The Slippery Slope Of Telling Rich People What They Should Do With Their Own Money

Dr Dre Iovine USC Gift.JPEG-0952f

I generally do not believe that you need to have experience doing something in order to offer an thorough critique of someone who is. You do not need to have experience as president in order to be critical of Obama’s policies, you do not need to be a working actor or director in order to write a comprehensive film review, and you do not need to have played a sport on its highest level in order to coach it there. There’s no hypocrisy or inauthenticity there. Sometimes it takes a person on the “sidelines” to better assess a situation because their potentially panoramic knowledge about a topic and their lack of personal engagement with it allows them to be both more insightful and more objective.

This belief does not extend to people telling other people—and by “other people” I mean “rich people”—what they should be doing with their money. Regardless of whether a person’s intent is noble—and regardless of whether I actually agree with them that a rich person could have spent their money in a “better” way—this type of criticism always rubs me the wrong way, especially if the rich person is actually doing a good thing. I was annoyed when Oprah received criticism for starting a school in South Africa instead of Chicago (although I saw their point), and I’ve grown just as annoyed with people insisting that Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine—but mainly Dr. Dre—should have found a more “worthy” place to gift $70 million (although I also see their point).

This annoyance stems from a simple place: the idea that wealthy people should be held to a higher moral/financial standard than the rest of us just because they’re wealthy. Lemme me put it this way. In the last couple of days I’ve heard and read several criticisms of Dr. Dre for giving his money to a school that’s already wealthy instead of one that actually needs the cash. And by “one that actually needs the cash” they mean “an HBCU.” (USC’s endowment is in the billions. I think Central State’s is $16.17) 

Yet, a few of these critiques have been made by people with a few letters after their names. I even read one penned by a president of a university. I do not know any of these people’s salaries, but knowing what I know about secondary education, it would not be a stretch to assume that they’re near or surpassing six figures.

I do not have a problem with this at all. People are going to make whatever the market demands, and the market demand for a medium to high level university employee is a comfortable income.

But, if you’re going to criticize a person for basically just doing a money-based good deed that wasn’t quite good enough for you, how are you able to justify receiving an income that far surpasses what you need in order to live? Shit, why not work for free? I’m sure you’ve made enough money where you can survive for a couple years with no income. Why haven’t you decided to devote all of your non-essential funds to whichever cause you’ve criticized some wealthy person for not contributing to?

This sounds silly, but once you start criticizing someone for decisions they make with their money, when does it stop? Why are you driving a Lexus when the 10 year old Honda you traded in as a down payment still worked fine? Why buy bottled water when you can drink it out of the tap? Why buy your girlfriend a birthday present? You know she has money, a condo, and a car already. Why give more to someone who already has?

You know, I actually agree that Dr. Dre could have spent his money a little better. I say this while typing on a Chromebook I just purchased, thoughts still kind of scattered after watching a riveting NBA playoff game on my 50 inch plasma screen TV. I did not need to purchase either of these things. When my old laptop broke, instead of buying a new one, I could have just got a library card. And, the 100 pound TV with the 17 inch screen sitting in one of my closets would have allowed me to watch the game just fine.

I’m not saying any of this to make people feel bad about how they spend their money. I just want people to think about how they’re spending their own money before calling someone out for how they’re spending theirs.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

A Different World?

It’s no secret that I attended an HBCU. I went to the one that everybody either loves or hates but everybody wants to be like. (Girl) You know it’s true, ooh ooh ooh, I love you.

And do you know why I love you?

It’s because we’re marriage material.  Straight up, like that. Ask ya mama.

Anybody who went to an HBCU will tell you that its like living in a bubble. It’s pretty much a false representation of what the real world looks like. In fact, the real world looks nearly exactly opposite of an HBCU – a place where all the ninjas read and aren’t afraid of information. We all hope that when we leave we’ll enter a world where life was exactly like college but it never is…

…which is why so many Black women who graduate stay single for so long. The second we graduate, there is a significant power shift from the women dominated-choice-is-yours to the male-centric-its a thousand yous and only one of mes dynamic. But that’s not what this post is about. See, I had a revelation recently. A realization, if you will. Plymouth Rock landed on me something fierce and it took three Muslims and two Pac’s to show me the way. You see, I discovered that life at PWI (predominantly white institutions) wasn’t like life at HBCUs.

I knew that, but I didn’t really know that. Nahmean?

