The Four People You Meet In Internet Hell

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I spent a decent amount of time yesterday reading tweets from people either upset at or confused by Lupita Nyong’o’s Most Beautiful Woman designation. Why? Well, I’m fascinated with all the nuances and levels to how we (Black people) deal with and feel about skin color. And, I’m equally fascinated by the type of people who’d spend an entire morning attempting to convince people why Lupita is ugly.

Just as I don’t understand the point of Pinterest (Really, I don’t. Can someone please explain it to me?), I don’t get the mindset behind spending so much time and energy to let people know exactly how unattractive you think someone is. Since these are likely the same people who attempt to fry lettuce, perhaps they’re just biding time until their lettuce cools down. Or maybe the anger comes from the fact that they still haven’t figured out how to keep the lettuce from completely dissolving when placed in hot Crisco. And maybe they’re just pissed no one ever took the time to tell them you can’t fry gotdamn lettuce.

Either way, this person, the colorstruck lettuce frying Twitter motherf*cker who’s always mad because no one ever told him you can’t fry gotdamn lettuce is definitely one of the people who exist just to make the internet more Hell-like for the rest of us. Here’s a couple more.

The liberal outrage junky

Although they fashion themselves as the sole arbiters of politically correct decorum, they are meth addicts scouring decades-old closed threads on message boards and reading six year old tweets to find their next outrage high. If the internet ceased to exist tomorrow, they’d be in your gutters and garbage cans, shoving cat shit in their mouths while fiending for evidence of some off-color joke you told in 2007 about Tina Fey and goat milk or that time in college you accidentally spelled “Hispanic” with a lower-case “h” instead of an upper case “H.”

The devil’s advocate (Also known as “Well, actually…” and “No one cares. Shut the f*ck up”)

There is no position they can’t straddle with their elephant child-bearing hips. No argument too airtight for them to challenge. No moment where they can’t not resist having their bitch-ass, whining-dog-wrapped-inside-a-Styrofoam-case-pressed-against-a-chalkboard sounding-ass voices heard. God hates these people. Even more than he hates Cleveland.

The deep thinking troglodyte

No. No one has ever said “REAL females REALLY respect REAL men doing REAL things” before. It is the wittiest, funniest, and most insightfully-ass poignant shit that’s ever escaped a human’s lips. If I had your brain, I’d have headaches all day long because your brain is obviously bigger than everything ever in existence. Including your dick. Which must also be pretty damn big too to be brave enough to conjure some life-changing Jedi shit like that. But, as transf*ckingcendent as your thoughts were, they’d be extra transf*ckingcendent if you put them on a picture with some awkward-ass, mind-melting font, and superimposed a picture of yourself in the background, doing some God-like shit like two handed pushups or adjusting your tie.

Did I forget anyone?

—Damon Young

Quiz: Exactly How Threatened Are You By Lupita Nyong’o’s Beauty?

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You’ve likely heard by now that Lupita Nyong’o was recently named People Magazine’s Most Beautiful Person. Considering the year she’s had, this shouldn’t have been much of a surprise. Lupita’s approval ratings aren’t even measured in percentages anymore. Just emoticons.

Still, the idea that a woman with dark skin and short hair can be considered beautiful seems to be a hard concept for many people to grasp. Perhaps because it counters and threatens everything that think they know about beauty. And perhaps because they grill lettuce before eating it.

In light of that, I’ve decided to do a little quiz to determine just how threatened you might be by Lupita’s popularity.

1. Are you a Black American? (If yes, add 3 points)

2. Are you a Black man? (If yes, add 2 points)

3. Are you a light skinned Black woman? (If yes, add 2.5 points)

4. Have you granted or happily received “light-skinned points” at one time in your life? (If yes, add 8 points)

5. Have you ever called someone “cute for a darker-skinned girl?” (If yes, add 9 points)

6. Are you from a state below the Mason-Dixon line? (If yes, add 5 points)

7. Is your name Yung Berg? (If yes, add 122 points)

8. Are you an AKA? (If yes, add 7.5 points)

9. Were you in Jack and Jill? (If yes, add 10 points)

10. Did you think the new Aunt Viv was an upgrade? (If yes, add 5 points)

11. Do you own a glue gun? (if yes, add 4 points)

12. Have you recently called someone a THOT? (If yes, add 12 points)

13. Are you a Laker fan? (If yes, add 4.5 points)

14. Do you just not “get” Toni Morrison? (If yes, add 8 points)

15. Are you stupid? (If yes, add 7 points)

16. Are you stupid, and on Twitter? (If yes, add 27 points)

17. Did you root for Lisa in Coming to America instead of Patrice? (If yes, add 5 points)

18. Have you incorporated the term “redbone” in the chorus of a rap song you created? (If yes, add 33 points)

19. When asked to describe your background, do you make sure to always list Korean, Italian, Native America, red dot Indian, Swedish, Saudi Arabian, Martian, and Alaskan even though you’re a Black chick from Detroit? (If yes, add 14 points)

20. Do you have hate in your heart? (If yes, add 11.5 points)

Results: (0-10 points) Congratulations! You’re not threatened at all by Lupita’s beauty, and there’s a very good chance you either own or are sleeping with someone who owns a “Black Girls Are Magic” t-shirt. Good for you!

