bad boys

Timothy Dwight Smith is the Editor-in-Chief at ContraCritic News, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues.

Timothy Dwight Smith is the Editor-in-Chief at ContraCritic News, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues.

When I was a child I had dreams of being a police officer. I used to watch tv shows like 21 Jump Street, Magnum P.I., Jake and the Fatman, and Hawaii 5-0 and imagine myself using wits and a gun to rescue people from danger. The profession of police officer seemed so cool to me, even honorable. Dangerous, yes, but respectable.

In my pre-teen years, everyone I knew generally liked police officers. Cops were the ones you called if you ever had the misfortune of finding yourself in serious shit, they were the ones who calmed your fears and told you everything was going to be alright. They wore crisp uniforms and shiny badges which appealed to my sartorial taste. When their friends died in the line of duty they shut down the streets, honored them with 21-gun salutes and American flags draped over their caskets. According to the tv shows I consumed, cops were intelligent, crafty, resourceful, and courageous – all characteristics I greatly admired. In my young mind there wasn’t much of a downside to choosing law enforcement officer as profession.

By the time the film Bad Boys arrived in theaters, spring 1995, I couldn’t wait to get through middle school and high school so that I could enlist in the St. Louis Police Academy. I’d be just like Will Smith’s character “Mike Lowery”: handsome, charismatic, funny, brave, and of course armed with plenty of sleek-looking pistols to keep criminals in check. It was a dream, but an attainable one. Certainly much more attainable than a college degree or being an entrepreneur, or so I thought then.

It wasn’t until I began attending high school in inner-city St. Louis that my perspective on police began transforming from the idealistic view I held as a kid. Prior to high school, I was educated at private, religious schools, although my socio-economic condition didn’t mirror that of my white peers. I lived just a stone’s throw from the heart of the ghetto. My mother was somewhat of a miracle worker the way she sheltered me from the dangers taking place on the other side of our front door. I didn’t have neighborhood friends, I wasn’t allowed to spend the night at kids’ houses who lived in my community. My mother was very religious, so there’s that too. In short, my worldview was very limited, but I was safe. The trade-off made by countless parents of color rearing children in dangerous environments. Therefore, my perspective of the world didn’t extend beyond tv, books, church, and school. Subjects like racism, American slavery, police brutality, and mass incarceration were never discussed in those quaint classrooms led by privileged, middle-aged females – all of them white.

In school I was lied to often, especially regarding history and the conditions existing in the country which disenfranchised people of color. For example, Rodney King happened and I can’t remember one teacher or administrator speaking about it. When the O.J. Simpson verdict was announced, however, a television was pushed into the cafeteria for students and teachers alike, as if the first moon walk was about to take place – or a lynching. At that time, I didn’t realize the implications of the frowns and utter disgust I saw on white teacher’s faces and the stayed grins of black custodians when the jury found Simpson: NOT GUILTY.

In high school it was nearly an everyday occurrence to see resource officers slamming kids’ faces into desk or taking them roughly to the ground to slap handcuffs on their wrist. Very few of these situations warranted such force. I’d hear officers curse kids and brag to one another about how they’d “put that bitch in check.” One of the more violent scenes I witnessed was when an officer dragged a mentally-challenged boy down three flights of stairs by his collar because a teacher said he wouldn’t be quiet during an exam. This abuse of power didn’t square with what I’d always thought police officers stood for, “Serving the public and protecting the innocent.”

These incidents is what provoked me to begin serious research into the history of law enforcement in America, and what I discovered was nothing like Magnum P.I. nor 21 Jump Street. I learned that many of the first organized “police” forces in this country were actually slave catchers whose job was to return runaway slaves to plantation owners. The idea of serving and protecting began to take on a different meaning. I had to ask myself whether the police violence taking place in my high school mirrored the very worst techniques and policies of times past, and whether or not the police actually existed to serve white interests and protect white property rather than chase down bad guys and rescue helpless dames.

My dreams of wearing a badge dissolved the deeper I researched this bloody history. The older I got I began to hear stories from close friends about being regularly harassed for driving in certain neighborhoods after basketball practice. I even had a buddy who was accused of possessing crack cocaine after a cop unlawfully entered his grandmother’s home without a warrant. It took him years to disentangle himself from the criminal court system.