See, I assumed that all Black folks shared the same college experience, but that’s not true. Who knew? And what am I talking about? Glad you asked. Here are some assumptions I made about all ninjas in college.

1) Everybody’s college goal wasn’t to live life like A Different World

Nearly all of us that went to HBCUs went and had some expectation of it being something like A Different World. Hell, my experience was a lot like that. Do you know that I recently met somebody who who couldn’t remember Whitley OR Dwayne Wayne’s name? She told me that she’d seen the show but never really got into it. Floored me like four shots of Patron and a Rihanna rendition of “Lift Every Voice And Sing”. I just assumed that all Black folks wanted that life. Apparently I was wrong. And if two wrongs don’t make a right, and three rights make a left, upside down and inside out is the same things as back back, forth and forth, then I’ll be a monkey’s uncle. Bubbles.

Sidenote: What the f*ck is up with Kanye’s videos for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy?  Who would have thought his 34 minute mini-movie would be the best video to come out of the whole thing? The absolute best thing about the “All Of The Lights” video is Rihanna’s boobs. Man, they look lovely. I would propose to them, and even if they told me no, I’d say thanks for the opportunity. Other than that, the video, though colorful seems like it needs to come with a warning because of the epileptic seizures it’s sure to cause. Oh, and Kanye needs a fashion intervention. Thank you.

2) That everybody sat around watching movies like Love Jones, The Best Man, Friday, Thin Line etc…

We pretty much only watched Black movies on repeat. In case you aren’t aware, Champ really liked Love Jones and just saw it for the first time. Which he’s made sure to let us know a few times. He also hasn’t seen a plethora of other movies that were just standard fare at my HBCU and I’m sure were at others. If a Black movie came out, we all went…together. Like we shut sh*t down in the A. The Wood? Check. Love & Basketball? Check. Stomp The Yard? Check. We might think they suck, but we’re gonna go see them and watch the over and over. I thought all ninjas did that.  I mean, we all Black.  Ise ‘ron.

3) College was littered with poets and “Sanctuary” style events

I can’t tell you how many sh*tty poets were running rampant at my and other HBCUs. It’s like an HBCU rite of passage: thou shalt attempt to be a poet. Everybody is required to write at least one poem in order to graduate. Every Tuesday, we had some kind of poetry event, not to mention our Underground Live events. Random celebs would just come chill. It’s where I learned to add “fallacy of reality” and “virgin to the mic” into my lexicon and realized that I needed to talk about my soul a lot. That’s what ninjas at HBCUs do, we talk about our soul.

4) Experiment with religions that contradict your upbringing

If you went to a school upnorf, chances are you there were a few 5 Percenters on your campus. I went to an HBCU, there was like a 5 Percenter smoker, BBQ, and bake sale. We had so many random “religious” organizations and pseudo-spiritual ninjas running around. And these would be the dudes shouting down the white man….except for their white mothers. Let’s just say, there was a noticeable population of “spiritual” ninjas who nobody took serious. I’m not sure if this happens at PWIs but I figured, ya know, there were ninjas named Golden Sun on EVERYBODY’s campus.

5) Spend seven years in undergrad

Um…#hbcushotsfired?

Anyway, my people, my people, are there any assumptions you had about the opposite situation (HBCU vs PWI) that you may have found out just wasn’t the case?

When did you fall in love with hiphop realize that Black folks weren’t monolithic?

Talk to me.

-VSB P aka HBC P aka THE ARSONIST aka lower.case.p aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3

5 Thoughts About “The Mean Girls of Morehouse”

1. Last week, one of my homegirls sent me a text suggesting I write something up about HBCU homecoming weekends. According to her, they’re an endless reservoir of hilarity and revelry, a place where “…educated negroes go to get it poppin, eat fish sandwiches, party on the Greek plots, and get pregnant“. When I reminded her I didn’t attend an HBCU and I’ve never actually been to any college homecoming event (This may be a regional thing. I could be wrong, but the whole homecoming thing seems to be a bigger deal with southern colleges and universities in general), she basically stated this is exactly why I should try to attend one and write about it. Although I’m not a complete outsider, my lack of exposure to and experience with HBCU homecoming culture would allow me to see things with fresh eyes without worrying about any contextual baggage clouding my vision.