(11-35 points) You’re not mad about Lupita. Not at all. But, her success has made you reflect on some of the thoughts and ideas you’ve had about beauty and Black women. Oh, and you’re probably a Delta. Which is better than being an AKA. But still.

(35-49 points) So that was you at Target the other day, buying up all the brown paper bags for some “throwback party” you’re having. Mmhmm. You aint foolin noone, Nick Cannon.

(50 points or more) If you’re not a rapper from the south, you might as well be one.

—Damon Young

On Giving No F*cks About What White People Think

Look how fun it can be to give no f*cks!

Look how fun it can be to give no f*cks!

There is an epidemic of White male/Asian female couples in Pittsburgh’s East End. And yes, I’m aware epidemic is a pretty strong word, but there’s really no other way to describe what the Gay Reindeer and I witnessed yesterday. While out to dinner, we requested seats facing the window because we’re both weirdos who like to people watch to assign identities to strangers and critique parking abilities while we eat. In the half hour or so we were there, approximately 15 couples walked past. At least 10 of these couples were White man/Asian woman. It got to the point where I thought we were on some Ok Cupid episode of Punk’d.

Intrigued, we started theorizing about the reasons for this popular interracial coupling. That eventually segued into us wondering how Asian women (and Asian men) feel about this…which eventually segued into the Gay Reindeer asking if Black women would ever reach “fad” status the way Asian women seem to have here in Pittsburgh…which eventually segued into us wondering if fad status was something anyone should want…and ended with our plans for a sitcom about Black comediennes performing on the Yakuza dinner party circuit. (Don’t ask.)

That’s almost an hour’s worth of conversation, sub-conversation, and stream of consciousness ridiculousness brought on by the dating patterns of Pittsburgh-area White men and Asian women. And not once was “How do White men feel about being targeted by Asian women?” or “How do White women feel about losing their men?” brought up.

Why not? Well, I can’t answer for the Gay Reindeer, but my reason is simple. We considered Whites as individuals, not a collective. If a White man dates an Asian woman, it’s a choice that particular White man made. He’s not a representative of his race. He just is, and his dating choices exist outside of his Whiteness. He’s a fully-realized person making an independent decision, a decision that effects no one outside of his sphere of influence. The choice made by the Asian woman, however, tells us everything we need to know about her need to assimilate, her docility, her feelings about Asian men, and even her familial pressure to date and marry a high-earning White man.

Of course, this is all wrong. Of course the Asian woman might be just as fully-realized as the White man, and of course the White man might be grappling with his own feelings about Asian fever and the concept of Whiteness. But it doesn’t matter, because Whites (White men especially) are often given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their individuality and decisions like this, while the rest of us are urged to consider what our decisions — good and bad – mean to the collective racial group.

Anyone looking for proof of this would have to look no further than the intraracial criticisms levied this week at Mimi Faust, the women of RHOA, and whoever else happens showing their entire ass to TV right now. (Pun intended.) While the way these people often behave is indefensible, even more disturbing is the oft-mentioned idea that their behavior is somehow “hurting Black people.” And, even more disturbing than that is the idea behind the idea that they’re somehow hurting Black people:

“What will White people think?”

Even as I write this, I realize this characterization of us isn’t completely fair. It’s near impossible for non-Blacks to navigate this country — both figuratively and literally — without having to consider what White people think and/or feel about something. Sometimes that “White people” is just one White person. And, in some instances, a consideration of how “White people” feel can be the difference between employment and joblessness, loan approval and denial, and even life and death. Also, if you happen to know any White people on a personal level, you should probably care about what they think. Not caring is rude and shit.

But, sometimes this concept is taken to a level beyond any semblance of practicality. Sometimes it’s just about thinking that if all Black people act a certain way, if all Black people united to prevent wayward niggas from putting our people back, maybe, just maybe, “White people” will invite us over for Thanksgiving. And maybe they’ll even allow us to sit at the grown people’s table.

That chair sounds comfy, but I think I’d prefer to stand. It’s easier to people watch that way.

—Damon Young

Not Knowing How To Feel About Gentrification

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Yesterday, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published an op-ed I wrote detailing my ambivalence about the development and gentrification going on in my old neighborhood. It’s an extended version of a piece I wrote for EBONY a couple weeks ago. I’ve included a good portion of it below. 

