From EBONY: Black Boys Need Lupita Nyong’o Too

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***Damon’s latest at EBONY on how Lupita’s popularity can have an effect on who young Black boys consider to be beautiful and “crush-worthy”***

From the time I first realized I liked girls (approximately age 8) to the time I entered high school, I had six “serious” crushes. None of these girls were girlfriends–I was far too timid then to make that happen–but each occupied that fantasy space in my heart and on my mind. One was a really good basketball player. Another was a classmate. Two lived in my neighborhood. I met the other two at summer camp.

And all shared the same phenotype: Light skinned, long hair, light eyes, biracial.

I’m not pointing this out to suggest a Black person’s complexion determines how authentically Black they are. Those girls were just as Black as the women I dated as an adult. And, to be clear, there’s nothing wrong with having a crush on a lightskinned woman. Lightskinned Black girls are Magic too. But there’s no doubt in my mind this crush pattern was a direct result of believing only lightskinned girls were crush-worthy.

I’m bringing this all up because, while much of the conversation about the very public praise Lupita receives for her looks focuses on its impact on Black women and girls, there’s another group who stands to gain just as much: Black boys.

As much as we tout how important it is for a young Black person’s parents to instill an appropriate sense of self-worth, self-love, and racial consciousness, family units don’t exist in vacuums. A kid’s peer groups matter. The images they’re exposed to matter. The media they consume matters. And, I don’t think it was a coincidence my young tastes skewed lighter at a time when the vast majority of the young female entertainers considered crush-worthy (Halle Berry, Aaliyah, Lark Voorhies, Mya, Karyn Parsons, Tisha Campbell, etc) were also light. Even the ones who were browner (Tatyana Ali, Ananda Lewis, Chilli, etc) were lauded for their long, wavy hair–a trait usually associated with lighter-skinned women and not one most Black women posses, not by far.

Also, young people are terribly obsessed with social proof. Nothing is cool until there’s a caucus and consensus on what and who is allowed to be cool. As an adolescent in the early 90s, even if you liked the 4th grader who favorite the first Aunt Viv, it was more socially acceptable to crush on the 10-year-old Rachel Stuart doppelganger.

This is where the endless laud and favor given to the beauty of a dark-skinned Black woman with short, kinky hair can make a difference. Just the act of seeing or reading about this universal praise can light a bulb in the head of a young kid already convinced light girls are the only girls worthy of his extra Nowalaters and Valentine’s Day cards.

Read more at EBONY

The Four People You Meet In Internet Hell

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I spent a decent amount of time yesterday reading tweets from people either upset at or confused by Lupita Nyong’o’s Most Beautiful Woman designation. Why? Well, I’m fascinated with all the nuances and levels to how we (Black people) deal with and feel about skin color. And, I’m equally fascinated by the type of people who’d spend an entire morning attempting to convince people why Lupita is ugly.

Just as I don’t understand the point of Pinterest (Really, I don’t. Can someone please explain it to me?), I don’t get the mindset behind spending so much time and energy to let people know exactly how unattractive you think someone is. Since these are likely the same people who attempt to fry lettuce, perhaps they’re just biding time until their lettuce cools down. Or maybe the anger comes from the fact that they still haven’t figured out how to keep the lettuce from completely dissolving when placed in hot Crisco. And maybe they’re just pissed no one ever took the time to tell them you can’t fry gotdamn lettuce.

Either way, this person, the colorstruck lettuce frying Twitter motherf*cker who’s always mad because no one ever told him you can’t fry gotdamn lettuce is definitely one of the people who exist just to make the internet more Hell-like for the rest of us. Here’s a couple more.

The liberal outrage junky

Although they fashion themselves as the sole arbiters of politically correct decorum, they are meth addicts scouring decades-old closed threads on message boards and reading six year old tweets to find their next outrage high. If the internet ceased to exist tomorrow, they’d be in your gutters and garbage cans, shoving cat shit in their mouths while fiending for evidence of some off-color joke you told in 2007 about Tina Fey and goat milk or that time in college you accidentally spelled “Hispanic” with a lower-case “h” instead of an upper case “H.”

The devil’s advocate (Also known as “Well, actually…” and “No one cares. Shut the f*ck up”)

There is no position they can’t straddle with their elephant child-bearing hips. No argument too airtight for them to challenge. No moment where they can’t not resist having their bitch-ass, whining-dog-wrapped-inside-a-Styrofoam-case-pressed-against-a-chalkboard sounding-ass voices heard. God hates these people. Even more than he hates Cleveland.

