Why Black Bloggers, Writers, Fans, And Followers Need To Have Each Other’s Backs

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Like all other relationships between creatives and consumers, the relationship between bloggers/writers and fans/followers is symbiotic. What differentiates our dynamic from most other creative/consumer relationships is that there isn’t much separation between us, and our connection is a bit more intrinsic and fraternal. Aside from a random retweet or an Instagram follow, you’ll probably never interact with the man who designed your shoes or the women who directed the last movie you watched. But, you might have conversations with your favorite blogger three times a week. Maybe even everyday. And maybe you remember when the person who’s your favorite blogger today was just another outspoken and witty regular at what was your favorite blog a couple years ago.

This relationship is built on trust. We trust you won’t use the information we reveal about ourselves to harm us. (And we trust that you, you know, actually read.) In turn, you trust that we stay consistent, honest, and appreciative of your attention and support. The uniqueness of this relationship makes us — the Black blogosphere — a real, live community.

Adding to that uniqueness is the fact that most of us — for reasons practical and understandable — are hidden behind some sort of pseudonym or avatar. And, even those of us who actually use our real names and pictures usually won’t volunteer personal details that could reflect badly on us and people close to us.

So, when someone steps out there and offers intimate details about themselves with their real names and real faces and real locations, we need to have their back. And I’m not just talking to fans and followers. I’m talking to bloggers, writers, popular Twitter/Tumblr personalities. Everyone.

This means when we see that an article penned by or about one of us is shared on our Facebook pages or Twitter feeds, and people are getting nasty and personal with the comments and insults — as what happened last week with Jamilah Lemieux’s Huffington Post profile — we jump in there and defend them.

This means when a person is harassing and stalking several members of the community — yes, Adonis Ash, I’m talking to you — we don’t stand idly by and say “Damn. That’s f*cked up.” and we do actually do something about it.

This doesn’t mean being a part of this community makes you impervious to criticism. Or even that we always need to jump in there whenever we see it happening. I can’t express how much I’ve grown as a writer (and a person) from the feedback I’ve received from my work, and anyone genuinely attempting to perfect their craft will say the same thing. Plus, echo chambers are no fun. And neither are people who can’t take any criticism and don’t allow for their skin to eventually thicken.

The problem is when the criticism goes from constructive to intentionally destructive. And while I guess you can say there’s a fine line between the two, there really isn’t. You know when shit goes too far, and it’s disingenuous to pretend you don’t. And, when it’s taking place somewhere your voice could actually matter — a Facebook comment section or an email thread opposed to a YouTube or Yahoo descent into Hell — it’s irresponsible not to do anything about it.

And yes. This all goes for me as well. There have been multiple times when I’ve neglected to use my voice and status to speak up when well aware that the criticism certain people received crossed the line.

I need to do much, much better, and this is me calling myself out, too.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

10 Black Men I Just Can’t Trust

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Peter Gunz and Rowan Pope are perhaps the two most hated men on TV right now. At first glance, they don’t seem to have much in common. (Well, much in common besides a preternatural ability to ruin their daughter’s lives.) But, a close glance reveals a trait linking them both. Actually, you don’t even need to make a close glance. Just look at them and you’ll see.

Two grown ass Black men. And not a facial hair between them.

Look, I get that some Black men just can’t grow any real hair on their faces. I don’t think there’s a name for that affliction, but if there was it would probably be paulpierceidits. I also get that some—presidents, news anchors, strippers, etc—have to cut it off for professional reasons. But, for Black men who fall outside of those categories, “an intentional lack of facial hair” usually equals “this n*gga takes showers with no curtain.”

Anywho, a Black man with an intentional lack of facial hair is definitely a Black man I just can’t trust. Here’s a few more.

The Black Man with two first names

I’m not saying that every Black man I’ve ever met who goes by two first names—i.e. K. James Jenkins, John Michael Johnson, K. Bill William Williams, etc—is a self-important prick I wouldn’t trust with a bag of counterfeit bitcoins, but every Black man I’ve ever met who goes by two first names—i.e. P. James Jenkins, John Michael Johnson, F. Bill William Williams, etc—is a self-important prick I wouldn’t trust with a bag of counterfeit bitcoins.

