Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Complex Ain’t Simple

When there is a conversation over beauty and/or preferences, the most frustrating responses I hear are along the lines of “Well, why do you care what someone else thinks about you?”, “You can’t worry about a man who don’t want you anyway!” and “Talking about this stuff just keeps us divided!” Here are a few reasons why it isn’t that simple:

1) People are effected by their relation to what society deems to be beautiful. It’s not simply a matter of wanting to be attractive to a particular group of people. Childhood bullying, preferential or discriminatory treatment in the classroom, workplace, social settings, etc., the influence of images seen in the media and, yes, the attraction or lack thereof from people one might want to date…all of these factors can be of great consequence to the self-image, the lifestyle and the worldview of a person. This doesn’t make a woman weak or desperate to be acceptable to a certain man, this makes her a human being who is shaped by the world in which she lives. Even if one chooses to totally reject all societal notions of what is or isn’t beautiful, she is still apt to be treated according to how she relates to what others see. 

2)We have seen, throughout the history of the planet, people go through drastic measures in order to fit in to a society’s notion of beautiful. While some efforts may not be bad (i.e. a woman working out to maintain a healthy shape that she herself enjoys), others may be damaging (such as starving oneself from a size 8 to a size 0, which may not be a healthy size for said person) or may reveal potentially debilitating self-esteem issues that have led one to attempt unreasonable changes to their appearance (using skin bleaching creams to lighten one’s skin). 

3) There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be perceived attractive. It’s natural to crave affection and attention from others. 

4) The things that we find attractive or beautiful can reveal a great deal about our own self-esteem and self-identity. When a Black girl picks up a White baby doll as opposed to a Black one and says “This is the pretty one”, that can be a sign of a serious problem. When 20 Black girls out of 25 repeat the same action in a study, that IS a sign of a serious problem. When we look at magazines, movies and music videos and see that certain forms of Black beauty are disproportionately represented in the absence of others, that IS a serious problem. These images in the media shape how people define or understand beauty, sometimes even more than one’s parents or community. It’s hard to get mad at a dark-skinned brother with a light-skinned fetish when he has been fed a steady diet of of Rap videos and Black films that have presented one group of women as some sort of prize. Especially if he grew up in a household in which his family didn’t discuss Black beauty or ensure that he understood that Black women of all shades and looks are beautiful and that there should be no complexion hierarchy in his mind.
The more narrow the definition of beauty, the more pain is possible for those who don’t fit. Furthermore, their is something troubling when we see people of African descent idealize European standards of beauty and/or upholding their own standard of beauty that penalises people for looking more “traditionally African”. So what is the remedy? We have to attack and dismantle the status quo. We have to have painful, honest and new conversations about color, because not talking about it isn’t going to make our color issues disappear. We can not write off dark skinned persons who raise the issue of color as “bitter”, nor dismiss the thoughts of lighter-complexioned brothers and sisters as ”uninformed”. Neither category owns the definitive Black experience with colorism. Members of both ends of the spectrum have been subject to undue privilege and/or maltreatment as a result of our unhealthy relationship to color. And until we unpack and identify our issues, we can’t adequately change the images we see, nor how we see one another.

When I wrote that Clutch piece last week, a number of folks commented that they have not had bad experiences with color and others accused me of ignoring that and pushing a dated issue. Don’t get me wrong: I am GLAD to hear there are women who feel that they have been exempt from some of the most unnecessary painful experiences our people have dealt with in this country. And I would be unreasonable to say there has been no progress since the days of the paper bag and ruler test. However, the color complex is alive and well and five people saying on a blog “I don’t have these issues” does not negate that in any way, shape or form. I do revisit this topic often and I don’t have any intention of stopping. I think it’s bizarre that someone would perceive that to be a chip on my shoulder, but it’s not something I can go out of my way to disprove. I’m going to keep writing about what I see fit and when I no longer see problems with the way we define Black beauty, then I will be all bees and trees and flowers in this b*tch, I promise.

