So…Did President Obama Have To Sleep On The Couch?

obama-and-kamala

Using the strictest definition of the word, we do not “know” the President or the First Lady as much as we’d like to think we do. Actually, besides from a few biographical facts, we really don’t know shit about them.

Fortunately, we tend not to use the strictest definition of “know” when using information we can’t verify to help craft opinions on people we’ve never met. (It would just be too time-consuming.) So, with this looser, more palatable version of “know,” you can say that there are (at least) three things we all know about the relationship between Barack and Michelle Obama.

1. They appear to be very much in love. The best way to describe it would be that they seem to interact in a way that every newly married couple hopes they’ll still be interacting in 20 years.

2. During interviews, she frequently busts his balls, and he frequently goes out of his way to remind everyone she’s the backbone of the family. Basically, “Barack may run the country, but he has skidmarks in his drawls just like any other man.” 

Whether this is authentic or not, it’s a popular method certain couples use to help humanize a high status and/or powerful man. Some may think it’s empowering, others emasculating. (I know this practice is popular on many sitcoms and movies, which makes me wonder if this behavior is sitcom-influenced or if the sitcoms just reflected what already was happening in real life.)

3. Barack Obama is a very powerful man. All things considered, perhaps the most powerful Black man to walk the planet in the last, I don’t know, five or six centuries. He is also considered by many women to be a very physically attractive man. His romantic options are, for lack of a better term, limitless.

Since Michelle Obama is a very smart woman, she’s undoubtedly very aware of this.

So, with all these dynamics at play, when seeing the reaction to President Obama remarking last week that California Attorney General Kamala Harris was “the best looking attorney general in the country”, I couldn’t help but wonder how exactly this would go over in the Obama household.

Taking the Pres and the First Lady and any other politics-related concerns about women and sexual harassment and shit out of it, and just looking at it as “high status married man publicly compliments the looks of a very attractive subordinate…a subordinate who also happens to be single” you’re left with five likely reactions from the wife.

1. Amused, But Slightly Annoyed

(Perhaps this doesn’t put Barack on the couch for a night, but it may earn him a “Hmm, I’m sure Kamala’s can’t-keep-a-man-ass has a full carton of orange juice in her fridge. Why don’t you ask her for some?” next week if he complains that Michelle drank the last of the orange juice.)

2. Angry

(I doubt it. Barack doesn’t seem like much of a cad. And, when you’re not the type of guy to say things like this on a regular basis, you’re not likely to get a volcanic reaction when you do.)

3. Just Amused

(Considering what we’ve seen of them, this seems very possible. I can see Michelle teasing him for a minute about it, Barack trying not to laugh, and Malia and Sasha riding in on twin unicorns, jumping off, and giving everyone a big hug while they—and the unicorns—all hum the chorus to Love on Top.)

4. Apathetic

(Perhaps the most unromantic approach, as this is how we assume couples who view their relationships as business deals tend to react. Basically, “As long as my IRA is straight, I could give a damn. Go f*ck her for all I care. Shit, f*ck her with a Valerie Jarrett mask on. I gotta finish cashing all these Let’s Move checks.“)

5. Aroused

(Who knows, maybe they have the type of relationship where she gets turned on by stuff like this. I mean, she is from Chicago.)

You know, even more interesting than the assumed reactions is the automatic default assumption that when a man in a relationship acts in a way a man in a relationship isn’t “supposed to” act, couch banishment is an option. This holds true even if the man happens to be the most powerful man in the world.

Yet, it’s very rare to find examples of a woman being “punished” in a similar manner. You’re also not going to find the husband of a powerful woman saying shit like “Yeah, she’s great and all, but she leaves her period panties in the sink just like any other chick.” to the entire country on 60 Minutes. That men are the ones who have to be domesticated in some way in order for a relationship to work is a widely-accepted and socially palatable concept—as well as being one that kinda paints some people as hypocrites—so knowing what we know about the Obamas and how they interact, it’s possible that the leader of the free world was “urged” to sleep on the couch for one night, but unlikely.

