On Busting Your Safe And Inoffensive Thought Bubble

thought-bubble

Unsurprisingly, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen has received quite a bit of heat this week for his remarks about interracial marriage and the gag reflex. Some of these responses were, well, great. Some were decidedly less great. But everyone—myself included—said some variant of the exact same thing. (Summarized take: “What the fuck are you talking about?“)

Actually, let me rephrase that. I have no way of knowing that every news site, magazine, and blog that talked about Cohen’s piece said the exact same thing. Just the ones I happen to visit daily. This includes places like Gawker, EBONY, Jezebel, The Atlantic, The Root, Salon, Slate, Clutch, The Grio, and The Daily Beast.

And this is a problem.

If you were to sit down and make a list of the staff bios at each of the places just named, you’d likely find a very diverse collective. Men, women, gay, straight, Black, White, Latino, whatever. A photo of all of us together would look like a reunion shoot for the last 20 years of Benetton ads. ¹

I’m very aware of this, and I like to pat myself on the back for reading opinion pieces and comments at so many different places from so many different types of people.

But this diversity isn’t necessarily meaningful. It’s more theoretical than actual. All of these voices and opinions and takes are coming from the same Northern/Urban/Progressive bubble. It’s an expansive bubble. But, a bubble nonetheless. If a giant flood struck tomorrow and swept Chicago, New York City, and Washington, D.C. off the map, 95% of the digital magazines I visit would no longer exist.

And, when you’re getting most of your voices and opinions and takes from the same bubble, you end up with a situation like yesterday, where, again, every single blog, magazine, and news site I visited had the same take on the Cohen story.

It probably seems odd that I’d complain about this since I had that same take, but that’s kinda my point. I don’t think it’s a good thing that the places I frequent the most are all agreeable to my feelings and sensibilities.²

And it’s a problem because my situation isn’t unique. There are dozens upon dozens of surveys and polls that’ll tell you we’re becoming more and more isolated with where we choose to get our information from. And while we like to think that we’re too smart to allow this to affect us the same way it affects others (and by “others” I mean both “conservatives” and “people we don’t deem to be as educated“), we are not that smart. No one is.

This lack of thought diversity—which comes as we do what we can to shield out any potentially offensive or upsetting thoughts and opinions—can leave your own thoughts and opinions unchallenged. And few things are more dangerous than barricading yourself in a sea of likemindedness and sycophant. Me having an internet bubble is no different—well, no better—than Joe The Plumber having his Fox News/Drudge Report/Tea Party Facebook meme bubble. We’re both stuck in separate mall food courts. The only difference is that mine has a sushi bar. (And a clean bathroom.)

¹Full disclosure: I’m sure many of you are aware of this, but for those who aren’t, I’m a contributing editor at EBONY.com, so I’m talking about myself here, and I would be in this hypothetical photo. And I would be wearing an I Love Bougie Black Girls t-shirt. 

²Admittedly, the Cohen story may not be the best example of this problem. Not sure if a well thought out and thoughtful counter to the prevailing take is possible here. (Yes, I realize this is the most ironic footnote ever. Thanks for asking, though.)

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

Liberals Are Smart, Conservatives Are Stupid, And…Well, It’s Not That Simple

Liberal!

There are several interesting findings in “Republicans Like Golf, Democrats Prefer Cartoons, TV Research Suggests” — a recent blog in the New York Times that studied “(TV) programs by how they performed with registered voters of either party (as well as independents) compared to a base of all registered voters” and basically proved that we’re just as polarized with pop culture as we are with politics.

For instance:

1. Democrats skewed heavily towards the NBC sitcoms (“30 Rock,” “Parks and Recreation,” etc) and “adult” cartoons — basically, the types of satirical/metafictional comedies that require the viewer to “work” a little more. You could also say that multi-layered dramatic series such as “Mad Men” and “The Wire” — both of which are also favored by Democrats — do the same thing.

2. Republicans, on the other hand, overwhelmingly preferred competitive reality shows such as “The Biggest Loser,” “Survivor,” “American Idol,” and “The Amazing Race” — programs that provide a cathartic release (you invest in a character, and someone wins at the in) but don’t require as much effort from the viewers.

3. There were no surprises when it came to how we view sports, as the Republicans (predictably) skewed heavily towards college sports (football and basketball), golf, and NASCAR, while liberal sports fans seem to be smitten with the NBA, which “… accounted for no fewer than five of the top 20 cable shows on the Democratic list.”

(There was no mention of the NFL, which leads me to believe it’s one of the only things that liberals and conservatives adore equally. Well, that and Beyonce.)

