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There is only so much one can glean from another’s social media accounts. Sure, there’s a lot that can be unraveled in terms of behavior and character, but these are not media in which anyone can do so in totality. So when it came to criticism about Nicki Minaj over her silence about the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, much of it felt unfair, or at the very least, not appropriately contextualized.

Would I have handled critics exactly like Nicki Minaj did? No, but there was a lot of presumption in one particular tweet that sparked additional online criticism. The tweet in question read: “I’m kind of offended that Nicki could tweet about a song but can’t acknowledge the shootings in Orlando.”

Minaj subsequently unfollowed him, resulting in more questions asking why she and other artists like Drake and Taylor Swift failed to express their grievances on their respective social media accounts.

As far as Minaj tweeting about her single, let us not forget that Minaj is an artist—you know, an employee—and part of an employee’s said duties would include the promotion of their work. That said, when it comes to Minaj, Swift, and Rihanna, I do understand the notion that considering how instrumental gay men have been in their careers as fans, dancers, make up artists, hairdressers, and other professional duties, there ought to be a specific sensitivity to tragedies directly impacting the LGBT community.

It is a valid observation, though a lack of social media updates does not necessarily mean these artists don’t care. The same goes for others in media and entertainment. Just this week, I saw someone tweet at the podcast “Another Round” about their lack of response to the Orlando shooting. The podcast’s response was: “we havent recorded a full episode since it happened.”

Beloveds, don’t let the internet fool you into thinking everything is or must be instantaneous. 

While it is true that Minaj has addressed matters like the death of Sandra Bland, it was not days after her death but months after a grand jury failed to make any indictments. I don’t know if these celebrities have actually made any donations to charities in support of Orlando’s victims. Neither do you. I don’t know if these artists will ultimately issue statements about the mass shooting at a later date. Neither do you.

What I do know, though, in my own life as a gay Black man, many people handle tragedy differently. Moreover, there is no one way to handle tragedy. So when the likes of Perez Hilton attacked Minaj online, I found his sudden urgency for decency, respect for humanity, and political correctness rather dubious. After all, this is the same person who called Will.I.Am a “faggot” and “thug” and he’s repeatedly been contemptous in his criticism of Black female celebrities like Nicki Minaj. To that end, if there is a hell, that hypocritical motherfucker can dive fingers and tongue first into the seventh circle.

Read the rest at Complex.

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On Tuesday, a typical, but no less still unnecessarily combative, Omarosa Manigault spoke with MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts about her role in the orgy of audacious idiocy and political amateurism known as the Donald J. Trump for President campaign.

As Omarosa spoke very seriously about an unserious person, I noticed that she was listed as the “Vice Chair of Donald Trump’s National Diversity Coalition.” Who knew such a thing existed? After I stopped laughing, I watched a noticeably ticked off Omarosa shoo, shoo away Roberts’ question about her referring to herself as Trump’s “Valerie Jarrett” in a Washington Post interview that ran earlier this month.

Omarosa claimed the statement was “paraphrased,” but what sticks out most about that interview is the logic she employed to validate her involvement in Trump’s increasingly polarizing campaign.

Although Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks says Omarosa “doesn’t represent the campaign in an official capacity,” she is undoubtedly one of Trump’s strongest surrogates. So, why would a black woman voluntarily speak on behalf of the political ambitions of a man whose ideology is marinated in at least three forms of bigotry? According to Omarosa, “I’m the person who pulls him back when he goes too far.”

Since anyone paying attention can confirm that that is not going especially well, again, why be a part of this campaign in any fashion?

Omarosa says that while she can elect to leave “the room,” i.e., the place where key decisions for the campaign are made, there is a reason she sticks around. To Omarosa, “anyone that thinks we don’t need to be in those rooms is naive.” It takes a lot of confidence to speak in condescension, but confidence alone doesn’t make dubious statements any more convincing than they actually are.

To her credit, Omarosa is quite adept at sounding like actions done out of self-interest are rooted in principle. In this instance, that would be the belief that Donald J. Trump would make a capable president and that she’s involved to make sure he places his best foot forward in convincing a skeptical public of that reality. Unfortunately, I am not one who has ever fallen for the GOP illusion that businesspeople are uniquely qualified to hold elected office. However, even if Omarosa did genuinely believe that Trump would make a better president than Hillary Rodham Clinton, her statement is rooted in a belief that being present matters more than it has largely ever proven to be with Republicans.