But, again, we really don’t know shit about them, so who really knows?

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

Why Rob Parker Was 100% Right And 100% Wrong To Question RG3′s “Blackness”

When people say things like “I’m in love with…” it’s generally understood that, unless they’re specifically referring to a person they have/had/wish to have a romantic interaction with, it’s always hyperbole. You are not actually in love with chocolate cake, Brooklyn, H&M’s fall line, or Kendrick Lamar, but you like/adore/admire these things so much that “in love” is used as an exaggerated substitute for a legitimate feeling you’re unable or unwilling to fully describe.

That being said, since first learning five years ago that he was going to run for President, I’ve been “in love” with Barack Obama as much as a person could be “in love” with a politician. While I don’t believe he’s perfect and I’m also aware this “love” could be more about the idea of Obama than Obama himself, as the unexpectedly primal scream I let out when seeing that he won Ohio last month indicated, I am an unabashed fan.

Yet, as I watched him on TV yesterday, addressing the Newtown school shooting, I’m reminded this “love” wasn’t unconditional. In fact, one of the main details allowing me to get to this place of “love” had nothing to do with his status as a politician and everything to do with a decision he made twenty years before I first knew he existed.

He married a Black woman. 

Now, would I have supported Obama any less if I learned he was married to a White woman. I’m not sure, but I doubt it. I doubt it would have had that much of an effect on who he was as a person and politician to make me do a complete 180 on how I currently feel about him.

There are two things I am sure of, though.

1. I’m not the only Black person who “loves” and supports President Obama the way I do

2. I’m not the only Black person whose “love” and support for Obama was helped by the fact that he has an authentically Black wife

And yes, while technically there’s no such thing as “authentically” Black—being Black is all the authenticity you should need—it matters that his wife wasn’t just Black, but a dark brown-skinned big-bootied chick from Chicago whose last name was Robinson. We still would have supported and voted for him, but I’m certain we wouldn’t have “loved” him as much. (I even have doubts he would have received the same unconditional “love” and support from the Black community if his wife was light-skinned.)

None of this should matter. But it does. And, because it does, I have to call bullshit on the tidal wave of post-racial self-righteousness coming down on ESPN commentator Rob Parker for questioning the blackness of Washington Redskins star quarterback Robert Griffin III (RG3). Was Parker wrong for his comments? Yes. (More of that later.) Should he have been suspended? Definitely. But, was his opinion—and the line of thinking behind the opinion—any different than the thoughts many of us of had about prominent Black men? No!

What he said about RG3 is said in many of our heads about every Black male politician, actor, athlete, co-worker, supervisor, neighbor, friend, and family member we know. Shit, as much as you all “love” VSB, I have no doubt our support would dwindle if one of us married a White woman. Sure, it wouldn’t change who we were as people or writers, but for many of our readers, we’d be a tad less “authentic,” and I can’t chide Parker too much for using the same means to calibrate Blackness that many of us also use.

It’s ironic that Parker mentioned “talking to some people in D.C.”—a clear allusion to the type of “barbershop” convos Black people have with each other—before going in on RG3 because that’s exactly why he was still wrong for saying what he said. These discussions about authenticity and “levels of Blackness” are definitely had…but they’re not meant to be had in mixed company. You do not ever question another Black person’s Blackness if any non-Black people are within earshot. In fact, you don’t even have that conversation if certain type of Black people are around. It’s only for people you trust to be able to fully appreciate and handle its nuance. Shit, doing that repeatedly will get your Black card revoked quicker than dating any White woman would.

Interestingly enough, I don’t even think Parker’s statements are the result of RG3 having a White fiancee. If dating White women was the NFL’s barometer for Blackness, you could have this same conversation about 80% 30% of the league. It’s more due to the fact that RG3 doesn’t act the way a typical young Black athlete acts. It’s not about him speaking proper English or even him not being seen at KIng of Diamonds every other weekend, but just the fact that the way he carries himself is outside of the range of behavior we expect from people like him.

