What’s In A Name?

I rarely rarely ever agree with any Michael McWhorter says, but even a broke clock is right twice a day. Or so the saying goes. So when I was forwarded these excerpts from a post written by Mr. McWhorter on The New Republic Blogs, I was very ready to disagree and burn in effigy the font he used to write such malarkey. The thing is, in some ways I agree with his general premise.

Oh yeah, I forgot, here’s the premise (I know you all don’t like reading two posts in order to read one so here are the pertinent parts):

The figures from the American Community Survey just in are more than crunched numbers. They suggest that this might be a good year for a certain term now familiar in American parlance to be, if not consigned to history, reassigned.

Namely, as of now, almost 1 in 10 black people are foreign-born. About 1 in 30 are from Africa. Which means that they are–you see where I’m going–African American in the true sense. Certainly a truer sense–true as in making sense–than Tracy Morgan, Donna Brazile, Jesse Jackson, or Mo’Nique.

Interesting assertion, though quite frankly, anybody who wants to draft Mo’Nique in the next race draft is more than welcome as far as I’m concerned.


It’d be one thing if it were a hundred years ago and lots of black people still had parents who had been born into slavery and grandparents who actually “spoke African,” as it was sometimes put. But this is a very different time.

A possible objection, I imagine, is that native-born blacks are African in a “different” way than actual African immigrants–but this would be a feint rather than an argument: clearly, the proper formulation, if we are to put it on the table, is that native-born blacks are African to a much lesser extent than African immigrants. In truth, a black man from Jacksonville has more in common with a white one from Tucson than he does with a man three years out of Senegal.

And I would argue that native-born blacks are so vastly less “African” than actual Africans that calling ourselves “African American” is not only illogical but almost disrespectful to African immigrants. Here are people who were born in Africa, speak African languages, eat African food, dance in African ways, remember African stories, and will spiritually always be a part of Africa–and we stand up and insist that we, too, are “African” because Jesse Jackson said so?

It’s an interesting question, no? There is some truth there. While many of us refer to ourselves as African-American, the fact is, most of us are no more African at this point than that “Irish” kid in Boston who’s parents came over on some random ship in the 1700s. Sure we’re all of descent, but given that there really ARE actual African-Americans (children of first generation African immigrants born here) who seemingly still readily identify as African, how African American am I?

Truth be told, I pretty much just call myself Black anyway and I think I’ve heard more white people say African-American than I’ve heard Black folks say it. But it is a word that is commonly donned upon our community without much objection.

Consider this: a white man from down South and a Black man from down South more than likely share a lot of the same customs, eating habits, and religious practices. The only thing separating most of us is social justice and race. But American? Sure, we’re all as American as it gets. One of my best friends went to Kenya when we were in college and upon his return he said he’s no longer considering himself an African-American, just an American, because he couldn’t be more different than the folks he met in Kenya. While I found that synopsis a bit shortsighted at the time, I do understand what he meant.

I have African friends who’ve alluded to being fearful of American Blacks (we’ve talked about this before on VSB).

Of course, it’s not really Black folks holding onto the African-American thing as handily as it is white people making sure to let us know that we’re not “American” American so perhaps McWhorter’s words are directed at the wrong audience.

But I ask you, thinking people of VSB, does it still make sense for American-born Black folks to be considering themselves as African-Americans?

Hell, does it even matter?

What say you?

P has spoken.


The Definition?

I am Panama Jackson.

I am many things to many people and I am nothing to a lot of people. To many of you I’m black letters on a white background, and to others I’m a confidante and party animal extraordinaire who brings the party when he shows up and takes it with him when he leaves.

I am a son and a father. I’m a boyfriend and a partner (no Siegfried). I cry in the dark and I put my hands where your eyes can see.

I am a Black man.

And yet sometimes I don’t even know what that means. I know what comes with being a man. I’ve been that all my life. And while I’ve been Black all my life it means different things in different places to different people. To some being a Black man means being a monster and a boogie man that will take your Girl Scout and her cookies and leaver her looking like a wilted dandelion. To others I’m an object of study, an odd fascination and curiosity upon which studies and fear campaigns have been built.

My goal is to be a positive light in a community where some of the worst get all the shine. As a Black man in today’s day and age I walk a fine line between street corner hustler and corporate boardroom participant and leader. I live amongst men with nothing and no reason to continue other than to spite death. But I work among men whose sole purpose in life is to grow powerful enough that only God could command more respect.

I am on the lookout because at work I am the same person I avoid in the streets.

I am fear and pain but I’m love and compassion. My community means the world to me even if at times it refers to me as an outsider using its resources for my own personal gain. Ironic considering that my own personal gain is esteem at the hands of another’s lack thereof.

I am a brother and a mentor. I am an uncle and nephew. I’m a role model and a cautionary tale. I’m somebody’s strength and an infrequent picture of weakness. I’m a southerner with northern tendencies, raised conservatively with liberal leanings, and a bringer of the ruckus while usually hoping the problem resolves itself.

I’m strong when necessary yet unappreciative of rodents in my space. I’m a dreamer and a realist. I struggle with raising a child in a world I want while praying for change in the world in which I reside. I’m afraid of the police but rebellious in the face of unregulated authority.

