Are You Smart or Smart Enough?

[Admin Note: Earlier today on Twitter, somebody mentioned a post I wrote almost 10 years ago - literally almost 10 years ago as in June 2004 - as part of a convo they were having. I figured it must be a sign from The Sign Company to revisit and share. Mostly as a means of looking at life from the lens of a then just turned 25 year old and what my thought process was. This post was about my thought process as a parent almost 5 years before I had a kid. Let's see where I was coming from.]

Screen-Shot-2012-05-25-at-11.09.29-AMEver had a broke hug? As in hugged a broke person??? I do it all the time and in kind, I give lots of broke hugs. They suck so I want my kids to be able to give rich hugs. So I have a plan.

I’m not a role model and may never be. But a thought I had yesterday really brought it home for me. I realized that when I have kids I’m not going to tell my kids to be geniuses or even to be smart.

I’m going to tell them to be smart enough. Why do you ask? I’ll tell you why.

Because I’m learning that smart people don’t get to be millionaires. Athletes, entertainers, black folks who started stuff back in the 1900?s offspring; they all get to be millionaires. Me? I’ve been considered smart my whole life and I’m broke. I’ve been to college, twice. Still broke.

Debunking a Popular Misconception: If you are smart you can be rich. This is wrong. If you are lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time with or without the right idea, you can be rich. You know why? Smart people are risk averse because smart people know that they can get f*cked up financially by just one bad decision. So smart folks don’t take those chances because we realize we have something to lose. Smart enough people just have their balls and their word, so they take chances because at the end of the day, we all we got…oh yeah, and a million bucks in the bank.

There were a lot of smart enough people in the NBA draft the other day. Smart enough to stay eligible because they knew millions awaited them. I’ll bet lots of them fellas became honor students when they realized they could make the draft. As a result, the number of black millionaires just increased by like 20. And what’s worse, that might be 20% of all the black millionaires. 50 Cent is smart enough to know that 9 shots, which everybody is capable of getting, could make him a household name. Bingo…50 cent made like $21 million last year.

So I’m going to tell my kids to be smart enough; smart enough to make it through high school while dribbling that damn ball from the house to the school. Or singing they ass from the church to the house. I know lots of folks in college, graduate school, professional school. All of us have debt…Shaq doesn’t have any debt. Kobe doesn’t have any debt (aside from that potential debt to soceity…different talk show). 50 Cent, Dre, Cosby, Chris Rock ain’t got no debt. Jocephus from the University of Maryland Law School…debt. Anquenetta from UCLA Med school…debt.

I was doing a web search for black millionaires. It was quite eye-opening. I couldn’t find a single damn estimate. I kept finding stats like, “the number of black millionaires has risen 75% in the past 6 years.” Nowhere did they tell me what it rose from. Not one site had any estimates of the number of black millionaires. What I did find was that in America in 2003, there were roughly 2.3 millionaires…out of about 280 million people. That’s less than 1%. So I know our numbers must be really small. The fact that I couldn’t find any numbers indicated to me that there must not be that many…like maybe 100 or 200 at most…including rappers, actors, and ballplayers. Which probably accounted for the majority of them. So that’s what I’m pushing for.

My kid wants to be a rapper??? I’m going Richard Williams style on they asses. They are gonna be the best 12 year old rappers ever. Next Jay-Z…let’s make it happen. You wanna be the next 50…I’ll drop you off in South Side Jamaica Queens n*gga you heard me so we can start your legacy. Because smart rappers are broke too. Look at Talib Kweli and Mos Def (his rap career anyway) or Jurassic 5 or hell anybody that ain’t Jay-Z, Dre, Eminem, 50, or Outkast. Oh yeah, and Cash Money, and Master P since both of those camps were smart enough to capitalize on the times.

Now don’t get me wrong, if my son wants to be an astrophysicist that’s all well and good. I’m sure DuPont will pay him a nice little bit of money. And I’ll push him to be the best damn astrophysicist he can be while his sister is on TV singing her ass off Whitney style while I’m coaching like Joe Jackson from the sidelines. And we know how great a coach he was. And I also know that there are black millionaires that made money by good ole fashioned hardwork. Well, shit I ain’t talkin’ bout them. AND most black millionaires are entertainers anyway. I see I said.

This may sound ignorant, but have you ever heard Jay-Z or Russell Simmons talk. Smart enough to say what needs to be said and do what needs to be done. And they got millions to blow. Me? Broke.

Smart enough. That’s my parenting strategy.

——

Interesting to see where I was back then and how much I still agree with those thoughts now. I definiely believe in the idea of being smart enough to succeed versus too smart for your own good and staying reserved. What do you think about that concept? Also, anything you remember from your youth that you’ve carried forward to now or any, “I was here 10 years ago but I’m here now” ideologies? Talk to me.