If he was Rob Griffin the IT guy, his Blackness wouldn’t be questioned because his behavior is within the range of behavior we expect from people like that. But, between his behavior, his background, and his hair—yes, the fact that he has plaits in 2012 definitely matters—he’s “different” because he’s not what we expect. And, for too many of us, a “different” Black guy = “a Black guy who’s not really Black” or even “gay Black guy.” The criticisms leveled at him—questions about his Blackness and his sexuality—are no different than the types of criticisms hurled towards Ricky Williams, Chris Bosh, Tim Duncan, Dennis Rodman and other high profile Black athletes who acted in a way outside of what we expected from them.

Ultimately, RG3 is a 20-something quarterback of an NFL team, not a politician whose personal life choices directly influence his policy decisions—policy decisions that can affect the lives of millions of people. Basically, so what if he isn’t authentically Black? He throws a f*cking football for a living. Who gives a damn who he dates?

Well, Rob Parker (obviously) does. And, as long as it’s true that our “love” and support for Black men is influenced by the color of whoever they decide to marry, we do too.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

Hova Speaks, Will Hip-Hop Follow (Again)?: Will Jay-Z’s Support of Gay Marriage Help Hip-Hop Become Less Homophobic?

Although it was a forgettable song (well, forgettable sans for Pharrell’s hook) on an even more forgettable album, the video for “Excuse Me Miss” remains underrated in regards to how much of an influence it had on pop culture.

There’s a scene in it that shows Jay-Z typing on a very cumbersome and very cool looking device that was far too big to be a Motorola two-way and far two small to be a laptop. This mysterious device was the first T-Mobile Sidekick, and it’s inherent coolness combined with the coolness of Jay-Z using one made it the “it” electronic device of the year. I bought one a week after seeing the video. (And, because of T-Mobile’s draconian termination fee and contracts, I hold the dubious distinction of being the only person on Earth to own a Sidekick in 2002 and in 2009)

If you remember, at that time cell phones were getting smaller and smaller — a point parodied in this hilarious SNL skit. The Sidekick was the first phone to start the shift back to big  — leading to today’s behemoths — and Jay-Z deserves (at least) partial credit for spearheading that trend.

I’m bringing this up because, regardless of how you feel about Jay-Z the artist/former drug dealer/freemason/”business, man” you can’t deny the fact that he’s wielded a major influence on Black culture in the last 15 years. If the Sidekick story isn’t proof enough for you, think about this: Remember how cats used to spend hundreds of dollars on throwback sports jerseys; rocking them to night clubs, weddings, proms, and funerals and sh*t? Jay-Z managed to pretty much dead that trend with half of a bar .

“I don’t rock jerseys, I’m 30 plus…”

 

Now, unless you’ve been hiding in James Harden’s beard over the past week, you’ve undoubtedly heard that Jay-Z came out in support of same-sex marriage. I’m not going to spend today breaking down the apparent hypocrisy and lack of sincerity of someone who has repeatedly used the word “faggot” in his work denouncing people who oppose gay marriage. Whether this is a political move to impress (and keep) his high society friends is not my concern.

What I am concerned about, though, is whether Hov has the type of pull to change the attitude of what is arguably the only billion-dollar entity in the world where it’s not just ok to be violently homophobic, it’s encouraged: Hip-Hop. (And yes, today, in 2012, Hip-Hop/Rap is more violently and vehemently homophobic than any other major “thing” you can possibly name. Nothing else beats us it right now.)

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Hova isn’t the first prominent Hip-Hop artist to start the homophobia is bad train. Both KRS-One and Chuck D have spoken out against it, and Drake’s entire career seems to be a pro-gay PSA. Eminem’s Grammy performance with Elton John still remains the awkwardest five minutes of TV I’ve ever seen.

Also, Jay’s protege has done more to spearhead this current era of skinny-jeaned Hip-Hop androgyny we live in than any other person, and the most popular female rapper ever has cultivated a persona that’s somehow asexual, bisexual, and hyperheterosexual all at the same time.