Of course my time would come too. I’ve been racially profiled more times than I care to remember, thankfully, these events never escalated beyond officers being verbally abusive or too rough when placing me in custody for crimes I didn’t commit.

Then Mike Brown happened (in my hometown!) and Jamal Crawford, Eric Garner, Rekia Boyd, Freddie Gray and Sandra Bland, and that’s just a short list of the carnage inflicted on unarmed Americans by law enforcement in the past two years. I fail to fathom how any reasonable person can witness these unnatural deaths and still refuse to hold those with power responsible.

Are all police officers dirty, of course not, but it seems utterly ridiculous to even have to qualify these deaths with such a disclaimer. Because truth be told, if the good cops policed the bad cops innocent Americans would still be alive.

Fire+and+Brimstone

Timothy Dwight Smith is the Editor-in-Chief at ContraCritic News, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues.

Timothy Dwight Smith is the Editor-in-Chief at ContraCritic News, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues.

It’s becoming increasingly difficult for me to wake up most days and not believe America is going to hell. Yes, hell. The fiery place the Christian bible speaks of. The eternal volcano which will burn the souls of those who die with wicked hearts and unforgivable transgressions. And I’m not even a religious man, I don’t attend church and I refuse to publicly profess my faith to anyone like some choose to do (it’s personal). I’m certainly not trying to convert others to believe as I do, but when I turn on my television or log on to social media, again and again, I’m greeted with yet another story of cops shooting unarmed kids or “quiet loners” walking into churches or schools blasting innocent people away from their loved ones forever – America is going to hell. Hell, whether real or imagined, seems the only place fit for those who perpetrate these acts of violence as well as those who protect their right to do so by refusing to do anything to prevent future mass shootings.

Now we can talk about racism and police brutality, I often do, we can spend valuable time discussing institutional bias and homophobia, poverty and sexism, all important issues to address, all play some role in why people die of unnatural causes, usually by guns, but what ever happened to human decency? The idea that I will not harm another person or seek to smash their potential simply because I dislike their opinions or faith or gender or skin color. What are we afraid of and why does it make us kill one another? James Baldwin gave us some insight in his seminal work “The Fire Next Time”:

“Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, the only fact we have. It seems to me that one ought to rejoice in the fact of death–ought to decide, indeed, to earn one’s death by confronting with passion the conundrum of life. One is responsible for life: It is the small beacon in that terrifying darkness from which we come and to which we shall return.”

When I watched the video of Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke pumping 16 bullets into Laquan McDonald’s body I knew Dyke was not, as Baldwin said, “confronting with passion the conundrum of life.” I doubt he ever took a moment to consider the conditions which exist on the south side of Chicago which guided a 17-year-old black boy to take PCP and ignore police officer’s commands. It’s also unlikely Dyke cared anything about the policies which created Chicago ghettos to begin with; the ghettos he was assigned to patrol. Now he (finally)faces first-degree murder charges, but this is after evidence was released which shows the Chicago police department along with the district attorney’s office, possibly even the mayor, tried for over a year to cover up the shooting.

Just yesterday morning two individuals in San Bernardino, CA entered a government agency that provides programs and services for people with disabilities and began shooting. The end result, 14 dead and 21 wounded. These terrorists sacrificed all the beauty of their lives and the lives of those they took, and for what? The motive for the shootings is still sketchy as of this writing, but it’s predictable what the reason will be: Hate.

Hate takes many forms but the result is always death; hate destroys the beautiful and replaces it with fear. Could this be why gun sales are through the roof? Love does not need to be protected with a gun, but hate requires heavy artillery. Fear of death and the apparatuses we use to prevent it is nothing more than a crutch; a false sense of safety. Yet so many waste their lives trying to escape the inescapable when danger is and will always be omnipresent.

When will we forego our preoccupation with death and become responsible for life and love?

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Timothy Dwight Smith is the Editor-in-Chief at ContraCritic News, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues.

Timothy Dwight Smith is the Editor-in-Chief at ContraCritic News, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues.

[Does not contain spoilers (but who doesn’t know this story?)]

