Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Gray Area

Normally I see my social commentaries in terms of right or wrong, black or white, good or bad. Rarely do I ever see things in shades of gray until I had to read a number of articles involving a crime out of Cleveland, Texas.

The crime is one in which there shouldn't be a gray area. But I am finding it and I need the people who read this column to express their thoughts about that dilemma.

First off, I need to make you the parent of an 18-year-old male. He's not perfect. He may be in school or have dropped out. He may have sold drugs or smoked some reefer. He's been raised around younger relatives and you trust him implicitly with them, especially when his little 10-year-old cousin has a best friend who is crazy about him and he dismisses the girl because she is just a kid. He even blushes when you mention that the child has a crush on him. He dismisses even the potential of his interest in the girl, because it is not within his realm or reality.

One day your son and his friends pick up a girl they are acquainted with to go for a ride. In the world of bravado, all three boys and the girl end up having sex. Cellphone videos/pictures are taken, and the images of the activity are soon shared amongst their peers.

These are 1990s children and technology for them is like air. They live it and breathe it. Weeks later, the images of the encounter make their way around to all the other kids' phones.

Soon someone in the girl's class sees the pictures and turns it in to a teacher who calls the police. It turns out the girl is 11 years old and a student in middle school. Your son and his friends are arrested and charged with rape. The headlines in the paper call it a "gang rape."

You visit your son in jail to learn "what" happened. Your son admits to having sex, but says the girl didn't object and that they all thought she was 16 since she told them that. Worst, it wasn't the first time. Over a period of months he and others had had sex with the girl. You believe your son. So, now, do you support him as he fights the charges or do you abandon him?

Now, the scenario I just pointed out may or may not have been totally what happened in the Cleveland, Texas case. Statutory rape (meaning that the law makes the sex act a rape because a child under a certain age cannot give consent) for most people involves an "involuntary" aspect to it.

Yet what is a parent to do when all indicators point to a percentage of culpability on the part of the girl? Are we to do as some have suggested and shout from the rooftops that "it doesn't matter?" Do we say "it doesn't matter" that the girl lied about her age? Do we agree that "it doesn't matter" if the girl allowed the sex to happen by consenting personally, even though the law says she doesn't have the right to give consent? Do we totally disregard her Facebook pages where she brags about being able to "pull" older boys?

How do we honestly judge the "wrongness" when in the eyes of a loving parent we can see our son's side, that his actions were "poor judgment" and not that of a molester hitting someone over the head and dragging them into the bushes?

As parents, we will be labeled quite a few names for wanting to protect our son by finding fault with the girl. Are we wrong for worrying about our son's future if he is labeled a sexual predator and/or child molester?

Now a little girl jumping rope who is pulled off the street and molested is very clear-cut. But in our oversexed world, where young girls are being inundated day and night with sexually explicit content - where the music that is played at a young child's party includes phrases like "sex in the morning, sex at night," where Abercrombie and Fitch are offering a bikini for young girls with a push-up bra feature and the Maury Show loves to show young girls acting like they are grown - then when those children purposely engage in sex, how do we judge both the male and female participants in the act?

Is there a gray area or is it cut and dry? And what does this society need to do about it? Are the males, because they are 18 or older, always guilty when nothing in this society is preparing them for proper adulthood? There is not a standardized "right of passage" that each young person undergoes as they turn 18.

Is there any culpability on the part of a willing female, or is she always the innocent victim? As a society we confer "adultness" to certain criminal acts like murder. Can the same be said for sex acts?

When you respond, please do so as the imaginary parent of the boy. I am most interested in opinions from that side of the fence. It will be a refreshing read.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Why can't we do what they do?

There is a saying in the black community, "You can't do what they do." It is usually applied when black folks attempt to do what others are doing and come to find out it doesn't work the same for us. No matter what the "what" is, as soon as black folks attempt to do it, the entire weight of the law comes to bear upon us.

As an example, take the case of Kelley Williams-Bolar. She is an Akron, Ohio, mom who lives in public housing and wanted better for her children. So she did what countless other folks have done. She used the address of the home where her father lives to enroll her children in a better school district.

The school district didn't believe Williams-Bolar and her girls were living within its boundaries. So the district hired a private investigator who followed her girls home to discover she didn't live in the district. The district tried to work out an agreement with Williams-Bolar, but she opted to fight back.

