Doing It Wrong

Doing it wrong

Doing it wrong

Doing it wrong

Doing it wrong

Doing it wrong

Doing it right

Michael Vick, The Hero

This dog had no idea what awaited him

In Norfolk, Virginia, Michael Vick will be honored as a hero by the Southeastern Virginia Arts Association. Surprising? Not really. SEVAA is the same organization that throws the Afr’am Festival, which, as you guessed, is a festival highlighting and celebrating African-Americans, past and present. So who else is more deserving of this year’s Hero Award than the pride of the African-American community, Philly Eagles’ own Afr’am quarterback, Michael Vick? Sure, Vick killed and mutilated scores of dogs for his own amusement and profit, but should that stop him from being recognized for the hero that he is? In fact, it’s those actions that even make him a hero.

Michael Vick is being honored as a hero next month at a black tie event for his “resilience in overcoming obstacles” and becoming “a true example of life success for all to emulate,” according to event organizers.

Yes, you read that right. Resilience in overcoming obstacles. And the obstacles that he overcame were self inflicted, namely his own blatant stupidity and immorality. In this day and age, that’s not only something to be applauded, but worthy of being honored for. So how would someone emulate Vick’s success? Simply throw your life and career away by doing something moronic and illegal, then make a comeback. That’s it. That’s all it takes to be a hero nowadays.

And Hell, Vick isn’t the only saintly man to ever commit a crime.

“The term ‘hero’ is subjective,” said Michael Muhammad who heads Southeastern Virginia Arts Association in Norfolk which is hosting the black tie gala at the Half Moon Cruise and Celebration Center. “People talk about Michael Vick as a convicted felon, well so was Jesus Christ yet he was able to do things above and beyond the naysayers to the point that we all recognize him today as Lord and Savior.”

Jesus Christ! Yes, Vick is now being compared to the savior of mankind. I’m no Bible scholar but I don’t remember ever reading about Jesus running an illegal dog fighting ring. Then again, Jesus wasn’t an NFL quarterback either. So I guess they come out even in the end.

The article makes a point about who gets to be honored as a hero. What about all the military servicemen that fought and bled for this country, many of which reside in Norfolk? They might be a little pissed that this NFL star is getting lavished with praise at a black tie gala while they’re going through rehabilitation to learn to walk again. The event organizer, Mr. Muhammad addresses that:

Muhammad responded, “And there is so much honor given to them and honor is due them, but we also feel that the little man that doesn’t get the opportunity to be honored, deserves to be honored and Michael Vick is one of those.”

This story is warming my heart here. Yes, Vick is just an average Joe, not afforded the honor that those wounded soldiers get. It’s about time that a guy like him gets awarded for his noble actions of serving prison time and then becoming a quarterback in the NFL. Sure, there’s plenty of other NFL players out there. Some of them have even done great things for others. But they never strangled and mutilated dogs. That’s why they’re not heroes like Michael Vick.

Beating In The Bathroom

The following video has made the rounds recently. In the video, we see a White guy getting searched and interrogated by a bouncer in the bathroom of a strip club. The bouncer, who is a larger Black man, accuses him of selling drugs, asks him to empty his pockets, takes money out of his wallet and looks through his phone. Around minute mark 2:50 in the video, the bouncer begins punching the White guy in the head, a total of four times. He locks him in the bathroom and then demands that the White guy kneel on the ground and pray to the, “Great fucking brown dude.” After all is said and done, the Black guy takes all the White guy’s money and sends him on his way.

The news story says that a second bouncer was filming the incident and it was later posted on the internet, most likely for the purposes of amusement, since it landed on World Star Hip Hop. After police got wind of this video, the bouncer, 35-year-old Easton Byfield, was arrested and charged with assault and battery, kidnapping, unarmed robbery and filing a false police report. The filing of a false police report charge came about because the numbskull actually reported that the White guy assaulted him! If you’ve watched the video, you can clearly see that’s not the case.

This video got me heated, not because of the racial angle, as many sites have played up, but because this has happened to me in the past. In my younger, more hedonistic days, I was a hardcore clubber, hitting the clubs 3 to 4 times a week. Illicit drugs were abundant and there came a time when there was a rash of bouncers searching and confiscating money and drugs from club goers. Anyone they suspected of carrying drugs, they searched and robbed, because they knew that if you had even the most minor amount of illegal substances on you, then you weren’t going to call the police. Some clubs were terrible about this.

Once a bouncer followed me into the bathroom and put me in a choke hold, demanding that I give up everything that I was holding or he was going to call the police. Since I didn’t have any drugs on me at the time, it was an empty threat and I didn’t comply. That’s where this guy in the video screwed up. He actually did what the bouncer demanded. Sure he was scared of the bouncer, which is understandable considering his size and that he was outnumbered, but since he was so quick to acquiesce, it makes me think that he actually was holding or at least had been selling drugs in the club as the bouncer claimed. Regardless, a bouncer has no right to search you, unless you let him.