So I went to check out Straight Outta Compton Friday night with a few friends, one of which used to live in Compton during the period the movie depicts – of course he was on 100! It was fascinating seeing him view the film having such a personal attachment to not only N.W.A. but the city of Compton, and all that meant as far as police brutality of young black males during the late 1980’s. I, however, wanted to approach the movie in an objective way, with an open mind, so that I could answer two primary questions:

1.) Is Straight Outta Compton a quality film based on the standards by which every other movie is judged? – direction, stand-out acting performances, casting, setting, script, dramatical effect, score, soundtrack, etc…

2.) What is the cultural impact and societal implications of this film in 2015 and does it inform us in any way as to how much or little America has progressed since 1988 – the year N.W.A. was introduced to the world.

Honestly, the film wasn’t corny, quite an achievement for a pop culture movie (see Notorious), so I was satisfied on that account. The casting decisions were pretty much solid, but there were a few exceptions. The two actors they chose to portray Snoop Doggy Dog and Tupac Shakur were suspect – “Snoop” didn’t look like Snoop and his acting was cringeworthy, and “2pac,” despite resembling the late rapper, didn’t embody him during his short time on screen – it came off forced.

On the other side of the spectrum, O’Shea Jackson Jr., was the perfect casting decision to play the role of his father Ice Cube. Jackson Jr’s performance deserves praise, his acting chops are legit, at least for a film like this (I’ll be interested to see if more roles come his way after this success.)Not only is he the spitting image of his father, (no surprise) but his voice and mannerisms were spot-on. In many ways his performance was the glue that held the movie together. The other actors played off of him well and that made it all believable.

F. Gary Gray did a more than serviceable job in the director’s chair. Gray was assigned the difficult task of taking a handful of inexperienced actors and convincing the audience that they cared about one another so that we could care about them. He had to give them depth. Gray largely achieved this by juxtaposing the main characters, as often as possible without risking redundancy, against the backdrop of police violence. This relieved the actors from having to build the drama themselves through their performances alone. The opening of the movie grabs the viewer by the throat a bit and allows us to exhale believing the ride we’re about to take for the next two hours or so won’t be underwhelming.

As far as the script, at the center of it is comedy. And if there’s one thing F. Gary Gray can direct is a comedy (Friday anyone?). There’s numerous laugh-out-loud moments in Straight Outta Compton. A nice touch for a movie billed as a drama, and notable also for the irony of a film depicting hip-hop music during the late 1980’s/early 90’s, when verbal jabs garnered mostly laughs rather than bullets and caskets.

The movie takes viewers down memory lane with the soundtrack of course. Songs by N.W.A., Ice Cube, Public Enemy, Snoop Dogg, 2pac, etc., offer the nostalgic quality a film like this certainly needs to provide, it doesn’t disappoint in that regard.

There won’t be any Oscars handed out for this film, but it is a highly-watchable piece of entertainment, which if one suspends their disbelief long enough about the very real threat of police – inflicted violence on people of color, it serves as an escape from reality for a couple hours.

But I’m not one who believes in suspending disbelief.

If entertainment news reports are accurate, as of this morning, Straight Outta Compton is set to rake in almost $60 million dollars from weekend sales. This film has obviously struck a cultural nerve, movie goers across the racial spectrum are supporting it in droves.

But why?

Is it simply that millennials are using this film to relive there childhoods? Maybe. But what can’t be dismissed nor lost in all the nostalgia is the inescapable reality that N.W.A. is largely responsible for ushering into hip-hop music and the larger culture both images of hyper-aggressive, hyper-sexualized, misogynistic, young black males and the commercialization of black gangsterism, gun violence, and dope selling. Of which hip-hop music and youth culture has never recovered.

The commercial success of N.W.A. was achieved on the heels of the hip-hop led “Stop the Violence” movement to combat black-on-black crime, police brutality, and containment of black citizens in inner cities across America – places like Compton for instance. Hip-hop artists such as Chuck D and Flava Flav of Public Enemy, KRS-1, MC Lyte, Kool Moe Dee, Just-Ice, Ms. Melodie, and others stood in solidarity to confront an issue that we’re still grappling with today.

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N.W.A.’s success undercut this movement and relegated its impact to a footnote rather than what could have potentially been a black youth-led revolution to transform not only crime-infested, poor communities, but the system of white supremacy which created them. I’m not one for conspiracy theories, but it’s difficult not to at least entertain the idea that white corporate interests chose to co-opt hip-hop music at this crucial moment of its infancy in order to dispel any legitimate hopes for black empowerment, economic uplift, and most importantly, coalition building among young white teenagers, who gravitated toward the music, and the black children of the Civil Rights Movement. To ignore these key factors in the story of N.W.A.’s rise to fame is a mistake.

