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Unless you have been living under the largest rock in the world with no cable or internet access, when it comes to the Kardashians, you know what it is.

If anyone asks you what they do for a living, they’re being insincere and smug. We know what they do: They tell us every tidbit of their personal lives in front of a camera crew for professional gain. Everything they do and everyone they surround themselves with is readily available for public consumption. This has been the case for several years now. One doesn’t have to like that they make a living this way, but the cheapening of celebrity has happened and that family was shrewd enough to monetize it.

To that end, anyone who enters any of Kim Kardashian’s or her kinfolks’ spaces knows what they are signing up for. So when I heard Tyga’s recent interview with Los Angeles radio station Real 92.3, my immediate response was, “Negro, please.” My follow-up comment was, “You gotta shut your black ass up.”

On how the relationship impacted his career, Tyga said: “When you’re in a very public relationship like that, it’s hard for other people to see you differently than that. Being in that … it took a lot, careerwise, everything. It overshadowed a lot of my talents and a lot of things that I worked hard for.”

Tyga went on to add: “She’s young. When you’re young, you’re going to make mistakes. All of those mistakes are going to be in the public eye so that puts a lot of strain on the relationship. Right now, I want to focus on what I need to do. I just wanted to get back to just me. I think for her as well.”

Indeed, Kylie Jenner is young—she’s 18—and Tyga is 26. Although Kanye West once said, disgustingly, that Tyga was “smart” for getting in “early,” I join the likes of Amber Rose in being disgusted by his relationship with Jenner starting before she turned 18. There is a reason West made that claim, though. As much flak as the Kardashian-Jenner ladies (minus Kourtney Kardashian) get for dating famous (black) men, the reality is, many of these men are just as opportunistic and strategic as the women.

The Kardashians like to date men who just love being part of a much larger family setting. If they’re not dating that kind of guy, they’re dealing with men with marginal fame compared with theirs who wouldn’t mind an upgrade. The kind of guy who feels like he’s sitting in coach and wants more than just free nuts in his cramped middle seat. Tyga is that man in the middle who can’t wait to move on up. Why? Because the second he dates someone like Kylie Jenner, he becomes instantly famous.

This man was willing to risk his own episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit for the sake of netting more headlines than his rap skills got him. Yeah, as catchy as “Rack City” is, Tyga ain’t exactly going over people’s heads with his incredible vocabulary, penchant for metaphor and overall great skill. Even if we’re going to pretend that Tyga does care about his music career being overshadowed, if that is the case, why is he still talking about a relationship that’s apparently over?

Read the rest at The Root.

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Bless Justin Timberlake’s vanilla-flavored heart. In the year of LEMONADE, he’s only now realizing that it’s a new day — a time in which the things he says that the kids would describe as “problematic” won’t just float away unquestioned.

To wit, moments after Timberlake said he was “#Inspired” by remarks made by actor/activist Jesse Williams celebrating blackness and decrying cultural appropriation at this year’s BET Awards, a few Twitter users felt similarly inspired to inform the pop singer that they had not forgotten his trifling past. One tweet yielded an actual response from the *NSYNC heartthrob turned pop star: “So does this mean you’re going to stop appropriating our music and culture? And apologize to Janet too.”

Timberlake responded, though all he did was confirm that he likely missed key points made by Williams (while coming very close to echoing “all lives matter” rhetoric): “Oh, you sweet soul. The more you realize that we are the same, the more we can have a conversation. Bye.”

Then came more eye-roll-inducing tweets. Like the one where he plays at being the victim: “I feel misunderstood. I responded to a specific tweet that wasn’t meant to be a general response. I shouldn’t have responded anyway…”

Or the one where he opts for a patronizing tone rather than a sincere display of humility: “I forget this forum sometimes… I was truly inspired by @iJesseWilliams speech because I really do feel that we are all one… A human race.” (Again with the “all lives” mindset.)

And of course the one where he offers a weak apology: “I apologize to anyone that felt I was out of turn. I have nothing but LOVE FOR YOU AND ALL OF US. –JT”

As mighty white as all this sounds, I don’t believe cultural appropriation is the fundamental issue here. A Southern white boy from Memphis being into R&B isn’t surprising or remarkable in any meaningful way. The same goes for any child born in the 1980s who was inspired by the two of the biggest artists of that era: Michael Jackson and Prince. The white boy making music inspired by black art isn’t what’s wrong with Timberlake. It has little to do with why he enrages many of us at times.

What’s grating about Timberlake and white entertainers like him is that, for all their fandom as it relates to black culture, they don’t seem to give much of a damn about the black people who created that culture and continue to keep it alive and fresh. And, to make matters worse, these entertainers typically benefit and profit from our culture more than we ever do. The problem with people like Timberlake is that they will use their white feet and dance to Michael Jackson-indebted steps only to run back to their ivory towers when convenient.

In Timberlake’s case, this would be February 2004, in the hours that followed his Super Bowl performance with Janet Jackson—the one in which Timberlake pulled at her costume to reveal her breast on live TV. Though both apologized, Timberlake did so as if he had absolutely no idea what was intended to happen during that set—opting instead to place most of the onus on Jackson.