Anyway, while I probably won’t be doing any HBCU homecoming write-ups any time soon, this same “somewhat, but not really educated” outsider perspective applied when crafting my thoughts about “The Mean Girls of Morehouse”, Aliya S. King’s Vibe magazine piece about “The Plastics”—a group of cross-dressing gay men at Morehouse College. (The title itself is an allusion to Mean Girls, a movie where an elusive clique of girls—The Plastics—socially dominated a high school)

2. Of the myriad feelings this article induced (wonder, shock, hunger, etc), one was much more prominent than the rest: Pity.

I’m far from an expert in human sexuality, but something has to be seriously off with man so uncomfortable with his own skin that he takes female hormones to feel more normal. And while this may be an excessively “heteronormative” way of seeing things, I can’t help but feel bad for men whose sexual and social heteromorphicness will be the butt of jokes, the target of ridicule, and the object of abject disrespect for the rest of their time on Earth.

3. I don’t know if this was intentional, but the numerous references in King’s piece to the food each of the Plastics happened to be eating when she interviewed them (“Nibbling on sushi…“, “…nibble on biscuits…“, “Sipping martinis and eating chicken wings…“) did the impossible task of making them seem even more effeminate than they already were. Actually, I’m certain this was intentional, and I wonder why King felt the need to go there.

I also wonder if there’s any possible way that food eating could be conveyed in a “masculine” manner. It just seems like whenever a man is described eating food, it effeminizes him, and I have no idea why it is. Maybe “Between violent bites of an aged porterhouse and shots of Patron off of the grits and silicone enhanced booty of Cubana Lust“, would work, but that’s about it.

4. “The article, which I haven’t actually taken the time to sit down and read yet, is probably fucked up. We will continue to stand by our values, which apparently include writing scathing letters in response to things that haven’t actually happened yet”—A cliffnotes summary of Morehouse College president Robert M. Franklin’s  letter to Morehouse alums (dated 10/9/10), addressing the “Mean Girls” article (which posted 10/11/10).

Never mind the troubling fact that the president of one of the most storied and prestigious universities in the country publicly and brazenly admitted to not actually reading an article before firing off a reflexive missive to it, I just wonder if President Franklin approaches other areas of his life with the same mindset. Would he file for divorce from his wife today because he heard she’s going to cheat on him in 2016? Does he own a bunch of “Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2021 Super Bowl Champs” t-shirts and commemorative coffee cups? Has he ever fired a secretary for forgetting to remind him about his own funeral? If there’s anyone reading this with intimate knowledge of Franklin’s day-to-day doings, please let me know.

5. Although I do sympathize with how I imagine a person must feel when told their way (of dress, of behavior, of speaking) is wrong and worthy of reprimand (especially if the “way” isn’t harming anyone), I just can’t side with people who feel the Morehouse community should be much more understanding and accepting of the Plastic’s plight. I actually think it’s rather audacious for a person (or group of people) to suggest an institution with a centuries old way of doing things make concessions for a few exhibiting intentionally abnormal and bizarre behavior¹. And yes, while being gay isn’t abnormal or bizarre by any stretch of the imagination, going so far to appear as a woman that you rock pumps and pop female hormone pills definitely is. A private all-male institution asking men to not act and dress like women isn’t a fight for equal rights, a damning example of the constrictive nature of patriarchy, or an indictment of the black community’s latent homophobia. It’s just a private all-male institution asking men to not act and dress like women.

As Brian “Bri” Alston states in the article “They (Morehouse) don’t know what to do with us.” After reading about the Plastics, I wouldn’t know what the hell to do either.

¹I’m aware of the argument that Morehouse officials don’t enforce the parts of the dress code dealing with saggy pants and hats in class with the same energy as the parts dealing with nontraditional male dress. But, while I understand why people feel this is a double standard, from a logistics stand point it’s much, much easier to notice a 6’4” man with pumps and skinny jeans than a guy whose pants happen to be a couple inches off of his waist. This is less apples and oranges than apples and hand grenades.

—The Champ

heavy class load: a look at lincoln university’s weighty graduation requirements

“We know that obesity and its co-morbidities are going to rob individuals of quality and quantity of life. What good is it to go through college, get your bachelor’s degree at Lincoln University, go get your graduate degree, work for five, six, seven years, and all of a sudden, you experience a catastrophic health issue associated with obesity? That would be a tragedy. We believe that it’s our professional educators’ responsibility to alert students to this.”