The glorification of gangsterism in hip-hop music since N.W.A.’s debut has at least in some way contributed to gun violence in poor communities during the 1990’s into the new millennium. This preoccupation with thuggery was directly responsible for the deaths of two of hip-hop’s greatest story tellers, and potentially the two greatest influencers of young black males for good, if they’d chosen a less destructive path: The late Tupac Shakur and Christopher Wallace, a.k.a. Notorious B.I.G.

So after viewing a movie like Straight Outta Compton I’m left with more questions than answers, left with laughter without joy. I’m left to wonder what might’ve been for my community if the seduction of large paychecks hadn’t trumped black lives that mattered.

Queen Aset

Queen Auset

Timothy Dwight Smith is the Editor-in-Chief at ContraCritic News, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues.

Timothy Dwight Smith is the Editor-in-Chief at ContraCritic News, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues.

What is this feeling?

This feeling I feel,

The need to have you in my world,

Could you be that girl?

That woman I need to be by me,

The one that causes my heart to play a symphony,

 

Even the faint hint of your scent on my pillow,

Got me feeling Willow,

When you whip your hair baby,

Walk that walk baby,

Talk that talk lady,

Like an intricately composed chorus,

Arranged just right,

From head to toe,

 

Oh, you know how I’m diggin’ you,

Yes, yes…

Can I taste your mango, magnetic, mysterious mahogany?

As you sip my scintillating, succulent sensation,

Conversation has me mesmerized,

Fantasy conceptualized,

My future wife,

Is that right?

The Queen to my King?

Auset to Ausar?

Mmmm…..let us make Heru,

 

I respect that,

And you’re so that…

One…

I didn’t look and there you appeared,

Just in time,

The mystery of life’s cycle,

Replenishing what is lifeless; dead,

With something far greater; instead,

You take over in pain’s stead,

Soothing the deepest parts of me,

Standing me back up-right,

Clearing my sight,

Like fresh air on the Nile river valley,

 

Everything new, everything righteous,

Everything blue, everything priceless,

Sweeter than the banks of the Catchetori River,

You are…

 

Let’s take a cruise down the block,

Let the sun regenerate our spirits,

Replenish our souls and imbue us with more love,

Deep, deep love,

It oozes from our pores every time our bodies connect,

You’re wet,

I set,

You there and stare,

At you – a Goddess,

Whenever you’re near.

I want to hold your hand and walk into eternity,

 

Time…

Timeless…

Reflection…

Tranquility…

Peace…

Peace to you, for us, we are…

One.

Sandra Bland (Facebook image)

Sandra Bland (Facebook image)

Timothy Dwight Smith is the Editor-in-Chief at ContraCritic News, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues.

Timothy Dwight Smith is the Editor-in-Chief at ContraCritic News, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues.

Sandra Bland didn’t at all sound like a woman ready to die. Quite the contrary, she sounded like a woman willing to fight to ensure her, as well as others, human rights weren’t trampled upon, yet they were, in the most egregious way.

It appears Bland was lynched in a Texas jail cell for having the audacity to demand police treat her like a human being.

In what has become customary following these incidents I’m left with far more questions than answers.

Why is the media not obsessed with this black woman? Could it be because she was highly intelligent, honest, courageous and hated white supremacy?

Where are the high-profile activists marching in the streets and shouting in microphones? Why does it feel as if black women’s lives matter even less than black male lives?

To my brothers, why do we not see legions of black men in the streets demanding justice for Sandra Bland? Because I damn sure recall countless black women risking it all after Trayvon Martin, after Jordan Davis, after Mike Brown and Eric Garner, after Tamir Rice, after Freddie Gray, need I go on? After Sean Bell, Oscar Grant and Amadou Diallo. After Emmett Till!

Black men where are your voices? Where is your outrage for the death of your mothers? Yes, your mothers.

It’s very difficult not to superimpose the courageous image of Bree Newsome climbing a flag pole to snatch down the Confederate battle flag at South Carolina’s state capital, mere weeks ago, with this disturbing video of Bland being brutalized on the side of the road like a runaway slave – and her subsequent death while in police custody.