The Black Man who dresses like a White man

Unbunch your panties. “Dresses like a White man” doesn’t mean “looks nice” or “wears suits that actually fit” or “knows his kids” or anything like that. No, “dresses like a White man” means “it’s 15 degrees outside, and this n*gga is at the store with a f*cking Levi jeans short set and some chancletas.

The grown Black Man with the dress shoes that point up

Let’s just say that if you try to shake my hand with your Catholic school confirmation ceremony-ass dress shoes looking like this…

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…I will spit in your eye. And then I will run. Because you probably have a couple felonies. And you won’t catch me. Because if you try to run, you’ll stab yourself in your shins.

The Black Man who gets mad at other Black men for not effing with another Black man

I get it. You don’t think peeing on 12 year olds is that big of a deal. Fine. I’ll still invite you to the BBQ. You’ll have to eat with a plastic spork, and your food will be on a paper towel instead of a paper plate, but you’re still invited.

You know how to get yourself uninvited? Have the audacity to be mad at me for my decision not to eff with guys who pee on pubescents.

And, speaking of that…

The Black Man who uses the White man as his basis for morality

If the words “well, White people still supported ***insert celebrity’s name*** after he did ***insert some random effed up sh*t***, so why can’t Black people still support… ” ever oozed their way out of your mouth, kill yourself. Tell me where you’re going to be buried first, though, so I can dig up your grave three months later and pour orange Kool-Aid on your corpse.

The Black Man who’s the only other Black man at a work event but refuses to talk to you

64% of the time, this is the exact same Black guy with the jean shorts in the frigid weather.

The Black Man who, instead of just admitting that he’s cheap as hell and was raised by a flock of pigeons, gives you a thousand word long constitution about the economy as the reason why he doesn’t tip

Also commonly known as the “prisonsmart” Black Man

The Black Man with the perpetual bluetooth in his ear

I haven’t done any type of study or survey with this population, but I’d bet 60% of them look like they smell like honey Jack and ginger ale. And 60% of that 60% are named “Tommy.”

The Black Man who promises to make a list of 10, but since he could only think of nine, writes about himself for the 10th

That’s it for me, people of VSB. Did I miss anyone? Are there any other Black men (or Black women) no one should ever, ever, ever trust? The floor is yours.

(Oh, and those with Tumblrs, make your way over to the reason why they never should have given you n*ggas money.)

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

No Social Media, No Thank You.

Believe it or not, I still know people who utilize no forms of social media. Now this “people” is a relatively small group of individuals, but they exist. Now because I’ve known those folks for years and years, I trust them.

But let’s say I’m out in these streets – because I’m usually out in these streets doing things that people out in these streets do – and I meet an individual lacking either a Facebook page, a Linkedin profile, Twitter or Instagram, and well, I’m throwing more shade than Oprah in 1995. Hmm…y’all know how people differentiate between Fat Luther and Skinny Luther as to which version made better music, has anybody ever done such a thing with regards to Oprah? I’m guessing no. But that would be a worthy project for a communications major.

Real talk. No R. Kelly.

Back to the lecture at hand. I’m not sure I’d fully trust anybody who attempted to leave no digital footprint short of their email accounts. It just makes me nervous, like you have something to hide. Now, the irony of this is how often people lie on the Internet. So while I don’t trust anybody who has no footprint, I also cannot trust what I see from the majority of folks who do.

Cognitive dissonance, thy name is Panama Jackson.

You know what else makes no sense, despite the fact that we all make so much information readily available, we still get freaked out when we find out people are taking a look at all of it. I remember many moons ago, a young lady I was seeing made it clear that she’d looked thru my FB page and then went thru all of the pictures of my sisters. While this is all completely legal, it seemed creepy and stalkerish. Now, as it turns out, I was more upset that she informed me that she was a stalker as opposed to her actual stalking. Some things you should keep to yourself, but as many of us know, when women are interested in you, they like to gain as much information as possible and in doing so tend to be extremely inquisitive about your life and everything in it. With that inquisitiveness comes a remarkable ability to remember details…while leaving keys in the refrigerator or a purse in the chimney.

