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For many Black children born in the 1980s, Ben Carson is a hero. He is, as BuzzFeed’s Joel Andersondescribes in a well-done profile about the surgeon-turned-GOP-presidential-contender, “an icon of Black triumph.” Carson was never this to me, but his allure amongst the community as a collective is undeniable. That allure, though, has since been tainted by his politics, and to be more specific, his new celebrity — largely owed to exhibiting a caricature-like behavior of Black conservatives.

Carson has compared the country to Nazi Germany over the Affordable Health Care Act, which he has notoriously likened to slavery. Anyone who says this is comically hyperbolic and under no circumstances should be taken seriously. Yet, Carson is among many conservatives mostly because he is a Black face to white, patriarchal views. He is propped up because he says awful things about marginalized groups likeBlacks, women, and gays.

This week served as another example of this, as Carson argued that the proof of homosexuality being a choice lies within the prison system. In an interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo, the subject of marriage equality came up and so did Carson’s condemnation of gay people. To Carson, in no way are the struggles of Black people comparable to the struggle of gays.

So it goes:

Chris Cuomo: “You think being gay is a choice?”

Ben Carson: “Absolutely”

Chris Cuomo: “Why do you say that?”

Ben Carson: “Because, a lot of people who go into prison, go into prison straight and when they come out, they’re gay, so did something happen while they were in there?”

This is an idiotic way of viewing human sexuality. Men and women in forced situations acting out their sexuality in the limited options afforded to them is not proof of anyone being gay or straight or somewhere in between. What it does highlight is that sexuality is complicated. Being gay is about having predominate sexual attraction to a member of the same-sex. Being straight is the opposite. Carson must’ve ignored the sex ed classes he took decades ago, but used his HBO Go to watch lots of Oz.

As a neurosurgeon, Ben Carson is a man of science, but in this exchange he sounds like an uncle who has downed a pint of Wild Turkey and suddenly wants to make half the family uncomfortable with his dim views of the world.

The American Psychological Association ruled that “most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.” At Slate, Mark Joseph Stern reveals further scientific studies that point to homosexuality being an inborn trait.

If there’s anything pointing to choice over here, it’s Carson going above and beyond to be purposefully obtuse. Grow up, sir. You sound sillier than usual.

Indeed, Carson has a history of making disparaging remarks about gay people, comparing them to murderers, pedophiles, and those who partake in bestiality. He does this under the pretense of being a religious figure, though it will forever be amusing to me that Black people use distorted interpretations of scripture to justify bigotry given that same scheme was once applied to them.

The very God Carson pretends to speak in support of would not condemn people this way (unless he is going by Old Testament deity, which likely would’ve had him stoned to death over a Maryland-style crab boil long ago) and the white conservatives he panders to won’t get him far in the 2016 presidential primary. Then again, Carson likely knows this. The GOP presidential field has become more or less the American Idol of the conservative media complex.

Read more at NewsOne.

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Amber Rose was correct in her assessment of Kim Kardashian in an interview with Power 105.1’s “The Breakfast Club.” Kanye West has every right to defend his wife. However, the manner in which West did so highlighted that for all his talk of innovation and forward thinking – in both art and perspective – Kanye can be just as much of a misogynistic jerk as many other non-hypermasculine men who present themselves as “good guys.”

When asked about Kardashian in a separate interview with “The Breakfast Club,” Rose argued what many of us believe: she feigns naiveté about her use of sexuality for attention.

In response to his ex-girlfriend about his current wife, West said:

She’s just soaking in the moment. If Kim had dated me when I first wanted to be with her, it wouldn’t be an Amber Rose … It’s hard for a woman to want to be with someone that with Amber Rose. She wasn’t sending me no pictures. I had to take 30 showers before I got with Kim. But I just wanna be respectful, man.

By his own logic, we wouldn’t have a Kim Kardashian had Ray J not ejaculated on her on camera and sold the footage to a porn company, which only sent Kardashian’s star soaring and brought more attention to her looming reality show. Had none of that happen, it’s perfectly plausible to believe that Kim Kardashian may have remained nothing more than Paris Hilton’s closet organizer.

Even so, what’s done is done and no matter how one gets initial attention, it’s up to that person to turn it into something else and sustain it. Both Kardashian and Rose have proven capable of doing just that. More importantly, these adult women are free to do whatever they want with their bodies.