This video isn’t an isolated incident, but something that happens at clubs across America. I’ve known guys that were bouncers from different states who bragged about doing exactly this kind of thing. And beating and robbing were only part of it. I’ve known of girls that had bouncers force them to perform sex acts on them. Usually, they’d find girls that were rolling on ecstasy, which is obvious to notice, search them for drugs and then threaten to turn them over to the police unless they gave them what they wanted. In some places, like Florida, where club culture is more widespread, this type of thing is common.

This is not a simple case of Black on White crime as some have framed it, but a pervasive problem with abuse of authority. While I’ve known a lot of bouncers who were good people, many seem to be persons with serious delusions of grandeur that are quick to take advantage of their imagined position of power.

Achievement Gap Solved

I went to check my email and found this jubilant news greeting me:
Urban Prep Academy Gets 100% Black Male College Attendance… Again

Well, that’s certainly an impressive sounding accomplishment. The link to the article was labelled, How the school achieves triumph. Of course I wanted to know, so I clicked through and was brought to AOL’s Black Voices. There I found a short celebratory article by Boyce Watkins, PhD, about the Urban Prep Academy of Chicago, an all male charter school for kids from the “worst” parts of the city. The article was sparse on details, but abundant with affirmations of Black greatness.

The school started with kids whose futures had been left for dead by their public schools: Only four percent of the school’s incoming freshmen were reading at grade level when they arrived on campus. But by sending all of their graduating seniors to college, they’ve not only gotten these kids up to speed, they’ve allowed them to zip past every other public school in the entire United States.

“No other public [school] in the country has done this,” said Tim King, the founder of Urban Prep.

So far, so good. Hopefully, they can tell us the secret formula they used to destroy the seemingly incurable problem of Black high school under-performance.

The students at the school are required to wear a jacket and tie every single day. They also go to school for two hours longer than other kids. They take English twice a day and are given a mentor with a cell number that kids can call 24 hours a day. They’ve clearly hit the mark when it comes to understanding that getting our children to the land of educational success requires both academic and sociological strategies.

That’s it?! So after billions of dollars spent trying to close the achievement gap, we find now that 2 extra hours of school, uniforms and a personal mentor is all that was needed to get Black students to excel? Hot damn! Time to celebrate!

Yes We Can!

Dr. Watkins spends the rest of the article bathing in the glory of the profound news and proving why he deserves the title of “Doctor” before his name.

…the men of Urban Prep Academy are firm reminders of what black men are meant to be. We are not hard wired to be thugs, athletes or entertainers. We are meant to be just as brilliant, capable and successful as everyone else in America…Every child can be college material if they choose to be. I was personally told that I wasn’t smart enough to go to college, but it takes more intelligence to make it in prison than it does to make it on a college campus. It all comes down to hard work, and black people know how to work hard.

Well, that makes sense, considering all the geniuses in prison. Go on good Doctor.

What I also love about Urban Prep is that they are translating the excellence that black men show in athletics and transferring that to academic achievement. It takes far less effort and natural ability to become a heart surgeon than it does to become an NBA basketball player.

Exactly. If they can play basketball, then they should be able to perform complex surgery. Why didn’t I think of that? Guess that’s why I’m not a doctor.

They should be given millions more dollars to pursue their objectives. Their educational model should be replicated in every city across America. They are showing us that black men are not destined for failure, fundamentally flawed or built for mediocrity. We truly embody excellence.

Tell it Dr. Watkins! We must spread this news far and wide and make sure that Congress and the President are aware of this stellar educational model so that we can transform inner city schools across the nation into shining beacons of hope for every Black child in America.

Sure there’s plenty of details that we haven’t been told, like, “What were their end of grade test results? What were their GPAs?” Who knows? Does it even matter? Well dammit, I guess I’m just too much of a cynic, because I had to delve deeper and found some pertinent facts that the triumphant Dr. Watkins failed to reveal:

Only 57% of the school’s original 166 freshmen actually graduated, well below the district’s already dismal 70% rate.

Oh wait, so they only graduate the kids that get accepted into college? Well, they all got into college so I’m sure they were excellent students, right?

Only 17% meet testing standards.

Well…hey, why sweat the small stuff when you have such a fantastic story of an entire Black senior class making it to college? So most of those that made it were woefully unqualified. So what? What matters is feeling good inside. We don’t need to worry about kids meeting requirements anymore. We can just change the requirements to meet the kids. Achievement gap solved.

A Conversation With An Anti-Tablist

“Tables aren’t real.”

“What are you talking about? I have a table right here in my house.”

“No, you don’t. A table is only a construct.”

“Yeah, somebody made it. That doesn’t mean it’s not real.”

“No. The idea of a table is just a construct. Can you even define a table?”

“Sure, it’s an object with four legs and a flat surface that you put things on.”

“What about those things underneath it? What are those?”

“Those are chairs.”

“Don’t those have four legs and a flat surface?”

“Uh, yeah, but I sit on those. I don’t put things on them.”

“You put yourself on them.”

“So? They’re still chairs.”

“I just proved to you that they’re the same as the table and you still deny the truth. What about that thing over there?”

“That’s my couch.”

“That has four legs and a flat surface too. Do you ever put things on that?”


“Well then, if your couch can be a table then how can a table even be a valid concept? Tables aren’t real.”