In America no deed done for racial equity goes unpunished.

In racist America, Sandra Bland died for Bree Newsome’s sins.

w_e_b_dubois

Timothy Dwight Smith is the Editor-in-Chief at ContraCritic News, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues.

Timothy Dwight Smith is the Editor-in-Chief at ContraCritic News, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues.

Black lives,

And white lies,

Why does the hate exist?

Could it be the mystery,

Is basic common sense?

Whites destroyed blacks’ history,

Replaced it with misery,

Now relegated to coonery,

To earn a couple pence,

Then wonder why the Mike Brown‘s,

Cause angry blacks to burn down,

CVS’s around town,

To publicize the unrest,

Don Lemon’s and Sean Hannity’s,

Reporting on the insanity,

Been waiting for eternity,

To receive proper redress,

But no preparations,

For reparations,

Just more and more,

Incarcerations,

Similar to Jewish concentrations,

Yet whites deny it exist,

Got cousins serving life sentences,

Open your eyes,

We all witnesses,

Who escapes the abyss?

Till we all free,

Ain’t no one free,

What the Constitution mean to me?

Small lies plus big lies,

Equaling freedom denied,

So where do we go from here?

1920

Timothy Dwight Smith is the Editor-in-Chief at ContraCritic News, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues.

Timothy Dwight Smith is the Editor-in-Chief at ContraCritic News, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues.

A recent article in the Atlantic about a black father fighting to regain custody of his daughter highlights the profound gender bias by our court system. The story is devastating in a number of ways.

Christopher Emanuel wanted nothing more than to be a good father to his daughter, but because of racism by the mother and her family, as well as gender bias by the courts, the mother was allowed to enter into an adoption without Emanuel’s consent.

If it wasn’t for text messages and the putative father registry (of which most people know nothing about) Emanuel would’ve lost his child to the system.

Bashing fathers, especially fathers of color, gets much press these days, but we rarely hear of cases like this, despite the fact these types of cases aren’t rare at all.

Are there dead-beat dads? Of course there is, but gender bias by the courts causes many fathers to be wrongly characterized as dead beats when they earnestly desire to be a significant part of their child’s lives.

Imagine if Emanuel couldn’t afford attorneys to fight on his behalf?

Imagine if he happened to be unemployed?

Imagine for a moment if he didn’t have a strong support system of loving family by his side looking out for his best interest?

Now imagine what most outsiders looking on would think of him, not knowing the details?

He’d would’ve been dismissed as just another black man running away from his responsibility. And the mother would have a legion of sympathizers supporting her decision to place the child for adoption, and racist would use this story as a cautionary tale to white girls everywhere about the dangers of dating men of color.

Sad world we live in, very sad.

14269509_BG5

Timothy Dwight Smith is the Editor-in-Chief at ContraCritic News, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues.

Timothy Dwight Smith is the Editor-in-Chief at ContraCritic News, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues.

I’m a firm believer that it’s especially important to ask the right questions of yourself and others when historic events are taking place. To that end, this list of questions for racial allies as black churches burn in the South.

1.) Why target black churches?

2.) What is the significance of using fire to destroy black churches?

3.) Is it a coincidence that these string of fires began in the immediate aftermath of national discussions, as well as state and federal actions, concerning gay marriage, domestic white terrorist, and the Confederate flag?

4.) If it is not a coincidence, what might be the message these arsonists are attempting to get across?

5.) Does witnessing black churches burn make you feel anything? If so, what? If what, why?

6.) Who might the perpetrators be?

7.) Why is the mainstream media not covering this story with the same veracity as they do high-profile police shootings of unarmed black men?

8.) Why does the mainstream media appear to enjoy picking apart the lives of dead black men and women who’ve been killed by police more than they do actually investigating the who’s, what’s, when’s, where’s, how’s and why’s of why the federal government hasn’t swiftly caught these arsonists burning black churches to the ground?

9.) Do you really believe these aren’t hate crimes?

(L-R) Rev. Ralph Abernathy and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. sit pensively after communicating with Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy while they await protection from the gathered mob outside the First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. (Photo by Paul Schutzer/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

(L-R) Rev. Ralph Abernathy and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. sit pensively after communicating with Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy while they await protection from the gathered mob outside the First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. (Photo by Paul Schutzer/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

10.) If you do, what might this say about your position on the spectrum of privilege?