I’ve been writing for a LONG time.

-VSB P aka MR. IM STILL HERE aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3

Why I Believe In Marriage (…And Why I Can’t Judge You If You Don’t)

Are there any Black wedding figurines that don't look like Robert Downey Jr. from Tropic Thunder?

Are there any Black wedding figurines that don’t look like Robert Downey Jr. from Tropic Thunder?

Although I’m getting married in three months, I have to admit there are parts of being single I will miss.

Actually, that is a lie. There are no “parts.” But there is one specific part, and all of the positive benefits of singledom stem from it.

Most committed relationships — well, most healthy committed relationships — require each partner to be aware of and sensitive to each others wants, needs, and feelings. And this consideration sets parameters on what you’re able to do. Singledom has no such limitations. If you want to go to India for a month or if you want to spend half your paycheck at the casino or if you want to quit your job and direct cat videos or if you want to f*ck your landlord’s daughter — and you’re able to do these things — you can do them without having to explain or justify or hide it from anyone.

Thing is, actually doing these things isn’t what makes singledom great. It’s the principle. It’s the fact that you can do them, even if you don’t actually want to. It’s not the physical act of getting “new p*ssy.” Its the mental acknowledgement that you’re able to entertain new p*ssy if you choose to. It’s the freedom.

For many, I imagine the idea of giving up this type of freedom to willingly enter a lifelong commitment to one person — a lifelong commitment to one person with no guarantee of happiness — is f*cking nuts. Even if this person checks each and every one of your boxes, it’s insane to sign away the next — and last — several decades of your life just because they made you laugh yesterday and they looked good as hell buttnaked in the kitchen today.

And, you know what? They’re right.

It is crazy. It doesn’t make any damn sense. And it is f*cking insane. There is no logical reason for me to dead my freedom for an archaic institution; an institution revolving around a commitment that, according to statistics, is likely to fail.

So why do I believe in marriage?

Because my parents were married. And they loved each other. And I grew up with that. And I wanted it for myself.

That’s it. It’s not about any ambiguous macro concepts like Black love and the Black family. It’s not about the community. It’s not about God and Christianity. It’s not about creating the best environment for a child. It’s not about tax benefits and building wealth. And, to be honest, it’s not even about love. As much as I love my fiancee, I might not have been as interested in marrying her if I didn’t grow up the way I did. If fact, we might not have even been together. Without my parents’ modeling, who knows if I would have even been interested in someone like her. (And, who knows if she would have still been interested in me.)

Obviously, there are people who didn’t grow up in a similar household but still believe in marriage. I’m not suggesting that modeling is a prerequisite for this type of belief. But, if someone didn’t experience that growing up…or if they did experience it, but the relationship between their parents was so unhealthy that they should have been divorced…or if they crunched the numbers and it doesn’t make much sense to them…or if they just value their freedom more than they value a marriage commitment, I can’t really fault them for it. It’s not wrong. It’s just not me.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ)

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There’s only two days left to cop a Bougie Black Girl shirt from Teespring. It’s the perfect way to be the coolest chick in your crew without actually telling everyone you’re the coolest chick in your crew.

And yes, we have tanks to show off your guns from all that winter gym time…

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***Also, those who purchased VSB logo tees and I Love Bougie Black Girls tees should have received them this week. When you do, take a selfie — or just ask someone to take your damn pic — and send it in for our yet-to-be-determined selfie/damn pic day.*** 

Pulling Out Really Is An Option

“Have a baby by me, baby, be a millionaire/write the check before the baby comes, who the hell cares?” ~50 Cent, “I Get Money”

This nword....sheesh.

This nword….sheesh.

I care actually. People care my dude!

And so does Stevie J. Stevie J, of Love & Hip-Hop: Atlanta fame, has a child support bill outstanding of $1 million dollars.

A motherf*cking million.

I know he has a gang of kids, but I can’t even fathom owing that much money in back child support. Do you know how many payments he didn’t make to get to that point?

And he ain’t Diddy or Russell Simmons or hell, even Nas. They miss a years worth of payments and they’re in the quarter million range. Stevie J ain’t one of them dudes. Some famous rappers are paying like $2K and $3K a month. I’m saying, Stevie missed a lot of payments.

Allegedly – and based on Internet research I’ve done – he has 6 kids. Not an overly insane amount but way too many if you are behind that much on child support. And with 6 kids, they weren’t all ooops babies either. My man just likes running raw and NOT pulling out. And pulling out is totally an option.

Let’s switch gears for a second. I gave up sex for a while back when I was like 26. My reason? Well it had nothing to do with getting right with God or trying to prove to myself that I could abstain. My logic was simple: at that age, I figured if I got some chick pregnant, she was going to keep it. And I wasn’t ready to be a father. While I may have been financially able to do it, I just wasn’t mentally there and I didn’t want to end up in court with some insane child support bill if things didn’t work out. Even with protection I was afraid of getting a woman pregnant. Even right now I’m not sure why I was so afraid of that but it was a real fear.