Nonetheless, only West chooses to portray Rose as someone who, after being intimate with, requires an excessive amount of bathing.

This is the same woman who inspired portions of arguably his best album, My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy, and whom he once said in concert in her hometown, “To the city of Philly, I want to thank y’all for making the incredible person that this song was made for.” But you know, now she’s dirty, though one wonders how many showers it took KimYe to wash off the minor R&B singers, strippers, professional athletes between them. Likewise, it’s interesting to see a rapper who has helped celebrate infidelity and stripper culture now suddenly wants us to view him pristinely by comparison.

West went on to argue that his wife is using her naked body to break down class barriers. As funny as it was for West to speak of his wife’s body type as “new,” it’s even more hilarious for him to argue Kim Kardashian is fighting elitism and promoting healthy body types by doing a nude spread in a magazine spread shot by, Jean-Paul Goude, who has a sordid history with this body type and the Black women typically associated with it.

In typical Kanye and Kardashian fashion, they purport their typical antics as atypical because it’s presented in glossier filters. This makes them feel superior despite all signs pointing to the contrary.

Enter Khloé Kardashian refuting Rose’s critiques of 25-year-old Tyga’s rumored relationship with her 17-year-old sister, Kylie Jenner (since she was 16), by invoking her past as a teenage stripper. Of course, I wouldn’t expect anyone living with the confines of their vapid world to realize that if anything, Rose is an expert on the problems with grown men sexualizing teenage girls, but I still want to pass her a dunce cap all the same.

Read the rest at The Urban Daily.

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Whether imagined by a semi-bored press or very real for those the post pissed off nonetheless, the controversy surrounding Mary Cheney’s Facebook inquiry about drag and blackface speaks to many truths.

For starters, it proves for the umpteenth time that no matter what the privacy settings on your social media tell you, if you’re a public figure or, in this case, you just happen to be the daughter of a former vice president, there’s no such thing as privacy. It also shows that the LGBT umbrella is always wider than you think.

She asked this:

Why is it socially acceptable—as a form of entertainment—for men to put on dresses, makeup and high heels and act out every offensive stereotype of women (bitchy, catty, dumb, slutty, etc.)—but it is not socially acceptable—as a form of entertainment—for a white person to put on blackface and act out offensive stereotypes of African Americans? Shouldn’t both be OK or neither? Why does society treat these activities differently?

Now, like Cheney, I’m gay. And, like Cheney, I don’t know a whole lot about drag shows. I’m familiar with some basic tenets of their history and their influence on pop culture through the years. I also know that many a drag queen has interrupted my performances of (insert any Beyoncé song) to perform Patti LaBelle’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” or, more recently, Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” way too many times.

But there’s one key difference between Ms. Cheney and me: If I’m unfamiliar with something—particularly an issue with even a smidgen of hypocrisy potential—I generally opt to exercise my intellectual curiosity. I use that magic machine I’ve heard cute, elderly people refer to as “the Google” or I look to friends who may be better versed on the topic at hand. Essentially, I hold off on forming an opinion about a subject until I am informed about it.

What I don’t do is blindly and ignorantly use a public forum to pose a seemingly innocuous, but actually very much insulting, question that simultaneously screams “hyperbole” and “silly things white people say.”

That’s exactly what Cheney did, though, when she took her half-baked query to Facebook.

And she probably thought she was really saying something. It’s just that people like Cheney need to be better about expressing a specific grievance about art without generalizing the entire art form itself. Especially if you’re Cheney and clearly don’t know much about what you’re attacking.

In a thoughtful retort, drag queen Miz Cracker did acknowledge that there is some level of misogyny among some queens. Even so, she warned about using some bad apples to paint a bunch using one brush. Cracker noted, “Just because some drag queens partake in misogyny individually does not make the entire art form inherently misogynistic—and this is where the blackface comparison breaks down.”

Read the rest at The Root.

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For all of Empire’s critics—and admittedly, I’ve been among them—there has been one aspect of the show that fans, skeptics and those residing somewhere in between have all agreed on: Cookie, played by Taraji P. Henson, is the best thing about the show.