At first glance, some of these findings seem like they could be attributed to geographical differences more than anything else. Take the NBA, for instance. Basketball is a city game with deep roots in highly populated urban areas. Since liberals tend to migrate to and populate cities with large populations, it makes sense that they’d (generally) enjoy NBA basketball more than Republicans, who tend to be more rural. (You can also make the racial argument here — basically, out of all the major sports/professional sports leagues, the NBA is the one where Black players are the most prominent and wield the most power, so it makes sense that conservatives wouldn’t be big fans — but I’ll save that for my upcoming NBA preview.)

Also, most of the satirical/metafictional comedies have protagonists who are obviously liberal — with shows that either take place in large cities or deal with the protagonist being a fish out of water — and it’s easy to see how liberals/people living in large cities would relate to them.

Yet, even after controlling for geography, it’s hard to ignore that in this study, the “liberal-loved” shows tend to be much “smarter” than the programs conservatives enjoy, a fact that reinforces the stereotype that (generally speaking) liberals are typically smarter than conservatives.

Now, before I continue, I have to admit that I’m not particularly objective. While I wouldn’t call myself a liberal — on the Santorum (0) to Steinem (100) scale, I probably rate around 65 — I do believe that liberals are (generally) smarter people than conservatives. Better people? Maybe not. But, definitely smarter.

With that being said, I don’t think the breakdown in preferred viewership is due to intelligence as much as its due to the fact that liberals seem to “value” intelligence more than conservatives. And, in this sense, “value” means “are more likely to do things that “prove” how smart they are.”

Along with gravitating towards shows that you have actually watch to follow and have to be “smart” to truly get, this also includes frequent incorporation of snark and sarcasm in your daily lexicon — devices that imply you’re smarter than the person it’s directed towards — and being more attracted to the types of occupations (law, academia, publishing, etc) where you get daily opportunities to show off your brain. Perhaps the emphasis placed on “smartness” — it’s really a liberal’s most valuable currency — causes many to overcompensate; self-consciously choosing to partake in “smarter” activities to make themselves seem smarter.

You know, the best way to describe my feelings about how liberals and conservatives view intelligence differently would be that if given the choice between being the most successful (success in this sense = financial success) person in the room or the smartest person in the room, while it seems like most conservatives would choose the former, I’m just as certain that the majority of liberals would probably choose the latter. Yet, as smart as we (and yes, I’m including myself) claim to be, when you think about it, that seems like a very stupid decision.

  —Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

***If you haven’t already, check out “A Tale of Two Tapes” — my latest at Ebony.com.***

***Make sure you tune in to The Blaq Out Show tonight on BLIS! Panama Jackson and the crew are talking about finances from 8-10pm. Tune into www.blis.fm/theblaqoutshow or http://blisonline.streamon.fm and let the good times roll!***

are you an interracial relationship racist?

slavechildren2

“I have piles and piles of black friends. They come to my home, I marry them, they use my bathroom.”

louisiana judge keith bardwell, defending himself after refusing to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple last week. obviously he’s lying, because no self-respecting black person would use his toliet after he publicly admitted to having piles

between krazy keith’s kracker kourtroom, the bill de blasio (a white politican who featured his black wife and biracial children in his campaign ads) article, and the noise over okcupid’s “here’s more proof that no one wants to date black women” blog, the past couple of weeks has seen a boon in the interracial romantic relationship discussion america likes to have every year before halloween.

despite usually good intentions, these conversations tend to hit a wall because most people, scared of being branded a racist, are loathe to publicly admit how much of a factor race plays in their feelings about dating and relationships.

of course, by “most” i mean “liberal white”, because everyone else has accepted the fact that a little relationship racism isn’t neccesarily a bad thing. like condiments and p*rn, relationship racism is best used with light sprinkles.

still, in regards to interracial relationships, some of us has a tendency take it a bit too far. take the vsb.com interracial relationship racism test today to see exactly where you stand

1. you’re single, and a physically attractive and nice “other race” co-worker has expressed interest in you. do you?

a) cautiously flirt (+5)

b) ask them why they’re so interested in you. before they respond, remind them of their people’s history of questionable sexual practices. when they’re done, report them to hr, and pee in their coffee (-15)

2. you’re on your first “interracial” date. during dinner, do you discuss?

a) why you two can never, ever, ever procreate (-8)

b) minor superfical racial differences (ie “whats with ya’ll and all that damn rye bread?”) (-2)

c) jello (+3)

3. angelina jolie should be…

a) sainted for adopting all of those kids (+4)

b) in better movies and/or my bed (+1)

c) shot for letting sahara out in public with a birds nest on her head (-3)