I’m not so sure why men aren’t that way. I think when we like a woman we just like her as is, the details aren’t as important. Sure we like to know you aren’t a murderer but we assume that if we’re interested, the details are just extras. Men? We stupid.

Where was I? Oh yes, so despite all of this information being available, I’m leery of people who make it clear that they avail themselves of all accessible forms of social media. Instagram? They know what date you and time you posted that picture. Twitter, they’re reading that like a hawk. Facebook…well shut the front door.

Conversely more, you know what else I don’t quite understand? People with all of this social media sh*t and it’s all padlocked. Now, I get to some degree why its necessary to privatize your information. And for a vast many people, FB and Twitter is a way to communicate with people they’d not likely communicate with, so I suppose it makes sense to some degree. But it does seem like if you’re going to be apart of the community, just do it with open arms. Sure, I’ve had blog posts stolen and pictures jacked and I’m pretty sure…wait for it…

…Brick killed a guy.

(I haven’t done that in a while.)

But I’ve also met some great and terrible people online that my life wouldn’t be the same without; people I’d never have met if I locked myself off from the world. So if I meet you out and all of your sh*t is private, I’m also giving you the Panama Jackson Epic Side-Eye and assuming you’ve got something to hide. Either that or your tremendously boring. There’s no way somebody who is insanely entertaining is locking their profile. If you tell a joke and nobody is there to hear it, is it funny? Methinks not. So if you were interesting, there’s a good chance that your profile would be public so that others could validate your entertainingness. That’s the first commandment of blogging: Thou shalt be narcissistic.

Y’all think I do this for you? No, I do this for me so when I look in the mirror at night I can say, Pretty Petey, you did that. Not coincidentally…

…that’s what she said.

(Are you still reading and wondering what the hell just happened in the past 754 words? Mr. Me Too.)

The point is, even though you can’t trust anybody via social media, you definitely can’t trust anybody who isn’t up on social media. Unless that person still uses any of the following services that may or may not exist: MySpace, AOL, BlackPlanet anything, etc.

So what say you? How do you feel about folks without a social media presence online? Would you date or actively get to know somebody who informed you that they just don’t get down like that (I realize that’s a dumb question when stated like that…on the list of dealbreakers its an odd one…but would it make you suspicious in 2013?)? If you don’t involve yourself, even in Facebook, why not? What’s the 411, hon? You got it goin’ on? Yeah I got it goin’ on.

Talk to me. Petey.

-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka MR. INSTAGRAM THAT SH*T aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3

Todd Akin Doesn’t Know Shit About Rape. And, Neither Do I.

It’ll be August 21st by the time most of you read this, which makes it almost seven months since I wrote “Rape Responsibility,” And The Fine Line Between Victim-Blaming and Common Sense” and followed it up the next day with “Takeaways From Yesterday’s “Rape Responsibility” Discussion.” I’m sure many of you remember exactly what happened here that week, but for those who don’t, here’s a summary.

I crafted a very ill-informed, arrogant, and hurtful opinion piece about how women can help to avoid getting themselves in situations that may lead to rape by being more vigilant and acting more “responsibly.” It was a response to Zerlina Maxwell’s “Stop Telling Women How Not To Get Raped.”, and I assumed that it would lead to a day of insightful, occasionally heated, but ultimately forgettable discussion and debate. Basically, just like any other day at VSB.

I was wrong.

It was not a good day. Dozens of women left comments recounting stories of their own sexual assaults. Some even said that coming to VSB and reading this was a slap in the face, a gut punch that forced them to recall some feelings they hoped to never have to feel again. VSB was (deservedly) trashed on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, The Huffington Post and at least a dozen other places. (Actually, let me clarify that. VSB was trashed, but Liz and Panama had nothing, I repeat, nothing to do with that piece. They didn’t deserve to have to deal with criticisms caused by something I did.) And, for many people, the sting still remains. Even last week, I saw VerySmartBrothas referred to on Twitter as “the guys who wrote that rape post.”