Cookie is the ex-wife of Lucious Lyon—a drug dealer-turned-rapper-turned-Jay Z-like figure with Motown-era hairstyles—who helped foster Lucious’ dream of running a major record label by providing the seed money she procured through selling drugs. As a new parolee, Cookie is out to get what’s hers: her piece of the company and her charting her own success within the music industry. The Fox hip-hop-centered soap opera, which continues to make gains in the ratings, has been rightfully described as the Oscar-nominated actress’s moment.

For those who have watched Henson through the years, we knew she had a funny bone, by way of films like Baby Boy, along with the capability to tackle dramatic roles, thanks to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; however, this is really the first time that Henson has had the opportunity to be the de facto showpiece of a project. She has made the most of it.

Cookie is so many things—loud, blunt, hood as hell, smart, funny and savvy—and as such, she is the most fleshed-out character on Empire, and increasingly one of the most compelling ones on television. Much of that is testament to the talent of Henson, who has managed to turn what could easily have been described as a caricature into a multifaceted persona.

In an interview with BuzzFeed, Henson told writer Kelley L. Carter: “I understand that mentality. I am from the hood. It wasn’t upper middle class; it was lower middle class. It was a garden apartment in the hood.” She went on to add that though she didn’t live in the system, she was around those who had, plus people who lost their lives to the crack epidemic that swept black communities in the 1980s. “I have compassion for it because I was around it, so I can’t judge it. I can’t say, ‘Ooh, you’re a dirty bird because you did this, you did that!’” the Howard University graduate explained.

Henson’s compassion is what makes Cookie so endearing. She manages to lend a voice not only to women of color who have been incarcerated—a rising population that’s only now really being represented recently in television—but also to lower-class blacks in general. Yes, similar characters have been featured on reality shows like Love & Hip Hop, but so often the show and all its sensationalism makes it difficult for some viewers to look beyond that.

Empire is no less messy, but it’s scripted, so perhaps that allows some to watch it without feelings of “guilt,” given that we know all of them are pretending—though one can never be too sure with whatever VH1 is airing Monday nights. Funny enough, Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta’sJoseline Hernandez thinks she’s a direct influence on Cookie. Lil’ Kim, Foxy Brown and Mary J. Blige’s old wigs may argue otherwise, but even that speaks to the broad appeal of Cookie.

I’ve read comparisons between Cookie and Olivia Pope. Frankly, those feel misguided. Olivia Pope is fine red wine in an oversized and likely overpriced glass; Cookie is like Hennessy, only served in a champagne flute or maybe a mason jar, depending on the day. We can get drunk on both, and it’s about time audiences had the option.

Read the rest at The Root.

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Last month, I was asked to share my coming out story in a segment for tied to last night’s episode of Being Mary Jane.

Yes, I used it a Beyoncé analogy. No, I’ll never stop invoking Beyoncé. She’s Beyoncé. Can I never wear this sweater again? Don’t answer that. I’m going to probably put it on in a few minutes.

As for the story: Want to hear it? Here it go (under the hood).


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A photo posted by Beyoncé (@beyonce) on

No one under the age of 40 who values their nerves gives Grammy voters the benefit of the doubt. While they certainly have awarded younger acts in major categories, more often than not, it is in categories like Record and Song of the Year. And more often than not, when it comes to the largest prize of the night, Album of the Year, it is often reserved for an artist whose critical and commercial dominance have long peaked. When someone younger does win, it is for a body of work that sounds mature (re: old) and tonally somber. If it majorly sounds youthful, audacious, loud, and unapologetic, you can count on it being passed over.

It’s why both Ray Charles and Herbie Hancock have bested Kanye West twice in this category, and why Beyoncé was passed over last night in favor of Beck’s Morning Phase. Beck’s album is just as critically lauded as BEYONCÉ, though in terms of impact, it’s not even close.

Although he jumped the stage in jest at the time, Kanye West was very much upset that Beyoncé did not win, telling E! News in an interview after the telecast, “I just know that the Grammys, if they want real artists to keep coming back, they need to stop playing with us. We ain’t gonna play with them no more. And Beck needs to respect artistry and he should’ve given his award to Beyoncé.”

It’s a nice thought—Black artists boycotting a show that continues to treat them like a date that’s good enough to sleep with, but not to introduce to your family – though it’s highly unlikely to happen. Ever gracious, Beck said in response, “I thought she was going to win. Come on, she’s Beyoncé!”