11.) Where are ALL the white allies?

12.) (To my white allies) How might white skin privilege work to expedite not only the capture of these criminals, but the way the world views these stories?

13.) Why haven’t we seen white ministers with money publicly denouncing these crimes AND offering resources to aid these churches?

14.) Why haven’t we seen black ministers with money publicly denouncing these crimes AND offering resources to aid these churches?

15.) Does this absence of leadership and empathy (faith-based or otherwise) by white and black ministers represent true brotherhood one to another?

16.) If true brotherhood is not the actual practice of religious institutions, why should they matter?

17.) Do people of color enjoy equal protections under the law?

18.) How might this story be different if the targets were government buildings or mega-churches?

19.) Does it say anything about President Obama and his administration that he refuses to articulate the present racial condition of the country and what he plans to do about it?

20.) If so, what does it say?

21.) And what does it mean for you?

WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 06:   Betty Phelps, daughter-in-law of pastor Fred Phelps and a member of the Westboro Baptist Church, demonstrates outside the Supreme Court while justices hear oral arguements in Snyder v. Phelps, which tests the limits of the First Amendment, October 6, 2010 in Washington, DC. Albert Snyder sued the Westboro Baptist Church after his son, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, was killed in Iraq in 2006 and members of the church held signs and demonstrated outside his funeral. The church and its members preach that U.S. deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq are punishment for Americans' immorality, including tolerance of homosexuality and abortion.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON – OCTOBER 06: Betty Phelps, daughter-in-law of pastor Fred Phelps and a member of the Westboro Baptist Church, demonstrates outside the Supreme Court while justices hear oral arguements in Snyder v. Phelps, which tests the limits of the First Amendment, October 6, 2010 in Washington, DC. Albert Snyder sued the Westboro Baptist Church after his son, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, was killed in Iraq in 2006 and members of the church held signs and demonstrated outside his funeral. The church and its members preach that U.S. deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq are punishment for Americans’ immorality, including tolerance of homosexuality and abortion. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Timothy Dwight Smith is the Editor-in-Chief at ContraCritic News, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues.

Timothy Dwight Smith is the Editor-in-Chief at ContraCritic News, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues.

I grew up in St. Louis, MO reared by a single mother after my father’s murder when I was four years old.

Like many Black and Latino youths living in poverty, hip-hop music spoke directly to my soul and provided chapters in a living testament to my pain. Through the lens of hip-hop I was able to bring into focus many of the world’s ills. Rap lyrics provided answers to why my stomach growled from hunger countless nights or why violence and drugs pervaded my neighborhood.

These songs caused me to begin to view the world as a collection of systems that provided sanctions and rewards depending on skin color and political power.

Although my father was a Pentecostal preacher for 15 years before his death, and despite the fact I attended church into my teenage years –thanks mom– my dad was one of the few ministers I’d ever heard willing to tackle social issues with a mix of biblical authority and cultural sensitivity, instead of the bigotry, dogma, and fundamentalism so many Christians accept as prophetic insight today.

So it is no surprise hip-hop artists appealed to my inquisitive mind more than most preachers ever could.

I’ve probably listened to “So much trouble in the world…can’t nobody feel your pain,” the lyrics by Big Syke (“All Eyez On Me,” 1996), an Oakland, CA rap artist and friend of the late Tupac Shakur, thousands of times. And from the first to the thousands of replays through cd Walkmans, cheap boom boxes, car stereos with detachable faces –you know you had one too!– and now, Ipads and tablets, the heart wrenching response remains the same as it did when I was 13 years old.

The feelings of being alone – in trouble and in pain – knowing no one is coming to rescue you, is debilitating. When we add to it the reasons why: racism, bigotry, political corruption, religious hypocrisy, violence; it becomes suffocating. Such conditions nurture hopelessness and hopelessness deprives human beings of their ability to speak. Voices are lost, often forever.

Reading recent news headlines one would find it incredibly difficult not to believe our nation is going backwards. Of course there’s been victories along the way. Last week the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in every state, this is progress. However, judging by the tidal wave of commentary following the Supreme Court’s ruling, by those who claim belief in a God of love, it’s clear, a large swath of this nation still can’t feel the LGBT community’s pain. I’m convinced after almost 32 years of living in a “Christian” nation that those who believe in heaven are hell-bent on keeping it as racially, culturally, and politically segregated as possible.