Now she's been found guilty, her children were removed from the school system, she's been sentenced to 10 days in jail (she served nine); she's got two years' worth of probation and is required to serve 80 hours of community service.

What was that old saying again? "You can't do what they do."

I found it quite interesting hearing and reading the commentaries regarding Williams-Bolar's situation. People posted about fairness to the taxpayers. People posted about her cheating the system. People posted about her wanting her children to have a better opportunity, so she did what she did. And through it all, I kept replacing Kelley's situation with the illegal immigration crowd and wondered why it is OK for Williams-Bolar to go to jail, but someone who is in this country illegally is supported, hand over heels.

I need someone to tell me the difference between young people protesting and asking for the Dream Act after being educated by taxpayers with no regards for whether their parents ever paid a dime in taxes, yet Williams-Bolar and her daughters are yearning for the same thing and they get jail time and expulsion. How and why is that?

Did I mention that Williams-Bolar now has a felony on her record? She was 12 hours away from getting her degree so that she could teach, and now she will have a felony that prevents her from teaching. I got a chance to hear the interview with Ms. Williams-Bolar. She stated that her children stayed with their grandfather quite a bit, and based on that information, she felt she could enroll the children in that school district. However in the end, that wasn't enough for the Ohio school system.

The Williams-Bolar case has brought up issues of race as the school district she enrolled her children in is predominantly white. Whatever the case, the old saying that we can't do what they do is ringing loud and clear.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Who is right?: Democracts or Republicans

Currently there is an interesting "debate" going on in some Congressional hearings between the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and the Republicans. As we all "know," the CBC are the "good guys" and the Republicans are "bad guys." So in an intensive debate between these two groups, the CBC, which represents the interests of black folks, and the Republicans, who represent the interests of other folks, which one do you think you would agree with without even knowing the subject? The CBC or the Republicans? Decide now.

I'll tell you the subject in a moment. It is a topic I have very strong opinions about. But rather than impose my beliefs and knowledge up front, I want you to form your own opinion based on your own observations, experiences and thoughts. Plus, I sure wish you folks would do more opinion writing on the Internet or pen a letter to the editor. That way my editors and I can get a better understanding of what the average person who reads this column is thinking. Anyway, I digress.

The subject causing a lot of consternation between the CBC and the Republicans? Illegal immigration and its impact on American minorities. One group's stance is that illegal immigration has had a devastating effect on the employment options of black folks (especially those who are unskilled, like teenagers, drop-outs and ex-offenders) while the others say there is no conclusive evidence that illegal immigrants are taking jobs away from African Americans. OK. Which side are you on? Pick now because try as I might to resist, I am going to give an opinion.

I still remember the 1996 election and Bill Clinton talking about McJobs with a black guy who was the head of a major fast food chain. I still remember those huge yellow HELP WANTED signs that would hang outside of McDonald's. I may be wrong, but it sure seems like the more folks we have in this country illegally, the more those signs no longer appear. And just how does a teenager trying to get his/her first job compete against grown men and women who are now the majority of the work force at many fast food restaurants? And if the restaurant is right in the middle of the black community and nobody black works there, well ...

Who remembers all the fights to get black folks on construction jobs? We were told we had to have union cards and journeymen training. There were groups like C-BUC and Workshop Coalition. Well, we're still not on the construction job sites. So how is it that those sites are now filled with people who cannot speak English yet are working while black folks stand on the sidelines?

If you haven't guessed it by now, the CBC is the one saying there is no proof that illegal immigration is hurting the black community. The Republicans, on the other hand, are stating that they want every U.S. citizen who wants a job to have one instead of pandering to foreign laborers.

I was listening to the radio the other night and they were talking about illegal immigration - why so many black politicians seem to be in a disconnect with their constituents on this issue. The man on the radio made an excellent point. Politicians in Washington get lobbied on issues all the time by both sides. When it comes to immigration, only those on the side of illegal immigration are lobbying. It will be up to the average citizen to tell their elected representatives how they feel. Plus, ask them if those same illegal aliens are paying state income taxes? Many who are here illegally will file a federal return to hedge their bets against the day that "reform" may become available, and they can prove they paid their federal taxes. But the state, which provides tons of services to them, isn't getting them to file because generally they will owe money.