Health & Wellness: Are You Suffering from Angry Black Woman Syndrome?

Months ago, I was having dinner and conversation with a few male and female friends and acquaintances. We were discussing relationships and issues among black men and black women. And while the conversation was initially relatively low key, one of my guy friends decided that it would be a great idea to put on what he described as “ a really good movie.” The movie was “Diary of a Tired Black man.” And within the span of a few minutes and few scenes of the movie, he turned our discussion on relationships into an outright battle of the sexes.

Before watching the movie, I had never heard of the term “Angry Black Woman Syndrome (ABSW).” It’s definitely not an official clinical diagnosis or something I learned in medical school. But despite the movie’s negative depiction of Black women in relationships, in my opinion, ABWS goes beyond just the dynamic between Black women and Black men. In fact, after watching the movie, doing a little research, and observing the attitudes/behavior of some Black women, it seems to me that the term ABWS is just a more long-winded way of describing a Black woman as a word that starts with the letter “b” and rhymes with the word “itch.’
That being stated, I’d like to address the term ‘Angry Black Woman Syndrome’  because it is something that ignites strong feelings among black women.  And while I do believe that the the movie “Diary of an Angry Black Man” is a bit overdramatic, I do believe it highlights issues within a subset of black women. There are black women out there that need to seriously check themselves- particularly black women who think it’s cute to be bitter, argumentative, man-hating, and generally angry females. She’s that woman who frowns or rolls her eyes when smiled at,  brands all men as being “dogs” and “no good”, and she’s the woman that thinks it’s necessary to curse out a chick if she bumps into her at the store even after she’s received a sincere apology.

It’s unfortunate when black women have attitudes and behaviors like I described above, because it’s this type of female that sometimes gets acknowledged as the PR representative for all black women. But at the end of the day, the vast majority of black females don’t suffer from ABWS. I know I don’t- and my girlfriends surely don’t. And for every black woman out there that feeds into the stereotype of being bitter and antagonist, they are still outnumbered by black women who are smart, classy, and engaging. Truth be told, when I saw “Diary of a Tired Black Man” I laughed for many reasons. And at the end of the day I believe ABWS should be replaced with the term “Angry Woman Syndrome (AWS)” - because Lord knows (and men of all races can attest) that angry women come in all colors.
December 22nd, 2010 - By Dr. Phoenyx Austin

Tracy Morgan Recovering From Kidney Transplant

The hit NBC sitcom '30 Rock' may have to go without one of its stars.

Comedian Tracy Morgan is currently recovering from a kidney transplant, the Associated Press reports.

His publicist released a statement confirming that he had the surgery earlier this month and is doing well and taking "much needed time" to recover.

Morgan was diagnosed with diabetes in 1996 and it took running a 104-degree fever, while on the set of '30 Rock,' for the Queens native to finally comply with his doctor's orders to take medication and change his diet.

His health condition has even been written into the '30 Rock' story line.

After the holidays, the 42 year-old is expected to return to filming the New York-based show to resume his character Tracy Jordan, a caricature of himself.

In 2009, the former 'Saturday Night Live' cast member was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series.

Another '30 Rock' cast member, Grizz Chapman, who has a recurring role as Grizz Griswold, also received a new kidney in July of 2010.

There's no word on whether Morgan's surgery would affect production of '30 Rock.'

Dr. Boyce Watkins Video: Finding the Women in Hip-Hop

Dr. Boyce Watkins on AOL 
Black Voices: Hip Hop Women
I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why there are no women in hip hop. I've asked this question of some of my friends in the game, but none of them seem to have a good answer. So, I figured that I would do the same thing I did with my mother when I was a child: Keep asking the question until the answer starts to make sense.