I am a Black man with insecurities but unafraid of life. I appreciate The Doors as much as I appreciate Jay-Z. Ahmad Jamal introduced me to the piano and Eazy-E introduced me to the keys. I’ve got soul and I’ve got rhythm. I dance when I hear music even if no music is playing.

I’m like Che Guevara with bling on, I’m complex. But I’m transparent.

I’m too sexxy for my shirt, so sexxy it hurts. And I’m shy.

I shine on stage while fading into the background.

I’m Timbalands in the summer time and Chuck Taylor’s in the winter. I’m Kenneth Cole and Banana Republic. I’m tall socks and dog tags.

I’m fashion and an oddball. I’m the coolest geek ever. I’m the coolest cat you’ve never met.

He is I, and I am him. Slim with the tilted brim.

I’m the star of the story.

I am a lot and nothing. I’m something and a nobody. I believe I can fly even though I’ve never left the ground.

I go up on the downstroke but I’m down by law.

I’m Panama Jackson and I’m a Black man.

We talked yesterday about what a grown a** Black man needs to succeed in life, but we never defined a Black man.

How do you define a Black man?

Talk to me.


6 Things That Every Grown A** Black Man Needs In His Life

Wu-Tang is for the children.

We’ve spent a significant amount of time here at VSB trying to help the womenfolks understand what men are truly looking for in women. And despite all of this help, I still happen to see scowling, angry-visaged, treebiting looking women running rampant on the mean streets of DC.

Sensitive thugs aren’t the only people that need hugs. Boobs and nubs both need hugs.

With that in mind, and with the recession going stronger than Peyton Manning in the 2nd Half of a football game (so sad Sanchez), I figured what the hell, why not shift the focus to the hombres? Fact is, a lot of men out there do suck. Women say it all the time and by law I’m required to deny, deny, deny, but I’m not blind nor stupid. And according to the great homeless philosopher, Homeless Philosopher, “ni**as are n*gg*s, worldwide. You got a dollar?”

There a few things that all grown a** Black men need in order to not only succeed with the ladies, but for life. Allons-y.

1) A Barber

Unless you rock a baldy, every grown a** man needs to have a barber to keep him looking professional and presentable. Hell, the only person higher up on the ladder than a Black man’s barber should be his mother. In fact, a ninja-barber relationship is so important (and fragile) that I just STOPPED going to my barber years ago because I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I was gonna shave my own head from here on out. He might think I’m dead. Either way, every Black man needs a first-name-basis-knows-facts-about-my-family barber.

2) Credit Card/Actual Credit Report

While I appreciate the commercials for Eastern’s Motors in the DC Metro area for their use of B-list celebrities and their non-synced lip-synching,  your job should NOT be your credit. You should have an actual credit score. And at least one credit card that doesn’t include the words RUSHCARD on it. While I’m not going to tel anybody what their credit score should be (Little Baby Jesus knows that all of us have our times of financial strife), you shouldn’t be getting denied service for a cell phone line. Women frown upon men who cannot own and operate cellphones. Trackphones and MetroPCS do not count.

Speaking of credit…

3) A job

Yes. You need a job mofo. There comes a point in life where you just can’t justify that hobby that takes up all your time with no real return on life. I’m looking at you Teeny. And your ilk. I have a lot of hobbies too. Some of them pay. What, you think Panama Muhf**kin’ writes for free? You need income. What is any woman worth her salt going to be doing dating a man without a job after she’s 22 years old. Women are going to college and graduating. Us? Kinda.

There’s a slight bit of leeway if you just so happened to lose your job in this recession. Blame Obama (it’s been a year now).

4) A dream/Aspirations

Marty Mart had a loft dream and got murked out in Memphis for it. So don’t dream so big. Besides, little kids of different colors been playing together since the 80s. Pick something else. But at least have the nerve to be somewhat ambitious. Women hate men without goals. Hell, I hate men without goals. Youstink. Get your sh*t together, soldier. At least dream of owning something. Even if that something is a box of new pencils.

5) At least one pair of sunglasses

Because you WILL see women who look fly and they will attempt to lock eyes with you as an opening to getting you in trouble. Plus, its easier to look at a** while you’re with your girl if you have on shades. Not that I’d know about that, but I do wear my sunglasses at night (no club) nowadays.

6) Good shoes

A good woman will judge you based on your shoes. If you’re walking around in some Buster Browns that look more beat down than Rihanna in a Lambo, well gangsta, you really need to step your game up. Work harder and spend some money on some decent casual kicks. And no, Nike Boots do not count as quality shoes, you moron.

Patrons of VSB, help a brotha(s) out. What does every grown a** Black man need in order to succeed in life and with women. Let’s do our civic and social duty today.

Kick the truth.


blame it on the a-a-a-a-a-alcohol

note: the homie demetria lucas is putting together a relationships roundtable for essence, and is looking for some very smart brothas and sistas. to qualify, applicants must be:
a) ages 25-45 and single b) in the new york tri-state area (or willing to travel) c) available for interviews in new york city the week of January 25, 2010 d) willing to speak frankly about relationships.  go to essence.com/relationships/hot_topics_5/essence_seeks_singles.php for more details.