Jackson told Oprah Winfrey that she felt Timberlake left her hanging “to a certain degree.” Only years later would Timberlake admit to this in interview with Entertainment Weekly, saying, “I wish I had supported Janet more. I am not sorry I apologized, but I wish I had been there more for Janet.”

Timberlake used Jackson’s celebrity to increase his own, and then used his privilege as a white man to let the black woman take the fall for an incident that involved both of them. Many of us will never forget or forgive what he did to Janet Jackson because it’s a reminder of how little capital black people have in this country—even if you’re as popular and as influential a star as Janet Damita Jo Jackson.

Read the rest at Complex.

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While there is no confirmation about reports that the entire cast of Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta has been fired, I do know that after the latest season of the hit reality series, something’s gotta give. For years now, LHHATL has been my favorite Negro telenovela, but I’m not enjoying it as much as I used to. Like, watching the last 12 episodes has been the equivalent of arriving at the fish fry hungry, only to be served cold pieces of tilapia (I prefer hot fried catfish, FYI).

Let’s gather ’round and count the mistakes:

1. Way too much focus on the King family.

Make no mistake: LHHATL is still a hit series and, for many of us, a viewing ritual. However, it’s very easy to go from “I plan around this show” to “Oh, girl, let the DVR catch it.” (This means you, Empireseason 2.) To be fair, I believed that the franchise needed new players, but that does not mean we needed to be bombarded with their personal problems mere seconds into the new season.

We went from a very long first date to shacking up within months. Now I feel kidnapped by them. Though the King family seems interesting—America’s Most Wanted alum, baby mama drama, psycho girlfriends—why have we spent so much time on these new folks? And what kills me about this is that in the end, most of them won’t be back next season. Scrapp Deleon is in prison, and his mama is facing 30 years for identity theft. So all of that was for naught.

Put some money on their books and put Tommie in anger management. Then be done with them. God bless or whatever.

2. D. Smith should just go back to producing.

I was quite excited about the idea of a transgender woman being on the show, but what’s most interesting about this season of the show is that although there’s been interesting, progressive conversations about gender and sexuality, D. Smith hasn’t been involved in most of them. D. Smith had every right to be offended by Waka Flocka’s transphobic comments, but her questioning his wife, Tammy Rivera, turned into a real-life back-and-forth fight in the comments section of the Shade Room.

Listen, D. Smith has major credits, but on this here franchise, Tammy Rivera and she are co-workers—and Tammy has a higher job title. I do find it fascinating that trans people get to be like everyone else on the show—aka an almost-villainlike character—but other than that, D. Smith has been depicted as just unnecessarily combative. There could have been some good conversations about tolerance and subtle forms of bigotry, but again, they were lost in the petty sauce.

As for those actual, progressive conversations I was referring to, those honors go to Mimi’s ex, Chris. I’m not sure Chris identifies as genderqueer, but that was essentially the breakdown given. Some of the best scenes of this show consisted of Mimi, Chris and Ariel discussing sexuality and gender identity on a couch over wine they probably got from Target. And that’s no shade. Target has a decent selection.

Read the rest at The Root.

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Toward the end of 2014, vicious and very much hateful people worked quickly to spread isolated, unedited vocals of a Mariah Carey holiday performance that was not her best (to say the least).

We know Mariah loves herself some Christmas, but unfortunately, when she performed “All I Want for Christmas Is You” during a Rockefeller Center Christmas tree-lighting special on NBC, she sounded like she had gargled with a lump of coal (no shade). Many folks took absolute glee in this spectacle.

In one post about the performance, a writer wrote: “Remember when Mariah Carey could sing? Most millennials probably can’t.”

As a millennial, let the record show that this is an absolute damn lie. Has Mariah’s once pristine and flawless voice shown signs of decline with time and possibly pinot grigio? I would never lie and deny this, dahling. Even if I am a proud member of her Lambily family, I can acknowledge that there have been moments in which one could say that Mimi sang as if she couldn’t fulfill the terms of her agreement with Ursula the Sea Witch, and thus, was being punished.

However, if there is one constant about Mariah Carey, it is that her vocal talent is enduring and ready to rebound. This would include Mariah during The Emancipation of Mimi era in which she let many doubters know back then that she was not washed up. This would also include right about now.

I’m not sure what Mariah has been doing—vocal rest, a new contract with Ursula, lots of prayer and tea—but she’s sounded lovely for most of the year. There are countless videos posted on YouTubefrom her recent Sweet Sweet Fantasy international tour. Maybe Mariah doesn’t sound like the MTV Unplugged special, but she is singing as strongly as she ever has in several years.

Mariah herself has also been posting video clips from her Las Vegas residency, Mariah #1 to Infinity, at Caesar’s Palace.

Read the rest at The Root.

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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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Michael Arceneaux (Complex, Ebony, The Guardian) goes deep on gays in the media, coming out, sexual camels, Rih vs Bey, and dealing post-Orlando.

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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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