That’s why Omarosa’s assertions are not particularly new. There are plenty of blacks, Latinos, women and members of the LGBT community who work with Republicans who would make the same argument. However, what did Michael Steele’s run as the head of the Republican National Committee do as far as getting Republicans to be more respectful toward black voters? It certainly did not get the bulk of them in Congress to have any more urgency in restoring the Voting Rights Act. Likewise, it did not get many Republicans to skip the bad habit of being grossly disrespectful to our nation’s first black president.

When it comes to women’s rights, the GOP gets an F. Actually, the party gets an F and a U, but you get it. The same grade is assigned for its record on LGBT rights, though oddly enough, Trump is arguably the most progressive Republican presidential candidate on the LGBT community by the very low barometer that is merely acknowledging us without complete contempt. As for Latinos, the bulk of the Republican Party has worked to actively thwart immigration reform for years. Couple that with Republican primary voters electing a man who wants to build a “big, beautiful wall” along the Mexican border, and sorry to inform Latino Republicans, but they don’t love ya, girl.

Read the rest at The Root.

 

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In the coming weeks and months and, surely, the years after President Barack Obama actually leaves office, much time will be spent examining his political legacy from all angles. Already, writers like me are examining the Obama record on LGBT issues, while others concentrate on his record on the economy, foreign policy and the environment. And although there are certainly some areas worthy of critique and debate—namely his record on deportation and tackling issues that directly speak to the plight of black people living in America—some have started to critique Obama for essentially not being a racism-solving unicorn.

Late last year, Issac J. Bailey wrote an essay titled, “Why Obama Must Reach Out to Angry Whites” for Politico. In it, Bailey, who is black, argued that in the wake of the political ascension of Donald Trump, it is up to Obama to solve lingering racial divisions in America. One assumes that a laugh track played in the background the entire time Bailey was writing, but that remains unconfirmed.

That said, Bailey claimed, “There is only one person who can unite the country again, and he works in the White House. Yes, President Barack Obama—ironically, the man who is the personification of the fear Trump is exploiting—is the one in the best position to quell the anger being stirred up.”

If you remember correctly, Obama’s historic presidential campaign was marked as the launch of post-racial America. White people predominantly said this while the black people they don’t speak to regularly, or ever, rolled their eyes and went about their days. It’s clear now which party won that argument.

Still, Bailey went on to write: “What he needs to do is use the power of the office in a different way, one that matches the ruthless effectiveness of a demagogue with a private jet. Obama needs to go on a listening tour of white America—to connect, in person, with Americans he has either been unable or unwilling to reach during his seven years in office.”

Bailey proceeds to then offer his own anecdotal evidence of how this strategy works, though, spoiler alert: Bailey is not the first black president of the United States; thus, his comparison is inherently flawed.

Exactly one week later, another piece like Bailey’s surfaced. This one was titled, “Ending racism should be Obama’s life mission as he exits presidency.” Here, Leonard Greene, another black man, proceeds to make the same mistake as Bailey. Greene writes, “If Obama is really serious about attacking America’s original sin, he should immediately abandon any thoughts about creating some kind of post-presidency global foundation.”

So what should Obama do?

Greene says, “Instead, the nation’s first black president should dedicate the rest of his life to working exclusively on trying to heal the racial divide.

To quote Eeyore, “Oh bother.”

Read the rest at The Root.

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Older black women are, by and large, my happy place. They often prove themselves to be incredibly honest, wonderfully hilarious and the very best of blackness. I have had an affinity for the group I describe as “black aunties” since I was a child who obsessed over his literal black aunties. However, it is often hard to find a black auntie in the space of social media outside of hilarious memes or videos in which their children or other younger relatives opt to share them unto the world.

Thankfully, more black aunties are joining social media. Of course, Jackée Harry is the belle of the ball on Twitter, followed by the legendary Anita Baker. I’m sure there are a bunch of mature women on Facebook, but their sons, daughters, nieces and nephews typically ruin that platform for me five minutes into a home page scan, so never mind that. Now, when it comes to Instagram, without a shadow of a doubt, Tina Knowles Lawson is the best f–king thing to ever happen to Instagram.

She is literally your 60-plus black mom on IG, and I mean that in the best of ways. Like, your mom before she became your mom, and your mom after she got her life back once your ass moved the hell up out of her house. I’ve always known Ms. Tina to be a national treasure, if for no other reason than what is the gift of her talented daughters, but her social media presence has taken me to more places than I Am … Sasha Fierce.

Read the rest at The Root.

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Far too often, we are collectively thrilled with people conveying basic human decency or, in other cases, simply acknowledging the marginalized in ways typically not done by anyone who is a part of the majority. When I was a child, of all things I remember about Bill Clinton, one that sticks out most is this notion of him being our first black president. Clinton was called this because, as a Southern white man from meager means, he not only appreciated certain cultural mores typically associated with Southern black people but also perpetuated select tropes about blacks, like, say, coming from a single-parent household.