Now, while all of this was going on at VSB, I spent much of that day (the rest of the week, actually) engaged in Gchat, text, email, and phone conversations with various people about this topic. Friends, family, and even notable feminist-leaning writers I was cool with — Jamilah Lemieux, Latoya Peterson from Racialicious, Deesha Philyaw, Kimberly “Dr. Goddess” Ellis, etc — all hit me up to basically hear directly from me what the hell inspired me to write that. Some, even after expressing how deeply hurt and disappointed it made them, asked how I was doing. One friend even said that when she saw it making its way around Twitter, she desperately hoped that I wasn’t the VSB who wrote it.

The “Takeaways...” piece came the next day. It was an apology that had twice as many words as the entry that sparked it. And, along with apologizing for writing it, I attempted to explain what led me to feel like writing it wasn’t a bad idea. Still, at that point, I still believed that what made people upset was more the tone than the content. Basically, I still believed that I had a valid point, but I just didn’t articulate it in the way I should have.

The abject wrongness of “advising” women that “more vigilance” would equal “less rapes” finally dawned on me a couple weekends later.

I was laying in bed with a person I was seeing at the time. We were both playing on our phones, having a conversation about whatever the hell it is that people talk about while laying in bed half sleep and playing with their phones. After a few moments, she turned her back to me, put her phone down, and went to sleep.

As I watched her fall asleep in my arms, it hit me. I am six foot two, and I weigh somewhere between 220 and 225 pounds. I am a foot taller than her, and I outweigh her by close to 100 pounds. I’m also a former division one athlete who is in reasonably good shape. Yet, here she is, half-naked, sleep, and completely vulnerable. She must really trust me. She must trust me in a way that I’ve never trusted anyone outside of my parents. She trusts me enough that she doesn’t consider me to be a threat to her safety, but she had to work to get to that point.

Although I know I would never sexually assault her, she doesn’t know that. Sure, she trusts that I wouldn’t and she hopes that I won’t, but she doesn’t know. She’s not certain, and she can never really be. This lack of knowledge, this not knowing whether a boyfriend or a husband or a fuck buddy or a platonic friend or a nice neighbor or the cool guy who bought her a drink at the bar is going to be the man who rapes her, is something women always have to think about. Always. Is it always the prevailing thought? No. (Well, at least I don’t think that it is.) But, from what I’ve come to understand, it is a perpetually subconscious thought for most women, a fear that is never really not there.

You know, I’ve heard people use the Black/White analogy when attempting to explain the difference between men and women and the concept of rape. Basically, just how Whites in America will never understand how it is to be Black, we (men) will never understand how it feels to always be aware that a person they adore, a person they love, could do something so awful to them. While I think the analogy works in some way, it ultimately fails because on some level, I do think that White people can have at least a peripheral understanding of what it means to be Black in America.

On the other hand, my insensitivity about rape — and the insensitivity possessed by men like Todd Akin — stems from the fact that I just never had to give more than a superficial thought to it. It — and “it” in this case is “how a typical woman feels about the fact that every man is a potential rapist” — is completely unfathomable. I can read books and blogs, I can ask questions and take classes, but I’ll never know. When I bring a date upstairs to my place for the first time, I don’t have to even consider thinking about how I’d defend myself, alert help, and (hopefully) exit if she wanted something I wasn’t comfortable offering. If I’m laying in bed with a woman and I tell her that I’m a little too tired to have sex right now, I don’t have to worry about her deciding that my “No” wasn’t really a “NO No,” and forcibly coercing me to change my answer. I don’t have to go through the same mental, emotional, and spiritual process a woman does when eventually getting to a place where she can trust that a man won’t take advantage of the access she’s granted him, where she can sleep in his arms and not paralyze herself with worry about what he might do when she’s most vulnerable.

I forgot exactly where I first heard this, but one of the best things I’ve ever learned is that true intelligence is knowing exactly what you don’t know. With this in mind, I have one message for Todd Akin and any other man who thinks they have some irreverent and important insight about rape — a message I wish I would have told myself seven months ago:

“You don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.”