Of course, like all well thought out plans, I started dating a woman and when I told her that I was abstaining, she absolutely looked at me like I was crazy and was like, “yeah, not gon’ happen…” Seriously have you tried to tell a woman that is active that you’re trying to date that you won’t give her the 1-900-STROKEYDOKE? She’s just not having it. At all. It’s like they feel you, but they’re not here for it. They don’t think its cute nor do they support it. Which is what happened to me. Luckily I didn’t get her pregnant but we always used El Jimenezes. Always.

Now, I won’t even pretend to lie to you and tell you that I’ve always used protection. I haven’t.

But thoughts of million dollar child support payments would dance through my skull and my body would indicate to me, hey pal, you should probably pull out and fire with your eyes closed; this may end terribly. And if I were to make a choice not to it would be a mutual decision based on a labrinth and matrix of decision trees and facts on the table.

Forget the mutual decision though. In that moment, I know full well the potential consequences. We all had sex ed of some sort. Perhaps yours happened in class or maybe you got yours in the School of Hard Knocks by watching your mother close enough to realize that you “don’t want her laaife!” <— Mox Rules. Point is, somewhere along the way, I was smart enough to make a smart decision even while making a dumb one. Or at least a less than smart decision. We all know that much like anything else, the pull out method is about as effective as condoms if done properly. Use condoms people.

Real question time, and I mean this from the heart. Not that it’s smart but I get why so many men prefer to run raw. But why are so many women SO good with it? My experience has taught me that women tend to bring up the raw shenanigans earlier than men. Again, my experiences. Maybe you all have different experiences…I’m just saying, I’ve never suggested it. Ever. It’s been suggested to me…a lot. Then again, latex allergies are real and its as expensive to smash with a lamb or non-latex joint so I can almost understand. Almost.

From a guy standpoint, I really don’t understand why we do that if we ain’t ready to deal with the consequences. And I don’t want to hear jack sh*t about how unfair the system is. Yeah, I feel you. I know. Preaching to the choir. But it is what it is. You create one, you have to take care of one. Deal with it. Thing is, you actually can avoid those problems should you decide that you just HAVE to run raw by busting on her shoulder blades or something. Or elsewhere for the advanced egalitarians in the room.

Stevie J looks like the type to never pull out. He also seems like the type to try to talk you into raw from jump…AND not pull out. Most guys hate the idea of child support and a system designed to run your pockets. Yeah, okay. But you don’t have to be Stevie J. You actually control your own destiny in this regard…and yet, so many dudes out here having babies they weren’t read for.

So real talk, real question for the fellas this time…why exactly wouldn’t you pull out? Why would you be like, “you know what? We just met, I’m sure its cool.” People like Stevie J don’t because well they have money coming from somewhere though a milli suggests his well went dry years ago…but at least they have this life they think they can maintain…but for regular dudes…why risk it?? Serious question…why risk it at all if you ain’t ready to be a pappy? And let’s not all pretend like we NEVER do this. Or its never happened.

Really, I just wanted to write MILLION DOLLAR CHILD SUPPORT and I ended up writing a PSA and questionnaire. Bone responsibly, people. <—TSHIRT!

-VSB P aka MR. PULLIN’ OUT LIKE I HAVE A GARAGE aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3

On Being Black and Having It Both Ways In The Mainstream Media

h515894B7[VSB Note: Today I'm handing off the podium to Shamira aka Sham-wow who said to me I've got an idea and I said, that's good. Share. So she did. So ladies and gentlemen, give it up...for Shamira!]

Yesterday there was a rather spirited discussion in the VSB comments section about whether or not The Boondocks was problematic because of the way that it exposed presumed “black” culture to audiences that are primarily white.

This isn’t a new point by any means – it seems that whenever anything that is viewed as uniquely black develops a mainstream platform an iteration of this conversation rears it’s ugly head. A very notable example of course is when Dave Chappelle walked away from his hit TV show. More recently, however, versions of these talking points have emerged in the context of the Black Jeopardy skit that happened on last weeks episode of SNL.

I found the kerfuffle via SNL to be particularly interesting in the wake of the concerted effort from folks for the show to have a more substantial black/nonwhite presence. For better or worse Lorne Michaels did exactly that, casting a black woman as well as hiring two black writers. Yet when we got a sketch catering to a black audience written by black actors and casting black people…(some) folks took issue.

This begs the question: if we are given the seat at the table that we demand, should we be concerned with how our message is received.

Before I go any further, let me admit my bias and say that I thought that the Black Jeopardy sketch was funny. (I’m also quite easily amused so you may want to take my humor tastes with a grain of salt – I’m currently giggling at an overweight cat falling right now).

