin bout?”  

Here you have the descendants of the most well known African-American family in the history of the world.  The children of a Nobel Peace Prize winner.  A man who has arguably done more to help the entire race socially, legally, educationally, and financially, certainly in the 20th Century.   A man who helped to set the table for this historic moment and opportunity to elect a true child of the dream.   

 

I know there are two sides to every story, and perhaps if I knew the whole story (which I am not interested in) I would have cause to go after Bernice and Martin III.  But in this case, it’s all on Dexter.  What will this guy NOT do to bleed his given name for every dollar possible?  I am reminded of a line in the movie, “Crash,” where Terrance Howard’s character chided Ludacris’ car jacking character by telling him, “Look at me!  You embarrass me.  You embarrass yourself!”

Since these bickerings started, most African Americans with public forums have cautiously taken a pass at getting into their business.  There is so much respect for the King name and legacy.  We have inwardly wished that the family would put the public bickering to rest and not bring shame to themselves or our people.  I think the silence should cease.  And we should call for Dexter to call off this ridiculous pursuit of his parents intimate communications.  Here is my official notice:

Memo to Dex: Your father is arguably the greatest American the country has ever produced!  Have some dignity!  If there was something J. Edgar Hoover didn’t get his grubby and filthy hands on, then leave it be!  I am sure if Mrs. King wanted to post her husband’s personal sentiments to her she would have done so during the almost 40 years she survived him.  You have enough at your disposal already to allow you to gravy train your father’s legacy for the rest of your pitiful life.  If your mother and father were alive, they would both be ashamed of you.  Now back the hell up!

See… it’s that simple!