There is a plethora of talented artists in hip hop, but most of them are men. We know that women possess the talent to be successful, and we simply have to give them the opportunity. Well, this is the topic that I am going to discuss today with Madam Prezident, aka Shanelle Walker. She is an amazing spoken word and hip hop artist and represents one of the most talented artists in the world today.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and a Scholarship in Action Resident of the Institute for Black Public Policy. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

Crack Addict Robs Catholic Churches to Get Back at Priest Child Molesters

Crack Addict Robs Catholic Churches to Get Back at Priest 
Child Molesters
A man addicted to crack is accused of burglarizing Catholic churches in the Bronx, N.Y., in retaliation against Catholic priests.

Nathaniel Linden (pictured), who claims to have witnessed his mother's murder as a child and was handed over to foster care, told police that just walking by a Catholic church ignites his ire, "I am angry at the church for molesting children. That's why I started going after churches. I don't case them out," he said. "I just walk by and get angry."
According to the 51-year-old's friends, though, while Linden is a known addict, he has never brought up his disdain for Catholic churches:

"He never said anything about the Catholic Church," said pal Dennis Perrington, who lives in Linden's Kingsbridge Heights building, to the NY Daily News. "He was robbing from the poor. That's despicable."
Linden did apologize to investigators for urinating outside one of the churches he hit, then continued to ramble on to police about his modus operandi with regards to the burglaries.

Police also suspect Linden is guilty of robbing nine other churches since November 6th in addition to the two that he is accused of ripping off. Thus far, investigators estimate that Linden has stolen thousands of dollars that had been earmarked for families in various Bronx communities.
Linden appears to be a serial church burglar.

On November 4th, he was released from prison, after doing a five-year stint for committing the very same crime he is currently accused of doing.

Linden is being held on a $50,000 bond.

Philly Police: No Vigilantism Against Strangler

Date: Wednesday, December 22, 2010, 5:06 am
By: Kathy Matheson, Associated Press

Mayor Michael Nutter makes remarks during a news conference in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia Tuesday. (AP)

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The serial killer who police say sexually assaulted and strangled three women, and possibly attacked three others, in a city neighborhood rife with drugs and prostitution might want to hope that authorities find him before the neighbors do.

Residents of Kensington, who once severely beat a suspected rapist based on a police photo, have posted hundreds of comments and theories about the case on a Facebook page titled "Catch the Kensington Strangler, before he catches someone you love."

One post that falsely identified a suspect led to an angry crowd outside the man's home. Fearing vigilantes, he called police — who later cleared him, and then chastised residents.

"We will not tolerate anyone taking vigilante action," Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey warned. "If you see someone suspicious, call 911. We will get there. We will handle."

Police on Tuesday linked a third slaying to a predator who they say raped, beat and strangled two women over the past few weeks. Three other women have reported being sexually assaulted; two of them said they were choked into unconsciousness.

So far, police only have a composite sketch and grainy surveillance photo of a possible suspect; $37,000 in reward money is being offered.

Once a middle-class neighborhood of rowhomes a few miles northeast of downtown, Kensington has become a high-crime area with a culture of open-air drugs and prostitution. But it also boasts a nascent gentrification effort as young homeowners and artists move in, attracted by the affordable prices.

Lifelong resident Edward Neisser, 62, angrily blamed the neighborhood's ills on too many halfway houses and abandoned, overgrown properties.

"It's a disgrace what's going on around here," Neisser said. "The city could turn around and clean up these lots so none of this stuff happens."

But Jayme Guokas, a relative newcomer, said he was unwilling to write off the neighborhood where he has spent the past six years.

"It's one person who's doing these things," Guokas, a 35-year-old carpenter, said of the strangler. "That's counteracted by a lot of working people who are trying to invest in the neighborhood and make it better."

Guokas lives a few doors down from where police found the body of 35-year-old Nicole Piacentini of Philadelphia on Nov. 13. Twenty-one-year-old Elaine Goldberg of Philadelphia had met the same fate 10 days earlier; the body of Casey Mahoney, 27, of East Stroudsburg, was found Dec. 15.

The women, all of whom have been described as struggling with drug addiction, were found within 10 blocks of each other.