Beyond that, however…I’ve never been explicitly concerned about how white people receive black content once it’s been given the space for a large audience. While I understand other peoples valid concerns, I don’t think putting  content out removes the social responsibility of white people to see their privilege and know when they are able to jump in and when they should just step back and listen.

Furthermore, the folks who use caricatures and entertainment-created characters to justify their prejudices are not my worry. I don’t find value in putting out content that takes every effort to avoid the potential of future confirmation bias. In my opinion, desiring a space to depict the varying versions of the black experience is disserviced if we feel required to dilute the message to accommodate for the ignorant and the hopeless. The second we feel dictated by people who are already uninterested in our narratives is when we cede our power before mobilizing it.

To sum up…it’s not my problem if the white audience didn’t get the joke.  I’m only interested in ensuring that we have a multitude of avenues to say what we want to say in the manner that we see fit. If nonblacks get it, great. If they don’t…I’m trying to find a bother, but it seems that my pockets are all out of them at the moment.

Anyways, what say ye, folks of VSB? Am I being ignorant of reality here? Or should we go three sheets to the wind and stop worrying about what white folks may or may not think?

-SHAMIRA

The Countdown To The End…Again

(The following is true and inspired by the above trailer for The End Again. Read more here.)

I’m obsessed with countdowns. I also know when that obsession started.

end-139848_640It happened the day I experienced the last 30 seconds of a persons life and I became fixated on each of those last seconds. I can’t even fully explain it, but for the last 14 years of my life, my mind has often drifted back to that night and those last seconds. Or even that day. The last day of a life you don’t know is ending. Was it mundane? What were you doing on the day that you died?

What happened with 12 hours left.

With 2.

With 10 minutes.

I saw the last 30 seconds. In retrospect, they ticked by slowly. Each one lasting an hour as I watched the inevitable unfold. Since then, the moments leading up to the end tend to etch themselves into myriad possibilities in the bandwidth of my mind.

This also likely explains my fascination with the move Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind as Joel and Clementine spiral towards the moment of realization that his remaining memory of her – doubling as his first memory of her – is about to be eliminated from his consciousness and this convo ensued:

Clementine: This is it, Joel. It’s going to be gone soon.

Joel: I know.

Clementine: What do we do?

Joel: Enjoy it.

That convo really got to me. Only because its usually impossible to enjoy that last moment. It’s one thing to realize what you have when its gone; its another thing to realize what you’re losing while you watch it leave and there’s nothing you can do to stop the train.

Unless you can and you don’t. That is an amplified pain because two people get hurt at the same time. You hurt yourself and you hurt the other person. Hurt people hurt people. And scared money don’t make money. Two wrongs don’t make a right, and me and Mrs. Jones have danced this tango before as I’ve watched the end manifest with that last Uhaul box and that last shared memory walking over the threshold out into the world with a door closing behind it.

The countdown.

It starts somewhere. At some point, we commence with the beginning of the end. Is it a look? Is it a missed text? The stolen glance that never happened? The day that we forgot to kiss “hello” like we’d done every single day of our relationship before. Missing that first one makes the second easier, though no less noticeable. Habits are easy to create and harder to break. Pretty soon the “why not” becomes “why” and the pictures become reminders of what could be that isn’t anymore.

Three months.

The arguments that used to end with moments of vulnerability as we both realized that what we stood to lose was greater than what we stood to gain by being “right”  now rest in the air and linger. They linger until the next one, a little more passionate, a little more resolute, a little more pointed, a little more biting. You still sleep in the same bed but might as well be sleeping on different planets. Intimacy requires affection and that ship sailed the same path as the Titanic. The more time you spend together the less time you have left together.

One month.

Anger.

One day.

Sadness and reflection. It’s inevitable. Unless you hate one another – and chance are you don’t if you can assume the same space at the same time – at some point you will both try to question what happened and why. That doesn’t mean there are answers, just questions for the ether. Momentary smiles that frustrate because you don’t know why you stopped smiling but the music stopped and nobody can find the beat. Or the melody. Or even a note.

With every article of clothing placed in a box the time left shrinks towards its conclusion. You both see it coming. We see it coming. Or saw. We watched the chaos become emptiness. The thing is, even with words never said, the time draws down. And when the lights shut off and its my turn to settle down, my main concern, promise that you will sing about me.

One hour.

There’s something unsettling about the end. We all know that an end is coming. We have no delusions about that. But the moment the key gets placed on the counter and the look to find something else to do when there’s nothing more is the “it’s going to be gone soon” moment. It’s the end. Only the formality of the exit stands between the past you suddenly miss and the future you don’t want.

Love is a b*tch.

One minute.

The final embrace, both everything and nothing at the same time. Years reduced to a gesture that can be shared amongst strangers.

Door closed.

The end?

-VSB P