The deep thinking troglodyte

No. No one has ever said “REAL females REALLY respect REAL men doing REAL things” before. It is the wittiest, funniest, and most insightfully-ass poignant shit that’s ever escaped a human’s lips. If I had your brain, I’d have headaches all day long because your brain is obviously bigger than everything ever in existence. Including your dick. Which must also be pretty damn big too to be brave enough to conjure some life-changing Jedi shit like that. But, as transf*ckingcendent as your thoughts were, they’d be extra transf*ckingcendent if you put them on a picture with some awkward-ass, mind-melting font, and superimposed a picture of yourself in the background, doing some God-like shit like two handed pushups or adjusting your tie.

Did I forget anyone?

—Damon Young

Quiz: Exactly How Threatened Are You By Lupita Nyong’o’s Beauty?

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You’ve likely heard by now that Lupita Nyong’o was recently named People Magazine’s Most Beautiful Person. Considering the year she’s had, this shouldn’t have been much of a surprise. Lupita’s approval ratings aren’t even measured in percentages anymore. Just emoticons.

Still, the idea that a woman with dark skin and short hair can be considered beautiful seems to be a hard concept for many people to grasp. Perhaps because it counters and threatens everything that think they know about beauty. And perhaps because they grill lettuce before eating it.

In light of that, I’ve decided to do a little quiz to determine just how threatened you might be by Lupita’s popularity.

1. Are you a Black American? (If yes, add 3 points)

2. Are you a Black man? (If yes, add 2 points)

3. Are you a light skinned Black woman? (If yes, add 2.5 points)

4. Have you granted or happily received “light-skinned points” at one time in your life? (If yes, add 8 points)

5. Have you ever called someone “cute for a darker-skinned girl?” (If yes, add 9 points)

6. Are you from a state below the Mason-Dixon line? (If yes, add 5 points)

7. Is your name Yung Berg? (If yes, add 122 points)

8. Are you an AKA? (If yes, add 7.5 points)

9. Were you in Jack and Jill? (If yes, add 10 points)

10. Did you think the new Aunt Viv was an upgrade? (If yes, add 5 points)

11. Do you own a glue gun? (if yes, add 4 points)

12. Have you recently called someone a THOT? (If yes, add 12 points)

13. Are you a Laker fan? (If yes, add 4.5 points)

14. Do you just not “get” Toni Morrison? (If yes, add 8 points)

15. Are you stupid? (If yes, add 7 points)

16. Are you stupid, and on Twitter? (If yes, add 27 points)

17. Did you root for Lisa in Coming to America instead of Patrice? (If yes, add 5 points)

18. Have you incorporated the term “redbone” in the chorus of a rap song you created? (If yes, add 33 points)

19. When asked to describe your background, do you make sure to always list Korean, Italian, Native America, red dot Indian, Swedish, Saudi Arabian, Martian, and Alaskan even though you’re a Black chick from Detroit? (If yes, add 14 points)

20. Do you have hate in your heart? (If yes, add 11.5 points)

Results: (0-10 points) Congratulations! You’re not threatened at all by Lupita’s beauty, and there’s a very good chance you either own or are sleeping with someone who owns a “Black Girls Are Magic” t-shirt. Good for you!

(11-35 points) You’re not mad about Lupita. Not at all. But, her success has made you reflect on some of the thoughts and ideas you’ve had about beauty and Black women. Oh, and you’re probably a Delta. Which is better than being an AKA. But still.

(35-49 points) So that was you at Target the other day, buying up all the brown paper bags for some “throwback party” you’re having. Mmhmm. You aint foolin noone, Nick Cannon.

(50 points or more) If you’re not a rapper from the south, you might as well be one.

—Damon Young

On Acquiring A Very Particular Skill…And Watching Your Marriage Murder It

"Ok. She's finally close to me. Try not to slobber this time."

“Ok. She’s finally close to me. Try not to slobber this time.”

I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you.

I’m sure most of you recognize this quote from Taken. It’s part of a phone conversation; the most memorable scene in a movie filled with memorable scenes. It’s so good that excerpts from it were even used in the trailer. What made it so effective was the level of confidence and control Liam Nesson (“Bryan Mills”) was able to convey. It didn’t matter if his daughter was in Uzbekistan or Youngstown, you knew he was going to find her, you knew he knew he was going to find her, and you knew he’d do anything necessary to do it. (Well, I didn’t know he was going to shoot his homeboy’s wife during dinner. That was a f*cking surprise.)

Yet, as great as that scene was, what really resonates with me were the early scenes showing how mundane his life had become. Here was this expertly trained and highly skilled government operative in peak physical and intellectual condition living in some hotel next to an airport, eating cheap wings with his buddies, and losing pissing contests to his daughter’s stepdad.