“My couch isn’t a table. They aren’t the same.”

“Yes they are the same. I just showed you how they are equal. Why can’t you accept the truth? You’re obviously just a tablist.”

“A tablist?! What the hell are you talking about?”

“You believe in the concept of a table. Therefore, you are a tablist.”

“So what? There’s nothing wrong with believing in tables. Why wouldn’t I believe in something that I know is real?”

“The real question is, ‘Why would you cling to a false concept that I already showed to be untrue?’ Why can’t you just admit that there’s no difference between a table, a chair and a couch? You just believe in tables because it brings comfort to your simple mind. If you were more enlightened then you would see the truth.”

“Are you retarded? A table, a chair and a couch aren’t the same! Why are you even arguing this with me?”

“Ah, yes. Now we start with the insults. I knew it wouldn’t take long for a tablist like you to resort to such tactics. Proof that you are losing the argument.”

“What argument? You’ve come here insisting that tables aren’t real, when I know that they’re real. I can see one right there!”

“What you are seeing are the differences. Why can’t you see the similarities? Why are you so hung up on such superficiality? Does it make you feel superior?”

“I’m going to punch you in the face.”

“See? It’s just like a tablist to act irrationally and violently. That’s why I’m trying to build a better world, where we don’t see distinctions. What does it even matter if something is a table or a chair or a couch? Why do you have to put labels on things? Labeling only leads to discrimination.”

“I’m not having this stupid conversation with you anymore. ”

“Hmmph! See, you start losing the debate, then you want to end it. Typical tablist. You are all the same. You can’t handle the truth.”

The anti-tablist then goes on his blog and brags about how he pwned a tablist today.

Thai Stars: Tony Jaa

Tony Jaa in a promo for Ong Bak 2

When I was a kid, I had absolutely zero Thai film stars or musicians to admire or imagine myself as. While I don’t really feel bad or upset about this, since I recognize that’s part of growing up as a minority immigrant in America, I do wonder how my self perception would’ve been different had I been able to have access to Thai films as a child.

I watch a lot of Thai movies with my kids, in part, to try to help build a healthy sense of ethnic identity for them, but really though, I do it for myself. I try to get my children used to seeing Thai people in media, so that they don’t develop a disconnect with their own father’s ethnicity and looks, as I did with my parents when I was growing up.

This post is dedicated to one of the only internationally known Thai film stars around right now: Tony Jaa.

Tony Jaa is a Thai martial arts superstar with increasing renown across the globe. Born as Panom Yeerum and known in Thailand as Jaa Panom, he has since taken the name Tatchakorn after he became a Buddhist monk.

He’s gained fame for both his extraordinary martial arts ability and his almost super human stunt work, where he’s known for not using wires or special effects. In his earlier days, he used primarily Thai martial arts in his films, but has since incorporated multiple styles from Chinese kung fu to Indonesian Silat.

He’s starred in 4 films so far: Ong Bak, Tom Yum Goong (The Protector), Ong Bak 2, and Ong Bak 3. He’s had roles in older, low budget Thai films as well and a cameo in both Thai Bodyguard films.

He is of the the Kuy people, an ethnic group related to Khmers that resides mainly in northeastern Thailand and who are known to Thais as the elephant people because of their close relationship living with and raising elephants. His second staring role in the film, Tom Yum Goong, had to do specifically with his ethnic group and his quest to rescue two kidnapped elephants taken to Australia.

Tony Jaa and another martial arts star, Dan Chupong, looking almost like twins

Physically, Tony Jaa is representative of a type that is very prevalent in northeastern Thailand. With a strong brow, very dark skin and round, wide set eyes, he has a look common to many Thais and Khmers in that region.

As a side note, an interesting discovery made along with the recent Denisovan study was that Cambodians have an unexpectedly high percentage of Neanderthal genes. I wonder what Neanderthal traits are present in Khmers and Thais?

Tony Jaa. Part Neanderthal

Here’s a clip from the film Ong Bak 2 with Tony Jaa in an incredible display of martial arts mayhem:

Black History Month

It’s that time of year again when we celebrate and acknowledge the contributions that Black people have made to American history. I don’t have cable or even an antenna so I’m sure I’ll miss out on the fine shows that will be aired on PBS and the History Channel detailing the integral role that Blacks have played in shaping the course of this nation. Okay, I know it seems like I’m being sarcastic when I say that, but I’m not. I recognize that Blacks are as much a part of America as baseball, apple pie and Chinese take out. America wouldn’t be America without Black people.

When this month comes along, a song usually pops into my head. A song by dance punk duo Death From Above 1979, appropiately titled, Black History Month. It’s a simple yet catchy little song that stays in your head long after you hear it. The video isn’t anything special, but the simple lyrics convey a clear message that speaks to the heart of the Black experience in America.

“Black History Month”

Can you remember a time when this city was
A great place for architects and dilettantes
A nice place for midwives and crossing guards
And on, and on…

Hold on children
Your mother and father are leaving

Do you remember a time when this pool was
A great place for waterwings and cannonballs
A nice place for astrologists and blow up dolls
And on, and on…

Hold on children
Your best friend’s parents are leaving