4. i tend to date those who…

a) kind of favor my ***insert opposite sex parent*** (+1)

b) are most mentally and spiritually compatible with me (+7)

c) have also been accused of hate crimes. no convictions though (-6)

5. you find out that your (male) boss is in an interracial marriage. your opinion of him

a) doesn’t change (+9)

b) changes favorably (-5)

c) changes, but the change depends on whether they’re a black or white man (-10)

6. people who exclusively date interracially

a) should be free do to whatever they want (-3)

b) are the target audience of my blog (-6)

c) might have some self-hate issues, but who am i to judge? (+2)

7. which three word phrase best describes your feelings about interracial relationships?

a) love is blind (+1)

b) black (or white/red/yellow) is beautiful (+2)

c) shank that bitch (-11)

if you scored…

(21+) you officially have no interracial relationship racist bones in your body. kumbayla and sh*t, you color-blind bastard

(12-20) if interracial relationship racism were “breasts” you’d be sanaa lathan. not alot there, but enough to notice

(6-11) you’re officially a pretending-ass, pandering piece of sh*tty ambivalence. good job, trader joe

(5 or below) why are you even here? shouldnt you be out writing a book or protesting the color orange or some sh*t?

people of vsb.com, where’d you score?

are you an interracial relationship racist, and do you think that a bit of relationship racism has a place in the dating game?

—the champ

better than the alternative

i usually listen to one of my mix cds or my ipod during my 15 minute drive home from work. earlier in the week though, i’d grown tired of listening to “amazing” and “somewhere i belong” on repeat for the 82th time, so i decided to do the unfathomable…listen to the early evening (i occasionally listen to steve harvey in the mornings) urban radio station (WAMO) for the first time in approximately five months.

now, since i don’t listen to the radio or watch videos (i download all of my new music from blackgirl online and other adult message boards. no, seriously, lol. i’m soooo not playing), i wasn’t expecting to be able to immediately recognize most of the songs. what jarred and saddened me was the fact that not only had i never heard any of these songs before…i never even heard of the artists. not. one.

***and i couldnt understand sh*t any of them were saying. i felt like a white person trying to watch “the wire” for the first time***

that 17 minute listen made me feel as if i had aged 17 years overnight, lol, and was one of the many constant and blatantly perceptible signs that im getting old(er).

so, as a service from the verysmartbrothas (and ms. lizzard burr), the champ has decided to give you…

…four unmistakable signs that you’re getting old(er)

1. doing absolutely nothing…and loving it

when you’re young, if you happen to spend a weekend night in the crib, you usually spend the whole time wondering and fantasizing to death about all of the marvelous and slutty things other people your age are doing at the time. by the time i turned 26, i’d mutter “i should have stayed my ass at home” at least once during at least 75 percent of my outings.

now, i make up excuses not to go out.

naw man, i’m good. sportcenter highlights are always better when rece davis is the anchor, and he’s scheduled to appear on tonights show. i can’t miss that sh*t”

2. waking up with random pains

a few saturdays ago as i lazily crawled out of bed, intent on possibly setting the guiness world record for the least-productive 12 hour stretch, my first step on my carpet forced me to let out one of the most bitch-ass chill-emitting screeches that a grown-ass man could muster. no, i didnt step on a dead hooker piece of glass or a nail or anything…it was just my big toe, in about as much excruciating pain as a big toe could muster. what made it even worse (read: “more funny”) was the fact that i had absolutely no idea why my big toe was hurting. none. as far as i could remember it wasnt hurting when i went to bed. plus, i hadn’t done any ass kicking recently, so i definitely hadn’t injured my toe on someones deserving hindparts.

the pain eventually went away (and by “eventually” i mean “three days later“) as mysteriously as it came, like a 2 inch long, dark brown skinned gypsy. thing is, as saddening as it is to wake up with unexplained toe pain, it still pales in comparison to…

3….injuring yourself during sex

i know that intense sex may produce a little bit of pain, soreness, and tenderness, but lets just say that father time is f*cking with you when you say to your lover “you know, i think i might need to get an MRI tomorrow. i think i tore my ACL again” after a particularly heated romp in the sack.

4. liberal, schmeberal

vsb.com aint gonna turn into lashawn barber’s corner anytime soon, but i will admit that i’ve gotten more and more conservative socially as i’ve gotten older. at this point, it actually makes me physically recoil when thinking about my years of misguided militantism and lazily lethargic liberalism.  lets put it this way: the 19 year old champ, after hearing about her politics, would have given amy holmes the riot act and the heave-ho from his sack while the 29 year old champ would give it to her while she had a karl rove halloween mask taped on her back

thats it for now. slightly good people of vsb, what else would you add?

—the champ