In the years following that comical claim, it’s been consistently noted that former President Clinton is not our first black president—notably in terms of both policy and the political ascension of our actual, first black president, Barack Obama. Unfortunately, in recent years, some members of the LGBT community—notably the white ones—have not learned from this mistake. In recent years, I’ve seen Obama hailed as “the first gay president.” This claim is rooted in Obama being arguably the most progressive president in our nation’s history with respect to LGBT rights.

It is a claim with complete and absolute merit.

In 2009 President Obama signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which gave the Justice Department the power to investigate and prosecute violence in which the perpetrator selected a victim based on many factors—including sexual orientation and gender identity.

A year later, Obama signed a memorandum that protects rights related to hospital visitation and health care decisions for LGBT people.

Of course, in 2011 the Obama administration ended “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” the military policy that prohibited qualified gay and lesbian Americans from openly serving in the armed forces.

In 2014 Obama signed an executive order that guaranteed the protection of transgender federal employees from workplace discrimination, while setting stronger standards for federal contractors. That same year, Obama issued additional restrictions in the United States’ bilateral relationship with Uganda over its passage of its “Anti-Homosexuality Act.”

In 2015 Obama made history as the first U.S. president to reference transgender people in a State of the Union address. Later that summer, Obama lectured Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta about his country’s gay-rights record. In a joint press conference, Obama explained: “When you start treating people differently not because of any harm they are doing to anybody, but because they are different, that’s the path whereby freedoms begin to erode. And bad things happen.”

There are many, many other examples that speak to the testament of the Obama administration’s commitment to advancing the quality of life among members of the LGBT community. Just this year, Obama is set to declare the first national monument recognizing the struggle of LGBT rights.

Of course, this list of accomplishments goes far beyond simply being decent and willing to acknowledge the disenfranchised. And yet, as instrumental as Obama has been on LGBT rights, when it comes to anointing him with labels like “the first gay president” or “the gay president,” it is prudent to remember that Obama is a politician. Yes, Obama is a shrewd politician, for sure, but a politician all the same.

Indeed, let us never forget that in order for Barack Obama to even become president, he had to feign disapproval of marriage equality at a time when it was not widely supported by the electorate at large.

Read the rest at The Root.

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In the wake of the terrible tragedy in Orlando, many have understandably turned to love. Love is warming. Love is beautiful. Love is an imperfect, but no less joyous feeling. So, it is not at all surprising to see multiple well-meaning, sympathetic people invoke “love wins” and “love is love” in response to the hatred that was conveyed in its most vitriolic and violent form at the Pulse nightclub.

 I love an early ’90s ballad from Mariah Carey and Céline Dion too, but love does not always win. Love is not always enough. Although love is beautiful, it has severe limitations.

The invocation of love made sense in the context of marriage equality, as a political strategy. This benefited the gay rights movement because love is a universal and lofty emotion that’s easily consumed.

Nonetheless, that was a specific use for a specific argument—one that is increasingly proving impractical with respect to advocating tolerance and our basic civil rights in areas outside of marriage.

When it comes to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and gender-queer people, we need to talk about these identities outside of the prisms of love and romantic partnerships. We need to be able to consider same-sex identities outside of just romance. Sometimes it’s not about love; sometimes people just want to f**k. Straight people should understand this. We are no different than you all in that regard.

Sometimes, when you see two men kissing, it is just passion, and yes, that denotes sex. Sex is perfectly natural. Sex and passion conveyed by two consenting adults is perfectly fine.

How two men express affection for each other—again, sex—is not widely seen in mass media. The sight still makes many—even those who claim to accept marriage equality—uncomfortable. We have learned that the sight of two men kissing each other angered the shooter in Orlando, Omar Mateen. Were those two men in love? None of us know. But more importantly, it shouldn’t matter: non-heterosexual relationships should not continue to be solely spoken of in the context of love.

As reports surface that Mateen not only used gay dating apps, but frequented Pulse before terrorizing it, it seems that he may have had some sort of conflict within himself about his sexuality. A former classmate of Mateen’s has said that he was gay and once asked him out. The man, who did not identify himself in his interview, went on to say, “He just wanted to fit in and no one liked him. He was always socially awkward.”

That internal struggle, which potentially manifested itself in rage and acts of violence, is not limited to Mateen. In March, Elliot Morales was convicted of a hate crime after murdering a man whom he referred to as a “faggot.” During Morales’ trial, prosecutors claimed that Morales was driven to kill by his own issues with his sexuality.