But there is other pain as well.

This past month much time and energy has been exerted vilifying an obviously mentally-disturbed White woman in blackface, arguing with the misinformed and bigoted over the meaning of a piece of fabric, and telling lies about racism disguised as mental illness to protect a hate-filled White youth who premeditated and committed, in a house of worship, one of the most heinous acts of domestic terrorism in recent history. Are we better for having engaged these stories in this way?

Has significant progress been made by the talking heads and political and cultural pundits? Has talking around real issues ever moved the ball forward in any area of American life? No.

Pain has been on display, but it remains unaddressed. For example, how can we even pretend to unpack a story like Rachel Dolezal if the Black community isn’t willing to admit and investigate their own internalized colorism? If Black citizens aren’t honest and forthright about how we devalue one another based purely on racist premises: dark skin vs. light skin; good hair vs. bad hair; even Black power, Black is beautiful, and Black nationalism vs. multiculturalism and pluralism. Then how will we ever extricate ourselves collectively from the mental chains of bondage bequeathed to us at birth?

All this denial as Black churches burn like it’s the 1960’s on repeat.

When will White so-called allies understand that it is their responsibility to eradicate White supremacist patriarchy and the religious murder cults fashioned by their ancestors hands, and of which they still benefit from even to this day?

It is not the duty of people of color nor is it within the realm of possibility for us to deconstruct the system of institutionalized racism in this country. Those who built the monster must also destroy him. If Whites lack the will and courage to do so, they are not allies, but cowards merely dilly-dallying in White guilt; straining crocodile tears for Black victims; believing dewy eyes rather than blood will cover their multitude of sins.

The denial of pain is an American trait, even an American value. So much of our identity is dependent on this kind of running away; we’ve perfected escapism at our own peril. The way manhood is defined in America, from the founding of this country to now, is nothing more than a preoccupation with denying pain and pretending as if one is indestructible and without emotion.

Could this be why effeminate gay Black men and transsexual men of color are the most despised and victimized of all, owing largely to unaddressed pain intersecting to plunder Black bodies? Americans have been taught to habitually protect fantasies while destroying reality.

Could this allegiance to controverting pain account for why the majority of domestic violence victims are women who endure years of blacked eyes, busted lips, and broken bones at the hands of intimate partners before reporting abuse? And some women never do.

Has dismissing pain become so much a part of our identity that parents justify instructing their own children to remain silent about rampant molestation within families and religious communities rather than protecting innocence? Is this learned desire to escape reality, to suffocate emotions and plunder others, responsible for why White Americans still find comfort in wrapping themselves in the blanket of indifference rather than using their privilege to shape a better world?

Until we come to terms with this enormous deficit of decency, fairness, and love, pain will remain the leading story on every news outlet for years to come.

But in America, dreams matter more than those who envision them. In America, can’t nobody feel your pain.

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Timothy Dwight Smith is the Editor-in-Chief at ContraCritic News, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues.

Timothy Dwight Smith is the Editor-in-Chief at ContraCritic News, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues.

I was recently asked my opinion on the phenomena of flirting, in particular, flirting while faithful. In other words, the act of flirting with another person while in a committed relationship. I chuckled when it was brought up. Perhaps because I’ve been guilty of flirting while faithful myself, on numerous occasions, and I suppose I never really gave it much thought. But is flirting while faithful a harmless act of fleeting indiscretion or a violation of trust? Does flirting chip away at the foundation of an otherwise loving relationship? In fairness, there’s certainly degrees to flirtation, from the benign to the inappropriate, and I think everyone would have to admit, even those who are staunchly against such trifles of affection, that what is considered flirting is subjective; we’ll explore that later. But maybe serial flirters really should take a moment to consider whether their frivolous ways cause unrepairable damage to those they love.