Granted, this “new” life was voluntary. He chose to be more normal so he could spend more time with his daughter. But damn. Without his dumb-ass daughter and her fast friend getting kidnapped, all those years of training and combat would have continued to waste away in a Rent-A-Center barcalounger and a bottle of Jack. This wasn’t just a tiger losing his stripes. This was a tiger shopping at Urban Outfitters and ordering gluten-free couscous at Mercola.

Why does that scene resonate with me, especially now? Well, I don’t possess the skills necessary to murk an entire room of murderous kidnappers with a paper clip and a pair of New Balances, I’m not cold-hearted enough to electrocute someone after they already told me everything they know, and I don’t own an Armenian to English dictionary.

But…I can relate.

You see, I too have spent decades working very hard to acquire a particular set of very useful skills. Skills that don’t make me a nightmare for people like you. But did help me sleep very well at night. I am also better at this particular skill right now than I’ve ever been. (And there’s still room for improvement!) On July 19th, though, these skills will no longer be necessary. I will be a tiger with a bowtie and a bottle of honey Jack.

There are some boys who seem to be born with an innate ability to be comfortable around girls. At least more comfortable than most other boys. I was not one of those boys. The moment I realized I was attracted to girls was also the moment I realized I was completely and undeniably frightened by them. As I got older and entered high school, this fear began to subside. But I never was comfortable. Fortunately, I was good at basketball (and I had nice Nautica jackets) so girls started to notice me. Still, even with them noticing me, I still had to actually talk to them, and all the witty jokes and articulate thoughts swirling through my head were reduced to monosyllabic mumbles when forced to talk to one I actually, gasp, liked.

I got better when I got to college. And by the time I reached my early 20s, the fear was pretty much gone. I could approach women I liked, and I felt relatively comfortable around them, but now I was faced with another obstacle: What the hell do I say???

It took a few more years to realize that being myself — and not a representative of myself — was the best way to pull this off. Just be silly, slightly awkward, and surprisingly inappropriate me…and own it. And, if she doesn’t like me for me, she’s not the one for me. In hindsight, this seems like an easy concept to grasp. But, well, it wasn’t. At least not for me. I guess I’m a slow learner.

It took a couple more years of trial, error, and success for this to all come together. And “all this” includes a better sense of timing, an appropriate attitude and demeanor, a slight tinge of “I-don’t-give-a-f*ck-ness,” the ability to be self-aware, and the insight to know which types of environments are better for people like me and which types of women I’m most compatible with.

That’s over 20 years of very intentional work at getting better at talking to and cultivating romantic interest in women I’m romantically interested in. Today, I am better at this than I’ve ever been. And to be clear, I’m not saying this to portray myself as some Idris/Leonidas hybrid. Just acknowledging that I’ve never been more confident of whatever it is I bring to that table.

But, I’m getting married on July 19th. And those decades of work at refining that very particular skill will all be for naught.

Ok, ok, ok, ok. I know how this sounds. If I used these skills to help find someone I’d eventually fall in love with and propose to, can I really say I acquired them for naught? (No.) Isn’t this the appropriate end to those means? (Yes.) Isn’t what’s happening on July 19th the point of all of that? (Yes.) Don’t you realize you sound like a fisherman who finally caught the BIG FISH and can retire from his earnings but still bitches about wasting all this minnow bait he bought last week? (I do.) Do you expect anyone to have any sympathy for anything you’re saying right now? (I don’t.)

Also, this is a completely voluntary decision. As much as I might have enjoyed field tests with these skills, my relationship is better than that. Much, much better. And, I’m sure these skills will be applicable in other areas. Perhaps I’m done getting phone numbers, but I’ll still be able to get free bagels and hotel room upgrades.

But, let’s take the romance/marriage part out of it. Wouldn’t feel weird to spend a decade learning how to be a sharpshooter, only to never shoot a gun again after hitting a difficult target? Or to wish to be a doctor, go through a decade of medical school, graduate, and decide to teach Zumba instead? Or to develop a discerning palate at a young age, take cooking classes in high school, study all the cooking-related materials you can, enter the culinary academy, graduate, get invited to (and win) an episode of “Chopped”, create the perfect meal…and retire from cooking right when you have enough capital and status to start your own restaurant?

Nevermind. Don’t answer any of these questions. Just know that I have a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. But, since they’re not of much use to me now, I’m selling them to the highest bidder. The auction starts Sunday, July 20th, at midnight. The tiger stripes will be first.

—Damon Young