Read the rest at ELLE.

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More often than not, when I am asked what it was like being gay in the South, it is met with certain expectations. You can tell the person asking is likely anticipating me to offer a dramatic pause—perhaps one long enough to let a single tear fall down my face—before ultimately saying something that fits into their stereotypical presumptions. Maybe they expect me to tell a story about being shoved down by a gang of overalls-wearing homophobes on a hog farm, too. Who knows, but based on reactions, I typically don’t offer the response they’re seeking.

As someone who is also Black (and not having “transcended race”), I am used to this; it is very much akin to the falsehood that Black folks have some monopoly on homophobia. Much like that issue, homophobia in the South is not all that different at its core than it is anywhere else. If nothing else, perhaps it is unique in its delivery.

That said, when one says “the South,” specifics are required.

I am from Houston, Texas, with both sides of my family largely hailing from Louisiana. Texas is a nation unto itself and while Houston is southern, the rest? Eh, not so much. Similarly, you can’t expect major southern cities like Houston, New Orleans, Atlanta, or Miami to be the same as towns in Mississippi or Alabama. The reality is, while I chose to wait until I was a 21-year-old intern in New York City to admit to myself and my friends that I was gay, I could have easily done so in high school.

At the time, many of my friends were sneaking into gay and lesbian clubs where they were free to be themselves. One club in particular was called Big Yo’s. I never made it there—and though everyone comes out on their own schedules—a part of me wishes I was. It was always described to me as a fun, joyous place where people were allowed to live as individuals—a feat often unallowed in every other space of their lives. Rappers like Trina would perform at the clubs because (surprise, surprise) some people knew early on that money is money and that all people—even those defying heteronormativity and rigid gender binaries—are just people.

Years later, relatives would tell me about their drives to New Orleans to see groundbreaking queer rap artists like Katey Red perform. Some would join Katey Red onstage to twerk the night away. For all the current chatter about where hip hop needs to go in terms of allowing more LGBT representation, a fun fact is that this has long been happening in the South.

This same joy I’ve heard and seen in cities like Houston and New Orleans also exists in other places like Atlanta, and yes, Orlando.

The thing about us southern folk is while bigotry might be directly in our faces and heard at higher volumes, we have always found a way to bounce pass it—literally and figuratively. And the thing about hearing prejudice at its bluntest delivery is that it does not mean you are any safer in places where it is conveyed in softer tones. Donald Trump is a bigot and xenophobe, but he is nothing more than a reflection of the Republican Party, and in many ways, America.

Read the rest at Complex.

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It happened when Michael Jackson died. It happened shortly after Whitney Houston’s death. It happened to Prince after he died suddenly. It has since happened to Muhammad Ali. I fear it will be a fate met one day by the likes of Beyoncé, Steph Curry, Rihanna, and LeBron James.

“It” is when white media exalts fallen Black public figures for “transcending race” in an attempt to honor them.

“It” will never not be disingenuous. It will always be another superficial attempt to address racism. It will always be a glib statement earning the rightful eyeroll of Black people everywhere.

One problem with the notion of “transcending race” is that it immediately connotes that being Black is some sort of barrier. Why does one need to transcend who they are? This turn of phrase is meant as a compliment, but it is anything but. It is a well-meaning—but no less dishonest—way of describing Black men and women who have accomplished so much in the face of adversity.

Why does one need to “transcend” their Blackness for mainstream a.k.a. white consumption? When I hear well-meaning white folks write or utter this phrase, I can’t help but chuckle at how self-absorbed they’re being. Instead, they should say ,“I got over my own biases” and embraced X Black celebrity.

Be real, beloved, and spare us the bullshit.

All of the aforementioned Black celebrities were unapologetically Black. Moreover, none of them ever escaped the systemically unfair battle against any living, breathing, and especially thriving Black person.

Read the rest at Complex.

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When it comes to the subgenre of punditry best described as “crotchety, delusional conservative white man,” Pat Buchanan has long been its shining star. To Buchanan’s credit, he’s been consistently curmudgeonly about America’s shifting demographics for decades. In 1992 Buchanan infamously spoke of a “culture war” plaguing the United States during a speech at that year’s Republican convention. In Buchanan’s mind, the Democratic Party represented a bunch of abortion-loving, feminism-peddling, “homosexual rights”-advocating deviants. His answer to the crowd was that “we must take back our cities and take back our culture and take back our country.”