Beck’s album was loved, but matter how you feel about his win, it has very little to do with him. When is the last time a Black girl singing (and rapping, at select points) won Album of the Year at the Grammys? Yes, Beyoncé now has 20 Grammys, but they’re largely relegated to R&B categories; she’s been cheated out of major awards in the past. She’ll probably win Album of the Year 20 years too late for some album that consists of performing jazz standards with Jay Z and Blue Ivy. Meanwhile, some other 20 or 30-something Black act will be in the position she was yesterday.

And this is why I enjoy the BET Awards more than the Grammys.

As for the Grammys, and its biggest winner, Sam Smith: yawn.

Again, Sam Smith can sing, but his Coke Zero version of soul is too blasé for my taste, and after that whole Tom Petty fiasco, I’m even less impressed. Grammy producers had better pacing for the show than in year’s past, though everything felt too ballad-heavy. The most energetic performance of the night belonged to 56-year-old pop deity and eternal attention whore, Madonna. Even so, she’s finally beginning to show signs that her eight-count ain’t what it used to be.

The seriousness of the Grammy set list worked in some areas. Katy Perry spotlighted domestic violence through her performance, though admittedly, I was thrown off by a few things: Her sounding good live; her wearing Solange’s wedding dress; White people doing spoken word and praise dancing.

Read more at EBONY.

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Two years ago Azealia Banks had a point about gay media and its portrayal of her as homophobic in light of her use of the word “f–got.” Though I did not agree with her, she was right in noting that some celebrities—i.e., the white ones who either are a part of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community or consider themselves allies—were given de facto passes to use it, while she was categorized as hateful. Although I defended her then from those charges, at this point there is no denying what the Harlem-bred emcee has made all too clear: She very much has a problem with gay men.

In a recent tweet she claimed, “Gay media has to stop using homophobia as a means to try and victimize itself and scar the names of its opponents.” And in an exchange with Vice writer Mitchell Sunderland (which she initiated, by the way), Banks not only berated Sunderland for being far less well off than she but further insulted him because she had an “extra hole” and he did not.

Banks went on to argue that gay men have no claims to their culture because it’s all derived from femininity and women. I’ve heard this argument before; it sounds stupider each time. Yes, a very long time ago, men who went on to become drag queens and those who started ball culture might have pulled initial inspiration from the women who clearly influenced them; however, these were marginalized folks who pulled from the dominant culture and subsequently created and developed their own thing.

When Banks samples Dorian Corey’s commentary in the iconic documentary Paris Is Burning on her mixtapes, among other influences from gay black culture in other aspects of her art, she should be very much clear that she didn’t build that. After all, if gay black culture is a direct bite from black women, why not go to them instead of the queens?

This is like saying that black colloquialisms are not black because they stem from the English. Actually, before Banks started crying about black culture being appropriated by white people for greater fortune on Hot 97, she made this point in a since-deleted tweet last year: “Like black American culture is ESSENTIALLY some adapted version of British culture, Because American culture is bastardized English culture.”

I think it’s cute that someone has since lent her the syllabus for an intro-level African-American-history course, which is why her tweets have become noticeably more black since then, but she is not as thoughtful as she thinks she is or as some have pegged her to be.

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Even as Bobbi Kristina Brown lies silent in an Atlanta hospital room, reportedly “fighting for her life,” a wave of noise surrounds her.

In response to reports that the Houston family as well as her father, Bobby Brown, are saying their goodbyes, Brown released the contradictory statement: “If we issued a statement every time the media published a false report regarding this matter, that’s all we would be doing 24 hours a day. This is false, just as is the vast majority of the other reporting that is currently taking place.”

Meanwhile, a separate family source tells E! News that Bobbi Kristina “is not brain dead, and the Houstons and the Browns are not fighting.” They went on to explain, “There is no ‘family gathering’ today that is any different from any other day since she has been in the hospital.”

Whatever the case, some things remain undeniable: Bobbi Kristina is not well, and even in what has turned out to be the nadir of her life, she is not being left alone. It’s an unfortunate reality for anyone in the public eye, but particularly for someone who never elected to be. The world has never given the daughter of Whitney Houston room to breathe, which makes the idea that she could soon breathe her last breath all the more sadder.