Although it deals specifically with Pittsburgh, the subject is something I’m sure many (if not most) of you can relate to. We’re all aware of the macro ills of gentrification. People being displaced, businesses getting priced out, neighborhoods losing their identities, etc. But — and this is a question especially targeted towards those who grew up in a crime-ridden area that experienced gentrification and doesn’t have as much crime now — what about the micro? How do you deal with enjoying some of the benefits of the “new” neighborhood while also “feeling a certain way” about the means taken to get it there? Do you feel conflicted at all about any of this? If so, how do you deal with that conflict? And, if not, why not?

My old neighborhood is now the trendiest place in Pittsburgh. And I don’t know how this makes me feel.

I’m not angry about it. The neighborhood is an undoubtedly better and safer place now.

Restaurants stay open until 1 instead of closing at dark. There are far fewer Aaron Rays stalking the streets for red sweatshirts, and there’s a place where you can rent some very ugly bikes to ride from Trader Joe’s to Whole Foods.

The shifting cosmetic has even affected the neighborhood’s name. What used to just be “East Liberty” is now “Eastside” — a euphemistic hybrid of East Liberty and the neighboring Shadyside.

This change has crept up Penn Avenue as well. Surreal is not strong enough of a word to describe what it’s like for a person who grew up on Mellon Street in the ’90s to attend a gallery crawl in Garfield.

But, I just … I still feel “a certain way” about it all.

I feel a certain way that the neighborhood’s demographics had to change before it improved. I feel a certain way that others were able to recognize and take financial advantage of the resources sitting right under my nose. I feel a certain way about the irony of me feeling this certain way … but writing this while sitting at Panera Bread.

I guess “ambivalent” would be the word to describe this feeling. But, as many of those who wrestle with the same thoughts about their “new” old neighborhoods will likely tell you, it feels more awkward and amorphous than that. It’s a state of reactive cognitive dissonance you can’t quite articulate that happens when others use the resources you’re sitting on to create something you’d wholeheartedly appreciate in any other context.

There’s a natural parallel between the thoughts I often see expressed about gentrification and about the type of cultural appropriation many white artists have been accused of. But what makes this feeling different is the fact that I enjoy this version of the neighborhood more. Much more. This isn’t just feeling a certain way about Robin Thicke “borrowing” Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up” to create “Blurred Lines.” It’s feeling that certain way, but also believing Robin’s version is much better than Marvin’s.

To be clear, “better” doesn’t mean that the new Target is better than the old Giant Eagle or that the new Pizza Sola is better than Vento’s. That’s a matter of taste.

The preference I’m speaking of is less about policy, politics and development and more about memory.

East Liberty was my home. It’s where my dad first taught me to shoot a jumpshot. Where I got my first job. Where I first met the kid who’d end up being my oldest and closest friend. Where I first learned not to trust a big butt and a smile. And where I also first learned not to listen to everything Bell Biv Devoe said.

But it’s also where Peabody High School was shut down for an entire week because a star football player was murdered in a Wendy’s parking lot. And where, since the Bloods (red), Crips (blue) and L.A.W. (black and gray) were at war with each other, there was a span of five or so years where wearing the wrong color could get you killed. And where both a random tire screech and a car going 10 miles below the speed limit meant “Get the hell down!” because there’s about to be a drive-by. And where our front window was blown out and our house was shot into because we lived three doors down from Mellon Street’s Stringer Bell and a rival crew mistook our house for his.

So even as I lament the injection of and appropriation by others in East Liberty — and even as terms such as displacement and pricing-out enter my consciousness — I value the reduction in familiar and conspicuous danger more than I’m put off by the means taken to get it there.

Read more at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

I Don’t Understand Why Puff Speaking at Howard University’s Graduation Is A Thing.

P. DIDDYSo Sean “Puff/Puff Daddy/P.Diddy/Diddy” Combs, possibly Howard University’s most famous dropout has been summoned to speak at their commencement exercise in May. This has apparently ruffled some feathers. And by some I mean way less than a lot. But enough to garner debate and discussion as if it were a thing so let’s pretend its a thing. Assuming its a thing, I honestly cannot understand for the life of me why anybody would have a problem with this.

This can’t be because he’s a college dropout. Should Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates or Steve Jobs (RIP) be the commencement speaker I’d wager that not one single person would bat an eye. All those men have changed the course of human history. Maybe it’s because they’re the kind of college dropouts we can get behind? Me no know. Puff changed the course of history as well. He helped turn hip-hop into the multi-billion dollar industry that it is today, for better or worse. Fight me.