Basically, while I won’t go as far as to say that hip-hop was already becoming more gay friendly before Jay-Z’s statement, it does seem like it’s been progressively less antagonistic towards homosexuality. Will Jay-Z’s considerable voice and presence be enough to help hip-hop evolve past accepted homophobia? I don’t know. I do know that the fact that I’m somehow still tied into my T-Mobile contract means I wouldn’t bet against it happening.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

Why Is “Slut” Still A Bad Word?

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock or one of Eddy Curry’s areolas for the past week, you’ve undoubtedly heard about the controversy involving Rush Limbaugh and Georgetown University student Sandra Fluke.

(Abridged version: During an unofficial Congressional hearing about contraception last Thursday, Fluke argued that birth control should be covered by health insurance at religious institutions, testifying that students at Georgetown pay as much as $1,000 a year for contraception. Limbaugh spoke about this on his radio show the next day, and referred to Fluke as a “slut.” Predictably, the hundreds of thousands of different angles you can take on this news story has given everyone associated with media a never-ending hard on since it broke.)

Now, Limbaugh is an disgustingly wealthy man (seriously!!!) who’s amassed his fortune by being very good at being a syphilitic chickenhawk, so him saying nasty things about a young woman is about as “dog bites man”-ey as a story can get.

Yet, in the past couple days, as I read Limbaugh getting publicly pimp-slapped by President Obama and clicked on several different articles written by several very serious people accusing him of “slut shaming,” one question kept popping up in my head: Why is “slut” a bad word?

Now, this question is (obviously) rhetorical. I know exactly why slut is considered to be such a pejorative term. I also don’t mean in any way to suggest that Fluke shouldn’t have been offended, angered, hurt, and saddened by Limbaugh using a word like that to describe her.

Thing is, my question isn’t about Limbaugh or Fluke or the contraceptive controversy. (Please re-read that). It’s not even about the term itself as much as what it’s used to describe: a person (woman or man) who has (or had) many sexual partners.

If, as many progressive, open-minded and liberal people say they believe, having numerous sexual partners isn’t a thing that a person needs to be ashamed of, why is there still such a negative connotation attached to the words commonly used to describe people who fit that definition?

I know that words like slut and ho and skank are used to shame, but if the acts themselves aren’t shameful, how are those words still given that power, and why haven’t we thought of any replacements?

You can argue that the mere act of creating a word to describe a person’s sexual activity is judgmental in itself. That argument breaks down, though, when you realize that not only do we have words to describe all human activity, we have also have considerate (and occasionally condescending) euphemisms for any terms that may have any type of negative connotation. We all know that “seasoned” means “old” and “plus-sized” means “fat,” but we still regularly incorporate the code words because they just sound less derisive.

Promiscuity, though, has no such euphemism. There’s no generally accepted “kind” way of saying “slutty.” Perhaps someone reading this can, but I can’t think of a way a person can reference someone having a much larger than usual amount of sexual partners¹ and it not come across as potentially (and likely) incendiary. I’ve heard people ironically refer to themselves or their friends as “slut” or “ho,” but once you remove the irony and the tongue-in-cheekness, it always stings (or is meant to sting).²

I wonder if this is because, despite what we might publicly say, we — men, women, liberals, conservatives, feminists, womanists, and bigamists alike — all still kind of feel that there is something off with a person who sleeps around. I don’t know. I do know, though, that it looks like I have no answers to that rhetorical question.

Maybe one of you might. if promiscuity isn’t a bad thing, why do you think that every single term used to describe a promiscuous person has such an unquestionably negative connotation? Basically, if being a “slut” isn’t a bad thing, why is “slut” still such a bad word? And, since it’s still a shitty word, why haven’t we thought of a word or even just a euphemism to replace it?

¹”Much larger than usual amount of sexual partners” is definitely relative. 

²There’s an obvious parallel here between “slut/ho” and “nigger.” No further thoughts, just pointing that out

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)