Some of the CBC members accused the Republicans of trying to create black-brown tensions. But when the browns are working and the blacks aren't, there isn't much of a coalition to begin with. Even Cesar Chavez marched on the southern border because he understood better than most what uncontrolled illegal immigration will do to this country.

I don't think any of us are naïve enough to believe that Republicans are suddenly concerned about black folks and unemployment. But a broke clock can be right twice a day, and on this one I am standing with the Republicans. For me the issue is simple. Both the CBC and Republicans should place U.S. citizens and their needs, wants, desires and problems at the forefront before they concern themselves with foreign nationals.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Some Adults Don't Have A Clue When It Comes To Playing Music @ Children's Parties

We only get one chance at childhood. That is a time when children's imagination can blossom and they can grow to become adults with vision. Their unencumbered minds could hold the secret to cures for anything if we as adults allow them a childhood and the creativity to be a kid.

When an adult steals a childhood, it messes up some people for life-the most famous example being Michael Jackson. I thought of him the other day when I had the misfortune to be at a children's birthday party. I wasn't a guest, but a worker. And the party was for three children ages 6, 7, and 8.

When I first arrived, the Toy Story jumping jack was in the middle of the room. There was a clown painting the children's faces; making hats and animals out of those long slinky balloons; and entertaining the children. The kids-ranging from around 5 to 10 years old-were screaming, running and having a good time. But what caught my attention was the music. The deejay appeared to be barely 18 years olds. But the music coming out of his speakers would make someone 80 years old blush.

One of the first songs had lyrics that talked about "Sex in the morning." At first I didn't think I heard what I heard. I have become so accustomed to hearing that song at night that I never paid much attention to the lyrics. But at a children's party with less noise, the lyrics were clear and disturbing to say the least.

I asked one of the men who was throwing the party about the music lineup. I asked did he approve of the lyrics to the songs that were being played. With a straight face the man told me "his kids knew better than to say those words." Yeah, right.

I then went and asked the deejay why he was playing so much filth. "The mom requested it," he told me. Even more amazing: she specifically asked for a song by Wacka Flocka called "No Hands." Now, I've heard, but not paid attention to, that song for weeks. It has always been a part of adult parties and I must admit that I can't understand many rap song's lyrics because they all sound the same to me. But every now and then I can pick up a chorus, and Flocka's song was one of them.

I had three adults-one man and two women-come and ask me to exchange large bills for singles. I didn't have a lot of money in the cash register, so I couldn't give up all my ones. Later, I learned why they wanted the change. The adults gathered in a circle while the young girls did "booty pop" dances. Each little girl danced with her legs gapped wide open and imitated what a lot of adults and strippers do.

They shook their behinds to the beat with one young girl holding her shirt in her mouth as she gyrated. Then the man threw dollars at the little girls to the Wacka Flocka song. I don't know where the fine line exists for kiddie porn, but a sexually-suggestive dance by young children is sick. We already have men over the age of 21 who father children by girls barely into their teens. So how easy is it for those types of predators to move to younger children when the parents are the ones encouraging that type of dancing?

Here are a few lyrics to "No Hands":

Girl the way you're movin'
Got me in a trance
DJ turn me up
Ladies dis yo jam
I'ma sip Moscato
And you 'gon lose dem pants
Then I'ma throw this money
While you do it with no hands
Girl drop it to the flo'
I love the way your booty go

And folks, that is the cleaner part of that song. Many of the records that were played talked about "pussy," "dick" and lots of "oral sex." When I mentioned the content to the grandmother, she said that wasn't supposed to be played. But it was; and it went on for more than four hours. When we asked the deejay if he had Willow Smith's "Whip My Hair"-a more appropriate record for children-the response was, "no." Heck the deejay didn't even play a Michael Jackson song.

I watched while one young boy looked confused by it all. He was at a party for his age group and yet the adults were the majority on the dance floor. There is something extremely sick when adults don't have core values-or a clue! If a teacher had played that song at school, the parents would be irate. But I guess because they gave the party, everything was OK. It's not.

There is no joy is seeing young girls behave like bar room strippers. It is not cute to throw money at children while they gyrate to that kind of music.

If parents can't grow up and recognize that there is a bold line between music for children and music for adults-they shouldn't be parents.