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

Panama and His Theory of Misplaced Loyalty

I’ve got a theory. I know a lot of you all are averse to hard facts and science. But fret not because even after all my logic and my theory, I will add a motherf*cker so the ignant n*ggas hear me.

Let’s start at the top: women are overloyal. I could probably go the Black woman route and throw the words most or many to satisfy the antigeneralizationists out there. But I won’t do that. Satisfy deez. Pun. Anyway, women almost as a rule tend to be overloyal. As in, despite all of the facts, figures, and evidence, a woman will likely find some reason to stick it out and stay.

Exhibit A: Mimi from Love & Hip-Hop: Atlanta

Obviously, we’re not breaking new ground here. I think most people, men and women, would agree that a vast majority of woman stick around way too long. But the loyalty extends to other areas as well. For instance, Chris Brown is still having a stellar music career despite every attempt he’s made to end it. And it’s not just because he’s the best accessory artist in music today (seriously, dude makes every song he’s on sound better). It’s almost like he WANTS to go to jail. R. Kelly still has a career. Hell, he’s had such a good career post Pissgate that he owes the IRS nearly $5 million dollars. Guess he can take over the cell that Mr. Big occupied. And it’s not like men are keeping those ninjas careers afloat. Nope. It’s women. To a lesser degree, I’d wager that this even extends to the megachurch pastors who seem to have issues beyond reproach. Though I can’t lie…in Creflo’s case I honestly would wait to pass judgement on him. I had a cousin pull that “call the police and claim I got beat down by my parents” sh*t only to find out what it actually felt like to get beat down AFTER.

(By the way, there’s nothing wrong with women’s loyalty. In fact, it’s a good thing. Only when said loyalty is attached to negativity is it a bad thing. Just needed to add that in here somewhere.)

Anyway, women are overloyal. And here’s why: because women hate to be wrong. Leaving a man would require a woman to admit that she chose wrong. Which has to be a very difficult conclusion to draw considering how quickly most women are willing to place all of their proverbial eggs in that one basket. I’ve always found it interesting how women will find a man and date him for a while and be done. There’s no more looking. They have a man and that’s the one they’re hoping to end their dating life with. This perplexes me because it leaves very little room for evaluation. The evaluation that gets done isn’t to determine if she should stay or leave, it’s done to determine how to keep the relationship she’s in despite whatever issue exists. So while men never seem willing to work anything out, I suppose women want to work everything out. Not that I’m advocating for the early dissolution of a relationship because we don’t want to work, but let’s be real here, if you choose wisely upfront you won’t have to dissolve anything later, right?

One of my favorite artists is Kendrick Lamar. On his (O)verly (D)edicated LP, he has a song called “Opposites Attract (Tomorrow Without Her)”. At the end of this song is a spoken word piece by some cat (not sure who he is) that’s talking about how ridiculous a man can be towards women, how women give 100 percent even when a man is only giving like 20 percent. And how this woman is totally dedicated to this man who couldn’t care less. And yet she loves him and she always tells him that she loves him.

“But instead of admitting that she’s made another mistake, she tells me that she loves me…and I don’t know about love…”

I used to have a long running convo with one of my boys about the ability to trust my heart over my mind. And whether or not you should run with your heart or your mind when it came to love. I think we concluded that you should listen to your heart but trust your head. I get the impression that women are the opposite. Point there is that by trusting my (big) head…pun…we’d manage not to stick around in situations that were clearly not good for us to be in. And I’ve always wondered if that just made me non-loyal. Or if I was just smart. I’m not sure. But I do realize that I’m capable of making a mistake with my heart.

And I wonder if most women are okay with coming to that conclusion. That’s not a shot at all, by the way. More of a question.

And a theory…women are overloyal because they hate being wrong or admitting they made a mistake.

Motherf*cker.

What do y’all think? Ladies, do you think that you’re too loyal? And if so, is it because you don’t want to admit that you made a mistake? Fellas, what have you observed? Are you loyal enough?

Sometimes I, feel we share, nothing in common, it ain’t fair…where do we seem to fall??

Forgive me if this rambled, I listened to Nicki Minaj’s “Right By My Side” while writing this. F*cktasticness happens.

-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka MR. STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3