And yet even with the murders, police said drug sales and prostitution continue unabated.

"It is somewhat disturbing that, in light of all this information, all of this warning, that women and men are still frequenting this area and engaging in high-risk behavior," Deputy Commissioner William Blackburn said.

Authorities have arrested 120 people involved in prostitution in Kensington since Nov. 19 and obtained DNA swabs from many of them, Blackburn said. More than 40 have been cleared, and tests are pending on the rest.

Police stressed that neighbors who see something suspicious should call 911 and not take matters into their own hands. In another Kensington case last year, a man suspected of raping an 11-year-old girl was severely beaten by angry neighbors who recognized him from a police photo. He was later charged and pleaded guilty.

Mayor Michael Nutter, speaking on Tuesday just steps from where Piacentini's body was found, pleaded for information from residents who might be keeping quiet out of fear or loyalty.

He offered $30,000 for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator. Separately, the local Fraternal Order of Police and Councilman Frank DiCicco have offered $7,000 for help simply leading ..... 

Teen Birth Rate at All-Time Low, Economy Cited

By: Mike Stobbe, AP Medical Writer

The U.S. teen birth rate in 2009 fell to its lowest point in almost 70 years of record-keeping.

ATLANTA (AP) — The U.S. teen birth rate in 2009 fell to its lowest point in almost 70 years of record-keeping — a decline that stunned experts who believe it's partly due to the recession.

The birth rate for teenagers fell to 39 births per 1,000 girls, ages 15 through 19, according to a government report released Tuesday. It was a 6 percent decline from the previous year, and the lowest since health officials started tracking the rate in 1940.

Experts say the recent recession — from December 2007 to June 2009 — was a major factor driving down births overall, and there's good reason to think it affected would-be teen mothers.

"I'm not suggesting that teens are examining futures of 401(k)s or how the market is doing," said Sarah Brown, chief executive of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

"But I think they are living in families that experience that stress. They are living next door to families that lost their jobs. ... The recession has touched us all," Brown said.

Teenage moms, who account for about 10 percent of the nation's births, are not unique. The total number of births also has been dropping, as have birth rates among all women except those 40 and older.

For comparison look to the peak year of teen births — 1957. There were about 96 births per 1,000 teen girls that year, but it was a different era, when women married younger, said Stephanie Ventura, a co-author of the report issued by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC births report is based on a review of most birth certificates for 2009.

Overall, about 4.1 million babies were born in 2009, down almost 3 percent from 2008. It's the second consecutive drop in births, which had been on the rise since 2000.

The trend may continue: A preliminary count of U.S. births through the first six months of this year suggests a continuing drop, CDC officials said.

A decline in immigration to the United States, blamed on the weak job market, is another factor cited for the lower birth rate. A large proportion of immigrants are Hispanic, and Hispanics accounted for nearly 1 in 4 births in 2009. The birth rate among Hispanic teens is the highest of any ethnic group with 70 births per 1,000 girls in 2009. However, that rate, too, was down from the previous year.

Other findings in the new report include:

— The cesarean delivery rate rose yet again, to about 33 percent of births. The C-section rate has been rising every year since 1996.

— The pre-term birth rate, for infants delivered at less than 37 weeks of pregnancy, dropped for the third straight year to about 12 percent of all births. It had been generally increasing since the early 1980s.

— Birth rates were down from 2008 in almost every age group of women of childbearing. The birth rate for women in their early 20s plummeted 7 percent, the largest decline for that age group since 1973.

The one exception was women older then 40 — a group that may be more concerned with declining fertility than the economy. The birth rate for women ages 40-44 was up 3 percent from 2008, to about 10 births per 1,000 women. That's the highest rate for that group since 1967.

The drop in birth rates was less pronounced in women in their 30s than women in their 20s, noted Carol Hogue, an Emory University professor of maternal and child health and epidemiology.

"If women feel they are up against a biological clock, that is a counterbalance to 'I can't afford to have a baby right now,'" ....

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