It can’t be because he’s not successful enough. Puffy is chasin’ that billion dollar net worth like his life depends on it. He has managed to successfully run Bad Boy Records and turn it into an empire while jacking holding the publishing rights to various artists you know and love (See Badu, Erykah). While he has definitely tanked more careers than he’s managed to usher into longevity, his business sense has fostered the careers of everybody from Usher to Outkast to Mary J. Blige to Jodeci to Biggie to Faith, etc. You see where I’m going. While very few people signed to him survived Bad Boy in tact, he put everybody in a position to win. And win they did for a while. Puff’s worth has been over $500 million for quite some time. That’s not because folks are handing him things, its because he’s been ridin’ around and gettin’ it…coincidentally a mantra that I’d wager 90 percent of HBCU students invest and believe in. HBCU students like the ones he will address in May.

It can’t be because he’s not inspirational. Love him or hate him, the man’s life story hasn’t been an easy one. He scrapped to get where he is and it isn’t like you wouldn’t listen to Puff give advice on how to make it in America. Hell, we seem to like to listen to Jay-Z and they pretty much have the same story. The only difference is Puff was cuttin’ the checks WAY earlier than Jay was. Hell, Puff’s most famous lyric might be, “Don’t worry if I write rhymes, I write checks.” Undoubtedly ghost-written, but important nonetheless. Gangstarr has an album called The Ownerz…Puff IS one. I remember telling my father I wanted to be an NBA player before I stopped growing and he told me not to play for a team, own a team. Real n*gga talkin’. Shut the f*ck up ho.

Quick aside, I went to Howard’s graduation a few years back. Current Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was the keynote speaker. I can’t tell you a damn thing he said. Hell, I had to look it up to find out who the speaker was. There’s no point to other than graduation speakers are largely forgettable unless its a President or Oprah. I’m pretty sure David Satcher spoke at my graduation. I only remember this because he went to Morehouse, not because I can remember a single thing that he said. Graduation speakers are largely just pomp and circumstance.

So perhaps the issue is because people are attaching some type of unnecessay status to both Howard (I love HU and all, but let’s not pretend that HU is some beacon of Blackness and who speaks there determines some sort of status in the world community…plus, Morehouse had Obama last year…we won) and what it means to be a commencement speaker.

To me, and I’m the end all be all authority on this subject considering how many leatherbound books I have in my home, the commencement speaker really should be somebody with a grand message. To that end, you could probably find a homeless person who could deliver a great message that would change your life. I really do mean that. What you need is somebody to inspire you through the struggle as you cross the threshold from idealism into the grand abyss of “why didn’t I stay for another year”. Ultimately we all want a celebrity – like a real one – and only a few schools actually are able to pull that off. I’m fairly certain that if Tougaloo College could pull Puff they’d be happy as hell. Hell, they’d be happy with Chef Roble. The top shelf HBCUs and most of the top tier universities are obviously able to do this. It’s an honor to speak at these places so I’m sure they don’t take it lightly. I wouldn’t. In fact, it is my goal at some point to give a commencement address. It’s on my bucket list. I don’t even care if it’s DeVry or Capella (does that still exist?).

So this has to come down to he didn’t graduate so he shouldn’t be speaking at a graduation. Which is just stupid. Puff is a successful business man. Nobody would ever argue this. Puff won at life, like Zuckerberg and Gates and Jobs and any number of other people who didn’t need to finish college to make the leap.

I’ve seen quite a few articles talking about this (and by this I solely mean Puff speaking at HU) and they’ve been met with some interesting “why Puff” rhetoric in the comments though nobody could actually come up with a good reason. Short of his club shootout NOT GUILTY verdict and that promoter issue he had in the early 90s where some kids ended up dead because of overbooking, Puff has managed to fly mostly above the fray. So either folks just think that Puff, a business man who likely respects the hell out of the fact that the school that would be his alma-mater (though they’re giving him an honory doctorate), will get up there and say “take that take that…you’re nobody ’til somebody kills you” and then spit his verse from “All About The Benjamins” (which actually would make for a compelling speech), or we REALLY think that giving such a high honor to a rapper is crossing the line.

Actually let me amend that last paragraph, the worst thing Puff has done and he didn’t even know it is place Stevie J on the Hitmen (spawned some of the best songs to ever come out of Bad Boy) which would eventually lead to Love & Hip-Hop: Atlanta. If that’s your argument, then you got me.

Are there seemingly more conventional choices? Sure. But would they be better? Who knows. Maybe Puff gets out there and blows everybody’s mind. Maybe he doesn’t. But anybody claiming he doesn’t deserve that kind of shot is sadly mistaken. Anybody.

I’m sure Puff doesn’t care about detractors in any way, shape, or form. In fact, I’m sure he’s listening to track 2 off of No Way Out counting money and scratching his balls with a golden scepter. Coincidentally produced by Stevie J. That man made hits.

What you need to do is check your distribution, his songs bump in Houston like Scarface produced them.

Victory.

-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka PUFF FOR PRESIDENT aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3