—dr. james deboy (chair, department of health, physical education and recreation, lincoln university), explaining the rationale behind lincoln’s stance that students with body mass indexes exceeding 30 will not be able to graduate unless they take a one-credit gym class

you know, even though i disagree with the approach (using BMI as a concrete indicator of health is about as reliable as delonte west), the implementation (how much will one walking class really help someone in dire need of dietary assistance?), the hypocrisy (from what i’ve read, the only green thing you’ll find in a lincoln university cafeteria is lemon-lime kool-aid) the jar of stigma and discrimination worms this opens up, and the fact that a select group of students are being required to do something that would actually benefit the entire population, i actually don’t think that lincoln university’s idea is a bad one. Continue reading

You Know I Got That White Girl: The Hampton Edition.

hampton.university.homecomingSo Hampton University’s 2009-10 Homecoming Queen is a white chick named Nikole Churchill.  One time for the white chick with the black-spelled first name.

You don’t have to be an expert in African-American studies to know that this probably didn’t sit too well with a lot of ninjas, both at Hampton and nationwide.  Most folks probably don’t know or don’t care but it hit a nerve with some folks.   For some reason, on the list of improbable things, this just doesn’t seem so…out there, to me.

The fact that a white chick, even if she is from Hawaii, ended up at Hampton (and the Virginia Beach campus to boot) of all places is what surprises me.  Not that she can’t go there, she’s more than entitled, I’m just surprised a school like Hampton showed up on her list of schools to send her SAT scores to.  When I was at Morehouse, many many moons ago, we had a white cat from Indianapolis there and it baffled me then because this dude was a real “white” white dude.  His name was Barry and he wore tennis shoes made of tennis balls.  He was kind of nerdy and totally not the kind of cat you’d expect to see at an HBCU, but he was there.  Then of course, we had our most famous white alumni, the white valedictorian, Joshua Packwood (as white a name as you’re gonna get, kind of like Jimmy Chitwood from Hoosiers).

Well back to the lecture at hand – a white chick is the homecoming queen at one our prized HBCUs.  My question is, who are people really mad at here?  And what does it really mean, if anything?  I never went to Hampton but I assume that its a vote-in process.  Somehow, someway, this chick (assuming its a vote in) won more votes than the other 9 chicks.  She’s not exactly the most beautiful white chick I’ve ever seen so her personality must have done wonders for folks.  I know at my school, hardly anybody voted.  For the most part, we didn’t care.  Maybe that came into play here too, me no know.  Either way, it ain’t like she gave the award to herself.  This is the same argument folks are making about Obama and his Nobel Prize.  He didn’t give it to himself via the Democratic party.  The freakin’ committee decided it was for him to win.  Whatever their reasons, they made their decision.

Sadatay.

To me this seems like one of those non-starter stories that somehow will end up with way more press than is possibly necessary.  I felt the same way about the Skip Gates f*ckfest from a few months back.  It seemed like people were trying to find the huge story there when it was really a pissed off old Black man arguing with a pissed off police officer white man and it devolved into handcuffs.  Now, this situation isn’t exactly going to make Time.com or anything, but I’ve heard enough opinions about this today to at least make me think folks feel some kind of way about it.

I really don’t though.  While I recognize the oddity of a white girl at a school of 5,000, running against 9 Black women, winning the role of homecoming queen at what amounts to one of the Black Ivy’s, I have to wonder how it even came to that point.  Were the other chicks SO un-liked that they couldn’t win?  All that Black beauty and they still couldn’t pull it off?  AND…there’s more women there than men.  Perhaps it was divide and conquer.  All those chicks hated each other and each other’s friends hated each other so they all voted for the white girl out of spite and it backfired like a mug.

As Black people, we tend to be really protective of our HBCUs (for the most part).  They’re “ours” so it feels odd when other folks come in and basically become larger than the very Black folks who gain the most out of being there (I actually think that white folks stand to gain more from going to an HBCU than Black folks do).  But ultimately, this chick showed up and completed the process to compete like other students, and as a student, she was well within her rights to do so.  It ain’t her fault she won.  Hell, she was probably surprised too.

Like I said, non-starter to me, but good people of VSB, what are your thoughts, if any?  Does it make HBCU’s look bad?  Does anybody care?  Does it have bigger implications than I’m giving it credit for?

Is this really a big deal, at all?

-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka TANGLE JIG P aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL, HE A 3

**Now, I do think she’s full of sh*t with her letter to Obama and asking him to come and assuage racial tension.  So basically, she wins and the Black folks are ready to revolt?  Yeah, no.  Probably weren’t happy, but not on mass march levels.  She definitely over stepped there and Hampton issued a press release from her today kind of clearing that up.***