And unlike Ms. Lauryn Hill, Buchanan does not need new arrangements to perform his act. No, his political rhetoric is basically Mary J. Blige’s onstage dancing. To wit, Buchanan recently wrote an unintentionally hilarious essay about “the social disaster of white Middle America.” In the essay, entitled “The Great White Hope,” Buchanan laments a purported crisis among “middle-aged white folks” that, he says, consists of growing numbers of cases of “alcoholic liver disease, overdoses of heroin and opioids, and suicides.”

Buchanan’s explanation for this is twofold. In one instance he discusses white working-class voters being victims of depreciating wages and a lack of available jobs because of globalization. Typically, if Buchanan told me the sky was blue, I’d go outside with my phone to take a shot of the blood-orange moon that’s clearly more than likely to be present, but hey, there is some level of truth there.

Unfortunately, “Project Pat” then attributes the drug use, alcoholism and suicide rates to shrinking numbers of married white men. To Project Pat, “single white men are not only being left behind by the new economy, they are becoming alienated from society.” Moreover, the “world has been turned upside-down for white children.”

In this man’s mind, this is evidenced by select history books saying that America was “‘discovered’ by genocidal white racists, who murdered the native peoples of color, enslaved Africans to do the labor they refused to do, then went out and brutalized and colonized indigenous peoples all over the world.”

So, the crux of his complaints about education policy is that American children are being told the truth about the history of this nation. Whatever will these poor white kids do (well, besides continue to enjoy the perks of being white in a society that caters to white people)? Project Pat proceeds to argue that a call for diversity is meant to marginalize white people. If you really want to laugh, he also complains that “angry white male” is now “an acceptable slur in culture and politics.”

“N–ger” is a slur; “angry white male” is a pretty solid descriptor for the conservative-media-industrial complex that’s made Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and others millions of dollars.

In any event, Buchanan leaves us with this: “So it is that people of that derided ethnicity, race, and gender see in Donald Trump someone who unapologetically berates and mocks the elites who have dispossessed them, and who despise them. Is it any surprise that militant anti-government groups attract white males? Is it so surprising that the Donald today, like Jess Willard a century ago, is seen by millions as ‘The Great White Hope?’”

Read the rest at The Root.

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Very seldom will you ever find me speaking ill of the legendary Bobby Brown. You’re now reading words from someone who will regularly inform you that if not for the Don’t Be Cruel album, it’s highly unlikely you will have artists like Usher, Trey Songz and Chris Brown. A person, who after finding out “The Kang of R&B” was selling BBQ sauce and fried chicken seasoning, immediately went online to place an order. So, my love of Bobby Brown is pure and everlasting.

However, there is news pouring out from a recent interview that’s troubled me. There are a few things in life I can look past. I pass no judgment on Bobby Brown for recently telling ABC’s Robin Roberts that he once had sex with a ghost is a fine example. Brown’s purported private ghost busting aside, I’m more frustrated that he felt compelled to discuss a long rumored part of his late ex wife’s life.

Speaking with Us Weekly, Brown addressed the outstanding rumor that Whitney Houston had a same-sex relationship with Robyn Crawford. Houston met Crawford as a teen before she ultimately hired Crawford to be her assistant and creative director. Rumors of a romance started in the late 1980s and traveled with the late iconic singer for years. The rumor reached its peak of speculation once Houston went on to join Michael Jackson in the afterlife choir and Crawford spoke with Esquire about their relationship.

In response to stories that Houston was pressured by family members not to see her, Crawford noted, “Nobody kept Whitney from doing anything.” Beyond that, though, there is a subtle gorgeousness to how Crawford speaks of Houston. It is quite clear that whatever their relationship was, it was rooted in love.

Crawford explained: “I have never spoken about her until now. And she knew I wouldn’t. She was a loyal friend and she knew I was never going to be disloyal to her. I was never going to betray her. Now I can’t believe that I’m never going to hug her or hear her laughter again. I loved her laughter and that’s what I miss most, that’s what I miss already.”

And: “I just hope that she wasn’t in pain and that she hadn’t lost hope. She gave so much to so many people; I hope that she felt loved in return. She was the action, for such a long time. She’s out of the action now. I hope she can finally rest.”

This should have been the end of that. No one who was not privy to the intel to confirm the specifics of their relationship deserved nothing more than what Crawford offered. Sadly, Brown has now chimed in, telling Us Weekly that when it comes to Houston and Crawford, “I know. We were married for 14 years. There are some things we talked about that were personal to us.”

Brown, who recently released a memoir, “Every Little Step,” alleges that Houston was bisexual. He told Us, “I’m a man and she was attracted to me!”

Read the rest at VH1.

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