***flashback to new years eve, 2005***


although a little bummed out that he’s unable to break in the new year with his girl –who’s spending the holiday with her grandparents in nevada– the champ decides to go to a nearby club with a few friends. after visiting and vetoing a few venues, they decide on “kaya”, a bar/lounge usually patronized by the patchouli people and the type of white people parodied at stuffwhitepeoplelike.com. basically, a great place for a crew of educated black guys to take full advantage of drunken liberal guilt


while ordering his three customary warm-up rum and cokes (he usually drinks one while at the bar, and carries the other two around the club with him. this –and not the other, rumored reason– is why his friends call him the double-fist), the champ spots a former co-worker with her girls. the co-worker walks over to him, they do the same “a little bit more familiar than usual” perfunctory extended embrace/two minute bullsh*t convo combo that people usually do when its new year’s eve and they see somebody they’re cool with, and the champ heads back to the bar


one of the champ’s boys inquires about the co-worker and asks for the hook-up, perfectly understandable since the co-worker is one of the few attractive women (not banging, but smiles alot and usually dresses nice, qualities that basically make you a dime on new years eve) in a club where the majority of the female patrons are dressed like they’re about to attend a produce co-op board meeting. (to quote my man “damn, there are a ton of constructionjunction-ass chicks in here tonight¹“)

the champ’s obliges, telling him that he’ll let her know he’s interested the next time he’s able to get a word with her.

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sh*t i just haven’t figured out yet

as you all already know, panama jackson and i are smart as hell. we’re super smart. very smart. uber smart. we’re to smart what ray j is to condoms. we’re to stupid what southerners are to soap. if “being smart” was “discreetly becoming more and more irrelevant” we’d be aubrey f*cking graham. if ken norton was mandingo, then we’re twin, ummm, mand…smartgos.

but, despite this ubiquitous smartness, there’s a multitude of sh*t i still haven’t completely figured out yet, and here’s some of it

why some black people can’t say “nigga”

now, i’m not referring to black people who’ve never had nigga as a part of their lexicon or those who’ve said nigga before, but have stopped saying it for some personal or political reason. no, i’m talking about the black people who say “nigga”, but, for whatever reason, just can’t say it.

you can’t exactly place it, but you just know that something about their nigga saying game is completely faulty because it sounds so forced, awkward, and unnatural coming from their tongues that you always notice when they’re saying it, like a seven year old saying “sh*t” for the first time. and, when you hear it, you’re always tempted to stop them and ask “wait…hold up. did you just call me a nigga, nigga???”

why paul pierce always looks like he got his haircut six days ago

while some have perfected intentional scruffy and others stay with the clean look, paul pierce is the only ninja i’ve ever seen who always looks like “its saturday and i haven’t been to the barber since tuesday”, and i have no idea how (or why) he does this

the female orgasm

some shiver, others shake.

some squirt, others hurt.

some cum, others can’t

some cry, others lie.

some scream, others sheen (ok. i know sheen doesn’t make any sense. i just needed something clever to rhyme with “scream”)

some get off when “spots’ are hit, others, well…i just read that g-spots aint sh*t.

like i mentioned before, knowing that mostmany women themselves have no clue about the female o provides a bit of solace, but can’t ya’ll provide at least a little consistency here? damn, we don’t ask for much.

how to react when free sh*t abruptly ends

for a year or so, a manager in one of the departments on the third floor of my building at work would buy five giant boxes of dunkin donuts every monday, and place them near the elevator for whoever happened to stop past the floor. sometimes his secretary would even send out a mass email to each department reminding everybody about them. as word got out that this was a weekly occurrence, everybody in the entire building started to look forward to donut day. offices started planning staff meeting times around them (no manager in their right mind would schedule a staff meeting on the morning of donut day, unless he wanted a full mutiny), and one guy (supposedly) met his now-fiancee for the first time when they argued over who would take the last boston creme.

then, one monday, no donuts. then, another donut-less monday comes and goes. and another. and another.

thing is, although we were all shocked and disappointed by the sudden death of donut day, we were even more flabbergasted by and confused about how to respond. i mean, we were in the bitching and complaining mood, but how exactly do you bitch and complain about somebody ending some free ass sh*t?

are you even allowed to be upset about that? what can you possibly say to admonish someone who all of a sudden decided to stop spending 120 bucks a month to provide your greedy ass with frosted mini-crullers? if a black blogger tells a long-winded pastry story with a weak punchline in the woods, would you leave a comment?

what to do when you’re out with your girl and this…

…walks past

i mean, you can’t stare, but you can’t not look either. in my opinion, the best tactic is to just make a snarky remark about her (“haha. wow babe. look who just robbed the ass store” usually works) so that now both you and your girl can look at her and snark at the same time.

anyway, people of vsb, i need your help. can anybody help me figure this sh*t out?

also, is there any sh*t that you very smart brothas and sistas out there just can’t figure out?

the carpet is yours

—the champ