My earliest recollection of Bobbi Kristina is a performance Whitney Houston did in 1997 of “Exhale (Shoop, Shoop).” During it, Whitney handed the microphone to many of her peers – Monica, BeBe Winans, and Shirley Caesar. Then came Bobbi Kristina, who was more or less trotted out on stage though she noticeably didn’t want to be there. When asked why she came out, the adorable child shrieked, “Dad, did it!”

If there’s any constant about Bobbi Kristina, it’s been this seeming desire to walk into the spotlight already laid out for her, but a slight reluctance to take those steps knowing what all it entails. This is a child born to two famous parents whose collective issues with substance abuse dominated their narrative for more than a decade. It’s one thing to read about it; it’s another to have to actually live with that.

As a result, she carried a lot with her. Just like a lot of us. And like many of us, she may not have completely dealt with much of it.

Read more at EBONY.

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What will it take for some people to see that Kanye West is no longer the same person who once declared, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people”?

For some, it wasn’t West’s comparison of his struggle with the paparazzi—likely not helped by marrying a person whose business model is largely rooted in narcissism and media attention—to the civil rights movement. The same goes for his inane assertion that “classism has replaced racism.” Neither of these infamous quotes, nor the litany of others that sound just like them, have done the trick. But maybe Kanye West’s apparently giving his blessing to A.P.C. founder Jean Touitou’s choice to include the word “n–ga” in a recent fall menswear presentation will convince people to let go and let J. Cole.

As models walked the runway in matching gray sweatpants and A.P.C.-designed Timberlands,Touitou held up a sign that read, “Last Ni##@$ in Paris.” Touitou later explained to, “I call this one look Last N****s in Paris. Why? Because it’s the sweet spot when the hood—the ’hood—meets Bertolucci’s movie Last Tango in Paris. So that’s ‘N****s in Paris’ and Last N****s in Paris.”

It’s no secret that the fashion industry often mirrors the habits of the Ku Klux Klan, only in chicer hooding. Likewise, we’ve long known that obnoxious designers and labels have a penchant for producing clothing items deep-fried in stupid. This includes Zara making pajama tops for toddlersthat bear a noted resemblance to the uniforms worn by the inmates of Nazi death camps, and Urban Outfitters releasing a Kent State sweatshirt splattered with red to signify blood, a tacky nod to the fatal shooting of students protesting the Vietnam War by Ohio National Guard members.

Not being surprised doesn’t make Touitou’s act any less frustrating. Touitou dug himself a deeper hole during the interview by adding, “Yes, I mean, it’s nice to play with the strong signifiers. The Timberland here is a very strong ghetto signifier. In the ghetto, it is all the Timberlands, all the big chain. Not at the same time—never; it’s bad taste. So we designed Timberlands with Timberland. … ”

What exactly does Jean Touitou know about the ghetto? Based on the intel he’s supplied thus far, not a damn thing. What makes this worse, though, is Touitou’s revealing the role that West played in all of this.

Touitou says, “I am friends with Kanye, and he and I presented a joint collection at the same place, one year ago, and that this thing is only a homage to our friendship. As a matter of fact, when I came up with this idea, I wrote to him, with the picture of the look and the name I was giving to it, and he wrote back immediately, saying something like, ‘I love this vibe.”’

On Thursday, after news broke of Touitou’s deeds and liberal use of the n-word, the French designer would release an apology: “When describing our brand’s latest collaboration, I spoke recklessly using terms that were both ignorant and offensive,” Touitou said in a written statement. “I apologize and am deeply regretful for my poor choice of words, which are in no way a reflection of my personal views.”

It’s no secret that the fashion industry is marred by racism. West has complained about this very issue for some time now. During a performance last year in London, West told a crowd during one of his “rants,” “I’m not going to call no names, I’m not going to say Nike or anything. I’m not dissing Louis Vuitton, I’m not dissing the Gucci group and s–t. I’m just saying, don’t discriminate against me because I’m a black man, or because I’m a celebrity, to determine that I can’t create. You know, no black guy or celebrity’s making no Louis Vuitton nothing.”

West made similar complaints the previous year—particularly on Jimmy Kimmel Live! The problem then and now is that Kanye West is as inconsistent as he is hypocritical.

Read the rest at The Root.

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