As a man who enjoys a good flirt myself from time to time I admit there’s a certain thrill to publically admiring the beauty of a stranger. I have always admired the loveliness of a woman, even as a young boy. There’s something about a woman’s essence that is unique and refreshing. Like a pious older woman once told me while attending Sunday morning church service in Detroit, “It’s nice to be nice.” Isn’t flirting just a form of paying it forward? You happen to feel good, so you try to brighten a person’s day with a compliment. Ok, maybe I was flirtatiously inclined long before the sweet old lady offered her affirmation, but what’s the harm in it? Most women on the receiving end of my “sweeties,” “darlings,” staid eyes, sultry smirks, wetted lips, and slick tongue (not that perv!) react positively and reciprocate the gesture. Typically people experience a healthy share of humdrum during their day-to-day grind of work, family, and other obligations, receiving unexpected words of admiration can serve to temporarily interrupt the monotony, as well as provide a boost to the ego, sometimes when it’s most needed too. On numerous occasions women have responded to my “You look beautiful today,” with an incredulous smile followed by “Really? I feel like crap, but thanks for that. It’s not every day I hear I’m beautiful.” It’s a sad state of affairs if these admissions are true.

Nowadays we occupy a world of political correctness run amok. Every word that is said must be parsed irreparably before spoken as to not offend anyone, even compliments. But what does such society-imposed restraints do for the common person besides erect walls of fear between us? Political correctness definitely aides in silencing the most egregious rhetoric, but it does so at the expense of the sweethearted. As a result, people are not only less likely to receive compliments, they’ve nearly forgotten how to accept them with grace. There has been more than one occasion when I was harshly rebuffed by women simply for opening doors for them or holding eye contact a split-second beyond their comfort level. The reason I don’t overreact in these situations, like some men choose to do, is because street harassment of women by men is rampant in most cities. Street harassment crosses the line from flirting to, well, harassment. Shouting a woman down on a corner, following a woman down the street, cat-calling and spewing obscenities about her anatomy could hardly be characterized as flirting by any reasonable person. Indeed it is not.

Perhaps flirting wouldn’t be so complicated if it were only reserved for single folk, but husbands and wives, those in committed relationships, are not immune to the power of the flirt. I’m sure every guy has been out with his lady before, at a bar, a club, maybe a restaurant, when you see another woman; finer than a runway model and thicker than Serena Williams (if that’s your thing); walk in the room, and it requires you to summon the amount of focus usually reserved for the optometrists office to keep from watching her walk by. If your girl loves you, she’s making sure you don’t look too. It’s like women have radar in situations like this, the subtlest glance in the wrong direction will be instantly detected, and yes, you will be hearing about it at some point. Some women would have men believe we occupy this unevolved and undisciplined state alone, but I think women are just much better at flirting on the low than men. The same goes for cheating, but that’s a different article. Does glancing at an attractive woman, while with your lady, constitute disrespect? As with most things I tend to believe instances like this fall within a gray area. If a man’s head whips around like Wile E. Coyote chasing the Road Runner than yes, that’s inappropriate conduct. But merely recognizing another person’s presence, not so much. In fairness to the ladies though, men have fragile egos, and most men would react adversely to his lady breaking her neck to get a better view at another man too.

What is it about these situations, whether it’s your man offering a toothy grin and soft handshake to the party host with the miniskirt, an overly anxious introduction from your lady to one of her “old friends” who happens to be built like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, a reciprocation of affection to the waitress with the overflowing cleavage who’s obviously flirting with you, that causes our spouses blood to boil? It’s simple, people are territorial about the ones they care for, and lethal about who they love. Flirting is a threat to what two loving adults have already established. To witness your love interest flirt with someone else feels like robbery in a way because we know this stranger hasn’t earned any of the free affection they’re garnering by personal sacrifice, care, thoughtfulness and faithfulness, not to mention longsuffering through all those ballgames and romantic movies. For him or her to swoop in and gain your lovers attention all willy-nilly makes one question the relationships legitimacy. It’s a matter of trust. I’ve heard a many a lady say “When my guy flirts with another woman it makes me question what he does when I’m not around,” or men bemoan “A woman who can’t control her eyes is probably sleeping around.” Both of these statements aren’t always true, sometimes they are, but the sentiment is clear. Being faithful requires a lot more than avoiding sexual intercourse with someone besides your spouse, it’s an emotional commitment not to betray their confidence in what the two of you are nurturing together.

Relationships are fragile because human beings are fragile, and it doesn’t take much to break a heart that’s in your hand. Flirting on its face is indeed a mere trifle, but when feelings are involved, and relationships are serious, it doesn’t take much to transition from trifle to trifling. Just a thought.

What’s your opinion? Is casual flirting harmful to a relationship?