Whats Your Malfunction?

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I received a letter from the Schomberg Center For Research in Black Culture.  They thanked me for my regular contribution and support. They also enclosed a survey about ” The Future of Black America.”

I breezed through the questions effortlessly (but who made me an expert on black people?) As I read each question about education,  progression,  current challenges, I answered honestly.  Yet, I couldn’t help but wonder if I’m the right person to submit that feedback.  Obviously,  I’m aware of the issues if I’m already a supporter. If I’m on your mailing list then I’m receiving the necessary information. Shouldn’t we be trying to get feedback from people who dont have easy access to the issues?

I would imagine it would be more prudent to send mass mailings. I would imagine a guy in jeans with hundreds of surveys in a big bag slung over his shoulder.  He should walk up to random people of color and give them the survey to complete on site in real time. Its like blatantly saying, “Hey! What’s your malfunction? ”

I am sometimes offended by the misrepresentation of blacks in places of esteem and the jaded picture of us painted by media.  A week ago there was a report on New York 1 that more black women have had terminations this year than live births.  All I could think was “why are we highlighting black women? What are our counterparts of other ethnicities doing? This is not a ‘race’ issue! PEOPLE are broke and unemployed and scared to start families!”

I read a great book recently called “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome.” The author notes the three elements that she thinks define the title: vacant esteem,  ever present anger and racist socialization. (P184)

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With statistics like the one blasted on New York 1 and the continued statistics on the prison population (ex: The inmate population was eighty five percent African American in 2004.)  Present day we still make up 12% of the general population but 1/2 of the prison population. 

Just as a bonus…” 1 in 56 men of Hispanic origin are behind bars (p103.)
Just in case you thought you were exempt from bigotry and intolerance! Yea you over there! 😉

So if someone came up to you questioning the issues of your presumed ethnicity? If they asked you questions that offended you but showed you statistics you couldn’t deny and asked you to be a part of the solution. ..
What would you do?
Most stereotypes are either magnified or exaggerated truths. Some are completely manifested by fear. 

So you..
Yea you over there…

What’s your malfunction?

-Shaun Nickens

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Girl, Thats Not Your Booty, That’s Your Hip!!! (Challenging Accepted American Media Images of Women of Color)

I don’t care what she tells you.  I don’t care if she looks you right in the eye when she says it.  If she says she doesn’t check her butt out in the mirror before she leaves the house, she’s lying!  We’re all guilty of it.  Hair, skin, nails and booty.  At this point, I don’t even know what I’m looking for!  I’m 27 and I’m aware nothing back there is going to change.  I’m not genetically configured in a way that constitutes a big ol’ Nicki Minaj backside.  Shoot…it wasn’t in her genetic make up either!!!!  I can’t afford the shots and I heard the serum can leak into another  body part and you’ll get a fat knee or belly button or something. Ewww!  So at some point you have to be happy with what you have and be confident and innately sexy.  When was it determined that booty makes a woman sexy?

I remember sitting in an auditorium at Stony Brook University and listening to an informative speech about the story of Sarah Baartman  AKA “The Hottentot Venus.”  I was so moved I decided to do a feature on it with a youth group I worked with at a local dance studio.  We inserted a tribute to her in our annual black history show.  If you don’t know her story I’ll give you the edited version.  She was one of the Khoi people of South Africa.  She was a slave under British rule and she was sent to London in 1810 as a “performer” for “exhibition.”  She was exhibited because of her alluring aesthetic appeal in comparison to European women of that time and her physical features were considered bizarre.  She was the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not of her time.  After she died (allegedly of smallpox) her genitalia was displayed in a Parisian museum.  I was so hurt.  How could a human being objectify another human being like that?

I examine where we are present day.  I think about the images forced upon us by main stream media.  We are surrounded by booty!  Turn on the radio…what do you hear?  Rihanna’s “Cake”, Big Sean singing “ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass…”, or how about the contemporary version of the 80’s babies party anthem by Luke “I Wanna Rock”.  I’m showing my age but remember that song by 2 Live Crew “Pop That Coochie”?  We all know Sir-Mix-A-Lot “I like big butts.”  This has been going on for years!  We’ve been brainwashed by booty.  In a way I support it because there was also a time where curves weren’t accepted at all and we were sending the wrong messages with pencil thin chain-smoking models on our television screens.  However, there has to be a definitive line drawn.  This line has to be thick enough and bold enough to honor our heritage.  This line has to be thin enough and bright enough to be able to laugh at ourselves in certain circumstances.  Who doesn’t love the Thugnificent song from animated series “The Boondocks” entitled , “Booty Butt Cheeks?”

This line has to be transparent enough that we can step over it and around it when people of other ethnicities and cultures attempt to comment on the subjects that we think are exclusive to our own colored community.  Let me be clear…there is no topic that can be our own little secret.  So if it would offend you if your Caucasian brother or sister mentions a black woman’s rear end…maybe it shouldn’t be a topic of conversation for you either.  I need us to be able to recognize when things have gone too far.  I can’t shop for my 13-year-old sister anymore!  The shirts look like bras!  The shorts look like panties!  There’s writing on the back of the pants.  I’m alarmed as a sibling, let alone a parent.  I’m going to learn how to sew so she can wear clothes that actually cover and protect her body!

I was describing an outfit to a co-worker the other day.  I was telling her how I couldn’t wait to wear it because it accentuated my “curves.”  She said, “What curves?  You have no booty.”  I’m used to comments like this so I stood up and I did my best booty pose with an award-winning provocative smile.  She simply responded, “You’re so cute. Girl, that ain’t booty, that’s your hip!”  We all cracked up and then attempted to resume working with tears in our eyes.  As women we have to accept all forms of beauty and appeal,  we have to love ourselves because media will never give us accurate perceptions of what attracts a man to a woman.  We think in different ways, our feelings vary, and our self-expression will always be similar but never identical.  To any woman who struggles with body image and consciousness…love yourself (I don’t care how cliché it sounds)…or ShutYaMouthAndCallMeUgly 😉

-By Shaun Nickens